When Gang Colours put out his fine debut in 2011, it's a testament to its quality that it didn't feel particularly behind the curve. In the same year, James Blake's excellent first full length pulled so many progressive electronic musicans-cum-bona fide songwriters into the spotlight that The Keychain Collection could so easily have sounded like it was playing catch up - peddling the fragmented vocals and soft dubstep influences which coloured Blake's lauded early EPs and a sound which he was already leaving behind, seemingly bringing the whole scene with him. But Will Ozanne's music amazingly didn't suffer much, so immersive were his softly muted colours, merging with weighted piano and spongy, laid back rhythm. It was a cooly unassuming LP - unconcerned with being compared to anything else, and wholly comfortable with what it was.
Two years later, Ozanne again finds himself inhabiting the space which his obvious peers were covering two years ago, allowing his voice to step into centre stage and staking his claim as a fully blown vocalist. But this time, sadly, he fares much less successfully - failing to play to the strengths of his charming debut, while overstretching his abilities in the direction of song writing. Far from the breezy confidence of his debut, Invisible In Your City sounds much more like it's striving to prove itself in active competition with artists of a similar ilk.
Ironically, one of the highlights of The Keychain Collection was a track with one of the most prominent vocals. 'Fancy Restaurant', with its repeated refrain of "I know you don't care much about money, but I'm going to make some and take you out" carried itself through its simplicity, in both sentiment and its space within the greater whole of the mix. It cast a very pale shadow over the other components of the instrumentation, offsetting the clicking beats and rich piano deliciously, creating a sweetly modest love song.
On Invisible In Your City the vocal lines dominate the textures, sitting front and centre of all of the tracks. This has the unfortunate effect of pulling you out the music, rather than drawing you in more closely. In the attempt to create a more personal statement through words and vocals, the delicate ambiance of the music created on his debut ends up shattered, and the LP always makes itself brashly present, rather than expanding on the debut's ability to fade its edges slightly, allowing you to fully relax into it.
It's not that Ozanne has no ear for melody. The title track, for instance, has an appealing refrain, a sexy little lick of meter and catchiness which makes for a decent hook indeed. The chief problem is in his lyricism: these songs are all so damn wordy. Take an example from the same song: "everything my castle speaks and reeks of opulence. Still in my own world, I argue, was it my intention that went west?". In writing, it doesn't look like a disaster (if perhaps a little obtuse), but in performance, the lines tie themselves in knots trying to cram the syllables into the couplet, falling flat on their face as they do so. And so many of these tracks end up doing exactly the same thing - overloading the vocal lines, overstretching the songs, and giving the music absolutely no space to breathe.
There's examples here of Ozanne's attempt to progress from his debut pushing into fruitful territory. 'Why Didn't You Call?', for instance, while no means a showstopper, stands as a good demonstration of Ozanne's ability to actually make good of the efforts to turn his textures into honest-to-goodness song frameworks, with soulful guest vocals and lounge jazz horns adding a sense of dynamism and flow to the structure of the song. But sadly, so many of these tracks get stuck in a rut of their own making - taking one nicely cooked splash of melody (which, don't forget, could so easily have been rendered instrumentally) and running it into the ground through over-repetition and badly conceived lyricism. It's admirable to hear a follow up LP trying to push itself out of comfort zones but Invisible In Your City finds Gang Colours falling short of his peers.
6Russell Warfield's Score