‘UR’, the debut album from London duo Colo (aka. Nick Smith and Ben Corr), nearly didn’t happen. Nearing the final stages of production, their un-backed up laptop was left in a London pub. In a benevolent twist of fate, it was eventually returned to them, and the two former Hyp mix contributors were able to apply the finishing touches to their remarkable debut LP. An entirely live mix of acoustic and electronic elements, their uniquely warm sound is beautifully communicated across ‘UR”s 10 well paced tracks.
Kind enough to provide us with a full stream of their album before its release next Monday 10th March, the duo also took the time to go in depth on the creation of their album, as you can read below…
We took four days off work, borrowed as much extra studio equipment we could get our hands on and locked ourselves in the studio. It’s not the oldest song on the album but the addition of vocals was our crossing of the ‘Rubycon’ that led onto everything else. Nick had an idea of a vocal melody in his head and, so as not to forget it, reached for the nearest mic and put down a guide. That mic happened to be a below-par Xbox mic, but the character of the uncertainty and caution in the vocals meant that that take was the first and final one.
This features percussion recorded in a church near us, real world reverb will never be beaten. It wasn’t massive so the reverb on the track isn’t completely overpowering but it’s definitely an important feature. The song is about being out of control and seeing things that don’t exist so the dense textures in the choruses kind of represent that.
Probably our favourite drums on the album, both the beat and the sounds. The majority of the drum hits are a metal IKEA table leg being hit, run through a slightly overdriven guitar amp with a built in spring reverb then mic’d up again going through another spring. A lot of the album is very sonically dense, but we always intended Aubade to be more stripped back with the vocals leading the way for a contrast.
Named after the frame of the door in our studio, this song is the mutant of about 6 songs in one of the most confusing session files ever created. It started out as having a very upfront bassline, loud drums and the idea of it being a ‘radio single’. It never gets easier, but after many hours of work we finally admitted it wasn’t very good. We kept some parts in it like, “is ti a bird”, “arm”, “newboml” and “Audio 164”, but pretty much muted everything else. We constantly built new songs up on its foundations to tear them down again until we had something we were happy with. Probably only 5% of the original remains.
Something we really learnt on this song was that if it sounds good, then leave it alone. The chorus vocals were quickly tracked with the Xbox mic while the speakers were still on for a guide. Perhaps not the cleanest sound, but something about that spur of the moment performance and background noise gave them an amazing feel. We wasted a long time trying to re-record them with a decent mic and pre-amp like the text books say you should. Complete waste of time as the important bit was lost and those initial rough guides ended staying in the final song.
‘The View From Nowhere’
We originally thought of this being an instrumental song but decided to try some vocals on it. Not much happened until our good friends Joe and Andy stepped up and wrote and recorded some. It’s the only collaboration on the album and really took the song to another level.
It’s one of the few songs to have the odd sample in. We tried finding it again the other day to no luck, but the high scream sound at 1:39 was recorded off a YouTube video of someone giving lessons in metal singing recorded on an old mobile. He had so much power in his voice even at that resolution.
‘A Reluctant Man’
One of the more abstract songs on the album, it was born out of a late night jam. The next day we cut it up, taking the good parts, and built it up from there. Sometimes if we’re stuck starting a song we make a short 8 bar idea that we bounce down then re-sample.
The title comes from another YouTube video of a guy loosing his cool about to sky dive and pretty much being forced out the plane. The two synced quite well together.
‘Survivability inside the bubble’
This is suitably one of the longest songs on the album and deliberately very repetitive and almost trance-like. The main riff that keeps going round and round is made from about 10 different timbres that fade up and down over the duration.
There is so much to say about the journey of this song, in some respects it’s older than some of the tracks on our debut EP. It started its life as a remix of our friend’s band that ended up not going to be released, so we took the elements we’d done and made a new song out of it. There are probably about 40 or 50 ‘final’ versions floating about on our hard drives but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks before finishing the album we added vocals to it. These were recorded through our usual signal path with the addition of a chorus guitar pedal that we’d just got for a bargain on eBay.
Like most songs it started with us standing in the flat of a Mexican guy in Stratford. We were there to buy his old 8 track cassette recorder which he used to record his salsa band with. He let us have one of his old tapes that we planned on sampling. Nothing really came of that back in the studio but we named the song in his honour anyway. The epic trance breakdown was originally just a joke for us that ended up staying in, it feels so wrong yet so right.
‘New Machine Sales’
We made the first half of this on our four day studio holiday after a couple of days of no sleep. It’s really healthy sometimes to go into recording something with no intention of ever releasing or anyone else hearing it. Most of the time you end up with just self indulgent rubbish, but this time we had a good feeling it was worth pursuing the next day. Structurally we see it as two songs – the main section followed by the outro of the album.
Apart from the guitar in Aubade, this is one of the few songs to have a non keyboard instrument on it with a really overblown clarinet solo. On its own it’s a bit Sun Ra meets an angry goose, but compressed in with the synths it sort of makes sense.
‘UR’ is out next Monday on Ki Records. Pre-order it here.