Friday Full-Length: Colour Haze, All

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Colour Haze, All (2008)


Ten years of All. A decade since this album came out, and that stretch has done nothing to dull its luster. Colour Haze didn’t invent the idea of warmth in a recording, but they might well have perfected it over their years. All swept in and was my album of the year pick in 2008, and its warmth is no small part of why, but it’s also the point at which Colour Haze — already past the 10-year mark themselves by then and on their ninth LP and fourth through Elektrohasch Schallplatten — began to show just how expansive their intentions really were. And how progressive.

It was a new level of maturity in their songwriting and a new level of patience even beyond that which they brought to 2006’s Tempel or their 2004 self-titled (discussed here), both also pivotal offerings both for the band and for European heavy psychedelia in general. Those records seemed to establish the pattern, and All, with its 65-minute 2LP run and its 10 one-word tracks that all streamed together to deliver the message, “silent moon turns lights; if stars all fall one remains,” came through as a new realization of many of the ideas Tempel and Colour Haze put forth, let alone 2003’s 2CD Los Sounds de Krauts, 2001’s Ewige Blumenkraft (reissue review here) or any of their earlier, more desert rock-influenced work preceding.

By the time they got to All, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek — also, if it needs to be said, the head of Elektrohasch — bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, had already defined what their core sound was going to be, but in the mellow strums and backwards drums of “Turns,” and in the funk of “Moon” preceding, in the incorporation of organ on “Lights” and the hyper-immersive flow of its title-track, All demonstrated that as groundbreaking as Colour Haze had been up to that point, their exploration was really just getting started.

I don’t want to say All blew everything Colour Haze had previously done out of the water, because that’s not really true. Those other records stand up to any scrutiny one might want to give them and then some, each marking a point in the ongoing forward motion of the band’s continued growth. You cannot have one without the others before it, and that’s true of their work to-date. When they got around to All, however, there was a clear shift in terms of the scope at work. Tempel was and remains defined by its chemistry between KoglekRasthofer and Merwald — the same can be said to a degree of everything the band does — but had an inward-looking feel, where true to its title, All was more expansive and outward-directed.

Given a lot of the sonic exploration underway in songs like opener “Silent,” the sitar/acoustic-based “Stars,” and the tense, churning shuffle of “If” before it, it’s fair to say Colour Haze‘s reach had never been so much a factor in their arrangements, which had always beencolour haze all creative, and an overarching sense of poise held firm throughout, no matter where an individual song seemed to meander. It would be four more years before they put out a song called “Grace,” but All had plenty to go around.

Perhaps nowhere more so than on the extended pairing of “All” and “Fall.” I’ll gladly admit to being more familiar with the CD version — though once I did get to hold the limited edition cloth-cover double vinyl in my hands and I immediately felt unworthy — and while on the LP that’s the split between sides C and D, on the, ahem, CD, it’s a linear shift from one into the next, and it’s the point at which the fluidity that so much permeates the album as a whole finds its high water mark.

The arrival of the keys behind the driving apex toward the end of “Fall” is an obvious culmination point for the entire outing, but even before that, in the patience and gorgeous unfolding of “All” itself and the manner in which it takes on what’s essentially Colour Haze‘s signature riff and with Rasthofer‘s bass as a foundation builds upon it in a new and glorious way. The solo in the second half. The quiet noodling that follows with Merwald‘s cymbal-mute stops keeping the tension going. The build back up to full volume again, and indeed, the keys that emerge late; it’s nothing if not aptly titled “All.” It’s the kind of work that reaffirms hope for the species, even 10 years after the fact.

Repetitions of “We’ve got to get together/We’ve got to be all one” and a well-timed return of sitar make “One” more than an afterthought following “Fall,” and the quiet stand-mostly-alone guitar of “Remains” that caps the album is a statement unto itself. That they would finish not in grand crescendo, but instead peacefully making their way out — it’s another subtle but key decision that makes All the masterpiece it still is.

Colour Haze would, of course, continue the thread. As alluded to, in 2012, after copious delays on the technical side they released She Said (review here), which dived even deeper into expanded arrangements, with horns and strings pulled in alongside the core trio on cuts like “Transformation” and the aforementioned “Grace.” Late-2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) followed and drew back to a more rooted and jammier vibe, but still had its progressive aspects readily on display, and after the 2016 live record, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 (review here), 2017 brought In Her Garden (review here), which again was one of the year’s best albums and renewed their commitment to the tenets of classic progressive rock while retaining the organic melodic and rhythmic sensibilities that seem at this point to be indispensable to their sound.

I had the opportunity to see them in London back in May of this year for the first time in half a decade, and they were nothing short of incredible. An absolute treasure of a band. They’ll make an annual sojourn to Keep it Low in their native Munich next month and play Sankt Hell in Berlin to round out the year, and I would not be at all surprised if 2019 brought a new release from them of one sort or another. Whatever that might be, it’d only be welcome.

I sincerely hope you enjoy All, and thanks for reading.

My early mornings doing Obelisk stuff have kind of become overnight shifts. I got up sometime around 1:30AM to start this post, and it’s coming on 4AM now. Most of this week I’ve been up between 2 and 2:30. I slept until my alarm went off at 3:30AM the other day and felt like I was behind all day because I didn’t get enough done before the baby woke up. And the truth is I was. One attempts to find a balance.

Attempts.

Hey, looks like I might be going back to Norway. I tend to never consider these things settled until I’m through security and getting on the flight — though even that wasn’t far enough when that volcano went off on my way to Roadburn in 2010 — but things are in motion to get me back to Høstsabbat in a couple weeks and it has The Patient Mrs.’ seal of approval. Electric Moon, Asteroid, Toner Low, Elephant Tree, on and on, playing in a church in Oslo? Yeah, you can go right ahead and sign me up for that one. Keeping my fingers crossed all the confirmation comes through okay. Naturally, if it happens, I’ll be covering. More info on the fest is here. It’s sold out.

Also looks like I’m getting a show on Gimme Radio. I turned in a sample playlist and they dug it so, it’s kind of a thing I’m trying out. I did college radio at WSOU, and kind of have missed being on-air ever since, so this could be a cool way to do that. Plus there are good people involved and that’s always key. More to come. I need to send them pictures of myself. Sadly, I’m awful-looking, so this is a source of some anxiety. Like, life-long.

In the meantime, The Little Dog Dio continues a steady decline. We’ve been hand-feeding her chicken breast and Polly-O string cheese for I guess two weeks now, and she just ate a bunch and drank some water and went out to pee, so clearly the steroids we’ve been giving her are doing their job, but she’s less comfortable between doses of pain meds than she’s been. Last night she was hunched up standing with her head down, clearly uncomfortable, and it had been a while since we saw that. Just now she got up out of her bed in the kitchen and came to lay down by my feet, which she ordinarily wouldn’t do — a shar pei wants to be nearby, but likes its space — so yeah. I’ve loved this dog for a long time. Another vet appointment next week to follow-up and see where we’re at. I’ll just give scritches and belly rubs until then. How about a billion dollars to whoever cures cancer first? I’d donate to that Kickstarter.

I don’t even want to get up and get another cup of coffee for fear of disturbing her.

That’s been hard. The worst part is there are moments where she’s eating and I forget and I feel like she’s maybe getting better and I look at the GIANT FUCKING TUMOR in her shoulder and just feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. She’s not going to get better. We’re buying time. Buying time and drawing it out. I told The Patient Mrs. a few days ago that I always imagined she wouldn’t so much die as evolve beyond her corporeal form and become a being of pure light like in that episode of The Next Generation. I was kidding, of course, but let that be indicative of my overall ability to emotionally handle what’s coming. Eating made her hurt. It happened last night too and it happened just now. Ugh.

Okay.

The Patient Mrs.’ semester has also started, so the week’s been kind of a mess on that end too. Summers “off” is nice — or would be; she has to work all the time anyway, between research, reading, writing and meetings for sundry university service projects, so while she’s not teaching, “summers off” is mostly a myth — but having your schedule upended every couple months, especially now with The Pecan running the show as he is, I’m trying to figure out when’s naptime not the least so I can sleep too. We’ll get there. We’re not there yet.

If you’re in North Carolina or anywhere in Hurricane Florence’s path, good luck and stay safe. My grandmother who passed away last year was named Florence. If she were alive and lucid, I’d like to think she’d see it as a fitting tribute. If anyone sees people after the storm selling “I survived Florence” t-shirts, I want one in every size available. Black shirts preferred. I’ll PayPal you the cash.

I’m streaming a track from the new Sherpa album — so good — and I’m going to try to review the new All Them Witches next week, and I’ve got stuff slated into the middle of the week already, news and such, but yeah, I’m going to finish working it all out over the weekend, so I’ll just leave it there for now.

Like always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please have fun, hug your loved ones and take care of yourself in the best way you can.

And like always, please check out the Forum and Radio stream. It is appreciated.

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