Switched On – Quarion: Shades (Drumpoet Community)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Music and colour have a strong relationship of course, one that has been incredibly productive over the years – and which really came to the fore in early 20th century classical music. The bond has remained strong, particularly in electronic music with use of lights and images. It is not a great surprise, then, to find the likes of Quarion – aka Yanneck Salvo – exploiting the connection with an album of different shades. Getting the music to accurately represent a colour, however, is a harder task.

Initially Shades began as a series of EPs but soon outgrew the concept, meaning Quarion’s previously lauded single releases could be knitted together as an album and combined with a few more experimental tracks.

What’s the music like?

The icy washes of Turquoise (’99 til Infinity) begin Shades with a glacial calm, but it’s not long until Indigo (Aries) asserts a rhythm-based presence, with bleeps and percussion that suggest a Detroit influence.

Shades then shows itself to be a really strong albums of tracks that stand as well on their own two feet as they do in the longer playing context. Cobalt is excellent, and is ideally complemented by the beatless Ultramarine. Azure (Émotion), a collaboration with Ripperton, is notable for its subtle layering, while Sapphire lays more acidic squiggles into the electronic mix.

As you might expect Teal allows you to dive deep into lush, exotic textures, while Cerulean is nicely done, with attractive melodic lines and deep beats. Three of the longer tracks are over eight minutes but pass in a flash – Indigo (Aries), Cobalt (Plains) and Azure (Émotion) all develop with an impressive and compelling command of structure.

Blue is definitely the implied colour here, but there are many shades that are beautifully interwoven by Quarion’s craft.

Does it all work?

Yes, and it all feels natural too. The colours and the music behind them are strong matches, and the move between the tougher, more acidic beats and atmospheric washes of sound means that Shades embraces light and dark ends of the spectrum with ease.

Is it recommended?

Yes, strongly. In an age where some seem determined to turn their back on the album format for playlists, while others celebrate the format anew, it is a real plus to see Quarion embracing the format for all its strengths, and putting together such a coherent and ultimately danceable piece of work. From happy experience, Shades is a record that repays many repeated hearings. Ultimately it proves that even if you have been making music at the top level since 2006, as Salvo has, it’s never too late for an album!

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