The universe is making music all the time

Step Right Up: Gang Colours

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“I know you don’t care that much about money

But I’m going to make some and take you out.”

(Gang Colours, ‘Fancy Restaurant’)

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry


Gang Colours is the alias for English musician and producer Will Ozanne. Based in Southampton, Ozanne’s Gang Colours’ debut album ‘The Keychain Collection’ was released last year on Brownswood Recordings, the independent label belonging to the DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson (who had a late night BBC Radio 1 show; currently broadcasts from BBC Radio 6).

What’s immediately apparent about ‘The Keychain Collection’ is the album sleeve’s photograph of a gorgeous Monington & Weston piano. Indeed, the grand piano is a key element to the album’s fragile beauty. Combined with the delicate piano playing is some wonderful interwoven electronics and Ozanne’s hushed vocals – which has drawn many comparisons to that of James Blake. Throughout the album’s ten tracks is an obsessive attention to detail where intricate layers of sound reveal themselves after repeat listening. The album deserves close attention; it requires much playing in the early hours to reveal its full beautiful charm.

Ozanne, as well as a talented producer and musician, is also a fine lyricist. ‘The Keychain Collection’ features some stunning lyrics, most notably in the single ‘Fancy Restaurant’ (a definite highlight) where Ozanne sings: “I know you don’t care that much about money / But I’m going to make some and take you out.” The refrain is repeated until the song’s end (at under three minutes). The combination of delicate piano with an electronically manipulated drum and bass arrangement backdrops the refrain, while Ozanne’s words will linger for a long time in the listener’s ears.

On the third track, ‘To Repel Ghosts’, Ozanne sings “Will they ever find out / you never told / how was I supposed to know”. The vocals are backed by a child-like voice echoing Ozanne’s own hushed vocals, creating an eerie and mysterious mood. A vocal sample is looped over the following track, ‘I Don’t Want You Calling’ where the silence between notes play as vital a role in its composition as any individual instrument. In fact, it’s a full three minutes in when we first hear Ozanne’s ‘true’ voice when he simply repeats the song’s title “I Don’t Want You Calling” before the irresistible piano notes drift back in momentarily before the song comes to a close. It’s amazing to think, in another musician’s hands, these songs could easily be fleshed out to twice their duration. But therein lies the real charm of Gang Colours: the temptation to over-do things is always resisted. Ozanne is a master of subtlety.

Even the lyrics themselves (when there at all) – like the lead single ‘Fancy Restaurant’ – are to the point and wonderfully simple. Yet that simplicity never takes away from the heartfelt nature and effectiveness of those very words. Take, for example, the stunning ‘Pebble Dash’ where Ozanne sings: “You don’t have to / Change for me”, the beautiful refrain is repeated, like ‘Fancy Restaurant’, until the song’s soft end.

The sequencing of the album is also immaculately conceived. Two piano notes are quietly repeated on the opening to ‘On Compton Bay’ while stunning electronics build until Ozanne’s vocals emerge at the 2 minute mark. The track fades out before slowly fading back in – layer by layer – revealing the true magic present in Gang Colours’ artistry. The quality found in the album is reminiscent of my own personal favourite electronic records put out by Morr Music (B Fleischmann’s ‘Welcome Tourist’) or City Center Offices (Ulrich Schnauss’ ‘Far Away Trains Passing By’).

My personal favourite at the moment is the sparse piano closer ‘Rollo’s Ivory Tale’, which brings the album to its sparse conclusion. In fact, the piece feels more like a ‘sketch’ than a fully realized piece of music – and combined with the sounds of chirping birds – a wonderful nostalgic feeling is conjured up. It’s like a childhood’s infinite number of recollections and memories rolled into a two-minute piece of music.

On a quick first listen, Gang Colours’ debut may sound somewhat subdued in tone. However, ‘The Keychain Collection’ is a true “grower”, one which deserves repeat dead-of-night listening to reveal its true charm and warm, beating heart.


The debut full-length by Gang Colours, ‘The Keychain Collection’, is out now on Brownswood Recordings.


Written by admin

February 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm

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