Colorama - Telfords Warehouse, Chester - Friday 11 February 2011
Colorama are sunsets, twinkles, being merry drunk, freshly baked cake and comfy chairs. They're puppies and summer woods; rainbows and kisses; pizza and blue tits.
It's impossible not to like Colorama. Obviously such a bold statement will goad the most contrary of you into denial, but you'd only be doing it to prick my balloon. If you have an empathetic heart, it'll beat more soundly and with a skip to the radiant sound of Colorama.
Their three albums so far are delightful explorations of chiming melodies, consummately arranged acoustic instruments, and gentle psychedelia. If all this sounds far too nice - like ODing on French Fancies - then I should note that there is a sense of darkness at the edge of the village, in the hallucinatory backwards rushes, that marks their music out as a sanctuary rather than an escape. Colorama aren't bland or facetious, they want to paint the good things in the world around them in bright tones. It's a laudable philosophy.
Especially on a drizzly Friday night in Chester.
Mostly I go to see bands where the audience are there to do the same. Telford's Warehouse's strength, and weakness, is that bands generally get to play in front of a whole new, virgin audience - with the potential to convert all these new faces to their cause. This as opposed to playing in front of a loyal fanbase and only that loyal fanbase. The only difficulty is that on a Friday night people are out to drink. Subtleties are lost after the first visit to the toilet. For a good proportion of Colorama's exquisite set the burnished notes are almost drowned out by beered up chatter. It's very much their loss.
Carwyn Ellis - regular compadre of Edwyn Collins, one-time collaborator with Noel Gallagher, a prince amongst men - is the focus of our attention. He's bravely wearing a light suit. Maybe the drizzly fug outside would class as summer weather back on Anglesey? He looks dapper and the tones that ring out of his guitar and autoharp match his sartorial excellence. Much of what is played is prefaced by a statement along the following lines: "This is a new one we haven't played live before". Well, you wouldn't know it. The band play beautifully together, conjuring up a range of delicate emotions: yearning, wonder, melancholy, nostalgia.
The songs I do recognise - Dere Mewn, Box, Sound - are played with a rare grace and sureness of touch. My soul feels like it's been given a spa treatment. None of the tropes of modern music are present here. But neither is there a sense of slavish revivalism. Colorama's songs might remind me of Love or The Byrds, but they don't sound like a genetically-engineered hybrid of those bands, nowhere near. It's Carwyn's imagination we're hearing, not a bunch of ideas half-inched out of brains addled by the drugs of summers long, long ago.
There is more of an edge to some of the newer material that intrigues for their next release. I wouldn't have anticipated a voodoo groove from Colorama. But in one of the new songs, it's there, subtly in the background.
They finish their set and people have been drawn from the beer pit. The applause is generous and appreciative. Case proved, it is impossible not to like Colorama. But you do have to listen out for them. They aren't Muse and thank the multitude of gods and the quantum workings of all sub-atomic particles for that.