Review: Colour Cage, ‘Water’

Today, Sydney trio Colour Cage release their eight-track EP Water, a gorgeous blend of soaring melodies, sweeping chords and smooth rhythms that transgress time and genre in a really unique way.

Opening track Will I draws you in to a beautiful soundscape, with gentle, yet intense instrumental waves. As the vocals kick in, they seamlessly take the lead, each layer responding with emotional precision. It sets the tone for the rest of the record, quickly enveloping you in their wholly unique style.

Having recently chatted with band members Phan (drums, percussion) and Ben (vocals, bass, guitar), they mentioned that Jeff Buckley was one of their favourite artists – and the inspiration can be detected immediately. It doesn’t always work for an artist to wear their influences on their sleeve, and it ends up sounding like an attempt at a cover band. This isn’t the case here – they’ve taken what the world loves about Buckley – the deeply passionate melodies, a velvety tone and wonderfully expansive rhythms, and made it their own.

While the trio certainly know how to play to their strengths, no two tracks sound alike. Neap Tide opens with lo-fi ambience before transitioning into swift rhythms and a rich chromatic melody. Lucretius’ Lull has a distinctive jazzy vibe. I love the guitar work on this one – so precise, yet full of freedom. As a whole, the record shows no attempts of conforming to current musical trends or styles, and it’s particularly refreshing on tracks like this. The expansive vocals – extended by angelic harmonies – work so well contrasted with those guitars, particularly as they hit the higher notes around the halfway mark. The track breaks down into all-out, post-rock-inspired free form for more than a minute before wrapping up with a short vocal bridge. It’s music for musicians, that’s for sure.

Hold On is slow and sensual, with one of my favourite rhythms on the album. Just shy of two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a brief interlude before River, a sweeping track that again just nails those vocal harmonies. The vocals really open up on the melody here, showing off a huge range, complemented by an immense violin feature. Below the Sea, See the Fire is the heaviest on the album so far, building a huge, lush atmosphere. From huge guitar chords to the soaring violins, the contrast between the instrumental sections and the soft, somehow ominous vocal passages is really interesting.

Growing bigger still, my favourite track on the album is Silver Fox. A lot more progressive than its predecessors, there’s a deep, driving bass that anchors the track down, while the guitars, vocals and shuffling percussion twist and intertwine around each other, continuously growing and expanding throughout. As it reaches climax, I found myself really hypnotised by the frantic, ever-so-slightly restrained guitar shredding and some brilliant, intricate bass work.

Final track Onyx is the shortest and most experimental of the lot. Playing with heavy, almost glitchy distortion and immediately contrasting string-led ambience, the totally instrumental track ends on a mysterious, conclusive note.

This is a really impressive release for the Sydney trio, who have a hell of a lot of talent both on record and on stage. A diverse and fantastically produced release, every detail has been cared for with the greatest attention. I’m really interested to hear how the band will progress over time – their biggest, heaviest moments were my favourites, and I kept finding myself searching for more of that throughout. Totally going against the grain of so much new music we hear these days, this is a wonderfully refreshing release by a band who are so clearly passionate about creating music that they can be proud of.

Check out the whole album on Bandcamp right here.

Colour Cage will be launching their EP on May 15 at Captain Cook Hotel, I highly recommend heading down!