Gang Colours The Keychain Collection Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Southampton producer reveals a classic debut set to soundtrack the perfect comedown.

Mike Diver 2012

Contrary to some beliefs, so-called classic debut albums are rarely celebrated for being remarkably cohesive. Rather, it’s standout stretches that commonly characterise the vast majority of successful breakthroughs – from the Arctics to Oasis and so very far beyond, lasting long-play favourites are elevated to five-star status courtesy of stunning passages. Will Ozanne’s debut as Gang Colours is a fantastic set of smouldering potential realised in vivid detail – but, like so many collections before it, it’s more about moments than momentum.

These 10 tracks fit together tightly, and with no single number lasting beyond four-and-a-half minutes The Keychain Collection lends itself well to single-sitting listens. But even if every detail of its elegantly understated arrangements can be processed in a commute, it’s a select few which shine brightly enough to cast long shadows across the less-inspired (though no less beautiful) instances of stark piano keys, hazy atmospheres and plaintive vocals.

Lead single Fancy Restaurant houses one such beacon: a simple, gorgeous, lyrical refrain which says so much more in two lines than a thousand love songs. “I know you don’t care that much about money,” says Ozanne, half-sung, half-spoken in a James Blake-recalling style; “But I’m going to make some and take you out.” The repetition of the line almost makes it throw-away; but the sentiment of going that extra yard is so very perfect that one can’t not be touched. It’s a magical track which sets the agenda for much of The Keychain Collection: lovelorn chords and heartbroken hooks, wrapped up in a high-quality mix which keeps its spaced beats sharp and its keys affectingly chiming.

Those familiar with Ozanne’s twitchy EP of 2010, In Your Gut Like a Knife, might be surprised by the subdued nature of much of The Keychain Collection, but it’s a progression with precedent, following the aforementioned Blake’s development from dubstep star-in-the-making to singer-songwriter short of a bassline or two. In some respects this set is the perfect substitute for those disappointed with Blake’s Mercury Prize-nominated eponymous LP: Ozanne hasn’t wholly abandoned his livelier side, infusing Botley in Bloom and Forgive Me? with pockets of bubbling low-end. The stillness between sounds seems more loaded, too, as an air of drama permeates proceedings. This is readily noticeable in To Repel Ghosts and Tissues & Fivers, where unease turns Ozanne’s tender pieces into half-seen half-steps.

Gang colours are traditionally bold – after all, one can’t go around mistaking their own people for turf-war rivals when an emphasis is on acting first, questions later. But the music made under this could-be-confrontational moniker is striking in its economy, its language refined and concise. It does enough to cast a spell on the listener throughout; but, when it strikes seams of gold, jaws hit floors. Not dancefloors, granted – but Ozanne has here delivered one of the most perfect after-party collections in recent memory, and one which is likely to soundtrack quiet hours of solitude for the foreseeable.

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