Canon Blue - Colonies [Rumraket - 2007]Canon Blue is a one man project by Daniel James, based out of Nashville, Tennessee, the Country Music Capital. James' music is not in keeping with his surroundings. Instead, he's chosen to create electronic pop, accompanied by real instrumentation.
Colonies to me immediately invokes comparison to Radiohead. The vocals are unmistakably evocative of Thom Yorke. The melodies and backing tracks sound directly influenced by Radiohead as well, come to think of it.
There are some moments which cross pollinate the influence with pop music along the lines of the Morr Music stable, and with Efterklang (who incidentally runs the Rumraket label which this is on). As a result, there's a bit of a late eighties/ early nineties tinge to some of these tunes. James is a talented instrumentalist, if not a virtuoso; his guitar and piano skills more than live up to the task. If you'd never heard Thom Yorke, his vocals would be interesting as well, and although much less emotive, you can't say there's anything wrong with them.
The problem which arises time and again with musicians who are overtly influenced by others, is that they try too hard to emulate their heroes rather than create something distinctively their own. Colonies has a few shining moments, and it's most unsurprisingly when James comes out of his shell. Rum Dairy is a prime example. It's a shimmering and hypnotic song with cleverly arranged vocals, and powerful instrumentation. The album also ends on a high note with two great tracks; Mother Tongue, an imaginative, multi-part tune, which again featuring spot-on vocal arrangements and Baptesme, a lovely piano based piece.
So there's a lot of promise here, and certainly Daniel James has nothing to be embarrassed about. People who crave electro-pop may enjoy Colonies, and it's nothing less than a competent work. If James puts more of his personality on display, he could very well be a force to reckon with at some point in the future.Erwin Michelfelder