The members of Tristeza are getting right to the point about the correlation between music and art with the title of their third proper album, A Colores. Tristeza is an instrumental band, eschewing vocals in exchange for rich textural instrumental soundscapes. And, yes, these soundscapes evoke colors, an aural equivalent to a Mark Rothko exercise in monochromes or collisions of color blocks. This band is all about texture, and the guitar lines mesh with the bass and drums and assorted other instruments like layers of paint on a canvas creating. Up close, paintings often want to be tactile, appealing not just to our sense of color, but also to our impulse to touch and caress to feel the grain of the paints on the canvas. On A Colores, the members of Tristeza do just this, inviting us to sink ourselves into their compositions and immerse ourselves in their textures.
Founding member James Lavelle left the band in 2003 (following original keyboardist Stephen Swesey, who left in 2002) in order to pursue other musical textures with his new project, the Album Leaf. Lesser bands would have fallen apart, but the remaining founding members (Christopher Sprague on guitar, Luis Hermosillo on bass and James Lehner on drums) seamlessly incorporate new guitarist Alison Ables and new keyboardist Sean Ogilve. The new lineup composed the tracks for this album in Tijuana, Mexico, and then recorded and mixed them, in stark contrast, in Michigan.
For an album recorded at the beach, the soundscapes evoke dark cold nights and wandering lost in the desert or across a prairie. The drums and percussion are mixed down low, foregrounding the guitars and keyboards to push the melancholy melodies to the forefront, which gives the album is icy tonality. The guitar plucking on opener “Bromas” is all tension and foreboding hopscotching around angular drumming and cymbal shimmers, and the pace escalates and escalates until it just stops. “Balabaristas” is Kraftwerk-meets-Air-to-discuss-Pacabel’s-Canon and, as on the rest of the record, Rush and Moya-era Godspeed You Black Emperor collide on the sonic plain.
Though not a particularly groundbreaking or remarkable album among post-rock instrumental compositions, A Colores is solid and has a lot of movement, the rhythms and melodies rolling tempestuously between the speaker channels. This album would fit right in with what the Constellation or Kranky record labels released in the late ’90s.
Prefix review: Tristeza [Espuma] by Dave Mount