There is a cool, detached iciness that pervades the entirety of We Were One, the mesmerizing debut record from the Brooklyn trio Columboid. But rather than coming across as insular sonic experiments, these minimalist-leaning songs are instead infused with a seductive, textured depth that gives the listener plenty of room to get lost in while the menacing, hypnotic synths and relentless rhythms swirl around them. There are dark, ominous edges threaded throughout each of these moody numbers, with most of them smoothed over by bewitching keyboard flourishes and Ryan Hamilton’s impassioned vocals (a heady mix of Ian Curtis and Yeasayer’s Chris Keating). All of it adds up to a tense, mercurial record that effortlessly blends desolate, gothic elements with an adventurous, melodic spirit that soars amongst the darkness.
The album kicks-off formidably, with the pulsing intensity of ‘Guy Got Kilt,’ which churns with a sinister keyboard riff over Neil Benjamin’s swelling backbeat that seems to be just keeping time until the explosion happens. That release eventually comes near the end, with Hamilton in full-voice above the siren-like keys, as if the crime scene has already been established and the guilty have gotten away. ‘Ijnar’ features ghostly backing vocals that are reminiscent of TV On The Radio, but it’s Russell Higbee’s portentous, Fugazi-like bassline that really propels the track forward. ‘Route Notes’ begins with a vaguely-’Roxanne’-ish keyboard line, before ultimately flowing into a taut, chilling song that shifts gears many times during its emotionally fraught five-minutes.
There is a foreboding, slightly evil tone to all of these numbers, but the band refuse to get locked into any one style or sound, bouncing from the driving, electric gloom of ‘Working Stiff,’ to the synth-laden, free-jazz freakout of ‘Statehoarders.’ But all of them pulse with an intensity and clarity that is a testament to the trio’s vast talents (Hamilton and Higbee were also both in Coyote together), as well as the crisp production featured throughout We Were One, which never once clutters up these clean, bracing songs with overreaching aims or undue effects.
‘The Abhor’ is a full-on, noise rock tour de force, bristling with an acute, dynamic rhythm and threatening keyboards which only serve to augment Hamilton’s rigorous, rapid-fire vocals. After that breathless number, the band slows things down with the simmering potency of ‘The Contradiction,’ which swells to a cacophonous, discordant finish that is jarring but works well within the group’s sprawling sonic parameters. ‘Jacklord’ is one of the best titled rock songs of the year, but unfortunately comes across as a bit plodding and aimless, before devolving into a misguided Native American-like chant towards the end.
Thankfully, the album rights itself with the futuristic, fiery groove of closer ‘Shortfax,’ which burns fiercely before clamorously drawing to an untamed finish. Columboid seemed to have come out of nowhere with We Were One, delivering a tight, edgy album full of raucous, experimental sounds and raw, disconsolate emotion. Hopefully they won’t recede back into the cryptic shadows from whence they came, and instead give their fans a chance to hear where they decide to take their inventive sound next.