Gang Colours' debut full-length is a serious affair. From beginning to end, the 10-track effort sits in a solemn space, consumed by introspection and varying shades of mood. The productions are spacious, highlighted by the reoccurring presence of dense piano chords, slow-moving pads, and wide-open beats. It's the kind of album that requires the listener to be in a certain head space—a mix between patient and slightly somber—for the songs to really resonate, otherwise a bit of its allure is bound to be lost.
The tracks which make up The Keychain Collection explore the territory between post-everything style beats and fully-formed songs, with certain tunes leaning more to one form than the other. Only two songs feature a genuine vocal performance (translation: understandable lyrics) from Gang Colours himself, most notably the album's lead single, "Fancy Restaurant." Accounting for the full-length's lightest endeavor, the tune is, at its core, a slow, soulful pop song, but Gang Colours transforms it into an interesting hybrid with his adventurous production, employing a host of warm chords, a low-swinging beat, and a catchy (but not overstated) vocal refrain. It's one of the album's most memorable moments. On the contrary, when The Keychain Collection veers away from these more song-like compositions and Gang Colours puts his head down into some straight-ahead beats, the results are a bit underwhelming. Tracks like "I Don't Want You Calling" and album opener "Heavy Petting" are certainly not poorly put together, but fail to dig deep enough to qualify them as more than a good idea, and both songs' attempt to imbue a sense of emotional heft come up short.
Where the The Keychain Collection truly shines is with a handful of songs that move in recognizable patterns, hanging clever melodic twists around heartfelt chord progressions and refined production. Early on, "Forgive Me" sticks out with a sort of subdued funk, marked by massive chords and a beat that goes back and forth between swaying and stuttering. Touches of distant piano and pitched vocal chops brim at the edges, occasionally lost under a chorus of the producer's own manipulated voice. Gang Colours also gently touches on the kind of sounds which make up much of the current UK bass scene and it's beat-music counterparts, adding space-age chords and drum-machine-rooted percussion into his piano-based formula on "Pebble Dash" and "Botley in Bloom," the latter of which is about as close as the entire LP comes to offering a dancefloor-oriented tune. The essential cut on this debut appears almost as the effort is closing out with "On Compton Bay." Again relying on piano as a foundation, the song is built around open drum programming, placing spurts of skittering hats amongst a weighted snare drum that steadily falls on the four. The arrangement here is sparse, never allowing the layers of synthesizers and pitched percussion to run over each other, but rather assigning them to distinct areas and ultimately revealing an impressively clean and intelligible composition.
Despite what its title might imply, The Keychain Collection feels very cohesive, more like a planned progression than a mere combination of tunes. But with this strong focus, there is—for better or worse—very little in the way of musical diversity to be heard here. Gang Colours' window of appeal is considerably narrowed by this, but when you're looking for specifically piano-centric productions of moody, spacious beats (with the occasional touch of subtle pop), this record has got you covered.