German band Colaris have been on my radar for years now, each release bringing something evocative and profound, each record showing polish, effort and dogged determination. I love that in a band – the instant communication of applied effort and diligence, and when it’s interwoven with true moments of inspiration, you know you’ve got a really good record on your hands.
RELEASE DATE: 17 July 2015
LABEL: Revolvermann Records, Narshardaa Records and Wolves and Vibrancy Records
“Nexus” is only the second full-length release by Colaris, but their output has been constant since their 2011 debut EP, titled “The Disclosure”, and this dedication shows, in many ways. “The Disclosure” was fiery and passionate, abrasive, short and to the point, it was a splash screen, a statement of intent, a proclamation. In subsequent releases, Colaris have molded that initial fire, they’ve grown focused and detail-oriented, living up to its original promise while managing to branch out into arguably unexpected directions, never allowing themselves to be weighed down by a strict formula.
This feels like an important step on the path Colaris have chosen, a definitive confirmation of their seeking, restless nature, without actually having that “pivotal record” vibe; “Nexus” marks the highest production quality Colaris have ever ascended to, it marks a peak in the band’s musical proficiency, but it does not feel like a momentous record when mood and composition are concerned.
The first thing that catches the careful listener’s attention is the vast space the music revolves in. From the very first track and throughout the entire record, there’s a wonderful, refreshing feeling of immense space in which the notes can breathe, as though there were generous layers of velvet silence placed between the various frequencies of the instruments. This allows every single note to ring out clearly and with great power, it gives the record a relaxed, welcoming vibe, which is in itself enough to make you hit replay over and over. I get the rare and wondrous impression that this cool, comforting breathing room is created not as much by a reliance on effects and processors, but rather through careful planning and application of recording and mixing techniques, which is why I am certain that “Nexus” isn’t only the best sounding record in Colaris’ discography, but one of the best sounding records of the year, from a production standpoint. The band’s DIY attitude to the recording process has been a constant in their career and has led them to a truly amazing place on this record, and they deserve major kudos.
That is not to say that the instruments themselves, their orchestration and distinctive timbres and tones haven’t got a lot to do with this quality. In fact, there is a satisfying restraint prevalent throughout “Nexus” – guitars are firmly controlled, effect swells are generous and striking, without drowning out the grooves, without succumbing to chaos, the bass is positively massive while retaining a gentle, protective quality, and the drums are magnificent – under complete control, diverse and driving, powerful but never disrupting. The band members are communicating very well, and their individual contributions all work together and are expertly balanced, more than ever before.
I’ve used the words “restraint” and “control” plenty of times so far, and with good reason – from a compositional stand-point, the album is defined by these qualities, perhaps more than it should. Of course no one is claiming “Nexus” is planned specifically as a cinematic, epic post-rock concept-album, and Colaris are thankfully not trying to be God Is An Astronaut, but it often feels like the tracks are straining to take off, to explode into sonic supernovas, and yet it never really happens with quite the amount of force one anticipates. There is a prevalent meditative quality throughout the work, which dominates the sonic landscape and keeps it under supervision. There are spectacular buildups foretelling of rage and sundry, which go on slowly dissipating into the ether, leaving the listener slightly confused. This works well with the post-apocalyptic, deserted mood of the record, but it leaves behind a feeling of sorrow, a certain desolation. Compositionally, I feel this is a “read-between-the-lines” kind of record; it takes repeated listening to get accustomed to – but patience is rewarded with subtlety and the opening of a vast, dramatic sonic space.
Colaris have reached a career high with “Nexus”, and it is an admirable, robust record. Are there higher peaks to reach? Yes. However, the band has built a very solid base, and has earned great freedom of movement and range. I can only urge you, dear listeners, to get lost in the “Nexus”.
The album is available on CD and vinyl (limited edition purple and a standard black) here, and as a digital download on Colaris’ Bandcamp page.