The wash of trance-inducing drones that make up October Language, Belong’s 2006 debut LP, came to fruition in late 2003, and was built only of guitar tracks and an infrequent synthesizer. In the middle of the night for 13 months (due to night jobs), Belong’s two sole members collaborated in their hometown bedroom studio, just three miles from New Orleans. After all the melodies were loaded into a mess of outboard effects, everything was processed ad nauseam in DigiDesign’s Pro-Tools workstation. Hurricane Katrina would strike two years later, and October Language‘s physical release followed—a collection of chilling, intoxicating drifters packaged in faded photographs that were treated by member/artist Michael Jones. Against the backdrop of the disaster that sent Jones and other Belong-er Turk Dietrich fleeing to Georgia and Florida, respectively, October Language‘s deteriorated pieces sound downright ghostly. Colorloss Record offers more of the painstakingly nuanced layers, with two peculiar and unexpected catches.
Colorloss Record is the Belong limited 12”/digital release that October Language advocates thought they’d never see: an all-covers effort. What’s even a more unlikely outcome is that Belong allowed the vocal tracks from each of Colorloss‘s original recordings to remain somewhat intact—it’s just that they’re buried, or at least pushed far back beneath the mix of what sounds a lot like the churning Venice-esque masses on their debut, minus the crackling edges that define a lot of their first go-round. The four songs here weren’t written by Dietrich or Jones, but to discuss this EP as such is a slight mischaracterization.
“Girl from New York”, one of the more radio-ready ditties from Billy Nicholls’s 1968 acid-pop beauty Would You Believe, is given an otherworldly makeover on Colorloss Record. The Steve Marriott-authored wire-thin fuzzbox solos are gone, and their indistinct replacements rush overtop Nicholls’s now detached verses, as if we’re hearing them being delivered from a shower downstairs. The vocals are more noticeable at the chorus sections, as they are on opener “Late Night”, but they’re still secondary compared to Belong’s gorgeous tide of guitar at the forefront (Jones told me in an interview years ago that guitar is “the only instrument he knows how to play”). “Late Night” is a do-over to the third degree: it’s a cover of a Cleaners from Venus version of Syd Barrett’s song. The “yes, those are vocals under there” deduction that gradually materializes during “Late Night” is a startling one: when the wavering trace of what’s most often reserved for the front slot(s) of a recording dissipates, there is only Belong and its subdued, reverb-heavy sonics, beckoning us to turn down the lights and turn up their unorthodox set of cover songs.