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Three Colours Dark - The Science Of Goodbye CD (album) cover


Three Colours Dark

Crossover Prog

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4 stars Three Colours Dark is a new project with keyboardist Jonathan Edwards (Panic Room and Luna Rossa) and vocalist Rachel Cohen (formerly of The Reasoning) rekindling their creative partnership from Karnataka, alongside Panic Room producer and collaborator Tim Hamill, who makes for an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist.

The resultant album, The Science of Goodbye, is available from Burning Shed and as a digital download on Bandcamp.

Before discussing the album itself, it is very much worth mentioning some exceptional contributors to the album. Dave Gregory, formerly of XTC and Big Big train lends his unique guitar to a cover version of Richard Thompson's Ghosts In The Wind.

In much the same way as Rachel Hall has added a deep and lush sound with her violin playing to BBT, so has Kate Ronconi of alt-folk outfit Rag Foundation here, and certainly fans of BBT's more introspective moments will find a lot to please them on this album.

Completing the line-up are Welsh singer Steve Balsamo (who has played the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar), Nathan Bray (who has played with a host of jazz outfits plus one Michael Rutherford) on brass, and Chantel McGregor (whose work I have heard being featured on Planet Rock radio) on guitar and ebow.

From the gentle synth passage, and particularly lush violin of Ronconi, leading into the unique voice of Cohen on the opening track, Enter, Soubrette, you know you are in for a treat. A Soubrette is a female stock character in opera, and the lyrics on this provide the introduction to the whole theme of what is, at its heart, a cathartic lyrical and vocal performance by Cohen, whose voice has simply never sounded, in turns, so fragile, pointed, and haunting as on this work. She truly excels and is reason enough to go out and buy this album alone.

And said theme? Narcissistic abuse, that of the emotional and psychological pain inflicted on a person by a narcissist, and, as the definition implies, a lot of this is extremely raw. If you thought that Waters was the byword in tearing open internal emotions and repression, then think again, because this work is deeply personal and heartfelt throughout.

Of course, such a lyrical journey is but nought without some fine music. Edwards has long been, to these ears, a fine musical creator, and he provides his trademark soundscape to this album. Hamill proves no slouch, either, as his guitar riff on Wonderland (How Can This Be Love?) proves.

So, this album is not merely an outpouring; it has at its heart all the musicianship that you know and expect from South Wales' finest collective prog exports.

Jon's exquisite piano looping behind Rachel's vocals, and the dreamy jazzy introspection of Know You Now.

I mentioned before the cover (all other tracks being co-written by Edwards and Cohen) of Thompson's work, this from his superb (not difficult ' all of them are) album, Across a Crowded Room. Cohen's intonations are spot on, without ever being derivative, and Edwards provides the perfect haunt to a ridiculously lovely Gregory performance playing a 1963 Guild Duane Eddy guitar.

Standout track for me is Three Colours Dark. Emotional, raw, beautifully sung with added choir by Cohen, Edwards adding classy electric guitar, Hamill with a pulsing bassline, and Ronconi reintroduced with her ethereal violin. Thoughtful progressive folk-tinged music at its most provocative.

Tasted Like Kryptonite has a jazzy edge to it and features the three main leads only.

Rainbow's End evocatively speaks of wounds so raw, and I cannot think of a better musical accompaniment than the singing violin leading the vocal, synth, and guitar harmonics.

The gift that Edwards, especially, has in creating catchy, 'prog-pop', tunes is highlighted strongly on Blood Moon Rising, with its strong chorus, and this features a great guitar riff from McGregor, who proves she can rock with the best.

The mood on Monster, as the title suggests, is foreboding. This is a dark track, full of menace, led by the soundscape Edwards creates, with the questions asked by Balsamo, and the permanently bleak guitars, bass, and drums of Hamill leading up to a brilliant rock out in the final minute and a half.

The album closes with the title track, an altogether brighter affair. This is a sensible closer, because here the catharsis realises itself. Cohen has rediscovered everything and is made again. In tone, certainly, this does remind me very strongly of Made Again from Brave, the end counterpoint to the testament which preceded it. Apart from Gregory & McGregor, the collective performs with Cohen & Balsamo singing in harmony, and all contributing to a foot tapping finale, with something of a pomp attached to the violin, trumpet, guitars, and rhythm. Very enjoyable and impossible to classify excepting under the tag 'damned good music'.

I thoroughly enjoy this album, which will be on my playlist for years to come, as, of course, are the albums of the bands which make up this collective. What is certain is if you enjoy Karnataka, Panic Room, Luna Rossa and the vocal contribution to The Reasoning by Cohen, you will find much to enjoy here.

Very highly recommended and awarded an 'excellent' four star rating. I, for one, hope that this is but the first in a series of such collaborations.

My grateful thanks to the band for providing a cd for review purposes. This is also an opportunity to give a 'shout out' to illustrator Karl James Mountford who has done a fine job on the visual side of the cd.

Report this review (#2377932)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Three Colours Dark is another one of those world-class releases that will go entirely unacknowledged by the prog world at large, a sad reality that will be challenged here and now. I have relied on a number of reviewers on PA and elsewhere to identify otherwise unidentified jewels that might fit into my wheelhouse and over the decades, "lazland" has never let me down, not even once! His review was the torch -lit parade that led me to a cursory investigation of who would be behind this debut album and that sort of sealed the deal. I am a big fan of female vocals in the prog realm, as they consistently outshine many of the males in my opinion, so bands like Karnataka, Mostly Autumn, Iona, Chasing the Monsoon, Panic Room, The Reasoning etc... are perennial favourites which I return to often and happily. Jonathan Edwards is a killer keyboardist and composer, while Rachel Cohen has a heavenly voice that can modulate with the absolute best of them. Talented multi-instrumentalist Tim Hamill, magical vocalist Steve Balsamo, BBT and XTC stalwart Dave Gregory adds a guitar part, as well as guest guitarist Chantel MacGregor all contribute to the grandeur. Throw in some trumpet, violin, flugelhorn to fill out the sound. I pride myself on having an open mind with prog, as many internal styles do appeal to me, but I have a melody fetish that never gets satiated and when I land on artistry that is overflowing with it, I find myself under an eternal spell. This is one of the reasons Celtic, folk and medieval music from various countries has influenced my tastes since the very beginning. From the very first notes of the spectral "Enter Soubrette", the stage is set for a gripping voyage into 'melody-land' that never let's go, no veering off into fluff or filler, just one sensational melody after another. While the structure does remain the same, the songs do vary within that framework, each one showing unique characteristics and varied arrangements. That first violin note just stamps this with genius, the elegance of humility blends with the crystalline voice and the haunting lilt, the passion highly evident and boldly displayed. The flow just meanders ahead, one lovely track after another, each with its own sliver of personality and genius, as well as attention to the slightest detail. Jonathan uses the piano as the main instrument in his arsenal, a beguiling instrument when played with such emotional technique. Tingling e-piano introduces "Wonderland", a liquid reverie shuffled along by a wistful bass-drum-guitar groove (all Hamill), intense lyrical content and magnificent vocal work (Rachel on lead and Steve backing up) , all swathed up in a melody that will stand the test of time. A sizzling burst of e-guitar provides the coup de grace. Indeed, how can this be love?

The piano guides the atmosphere on "Know You Now", a moody, jazzy and evocative ramble, essentially a piano/vocal duet until the trilling trumpet solo makes its glorious appearance, all combined, a colossal showcase. Intense lyrics only add to the thrill.

The cinematographic "Ghosts in the Wind", a simply splendid cover from the famed Richard Thompson catalog, is where Dave Gregory gets to flick his wrist on the fretboard, in unison with the dreamy e-piano and underlying grand piano. The vocal is lavish, then mood ethereal and the impact sorrowfully profound. It is about at this point that I had come to realize the grandeur of this work and how its just going to stay this way until the last second of the final track! The title track is crushingly beautiful, in the true sense of word, a mixture of purity, devotion and sincerity. The combination of choir and violin, the epitome of soothing luminescence in a symphonic folk setting!

The rolling "Tasted like Kryptonite" is another whopping performance in the level of modulation and control displayed by Rachel, doing a faded backing vocal intermezzo with aplomb, all merging together with great conviction. OO lala! "Rainbow's End" shines the light on Kate Ronconi's soaring violin work, the softness just a pretext to kick for the stars. Because as entertaining as the preceding tracks have been, I found myself dumbfounded by the remaining three, a trio of masterpiece tunes that clearly define the quality of this breathtaking release. "Blood Moon Rising" just raises the bar even higher, delivering a vocal performance for the ages (this could be a golden buzzer on BGT!) but the groovy organ solo as well as MacGregor's searing axe spot steal the show instrumentally. I mean, really! Can it get better than this? Answer: "Monster"! A full-fledged prog workout, a highly effect-laden, sinister in spirit, choir infested slash of musical genius that deliberately evolves into a volatile, explosive and bombastic crescendo of powerful emotions. Holy molly!

After all of the bewilderment induced up to now, it is only fitting to finalize the opus with a lovingly pretty 'goodbye', with parping brass underlying positive feelings and the violin searing the skies. Let us just hope that the science of goodbye can now apply to the pandemic virus.

And to parallel my friend Lazland, I also wish nothing more than another chapter in this stellar collaboration, as it sits exceedingly high on my mantel of prog masterworks. This album lies currently as number 6 on my 2020 list and it is not going anywhere, unless perhaps even higher!

5 Crimson shade trios

Report this review (#2488535)
Posted Tuesday, December 29, 2020 | Review Permalink

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