Nashville, Tennessee, home of Country, Christian rock and now Canon Blue, the self-bestowed moniker on a young man also known as Daniel James. Daniel’s journey has taken him from Virginia to Bristol to New Orleans before, appropriately, settling in Music City, USA and it’s one that culminates with ‘Colonies’, his debut album released on the Copenhagen based label Rumraket.
The Rumraket label appears to make for good bed fellowship with Canon Blue. Run by Rasmus Solberg alongside other members of Danish wunderkinds Efterklang, their musical space rocket is manned by the heavenly likes of Kama Aina, Taxi! Taxi! and Grizzly Bear. The Grizzly connection is furthered still by the recruitment of Chris Taylor, GB band member, multi-instrumentalist and excellent audio engineer on mixing duty here on ‘Colonies’. This hook-up, combined with mastering by producer’s producer Cristian Vogel ensures a high-shined thirteen tracks to listen long to.
“Rumraket had put out the first Grizzly Bear record, so that was the Chris Taylor connection,” explains singer Daniel. “Chris and I think a lot alike, so working with him was very intuitive and great. Cristian came about similarly to Rumraket. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and kept up with his No Future site. So when it came time to master the record I just sent an email thinking I would never hear back. But luckily he did in fact write back and was totally into the idea.”
Musical catharsis may be commonplace but it sure can be the source of real creative brilliance. In this vein, the journeys of Canon Blue appear to have touched upon loss and disaster, failed beginnings and collapse, their actions bringing forth a series of inspired reactions in an album filled with music from gut and soul. Much of it doesn’t make for easy listening in the emotionless, let-it-all-wash-over-you sense but we have hearts on sleeves here and a gamut of emotions to work through. It’s tracks like ‘Rum Diary’, ‘Pale Horse’ and ‘Odds And Ends’ that are highlights of all this rawness. But it’s not all aural therapy.
“If it’s cathartic, it’s at the end of a project when you look back and have something to show for all the late nights,” expands Daniel. “Creating music can at times be very frustrating for me, especially when I’m working alone as there’s no one else to pass stuff on to when you get stuck. But in the end it’s worth it. And I think anytime you’re able to express yourself, it’s a healthy and productive pursuit.”
Hence, we have dreams being dreamed, highest highs are being striven for and when taken as a whole, this collection of works comes through as one of unerring beauty and positivity.
If it’s cathartic, it’s at the end of a project when you look back and have something to show for all the late nights
A one-man band of sorts, Daniel James also plays all instruments heard on the LP. Old Grandmother’s piano is picked up by echoes of five-string banjo loops, long-drawn folk strings and prick-plucked acoustic guitar while wind blown instruments weave their threads through a cacophonous swathe of warped and punched electronics. Instrumentation aside, James’ voice is equal part triumvirate of Thom Yorke, Jeff Buckley and, in an assuredly good way, Chris Martin. More importantly, his words, often uncomfortably personal at times, unfailingly manage to connect meaningfully with their listener.
‘Colonies’ is an ambitious debut, boldly refusing to hold itself back, it’s dark but shimmering, electro-billy compositions are surely the sound of a man breaking his own new ground.