London-based four-piece Junodream formed in 2018, and through two EP releases and several more singles, have established themselves as one of the most exciting alt-rock bands to emerge from the capital. The self-described space genre that they champion has acted as a backdrop to the core messages of their music, using dreamy guitar-led melodies and catchy choruses to accompany an increasingly introspective and reflective writing style.
Thus, the scope of Pools of Colour is wide, addressing topics that range from modernity to existentialism, from mental health to the age of technology. Indeed, the title track is a conceptual piece about the first human to receive Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which results in him losing his sight, thus only being able to see “pools of colour;” an early sign of the band’s cynicism.
‘Fever Dream’ is a fantastically produced opening track, progressively building up to curate a song that perfectly establishes Pools of Colour’s setting. The song’s dystopian lyrics combine with a pulsating instrumental that intertwines acoustic and electric guitar riffs to create a foreboding atmosphere that immediately sets a high bar from which the project rarely comes.
The record is equally ambitious, perhaps what is most impressive about Pools of Colour. Tackling several complex themes, including questions about humanity and individualism, throughout a singular release can often seem ostentatious, especially in a debut project. Yet Ed Vyvyan writes with such dexterity you would not be faulted for mistaking him as a veteran. ‘Sit in the Park’ features superb metaphors such as “we could be smoke up there/two puddles of atmosphere,” whilst ‘The Beach’ excellently captures the feeling of escapism. The conciseness with which Vyvyan so often captures such emotions separates him from contemporary, upcoming alt-rock frontmen.
Perhaps the best example of his songwriting skill is in ‘Lullaby,’ the album’s most pensive track sandwiched between two of its most passionate. The group describes it as the feeling of “anxious insomnia in the city,” which is all too well encapsulated as the frontman swoons into choruses surrounded by images of “cats on the rooftop singing/trying to seduce the moon” and “On my phone/Another night I’m scrolling all alone.” His ability to interlace common themes throughout, in this case being our reliance on technology, whilst giving each track its own identity, is of premium quality.
A fact that the quartet have repeatedly acknowledged is their admiration for the seminal Radiohead. This unmistakable inspiration extends past subtle references to Thom Yorke lyrics in the likes of the title track. ‘Close Encounters’ flaunts a concept markedly akin to 1997’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien,’ the Junodream track storying an alien abduction, once more exploring the re-emerging existentialist themes throughout the record.
Similarly, the recent single ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ sits sonically in between In Rainbows’ ‘Faust Arp’ and ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place,’ replicating the latter’s crescendoing bridge to reach an emphatic climax. Yet that is not to say that the track does not have an identity of its own, impressively replicating the angst of a doomed relationship as Vyvyan becomes increasingly exasperated with each “it makes no sense at all.” Pools of Colour is a debut album. After all, influences will be expectedly identifiable; it is more a testament to the band’s virtuosity that they manage to remain uniquely themselves even when this is the case.
Closer ‘The Oranges’ sees the dream rock band at their most dreamy, the quartet dipping their toes into the waters of shoegaze. Guitar feedback and Vyvyan’s reverberating vocals float into an explosion of cymbals and futuristic guitar slides that give Pools of Colour its moment of uplift in a euphoric Slowdive-esque grand finale.
Pools of Colour is not the perfect album by any stretch. It is hardly innovative and certainly pays homage to several inspirations the band have been vocal about. But it is the perfect debut album for Junodream. It fulfils the promise shown in their early EPs and builds upon their firm grasp of the dream rock genre they hold so dear, pushing into the boundaries of parallel sub-indie rock movements. If this is them just getting started, who knows what heights they may go on to achieve.