Submotion Orchestra – Colour Theory (Counter Records)

It was tempting, when considering how to review this, Submotion Orchestra‘s fourth long player, merely to type “3am” and leave it at that. It may have looked a tad lazy, but I can’t help thinking that there is very little I can say that describes the feel of Colour Theory any better. It’s either the post nightclub lull, an early rise long before the rest of the household has begun to stir, or the black coffee at the morning aftermath of a party of epic proportions. Perhaps you’ve awoken to find yourself swaddled in blankets at a nearby bus shelter, wild-eyed in wonder and thinking “Wow, we survived!” amidst the nocturnal rustle of trees in the cool night air.

Speaking of Air, there are moments which fondly recall their classic 1998 release Moon Safari, often fused with the laid back trip hop inclinations of Massive Attack or the dreamy sophisti-synthpop of The XX. It is probably ‘Illusions‘ that paints this picture in the most vivid detail, a bundle of gorgeous serenity that strokes and massages the soul until it reaches an idyllic, Zen-like state of well being. Let’s just say that drama, in any shape or form, is most certainly NOT a facet in which the Leeds septet are ever likely to dabble. I think it’s fair to suggest that if you are a fan of any of the aforementioned artists, Dirty Vegas, Zero 7, or London Grammar, this could easily wind up being one of your albums of the year.

Soon to be absent from the fold, however, is Submotion’s beacon of light – the ever luminous Ruby Wood – who will be taking an indefinite sabbatical in order, admirably, to concentrate on her impending role as a new mother. Where bands of lesser mortals would perhaps have buckled under the strain of losing the main pillar of their palace, the remaining sextet have managed to regroup and reconsider, viewing this as the perfect opportunity to experiment with a whole host of obscenely talented guest contributors, while allowing Wood to shine on the gorgeous ‘In Gold‘ and ‘Empty Love‘. The fond farewells of Colour Theory seem to possess an overwhelming determination to ensure that Wood leaves with her head held high, perhaps even having hit her career zenith on the latter track, which features erstwhile Chase & Status collaborator Ed Thomas and is a perfect example of what the word “mesmerising” was coined for.

Also featuring the much sought after talents of singer/beatboxer/songwriter Billy Boothroyd (his CV includes working with Jarvis Cocker, Vanessa Carlton, Imogen Heap, and Teddy Thompson amongst a wealth of others) on the sparse, empty motorway nuance of ‘More Than This‘, Submotion Orchestra have upped the ante once more, leaving their closest contemporaries, at least for the moment, trailing in their wake.

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