Two short years ago, Jimmy Lavalle left his original outfit, Tristeza, to pursue his solo career as the Album Leaf. Garnering a contract with Sub Pop and touring with the likes of Sigur Rós vaulted Lavalle into the spotlight ahead of his former pals. Rather than considering their careers over and calling it quits, the remaining members of Tristeza found two new inductees and ended up making some of the best music of their lives. A Colores, translated means `In Colors,’ is the result of their hard work in San Diego, Tijuana and Benton Harbor, Michigan. (One of these things doesn’t belong here, two of these things are kind of the same, to paraphrase Sesame Street).
Not quite guitar driven post-rock, nor electronic instrumentalist compositions, but lying somewhere in between with a penchant for pop craftsmanship, Tristeza blur the boundaries of modern music. Some, including myself, have had a hard time with instrumental bands in the past. The lack of a strong and singular voice can tend to leave some music bare and wanting. Not so with Tristeza who have managed to make each and every instrument an equal part of a melodic whole, making the music itself the only `voice’ necessary. No instruments are hidden or drowned out, just as none are overpowering or overriding.
I haven’t been this excited about instrumental music since New Order’s “Elegia.” In fact, listening to this album reminds me of the first time I heard that particular song. Luckily, I was able to experience the track with headphones on my first listen. Nothing can replace the intimacy of having music delivered straight to your ears point blank, save perhaps live music played directly in front of you. My mind was left to create images, take journeys and feel a part of the music surrounding me. And the music did indeed surround me. This is how I feel listening to A Colores, surrounded by music that delves deep inside my psyche, finding its way, song by song, to different triggers of memory.
Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins has written a nice little essay on Tristeza that nails everything perfectly. He mentions that these people love their instruments and simply have to make music together. This is evident upon listening to this album. Songs are so fluid and masterful that one would think the process effortless, that these pieces were merely within the instruments themselves and these five players simply had to release them. Not bad for a band who lost what some people thought was their linchpin.