Formerly known as the main man behind the drill and bass duo of Animals On Wheels, Andrew Coleman made his solo debut last year on a 12" release by Thrill Jockey and threw a lot of people off-guard with his new sound. Instead of the rapid-fire beats and avant jungle of old, he dropped pretty melodies backed up with sedated beats and more of a focus on textures. That sound continues on his first full-length, the 13 track and nearly hour long excursion of Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt.
The story behind the creation of the album probably lends something to the organic sound that permeates it. Wanting to create a more quiet and understated sound than the work of his previous group, Coleman moved several instruments and a computer to his houseboat outside Cambridge England and set about incorporating live instrumentation (you'll hear quite a bit of nice piano and guitar work on the disc) with ambient sound samples (the lapping of waves against the boat creates a peaceful backdrop on more than one track) alongside electronic beats and synth work before putting it all together on a computer.
The album opens up with "Too Early By Far" and drops a warm inviting beat behind some keyboard noodling to give things almost a downtempo Ninja Tune feel (which makes sense given that Animals On Wheels made their home there) before the second track "Pi Four" takes an almost classical approach to things by simply combining a pretty piano part with an unobtrusive beat. It rolls right along before being threatened by noise a couple times and is finally overcome at the end, but not before a nice two minutes has passed. "Escalator Apartment" is really the only track on the disc that brings jungle beats into the mix, and even though they're pretty subdued, it still feels somewhat out-of-place next to the less kinetic rhythms on the rest of the release.
Some of the other highlights of the album include "My Trouble With Purple," a track in which a touch of stringed instruments adds an even more organic feel to things while plinked and plonked keyboards sound like windchimes over the soft, gooey beat. If any track on the release were the aural equivilent of living on a houseboat, I'd imagine it to be this one. The latter third of the album is completely solid as the disc flows through such tracks as the upbeat and twinkling "Wider Ignorance" and the bubbling beat of "Vocational Shouter." The haunting album closer of "Curse Of Knowing," though, pulls together almost all the best elements that Coleman works with into one track and ends things beautifully. Texturally, it's one of the most subtle on the disc, as well as most successful. Although the drum beat sounds like almost a pre-programmed casio in super-slow mode, he layers in several different droning elements that give it an almost ghostlike quality for another pretty keyboard melody to wind over.
While it's not solid 100 percent of the time (there are several times that noise elements are added to tracks, and instead of making them more interesting, distract from the absolutely amazing warmth of the tracks), this is a pretty darn good debut release and definitely an artist I'll be looking out for in the future. Given the feeling of most of the tracks on the release, I'm reminded of another recent release with the word "beautiful" in the title (Boards Of Canada's In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country). Although they're not exactly the same, both Andrew Coleman and BOC have sort of a pastoral quality to them that stands up well to repeated listenings and are nearly perfect soundtrack to a lazy summer day.