By Hailey Nuthals, Arts Editor
After ages of hard work, Brooklyn-based dreampop band Corbu have finally released their debut album “Crayon Soul.” The group initially drew acclaim with singles back in 2014 that showcased frontman Jonathan Graves’ talent for sampling bits of audio from movies – whooshes, slams, bits of laughter – and making entire soundscapes out of them. As a whole ensemble, the band is capable of turning those soundscapes into compositions with the dark, beautiful feelings that usually emanate from looking at photos of galaxies.
The introductory track “Sirens” slowly builds ambient noises into a coherent chorus right into a climax as the next track begins. It works as a perfect buildup to “Polygon Forest,” which itself begins with soft, repetitive synth lines and growing harmonies. The complexity of the song continues to expand until it’s a full piece that itself grows with key changes, added ambient noise, and crashing percussion. Like a film’s title sequence that slowly zooms in until bright white words emblazon themselves across the screen, it begins the album with a perfectly followed format. The album has begun.
The track fuses perfectly into “Neon Hallway,” a presumably liminal space “between heaven and hell,” which is well-captured with bopping sounds and synth going off in either speaker and just a touch of echoing on the vocals. “Through Emptiness” continues the streak of perfect transitions, but with a toned-down texture of sounds appropriate for the title. It’s gently enjoyable, like a friend’s comforting words or a breeze on a hot subway track.
The fade, which is just as science-fiction-y as bits of foil and colorful LED’s in a Kubrick sort of way, leads into “Branches.” The lyrics float around in the ambient space between the synths and drums, between here and not-here. The song spends most of its time in the not-here, in a sort of exploration of the space in it.
“Prism” brings a bright flavor to the sounds we’ve grown comfortable in it, with lines like “there’s a flower growing on the roof / we’ll be there soon.” It’s an unapologetically happy bit that fuses perfectly with the dark, empty undertones of the rest of the album (and that occasionally surface in the song itself).
We’re afforded a bit of vocal clarity on “Battles,” in another small contrasting piece of the whole. The song is still just as spacey, but with some conviction: the chorus, which the first time around consists of the phrase “I fight battles / I fight wars / every day, it’s true” morphs to “We fight battles / We fight wars…” It’s a beautiful moment of affirmation, calling out to the listeners to feel like participants instead of the observers they’ve been thus far. (It’s also ever-so-faintly reminiscent of the pop-punk anthem “Everything is Alright” by Motion City Soundtrack.)
Heartbreak holds the spotlight in “Marching Orders” in a way that’s better experienced than written about; suffice to say it’s all the more heartbreaking for its empathy. The album finishes along the lines there, keeping to a bit more melancholy than before. The beauty of the psychedelia holds true throughout. “Crayon Soul” is more than a solid listen – it’s a necessary one.