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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hill is alive with the sound of wonderful music., 23 Sept. 2009
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
One of the bands along with American Music Club accepted as being responsible for the so called slow-core( or sad-core) movement in alternative rock Red House Painters were formed in 1989 but their debut album didn't see the light of day until 1992 though the band had built an extensive array of songs . The band were signed to 4AD Records in 1992, on the strength of a demo tape passed to 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell by American Music Club front man Mark Eitzel cementing the links between the bands. As was done with the debuts of previous 4AD artists like Pixies and Lush the album is made up of demos that were remixed for general release. Although uncredited, the remixing was done by 4AD Ivo and his This Mortal Coil partner John Fryer.
Like AMC the songs are confessional and laceratingly honest though detractors would no doubt label them dour , miserable and as much fun as a wet weekend in Grimethorpe .Being rather fond of wet weekends , though not necessarily in Grimethorpe, I find Red House Painters quite uplifting and moving .There are songs on this album that are stunningly beautiful and anyone who cannot see that , well I feel a bit sorry for them .Generous to a fault me.
So whether you class this band as part of the slow-core thing or a studied amalgamation of folk& rock the results are often dazzling but in a heart breaking sonomolent way.
The title track is a tour de force of precise hypnotic military percussion and almost hymn like ephemeral vocals courtesy of Mark Kozelek. The extended coda with the pining guitar note echoing the vocal melody is staggering .Like most of the album the song has a light airy quality most noticeable in a song like "Japanese To English " where the vocals have a delicate echoing quality allied to the wispy guitar notes. The album is not without moments of more burly rock though, nor without humour as "Lord Kill The Pain " -"drown everyone but me " - showcases. "Michael " is looser in it's structure , like Tim Buckley as he twisted his folk muse into something more stratospheric. "24" is reminiscent of fragile post rock greats like Codeine or Rex in their more vulnerable moments. The liquefied shimmering chords of "Medicine Bottle " add more variety and texture to the album, something about Down Colorful Hill that is often overlooked.
As debut albums go this is a beauty and a disregarded one at that. It's still my favourite Red House Painters album , though the next album 1993,s eponymous epicRed House Painters is also tremendous . It has a bucolic grace and poise shot through with bruised dignity . Sure it's focus,s on depressing things but it is depressing only if you are the sort of person who finds obvious things depressing . Personally I find the nations continuing obsession with Katie Price and Peter Andre far more disheartening than anything on this album. It has many moments of intense but camouflaged majesty..... Rather like a wet weekend funnily enough. You've just got to know where to look for them.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great, 26 Jan. 2003
By 
Ben Collings "mr_cushtie" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
I like this album but unlike proper RHP fans I much prefer the later release 'Old Ramon'. On 'Down Colorful Hill' the misery seems a little youthful and inward looking. Perhaps it's more like hardcore melancholia this way, with loads of reverb and lyrics about soulsearching and wanting to die etc. Perhaps most RHP fans are a tad younger than me and can better connect with these sentiments. I think this album has a lot of good ideas and really captures that slow misery we all sometimes feel, but if you want a more mature, reflective approach to melancholia, with a more acoustic sound and tighter songwriting then check out Old Ramon.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th anniversary of a special album, 14 July 2012
By 
Kenneth (nottingham, england) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
If anybody tries to ask me what my favourite decade of music is I tend to avoid giving an answer in general as I think it's a little arbitrary to separate music into decades, However when I really think about it I most definitely have a special place in my heart for the 1990's. There were so many amazingly honest, interesting, emotive and powerful bands/artists during this period, granted most of the good ones weren't very popular besides Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead) but they certainly existed. Tindersticks, Jawbox, Pavement, Sebadoh, Slint, Slowdive, Elliott Smith, Yo La Tengo, Stereolab ... I could go on and on it was just a really fertile period for authentic, challenging and most importantly beautiful music. One style of alternative music that people sometimes forget to mention when their eulogising this decade is the gloriously angst ridden Slowcore genre, that apparently sprang up as a reaction to the de-rigueur trend of loud, fast heavy guitar bands (grunge) dominating the airwaves. These unsung heroes were bands like Low, Codeine, Bedhead and perhaps the greatest of them all Red House Painters.

Lead by Mark Kozelek RHP were plaintively experimental, devastatingly sad and beautifully sombre, I'm aware of how tautological that may have sounded seeing as though those three descriptions i just gave all pretty much mean the same thing, But it feels right to use as many synonyms as possible to describe the preternatural ability Red House Painters had at being so outstandingly depressing. They made six studio albums from 1992-2001 and all of them were powerful in their own way, it all started with Down On Colorful Hill though It's perhaps the album that's most full of pathos out of the entire RHP catalogue (trust me that's saying something) and i can't imagine anybody listening to this without being severely effected.

The album begins with the crushingly dark "24", a song essentially about the disappointment of realising just how little Kozelek felt he'd achieved in his life at this point, It sounds fairly quotidian on paper but the music is so full of gravitas and angst that you can't help but succumb to the pain that's expressed in it's 7 tortuous minutes. With such a strong opener it would be reasonable to assume Kozelek would reign it in a bit for the second track, precisely the opposite happens, "Medicine Bottle" is somehow staggeringly more heart wrenching than "24". Sonically it's perhaps less creepy and ominous but it's lyrically so poetically confessional that it becomes utterly overwhelming for the listener. "It's all in your head she said, Morning after nightmare. You're building a wall she said, higher than the both of us. So try living life, Instead of hiding in the bedroom, Show me a smile And I'll promise not to leave you" is one of the many brutal stanzas i could of chose to illustrate just how hopelessly vulnerable Kozelek sounds and it's main power lies in how relatable the tragedy is, almost all of us have agonized over our own misery whilst simultaneously worrying about how our partners feel so bummed out by us that they threaten to walk out as a result.

The genius of the whole album is rooted in how Kozelek's relatively commonplace problems are expressed within these six tracks with such a potent sadness that we can't help but relate. "Lord Kill Pain" arguably being the best example where he semi-sincerely asks for his girlfriend, parents, neighbours and friends to die just so he can live in peace, Ironically it's also probably the only song where Mark Kozelek actually sounds as though he's being somewhat light-hearted. That said the title track has a similarly more upbeat feel with the instrumentation sounding less dissonant and minor key, however, it's wistfulness still seems to translate as sorrow. The final song "Michael" I've always assumed is about the passing of a friend and it's a painfully fitting closer for an album like this, The final lines "Left the mother of three sons, you're the oldest juvenile delinquent bum, my best friend" gives some insight as to why Kozelek's music has been so inexorably bleak throughout the album as the lyrics would suggest he's witnessed some pretty awful things in his life.

Each song sounds impressively distinctive considering the economy of instrumentation that's actually used on Down Colorful Hill, the musical template for virtually all of these songs is a mixture of slow drum tempos, spartan piano chords, fuzz guitar and Mark Kozelek's wonderfully humane vocals. How the group achieves this individuality may be down to the accomplished musicians in RHP or that they just communicated their emotions so passionately that the individual songs perhaps sound more diverse than they really are. Either way the beautiful sounds, lyrics and artistry expressed on this album leads me to come back to it again and again no matter how old I get, I'll always have a place for this stunningly wrought music in my life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Down Colorful Hill, 28 May 2006
By 
Sheathton (Foreign Territories) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
Given that "Down Colorful Hill" was the Red House Painters' foray, its maturity and depth seems remarkable. Standout tracks are hard to choose from such a consistently rewarding album, but "Medecine Bottle", with its emotionally charged imagery, and "Michael", a touching elegy, perhaps narrowly serve as the finest. The music throughout is of true beauty and Kozelek's lyrics and vocals intense with raw, brutally honest sentiment. Highly recommended for anyone willing to immerse themselves Mark Kozelek's highly refined melancholy, which ironically guarantees much joy.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must listen, 18 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
This is a truly beautiful album which marked the arrival of a new voice for the melancholic. The epic "Medicine Bottle" would earn the 5 stars alone but there are at least two other masterpieces here in "Japanese To English" and "Michael". Legend has it that the band were recommended to 4AD by Mark Eitzel and they were so impressed that they released this (basically a demo tape) without adding any extra sheen. I must say, it definitely works, the pared back instrumentation allows Mark Kozolec's doleful voice to dominate in a way that their later records fail. Just buy it, it's great.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsessive and compulsive, 24 April 2010
By 
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
We'll skip past the appalling American spelling of "colorful" to bring you a review of the album that foisted Mark Kozelek on the world. The lovely 4AD artwork gives way to an album of only 6 lengthy ponderous songs. But what songs. 24 opens with a barely there plucked guitar before Kozelek's voice enters. We instantly know what territory we are in as he sings "so it's not loaded stadiums or ballparks", navel-gazing, brooding self-analysis. It's like Neil Young's Old Man updated for the 90s.

Medicine Bottle follows, and it's ten minutes of dissection of a failed relationship in painstaking detail over dark, echoey guitars. It's one of the few long songs that doesn't feel that long. There is great imagery in the lyrics - "no more breath in my hair, or ladies' underwear tossed up over the alarm clock." It's obsessiveness of the highest order, unsparingly capturing every last detail and "setting it all out step by step".

After 2 stunningly good songs, the next 3 songs are a little ordinary, with the title track itself being a little dull. The album concludes with Michael, a wonderful lament for a departed friend over some staggeringly beautiful strummed guitars. Largely acoustic, there are some lovely lyrical nods to misplaced youth here: "me with my ridiculous looking pierced nose, I remember your warm smile in the sun."

One could be critical and accuse this album of being fairly samey. Is it self indulgent wallowing? Absolutely. Since when is that a bad thing?!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not So Much Colorful As It Is Black & White., 26 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
Red House Painters - are a band who have greatly influenced my listening habits over the past year or however long it has been since I first discovered them. Since discovering this San Francisco, Californian based band, spearheaded by the industrious singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, I have never managed to find a band within the same genre who managed to capture the same levels of emotion or move me as much. This, one of the most influential bands in the genre of slowcore, a truly horrible genre name, have, to some extent, shaped the way I listen to music, making me pay far more attention to lyrics than I have ever done in my life due to the fact that I find myself so often relating to the pained expressions of lost love and melancholy that Mark Kozelek so grippingly writes about. He himself has expressed in interviews the fact that he finds himself unable to listen to his earliest albums due to the painful memories they evoke.

Although obviously not to the same extent, each time I sit down to listen to Red House Painters' debut, entitled `Down Colorful Hill', I feel past feelings of anger, hurt and regret just as I did the day that took hold of my life. The lyrics to songs like `24' I find particularly stressful to listen to (especially when coupled with the wonderful music video for the song), though this is what draws me back to Red House Painters time and again. I don't know what it is about my nature but I love torturing myself through listening to the most depressed music, watching the darkest films and generally immersing myself in the most wicked forms of art. Listening to `Down Colorful Hill' is like stabbing myself in the back as I betray my mind and put myself through the sheer torment of listening to those aching acoustics and that wonderfully dismal voice, expressing the most downtrodden of lyrics.

I find it rather amusing that, having taken a break from writing reviews for depressed metal musicians, I find myself sitting here writing reviews about depressed non-metal musicians and music. I'm drawn to it somehow. However, that isn't to say that there isn't any other emotion expressed via this groundbreaking record because there is. Despite the style of Kozelek's voice, which is infiltrating due to its sombreness, there are some rather "upbeat" moments to the instrumentation, most noticeable I find on the self-titled track, `Down Colorful Hill'. Though the lyrics may express challenges ahead for the fragile human being in the story, there is an uplifting quality to the repetitive and rhythmic drumming, as well as the acoustics, which are normally so wrapped up in the dark and dense atmosphere that they can never usually get to that light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hard they try. The atmosphere on this particular song signals a change in the albums direction and although `Japanese to English' changes the momentum a bit, the strangely upbeat `Lord Kill the Pain' swiftly moves back to that fragile state though this time through the lyrics and not the instrumentation.

The lyrics, in particular, are very striking to me. The song pinpoints things, albeit unintentionally, that have occurred in my own life once again, even to the point of getting the names in my own personal story right! I have a lot of respect for what Kozelek has done with this album, particularly when taking into consideration the ever impressive lyrics. He captures all those fears and desires I had as a mixed up teenager in a troubled relationship with seemingly mountainous problems that somehow dissolve over time. Though the lyrics may seem to suggest a rather irrational form of angst and despair as their main influence, one has to keep in mind that these seem totally justifiable at the time, so I always try to place myself in his youthful shoes, though it isn't hard seeing as this album never fails to transport me back to a time when the emotions on display here are entirely applicable to my existence. Not only does he hit the nail on the head with the lyrics but his voice has a brilliantly juxtaposed warmth and cold texture to it. He expresses the delights with a burning passion and the downs with a cold, harsh reality. I adore Kozelek's voice. It's marvellous alongside the simplistic acoustic passages, gentle bass and probing percussion.

Whilst the first two songs, particularly `24', were extremely emotive due to its intensity and emphasis on darker thoughts and feelings, are suppressed by their darker state of mind, the album switches to a more soft expression of emotion during the course of the self-titled tracks ten minutes plus (which also happens to be the longest song on the album, therefore dwelling on the lighter transitional period for a prolonged period of time before becoming more focused on the pain of life once again on the confused and hurt sounding, `Japanese to English'). As song like the aforementioned highlight, Kozelek was and always will be a brilliant lyricist. He captures so much in the short space of his songs. Each and every track of this album has at the very least one or two lines which are extremely quotable in reference to things that have occurred in my own life, making this one very special album to me. Whether he's talking about how life dealt him a hand much different to the one he expected at a young age, or how he never realised his dreams, it isn't difficult to at least empathise with what he's getting at and therein lies the beauty of Red House Painters - they feel real. `Down Colorful Hill' is a truly brilliant debut album consisting of remixed demos that fully deserved to see the light of day in this sort of format. Wonderful.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lord Kill the Rest, 15 Oct. 2007
By 
D. Kerr "blackantlers" (Belfast) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
I should hate this. I should hate Red House Painters. It's not my thing. Introspective, confessional, not my bag. But a friend lent me this about 14 years ago and it never goes a week or two without a play. Truly amazing from start to finish, these (4 track demo) songs are the ultimate debut from any band. Just buy everything they've done. it will be worth it. Glass of red at the ready. And yes I found Old Ramon dissapointing, but not terrible. Kozalek is the most overlooked voice in the last decade and a half.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite RHP-album!, 31 Jan. 2001
By 
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
This is my favourite. The songs slowly unfolds and opens up a magical universe of feelings. This album is a treasure, I'll still find new things in the music. A must have! Maybe not for YOU, but don't knock it till you tasted it...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab, 25 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Down Colorful Hill (Audio CD)
This was a gift for my partner who is a huge 4ad collector. A well received addition to his collection.
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Down Colorful Hill
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