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It makes total sense that Coloma's debut album, Silverware, falls somewhere between romantic, arty English pop of the '80s and minimal Germanic house of the early 2000s. That's partly because the duo -- producer/multi-instrumentalist Alex Paulick and vocalist/keyboardist Rob Taylor -- are British ex-pats residing in Cologne. Their first album isn't a triumph on the level of Finery, their 2003 follow-up to this, but it contains all the high promise that would be fulfilled in short time. While the album is a stepping stone, it is graced with a unique kind of bruised beauty. The tracks are regularly mechanical and downcast in nature, as opposed to Finery's more organic balance between the somber and the sanguine. On this album, the instrumentation -- Hammond organ, bass and electric guitar, vibraphone -- is used sparingly, often as slight but indispensible embellishment over electronic programming that is delicate and rigid without being prissy. Taylor, who also writes the lyrics, should be thought of as following in the same line as the Associates' Billy Mackenzie, Japan's David Sylvian, and the Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan, despite the fact that his voice resorts to neither affectation nor full-blown theatrics; instead, he sticks to a mannered, somewhat boyish elegance. "Transparent" is an absolute knockout that thrives on the intricate manner in which the bassline and simplistic drum pattering wrap around each other; apart from light chiming effects, the only remaining element is Taylor's upfront and vulnerable voice, which falls into all the right places. "In a Snowstorm," another key song, begins as a lullaby of a ballad but begins to build momentum halfway through; rather than turn into a grand catharsis, it turns back into itself for a melancholy close, perfectly fitting for a song that includes a line such as "I loved you like a wallflower loves the ball."

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