“Up on the scaffolding I sing/And ask for help to do my job,” testifies Peter Broderick on ‘More And More’, the penultimate track on Colors Of The Night. The prolific songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist hit the wall a couple of years ago, exhausted. Previously based in Berlin alongside friend and labelmate Nils Frahm, he was hospitalised and went home to Oregon to recuperate, where the seeds of Colours Of The Night began to grow.
Used to playing everything himself, Broderick accepted an invitation to make his first ‘band’ album with a bunch of musicians he’d never met before in Lucerne, Switzerland, under the direction of local hip-hop producer Timo Keller. Three weeks later they’d finished a record which, over the course of ten diverse and lovingly textured songs, sees Broderick come out of the cold, both emotionally and musically.
Night-time crickets chirp and a creek bubbles in the background of opener ‘Red Earth’. Broderick embarks on acoustic guitar, a Nick-Drake melody surfacing before a female harmony interweaves with his delicate falsetto, and drums and bass murmur. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Sufjan Stevens’ latest LP, motifs of unmerited favour (“as if even a fool deserves a bodyguard”), nature and invitation swirling.
‘The Reconnection’, which has the singer rekindling a relationship to find the spark hasn’t gone, follows with Noah And The Whale-ish exuberance, Broderick exclaiming, “Come close to me now darling/I wanna smell your hair.” It’s one of two perky ‘pep-talks’ on the album; the second, ‘One Way’, an edgy funk/dub ode to single-mindedness.
Other tracks leave a deeper mark. While not as disarming as some of Broderick’s back catalogue (2010’s ‘Human Eyeballs On Toast’ anyone?), ‘Get On With Your Life’ is crammed with stark coping-mechanism couplets (“I can’t get this creature out of my way/killing it is not an option…It is biting your nails/so as not to scratch”). What seals it is the verses’ bossanova bassline and frisky guitar melting into a languid chorus, Broderick’s determination to get-on-by-going-through blossoming.
An artist not known for conciseness, Colours Of The Night impresses because of its ability to make every note count. Even the six-minute ragged Americana of ‘Our Best’ builds to a lung-bursting climax with purpose, Broderick reborn as he sings, “Get on stage with a heart full of blood that is dying to flow/And give it your best!”
The album’s title track catchily channels gospel and Afro-beat in a way that would make Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel proud; Broderick mining the darkness to find colour and light. By contrast, ‘If I Sinned’ is a naked confessional with the penitent songwriter admitting, among other things, overeating and not watering his plants. ‘On Time’ starts with an ominous synth drone and a circular guitar rhythm, reminiscent of Talk Talk, that creates pressure as the restless narrator is senselessly “chomping at the bit” to stay on time.
It all leads to ‘More And More’ which finds Broderick back on his feet but on the scaffolding, vulnerable, falling. “I can feel our love swelling up inside of me/So I pray that it not grow to a size that breaks me/Just don’t break me now,” he implores over gorgeous, woozy horns. As he draws the curtains on Colours Of The Night, there’s a sense of quiet assurance rather than desperation. For Broderick, for now at least, hope is where the heart is.
Words: Pete Bate