Colorlist: Lists

Lists is the debut outing by Colorlist, a Chicago-based quartet which finds front-line members saxophonist Charles Gorzcynski and drummer Charles Rumback augmented by engineers Brian Bullard and Matthew Gagnon. That the latter two are accorded full-member status should tell you something about how integral programming and post-production are to the group's sound. The four are joined on some of the hour-long set's tracks by bassists Matt Lux and Jason Ajemian, cellists Ellen O'Hayer and Sarah Biber, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and guitarist Bill MacKay. Regardless of configuration, the material ranges between colourful experimental improvs, slow-burning electronic jazz, and placid moodscaping. The group's most distinctive feature is its multi-tracked saxophone sound, dizzying spirals that Gorzcynski generates using digital delay and looping. The way in which the fluttering saxes coil around one another in “The Swim Around” and “Rewinding Sunday” suggests that the Colorlist members must have at least one copy of The Lounge Lizards' Voice of Chunk in their respective collections (though it should be noted that the sound is generated in Colorlist by one player, whereas John Lurie and Roy Nathanson physically weave around one another's lines on Voice of Chunk).

Colorlist distinguishes itself from the opening moment of “Lluvia” with a gently descending, multi-tracked saxophone motif accompanied by the dancing pitter-patter of cymbals and electronic rumblings. The piece slowly settles into position and gradually swells into a lulling stream of placid textures before decompressing into a looser setting of electronic bell tones and cymbal accents—an understated but nonetheless impressive beginning. In “Orchid,” saxophones first flutter and then wail over a hazy, brooding base—a wail, however, that's of the restrained kind, not the violent Coltranesque squeal one normally associates with the word. “Carbon Monoxide” juxtaposes the flowing criss-cross of cello lines to the robust splash of tom-toms and cymbals; three minutes in, the piece regrettably moves from this open-ended beginning to a comparatively static episode but it lasts briefly before rambunctious drum flourishes loosen the composition's strings as it heads towards the finish. Lists falters but once: the (not surprisingly) dirge-like “Living Mausoleum,” a heavily-textured, slow-shifting mass of cello, guitar, electronics, and tinkling chimes. Though mildly engrossing, its meander is so loosely executed the piece threatens to lapse into soggy aimlessness (the funereal tempo doesn't help). It is, however, the rare misstep on this otherwise solid collection.

September 2008