3 May 2017

David Colohan - A Melbourne Nocturne

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

David Colohan continues his steady creative flow with ‘A Melbourne Nocturne’, a delicate yet quietly epic piece of work that contains echoes of his previous releases with Raising Holy Sparks, United Bible Studies and Look To The North whilst also staking out new ground and travelling into territory uniquely his own. Available originally as a limited cassette from PSI Lab (now sold out) this release can now be fortunately be found on Colohan’s Bandcamp site and a good thing too; to miss out on something this exploratory, immersive and affecting would be a genuine loss. Recorded between Melbourne, Ballymahon & Southampton, Colohan describes the birth and cultimation of the piece as ‘(coming) to light amongst the moongazing crowd that had gathered outside Labour In Vain on Melbourne's Brunswick Street during the lunar eclipse of July 16th, 2000, before finally manifesting itself on the Summer Solstice of June 20th, 2016’. Indeed there are several themes and motifs that run through the collected pieces on this album that speak of something lunar, celestial and perhaps also the tension between gazing at the sky whilst being tethered and earthbound.

'A Melbourne Dreaming' opens the album with a reverberated choir of voices, a stillness and a sense of the sacred that is both arresting and deeply beautiful. This slowly fades into 'Yarra Yarra, River of Mists', a spoken word piece recounting the (psycho)geography of the land framed with atmospheric bursts of Matt Leivers' soprano saxophone and Colohan's drifting, analogue synth. There are elements of Tangerine Dream's 'Phaedra' here, Popol Vuh's 'Aguirre' and Terry Riley's 'A Rainbow Curved In Air'; a cosmiche and intuitive landscape of sound conjured through echoed vocals and vintage electronics. The choral element returns for 'A Circle Of Chalk Surrounds The City', a hum and murmur of voices surrounding the yearning, keening vocal creating a sense of vastness and ancient leylines imbued in the dry earth. Next, 'Moonrise Over Mount Burnett' paints a vivid image of the heat and the haze in the antipodean dusk, swells of synth and drifting saxophone suggestive of the twilit colours and humid air. 'Moon Fades Over Fitzroy' is a polyphony of voices, a psalm to the living, breathing continent whilst 'Fiona Paints The Starlight Dark' is a gorgeous, night sky symphony of melancholy strings, a lament to a memory long gone. A bell signals 'The Last Tram Home' as both organ and modular synth pulse and rattle their way forward, narrating the night-time journey. Peals of saxophone add to the emerging cityscape as the circling electronics suggest motion and travel. 'Shell Middens, Scarred Trees, Fish Traps, Mounds And Quarries' follows, a communal mass of choral parts combining to create something at once both celestial and deeply human, a sense of stretching out for the stars. Exquisitely beautiful, there are hints of Lisa Gerrard to be found here as well as perhaps Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. 'A Circle Of Stars Surrounds St Kilda' swirls in to view on banks of quiet wind and waves of electronica, a gentle sadness pervading. Likewise 'The Fire, Where We Once Lived' breaths an air of solemnity, voices wordlessly calling out into the darkness, pained at times, rapturous at others. Colohan is an expert story teller through sound, this is effectively an instrumental album and yet it feels as if the listener knows exactly the images he is intending to illustrate and the precise mood of the tales he tells. 'Fionnuala Dreams The Desert Closer' buzzes into life, its modular harmonies, swells and rises pulled as much from deep within Colohan's memories and psyche as from his keyboards. Truly affecting, this is music for late at night; the liminal times. The album closes with 'Towards The Southern Aurora', a delicate and breathtaking vocal piece that both haunts and enraptures, speaking to the ghosts of the surrounding landscape. It is a fittingly atmospheric piece to conclude these travels (and there is a sense of having journeyed, this being a record of Colohan's impressions of Australia and the lasting memories impressed upon him by the land).Additionally, should an alternative soundtrack to the heat stricken, strange dreamscape of 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' ever be required, this is it.

‘A Melbourne Nocturne’ then is an album which dares to reach its hand out to the night sky and to feel the awe and dread that this act involves. It also recognises and contains the beauty, transcendence and despair that comes with acknowledging the vastness of the universe around us and translates this into some of the most affecting music you will hear. Seek this recording out; turn your eyes to the sky.

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