One could be excused for thinking that UR, Nick Smith and Ben Corr's Colo debut album, is suffering from a modest case of multiple personality disorder. When the forty-two-minute album dishes out two tasty electro-funk jams to get the party started, one expects that the rest of the album will likely follow suit. But Smith and Corr take an abrupt left turn by first slowing the tempo in the third song “Aubade” to a beatless crawl and giving the vocal a fragile quiver that begs comparison to the vocal stylings of Benoit Pioulard and then following it with the hushed ballad-styled treatment “Doorframe.” Equally surprising is the closing piece, “New Machine Sales,” a tripped-out instrumental that wails with a dark industrial-ambient fervour leagues removed from the electropop style of the opening tracks.
The album's high point arrives early with the opener, “Holidays,” whose lurching electro-funk groove comes equipped with a falsetto vocal hook that's as haunting as they come; interestingly, when it came to him, Smith immediately recognized the melody's potency because, wanting to record it right away lest he forget it, he laid the vocal down using a cheap mic that came with a game console (that same vocal ended up being used as the final version). Bringing the Colo sound into sharp focus, the subsequent “Take Mine” riffs on the style of the opener with another downtempo falsetto-driven number, this one even more luscious in its sound design though sporting a slightly less mesmerizing vocal hook. The electronic dreampop vibe that infuses “The View From Nowhere” also is hard to resist, especially when Smith's vocals are multi-tracked and embedded within a gauzy arrangement awash in synthesizers.
It's hardly a perfect album, however. An instrumental such as “Survivability Inside the Bubble” is a pleasant enough diversion but hardly at the level of “Holidays,” and its presence is all the more conspicuous when the album is relatively modest in duration and track total. Material such as “Survivability Inside the Bubble” and the title track, which finds Colo making an idiosyncratic stab at dub-techno, comes dangerously close to filler. At such moments, one starts to think that UR might have been more effective as an EP or mini-album.
Even so, there's enough entrancement on offer to recommend the album, even if UR is an imperfect creation. Perhaps part of the reason for the production's hazy quality and relaxed vibe can be explained by the fact that all of the songs' elements were recorded live, and that Colo embraced the accidents and mistakes that arose rather than try to rectify them in post-production. To Smith and Corr's credit, the ten songs exude a spontaneous feel that enhances their appeal, and the album rarely if ever sounds overthought.