Thursday, October 12, 2006


Colourbox was a complete oddity in the world of pop music - they were completely reclusive. No interviews, no videos, precious few pictures. They were only active for 3 or 4 years, but during that time they created some strange and wonderful music. They appeared on the 4AD label, which at the time was mostly known for goth faves like Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. Amidst the gauzy gloom, Colourbox's brand of in-your-face technopop stood out like a sore thumb. Ivo, head of 4AD, once called them "the most subversive band on the label."

The coolest thing about Colourbox, from my perspective, was their relentless genre-hopping. Their sole album release starts with a beautiful piano instrumental, which crashes jarringly into a shredding guitar 'n' sample fest dance track, which segues into a reggae-lite electropop number, followed by a 50's doo-wop pastiche. It doesn't let up for its entire running length.

At Ivo's suggestion, they collaborated on a single with fellow 4AD artists A.R.Kane. Released under the name M|A|R|R|S, the single Pump up The Volume became a monster international hit, ushering in a new era of sample'n'scratch-based dance music. (Tim Simenon/Bomb The Bass owes his whole career to Pump.)

After Pump Up The Volume Colourbox all but disappeared. I have no idea what Stephen & Martyn are up to now. I hope they are hiding out on a tropical island, living off the royalties from Pump Up The Volume. After almost 15 years of total silence it seems unlikely they will ever make music again. At least they left behind an amazing body of work.

Picking one track to sum up their sound is impossible, so I just threw a dart at a board. Thus today's track is Manic, from their self-titled album. It features a guitar solo from some guy named William Orbit. I wonder whatever became of him.


Blogger coordinatezero said...

They do have a video for "Hot Doggie", but it's not what I'd put on the next Voyager probe as a representative of the music-video genre:

12:39 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home