Releasing an album just a year after its predecessor is rarely a good sign. When that predecessor took three years to make and was an hour long compared to this new album’s brief 36 minutes, you’d be forgiven for expecting Colour Phase to be a collection of leftovers from last year’s Wanderlust of Venus. One listen is all it takes to be reassured, however; Colour Phase might be Claw the Thin Ice‘s shortest studio album but it’s also their most focused.
After the sprawl of Wanderlust of Venus it was something of a surprise that the Manchester emo stalwarts have followed it up so quickly, but Colour Phase is a taut set of songs. Lead single ‘Tropic of Cancer’ starts with classic power chord-driven beef but twinkles in its bridge with glockenspiel highlights and builds to synth arpeggio accents. It’s followed by ‘Drive Into the Sunset’ which starts as classic Claw, with a picked intro bursting into a wall of guitars but after just two minutes it evaporates into a passage of proggy ambience, only to come back at full pelt for the closing minute. ‘Daydream’ is powered by a twitchy drum machine beat, its appropriately-named dreampop bursting into a shoegaze crescendo. ‘Fantasia’s first couple of minutes blaze away with the kind of widescreen riffs that any number of second wave emo bands would be proud of, before melting into five more minutes of glorious post rock. ‘Brain Fade’ is a brilliant minute-and-a-half punk rock shot in the arm, raising the tempo on the tail end of the album.
Following the impressive genre-hopping of Wanderlust of Venus was never going to be easy, but Colour Phase is more accomplished in its assimilation of influences. There’s always been an electronic element to Claw’s sound but it’s never been incorporated so naturally as on ‘Daydream’ or ‘Tropic of Cancer’, while the ease with which the record shifts gear is seriously impressive. It’s almost a shame that the band are self-releasing it without any label help as it deserves to be heard much more widely than the Manchester DIY scene, but it’s also testament to their belief in it. And rightly so, as Colour Phase is Claw the Thin Ice’s best work to date.
Colour Phase is available via Bandcamp on 5 July.