You See Colours
ynaesthesia is a weird phenomenon where your senses are fucked-up; you hear smells, see sounds, and feel images. Apparently it’s due to misfiring synapses in your brain, so the information from your eyes gets fed to the part of the cerebellum that deals with aural information as well as where it’s supposed to go, for instance. The results vary; at the mild end some people will “see” letters or numbers in their mind’s eye as being certain colours. At the crazy end some people will “taste” the sound of a microwave oven as the flavour of sewage in their mouth, and it will make them puke. As with everything, scientists and doctors are divided as to what causes it, and even to whether it actually exists.
I doubt Delays are synaesthetic, at least not seriously (I myself think of four as red and five as silver-blue, and kind of assume everyone else does as well), but they probably want to be. Their first album took a bit of The Byrds, a touch of Cocteau Twins and a slice of “dance” “music” (I use inverted commas not because I question the status of dance music as music, but because it’s a fucking ridiculous term—out clubbing the other night and emo kids in the UK dance to The Libertines in the same way as they danced to Justin Timberlake three years ago) and mixed it up into a colourful, immaculately-produced excursion that took them from bedrooms in Southampton to the edge of psychedelia.
They followed Faded Seaside Glamour with a one-off single, “Lost in a Melody,” that pushed them further down the technological, beat-driven route. I imagine, in stoned moments, that they like to think of it as their “Fools Gold.” It isn’t, but it’s not bad either, and helped mark them out even further from the in-crowd emo kids with their scratchy guitars and post-ironic lapel badges. Said single didn’t make it onto You See Colours, not because it isn’t good enough (it would be one of the best four or so tracks here), but because bands need “lost” songs to add to the myth of being in a band. Oasis need “Whatever.” Blur need “Popscene” and “Music Is My Radar.” You can pick others out of a hat. Some bands use them as b-sides.
Anyway, I should probably talk about the album itself. Firstly, You See Colours is fantastically produced, this time entirely by Graeme Sutton from Bark Psychosis, who produced about half of their debut. The sound is exquisite, futuristic and clean, melding enormous synthetic keyboard hooks with mellifluous guitar and ethereal vocals. If anything it’s a touch too immaculate though—the thing that made the first Star Wars film so effective at suspension of disbelief was the fact that the spaceships were all dirty knackered rust buckets—there’s not a trace of dirt here. I get the idea that Delays would love to sound like The Monkees as produced by The DFA, but they are both too sanitary and too lacking in out-and-out pop melody to quite achieve that. What they do achieve though…
It’s some kind of synthesis of strange, sci-fi beauty and dancefloor excitement. “You and Me” may begin with a slightly dodgy a cappella vocal (not dodgy in that it fails to hit notes, dodgy in that it sounds like showing off) but once the enormous, swoonsome synth sweeps across the song, followed by a delicious bass groove, it catches you up and pulls you in. Ever since, well, “Fools Gold,” indie bands have tried to catch that dance thing, first by adding a tiresome funky drummer fill and latterly by- sod it, you’ve heard Franz Ferdinand, you know what they do. Prodigy went backwards and added guitars to beats, seeing the connection between rave and punk energy. Delays see the potential of dance music as the last great bastion of psychedelia, and work accordingly. That was what got me about the likes of Aphex Twin and Orbital a decade ago—not that they made me dance, that they made me deliriously woozy.
Some of the sonic twists and turns that Delays pull on You See Colours—the multi-tracked vocals, the airy guitars, the pulsing synths—are jaw-dropping. It’s like synaesthesia in that it ties things together that aren’t together normally, and makes it seem natural. And what’s more, makes it seem like everyone else should feel and do the same too. Why wouldn’t any band add a disco beat, a funky bassline and a head-spinning synth-string riff to a guitar-based song? “Valentine” pulls the same trick as the opener but in yet more directions, making for a stunning opening one-two punch (the jab sends you reeling, the right-hook knocks you out). Only a few of the other tunes quite match up to that (“Sink Like A Stone,” “Out Of Nowhere,” and the beautiful piano-led closer “Waste Of Space”), but the album is so concise (11 songs in 40 minutes) and so aesthetically, sonically beautiful that the songwriting and melodic shortcomings (I can’t hum anything off here after a dozen listens, but I don't care) matter little. You See Colours sends me reeling for repeat with a smile on my face.