Corbu serve up sci-fi influenced synth pop on debut Crayon Soul

Crayon SoulFollowing two well received EPs, New York duo Corbu’s debut album Crayon Soul is completed and due to hit shelves on 5th August 2016. Self-produced by front man Jonathan Graves and musical partner Amanda, and mixed by Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, MGMT), the album fuses psychedelia, synth pop and an adventurous tendency toward experimentation. The results really are beautiful.

The music on Crayon Soul is largely built around tight percussion and a driving bass section, coupled with heavily treated guitars and a myriad of synth sounds ranging luscious M83-esque pads, to Kraftwerk-esque blips and encompassing a wide range in between. The result is a multi-layered and richly textured soundscape which is at times mellow, as on the closing "Dark Wave", more often dramatic (see "We Are Sound" and the largely instrumental "Branches") but in which the subtleties and quality production allow each element to breathe without collapsing into a shapeless sonic blancmange as is so often a risk with ‘dream pop’ bands.

Crayon Soul is a quality listen throughout, but there are still several tracks here which stand up above the rest. "Battles" for instance, recently released as a single, is not only a beautifully produced piece of shimmering synth-pop but also a stunningly heartfelt piece of songwriting by Graves, on which nostalgia and defiance coalesce to put forward a poignant message of self-discovery. Other highlights include the drum-line psychedelia of "Polygon Forest" and the dub-tinged fuzz of "Watchmaker".

Though these tracks can more than stand up on their own, Crayon Soul is definitely at its best when consumed in its entirety. As the album progresses, themes such as love, memory and dreams come into sharper focus. The influence science fiction has had upon musical styling of Corbu is also an obvious theme. "Marching Orders", for instance begins with eerie white noise and space age synth-blooping before Graves’ starts singing, his voice fuzzy and crackling as though coming through a radio link, conjuring a feeling of deep-space loneliness that wouldn’t be out of place in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Likewise, "Sirens", the harsh apocalyptic wall of sound that opens the album, could easily be lifted from the soundtrack of Alien.

Graves claims that the band view Crayon Soul more as a movie than an album. That could easily come across as pretentious, but the marriage of soundscape, lyrics and the accompanying artwork (definitely worth a look) fully support this view. This is a concept album done right; open to interpretation and thematically coherent, but also containing enough quality stand-alone tracks that you can still enjoy the surface without needing to critically dissect every element. Corbu are touring the US with Bloc Party this autumn, and after hearing this album a tour of the UK and Europe really can’t come soon enough.

Release: 5th August 2016, Big Picnic Records

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