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The Changing Colors, aka Conor Bourgal (often joined by his brother, Ian, their friend Ayla and other guests), came to our attention through a chain of serendipity that began with the Juliet & the Spirits album by Joe Kuzma that we posted for free download last month. It’s not that The Changing Colors was some big secret. They’ve played and toured around quite a bit, opening for acts like Great Lake Swimmers and Martha Scanlan. It was that Conor had been moved to contact us because of similarities between Joe Kuzma’s production ofJuliet and his own process: they’d both used ambient recordings of their home locales as the audio framework on which to hang entire albums. In Joe’s case, it was the Pleasant Valley neighborhood on the west side of Colorado Springs. For Bourgal, originally from Long Island, it was Manitou and the story of Emma Crawford, who is now best known as the namesake of the annual Halloween coffin races that celebrate her brief tragic life. Using samples of audio from Emma’s wake at Miramont Castle, the coffin races and sounds from his own walk up Red Mountain—where Emma was originally buried before her remains washed down the hill several years later—The Changing Colors create a folk that invokes everyone from The Carter Family to Neil Young and Will Oldham along the way. Writes Bourgal of his inspiration:
The Changing Colors came to be when I had just come out of about 5 years of playing instrumental dance music with Pale Room. I wanted to do something completely different. I’d messed around with lyrical songs for a while, but not too seriously. I had the idea for a record about Emma Crawford a few years ago while watching the coffin races in Manitou. Though the event is a lot of fun, it struck me as a strange way to celebrate a woman who was obviously very deep and spiritual.
The songs are an effort to imagine moments of happiness, love, doubt and faith in Emma’s life.
There are little bits of me in there too, at times the songs stray back to my reality…kind of like in “The NeverEnding Story”… I finished writing at the beginning of this year, but the recording wasn’t done until April. Some of the songs are from Emma’s point of view, other times it could be her mother and sister (read about Alice here) or her fiance.
Some versions of the story say Emma had a “vision” of an Indian Spirit Guide, who led her to the top of Red Mountain.
Judging by how beautiful the record is, we’re pretty sure that Bourgal had a spirit guide as well (perhaps chanelling Emma herself). One of the definitions of genius is, after all, “the spirit of the place.” It’s fitting, we think, that both of these locally produced records owe so much to the location from which they draw their sound. Judge for yourself with these three free downloads that Conor generously made available to Big Something readers. And after you do (we think you’ll like it), be sure to go check out his show tonight at Kinfolks in Manitou, 950 Manitou Aveue, at 8 p.m. and buy the whole “Ghost of Red Mountain” album.
(You can either stream the songs with the embedded player or right-click on the links to download the tracks.)
For more information and tour dates, you can go to The Changing Colors myspace page.
(Thanks for your feedback below, or to firstname.lastname@example.org!)