INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Fluid Radio FEBRUARY 20, 2020 - by James Catchpole
ROGER & BRIAN ENO: MIXING COLOURS
Exploring the nature of sound and comprised of eighteen soundscapes, Mixing Colours is the first duo album from Roger and Brian Eno. As part of its creation, Roger would play individual pieces and record them using a MIDI keyboard before sending the digital files to his older brother. Brian set each piece in its own sound world, achieving this by revising and manipulating its content.
"I'd wake up, go straight upstairs, put my equipment on and improvise, then I sent things to Brian that I thought he might be interested in. The idea for a full album emerged as the number of pieces kept increasing and the results kept being interesting. It's something that neither of us could have arrived at alone".
The record has a strong colour theme, too. Every track except one has a colour-related title, acting as paintings in musical form. Tones shift, passing through a range of gradients, sometimes ghosting through them, transforming slowly. Whatever the mood, and whatever the colour, the brothers nail a meditative atmosphere. The album's artwork features Dom Theobald's abstract paintings, including a piece given as a gift by Roger to Brian, further displaying a link between the brothers - and it's a bond that colours the music, affecting it in a positive, strong way.
"With classical instruments the clarinet represents a little island of sound, the viola another, and the grand piano yet another. Each instrument is a finite set of sonic possibilities, one island in the limitless ocean of all the possible sounds that you could make. What's happened with electronics is that all the spaces in between those islands are being explored, yielding new sounds that have never previously existed. It has been a huge pleasure for me to explore that ocean with Roger's unique compositions."
Every tone is beautiful and well-shaped. One can see the colours emerge. Album opener Spring Frost is warm in spite of its name. Notes twinkle softly and an electronic element is present in the background. Ghostly trails appear, harmonising and repeating what the notes are saying, in tune with one another right from the get-go. Indeed, these notes are representative of the brothers behind the music, supporting each other and not obscuring any of their individual sounds, but complementing one another by offering up their differing tonal shades - a splash here, a splash there - until the colours melt into one another, forming a painting, composed of multiple individual colours and resulting in one piece. Like those colours, the tones are in harmony with one another.
The beautiful, pixelated melody of Celeste feels like a dream, a wonderland made real. The atmosphere is always one of serenity and the notes become distinct, twinkling gemstones - tiny (apart from the added reverb) and perfectly formed, never endangering the listener but instead comforting them, like slivers of delayed starlight in repose. Some are sober, some are more reflective, some are reverential (Obsidian), some are brighter (Blonde), and some are cooler (Snow): these are the subtle variations in tone, and the tone reflects the shifting of a mood, a thought, a feeling, a vibe. Rose Quartz is bright, too. It's possible to imagine the glowing warmth of the colour as it saturates the air, turning it into a romanticised, soft peach with its fragrant major sound and chiming notes.
Of course, it could be an act of the subconscious, a psychological suggestion, implanted by the listener's foreknowledge of the colour and the corresponding title piece, pre-downloading the colour to the mind's motherboard and assuming its tone before even hearing the music, and then, upon listening, using some sort of confirmation bias to reinforce and link the colour to the sound. The listener may have an idea of what the corresponding tone will sound like, even before the music plays... and then 'see' the colour in the music, to feel it, in an episode of synaesthesia. Quicksilver is another fully-realised piece, with a deep, anchoring melody, bubbly, optimistic, and comes complete with lush reverb-tails. The atmosphere changes depending upon the music's tainting; its colours are always morphing, albeit slowly. Space is never compromised, either. The entire record is incredibly spacious.
These compositions are more reflective of classical music than modern composition, echoing in particular past works and pieces of renown, while Brian's focus on the electronic landscape gives the music added dimensions, increasing the size of the piece immensely, containing something of the present, but more often than not alluding to an unmet future. The album thus smooths away any fractured lines that haphazardly connect the centuries, picking up some of its older musical ideas and thoughts while keeping one eye on the future, shedding a strict tonal imprisonment for an open sound and a more advanced, innovative approach, presenting the streamlined, progressive continuum of music, only music.