Fragile Colours‘ ‘Southern Utopia’ is a pop album with many shapes – ambient, rock, country and folk all working together. Underneath it could be forged in Nashville or London, but it lives right here in Tauranga. What strikes you is the consistency of the writing and performances. The album starts with the synth-heavy intro of Broken Promises. As things progress the guitars become more prevalent, eventually arriving at duet Sometimes We Forget which is a highlight.
The album is really the work of producer and Colour Field Studio owner Tim Julian, but intriguingly had its origins with demos recorded in the mid ’80s by then lyricist (and now highly regarded cinematographer) Fred Renata. After a decade on the shelf the songs have had another decade of Julian’s occasional attention, over that time pulling in some talented friends including Sean Bodley on guitar, Jed Dawkins on drums and Kamaea Harry on bvs to flesh out the vision. There are some new country moments that are done with finesse and to my mind uniquely, an overdrive pedal set pretty high.
The themes running through the songs are as varied as the instrumentation guiding their way, disenchantment, love and politics all feature. ‘Southern Utopia’ has had an unusually long gestation, and this seems to be to its benefit. The songs are diverse but anchored by a thematic sound. Sometimes pure pop, at other points downbeat, then reflective, then anthemic but always coherent within the sonic framework that has been established. This very worthy album is full of melody and great craft. It is many things but has a voice and range of colours unique to itself.