Hatchback: Colors of the Sun
Lo Recordings

Hatchback's Color of the Sun is so irresistibly summery in spirit, it's no surprise it caught the ears of Prins Thomas and Ewan Pearson. Though California may seem an unlikely point of origin for blissful kosmische disco, it's precisely the home base from which Sam Milton Grawe spins his cosmic webs. Blending motorik drum machine beats, vintage synthesizers, acoustic piano, and Fender Rhodes into candy-coloured concoctions, the album's ten tracks warm the jaded soul with buoyant uplift. Grawe didn't always call the West coast home, however. Growing up, he lived in India and visited Egypt, Nepal, Hong Kong, Japan, and Papua New Guinea which may help explain why his music sounds so panoramic. Along the way, the budding music-maker acquired a Casio pocket synth called the VL-Tone (one he still uses), soaked up the sounds of Aphex Twin, Mouse On Mars, Tortoise, and Stereolab, and moved to California where a circuitous path of collaborations and jams paved the way for his first proper album Colors of The Sun.

Grawe openly acknowledges a key influence in “Everything is Neu” which, true to form, cruises serenely down an imaginary Autobahn but an even more pronounced influence is prog whose influence is undeniably audible in the synthesizer sounds he often favours (his music development included a flirtation with prog-rock suites patterned after ‘70s outfits such as Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi). Though Grawe goes it alone most of the time, Sorcerer's (aka Dan Judd) guitar playing deepens the squiggly electro-funk of “Carefree Highway,” a Kraftwerk-inflected disco classic beamed back from the next century (check out those “Neon Lights”-like keyboard patterns). Anything but downtrodden, “Jetlag” bubbles infectiously for a resplendent eight minutes as congas, handclaps, acoustic and electric piano, and a beehive of synthesizers come together in joyous union. Grawe's attention to detail shines here too, as the bell accents that punctuate the bridge make clear. The penultimate “White Diamond” serves up nine minutes of transcendent space disco, and its appeal is so immediate and potent, it's no wonder Prins Thomas tackled a remix of it. Elsewhere, “Comets” drapes a downtempo funk groove with a blanket of synth sparkle and “Closer to Forever” transports the listener to a carefree August afternoon at the seaside

Too bad Grawe didn't resist the urge to stock his disc full because seventy-eight minutes—even for music is appealing as this—is excessive; though its paradisiacal space ambient character and trippy psychedelic vibe are alluring, “Horizon” can't help but seem overlong when its sixteen minutes arrive at the end of the journey. Nevertheless, his debut outing is so accomplished it's almost ridiculous. Grawe describes the material as “songs for the sunrise, and for the sunset, and every color in between” and the characterization isn't far off the mark.

October 2008