Cubicolor's 'Hardly a Day, Hardly a Night' Is a Richly Drawn Work of Electropop

Photo: Courtesy of Mystic Son

Cubicolor's meticulously crafted soundscapes morph from plaintive electronic pieces into uplifting dance tracks in the space of a single song. Hardly a Day, Hardly a Night is a richly drawn, triumphant record.

Hardly A Day, Hardly A Night


21 February 2020

Sometimes you just know something isn't right. Sometimes, you can't shake that nagging feeling that the thing you've plowed so much time, effort, and passion into, isn't quite as it should be. Electronic trio, Cubicolor understand that feeling all too well. After readying the release of the follow-up to their acclaimed debut, Brainsugar, the trio suddenly scrapped the album entirely. It was a dramatic and brave decision, but after listening to the completed album, they realized it was no longer representative of who they were as a group.

Decamping to a boat in Amsterdam, the ensemble, consisting of Amsterdam-based producers Ariaan Olieroock and Peter Kriek, and British singer-songwriter Tim Digby-Bell, quickly started again. While we may never know what the abandoned project sounded like, its replacement, Hardly a Day, Hardly a Night sees Cubicolor continuing to explore the textured, gently evolving sonic terrain of Brainsugar in more intimate detail.

The shimmering "Prelude" opens the album, beautifully showcasing Cubicolor's richly detailed approach to electronic music. The whole thing inches forward, gradually building to an ethereal high that leads seamlessly into "Rituals". As soft vocal loops gently collide with languid piano notes over a shuffling house beat, Digby-Bell's tender falsetto imbues the song with a hefty emotional punch.

Digby-Bell's vocals form the emotive core of the album with all the layers of intricately drawn sound radiating from it. That frees the trio to map out distinctive sonic landscapes such as on "All You Needed". Here, layer upon layer of synth lines, loops, and beats combine, but somehow, the group amplifies the space between them all, adding a real sense of depth. That approach continues with the gorgeously enigmatic "Melodies". Quickly locking into an early morning groove, it ebbs and flows before being caught in a rhythmic tailspin that culminates in a gentle, cushioned landing. It's the perfect score for the discoveries and revelations that come in the moments before dawn.

"Points Beyond" is all about timing and balance. Over arpeggiated synths and a steady, four on the floor beat, the tempo may not change dramatically, but the subtle changes add to its understated grace. "Now You Know" is the only survivor from their previously abandoned effort. It points to an interesting direction for them as it feels a little less polished with trap beats, more pointed synths, and stuttering rhythms.

The title track provides the album's centerpiece. With a thumping rhythm like a heartbeat keeping pace, Digby-Bell articulates a very personal tale of loss. Thematically and musically, it's the point where everything coalesces. Subsequently, the band offers a little space for contemplation on the plaintive piano piece "Once Around".

The spectacular, "Wake Me Up" is a blissed-out floor-filler. With euphoric synth lines and massaged pads pushing away any dark clouds, it's a gleaming album highlight that will be warmly washing through dance floors throughout the summer. "Airbeat" is a similarly light, airy track full of cool synths, fragmented vocal loops, and shimmering guitar notes.

"Kindling" is a little more experimental. With cavernous, slowly shifting notes, it initially feels like a three dimensional sound installation piece before being joined by a brisk beat and house chords. It's the balance between the more overtly deep house and the more avant-garde elements that make it so compelling.

The final song "Pale Blue Dot" is the natural counterpart to the opening track "Prelude". Whereas the later track signaled the dawn of the album, "Pale Blue Dot" is the point where the sun sets. With streams of increasingly urgent piano notes, it climaxes before rolling back into the night.

Although shaped by loss, uncertainty, and self-doubt, the songs on Cubicolor's second album never linger in the same emotional space for long. Throughout, the band uses the music to process negative feelings before channeling them into something more positive and uplifting. Musically, their meticulously crafted soundscapes morph from plaintive electronic pieces into uplifting dance tracks in the space of a single song. Hardly a Day, Hardly a Night is a richly drawn, triumphant record and testament to the fact that sometimes you have to go with your gut and start again.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.