Michael Columbia - These Are Colored Bars (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Michael Columbia

These Are Colored Bars (2004)


Michael Columbia doesn't like lines. Genre lines, to be more specific.

The duo known as Michael Columbia is actually two men, Dylan Ryan and David McDonnell. And in the spirit of Brian Eno and other experimentalists, These Are Colored Bars was born.

It raises a few interesting questions, though. Where's the line between experimentalism and pretension? Where's the line between random noises, and a deliberate arrangement? Well, those two men are hoping that this album will answer some of those questions all on its own. In one rite, they've already succeeded. This sounds like nothing else, and not necessarily because it's that "out there," simply, these are original compositions the likes of which I haven't encountered. "Hobart" is a shining example of the fine line some of these songs tread.

With only an extremely repetitive synth line, some light percussion, and a saxophone, close to five minutes of music is made. Now where did that time go? Well, the synth was present underneath everything through the entire song, unfortunately, and the percussion is barely audible, so it's essentially reliant on that alto sax to make 5 minutes of music seem in some way captivating. This is one of those songs that falls completely flat, and there's a few of them. Songs that just tread water, not making any sort of forward progress, and eventually, becoming to tired to even hold its head above the oncoming waves. "Unknown Shape" shows a completely different side, a much more haunting, methodical side. This is where the atmosphere really shines though; the song is very dark, very ominous, and the only reprieve is some thick bass plucking that periodically comes into the fray. "Special Export" is the first time any vocals come into things, and the monotone delivery offers an extremely haunting quality that the electroclash beat oddly compliments. "Buzz Aldren" is a fitting closer, as the track possesses a real subtle, dreamy quality, operating on only some light action with the snare drum and some great, drawn out, melodic electronic work.

Albeit extremely spotty, and an essentially pretentious display, there's some real flashes of something special; it's just not quite realized.