Varying Gradients: Bay Area Glaze Rockers Brilliant Colors Gig at Engine Works
Slumberland Records, the less-under-the-radar-now label straight outta Oakland, is making some predictably sage deals in its 20th year repping some of indie world’s quieter success stories. A few recent notable signings include Brooklyn bygone-era-exercisers Pains of Being Pure at Heart and fellow Brooklynites/noise-pop makers Crytsal Stilts, both of which are netting key critical kudos and growing followings by the day. Then there’s SF’s own Brilliant Colors, which falls both in between and on the periphery of PBPH and Crystal Stilts stylistically, as heard on its second proper release Again and Again. The band can be heard live on Monday at Engine Works.
The grrrl-rockin trio of Jess Scott, Diane Anastasio and Michelle Hill drum up a casual, lo-fi, garage thing, much in the same vein of former collaborator/Bay Area wunderkind Ty Segall. It’s glazed bubblegum and surf rock jangle at turns, and close listens reveal subtly intoxicating subterranean currents, clueing us in that there’s more to this sound than meets the ear. Problem with that is obvious, of course; we’d much prefer these songs smack our senses this way and that. In other words, more grrrr would be good.
Instead, Again is a collection of songs that only hint at bigger ideas. Indifferent vocals from Jess actually remind of Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley or Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, abstractly chanteuse-an but free of any meaningful attitude. Her words often devolve into blathering nonsense, and the vague hooks of many of the songs feel raw and unfinished.
One elemental exception is Diane’s percussion, which is reliably steady and inventive. She switches from high to low tones without warning and creates a sense of fickle moodiness with unpredictable pace, heard in strongest form on the track “Telephone Stories,” a twee daydream where clever meter shifts paint the chorus.
The scarcity of variation from song to song is a bit troubling — as if the producer turned on the Genius Playlist option on the back of the bandmembers’ heads and pressed record — but there is something to be said about such an approach, that at least it’s a singular body of work. They know who they are and they’re shaping an identity with an ethos, even if apathy seems to be central to said ethos.