Technicolour Wilderness (Fence)
Technicolour Wilderness is one of these rather beautiful surprises that are occasionally sprung upon you. In this case, an album and band that appeared all bedraggled and unannounced on my doorstep begging for attention before ending up taking over my stereo and heart for days at a time. Despite releasing a mini album on Fence, gaining plaudits, radio airplay and celebrity fans in the form of Yo Yo Ma, the world acclaimed cellist who organised the music for Barak Obama’s Presidential inauguration, Candythief sneaked in well under my radar until they arrived uninvited with this rather splendid long-player.
From the opening notes of ‘Foreign Sands’, a stunning piece of catchy folk-pop, full of infectious melodies, with fiddle and boisterous percussion to the fore, topped of with Diana de Cabarrus’s distinctive, warm vocals, to the gentle, uplifting closer, A Good Day’, Candythief display an unnerving knack for a killer melody, with plenty of twists, turns and thorns, developing a simple palette of basic colours and textures to push the boundaries into something more wide-screen, vivid, ambitious and, well, technicolour.
‘Entente Cordiale’ incorporates an Easternn-European feel with a polka rhythm in the verses and the vocals switching from French to English as effortlessly as the songs time signatures change. At points it’s elegant and understated, at other points soaring and swelling. The lyrics are bittersweet, angry at times, resigned at others, particularly when de Cabrrus sings
When I let you screw me
Just to keep the peace
It was a point of no return.
‘Number Five’ has a really melancholic, even eerie feel at times but it’s a gorgeous song with an inventive structure and spacey mix between the instruments and vocals. ‘Junk’ racks up the tension with a dense, textured atmosphere leavened by a sweet, sweet chorus, at points seductive, at others implying a sense of threat.
‘Maria’ has a slow build-up. It’s a haunting song with a fairytale feel to the words and imagery though one that’s more Brothers Grimm or Angela Carter than Disney with its theme of domestic neglect and violence. The pretty, intricate music accompanies lines such as ‘Were you still alive when your head hit the stone / At the bottom of the stairs?’. ‘Alphabet’ has a subtle, stripped down feel, with a great sense of rhythm and a soaring climax while the fragility of ‘Dry Land’ is offset by the crisp percussion and de Cabarrus’s beautifully sung lines about the inadequacy of communication:
My notes are crumpled out of shape
And I’m restless to the bone
But there’s nowhere else to go.
The song contains some delicious vocal harmonies. In contrast, ‘Lost And Found’ is a spectacular, dreamy instrumental, meshing acoustic guitar, fiddle, bass and washes of cymbals into a rolling and rocking whole. ‘The Wedding Dress’ really packs a punch. From its simple, effective beginnings, with a breathy vocal full of rich evocative imagery where
My mother took her wedding dress
Packed it up that day
She sold the reminder of the promises they made.
to the last notes, it’s a thrilling, engaging song and narrative, again full of joy and pain, punctuated by musical ebbs and flows.
‘Ghosts At the Feast’ is pretty epic, both musically and lyrically. Beginning with a gentle, infectious guitar line and punchy rhythm, the lyrics suggest that real history lies not in grand narratives or the splendour of big buildings – ‘These faded castles and grounds / Will never flesh our bones’ – but in the stories of ordinary lives lived. It develops into a noisy, chaotic freakout, taking on the weird psychedelic folk of the late 60s and early 70s and giving it a renewed vigour as it threatens to collapse in on the centre before shifting off in new directions, totally messing with my head. It has an exhilarating, trippy feel. Final song, the aforementioned ‘A Good Day’ brings a sense of closure to proceedings with its cathartic, warm sound.
Technicolour Wilderness is a superb piece of work, eleven songs full of verve, imagination and beauty that really hits home. It has moments of real elegance and joy, tempered with a darkness. Over the album the moods are not just black and white or the grey areas in between but a vivid explosion of colours, emotions, textures and atmospheres. Wonderful and beguiling, gorgeous and terrifying, full of twists and turns but always enchanting and engaging.