cd on Fang Bomb, March 2012
self released single sided 12", September 2013
These tracks were made for the exhibition 'Colour Tales', curated by Lesley Moore, and based on the colour themed fairy tales of Latvian writer Imants Ziedonis. Five short pieces, each with their own character.
These music, together with narations of the stories and Lesly Moore's translations into paper sculptures, were exhibited at WM Gallery in Amsterdam.
Fang Bomb released the music on cd, including the extra track 'Mosaic', mastered by Giusepe Ielasi.
The five colour tracks are also available on a one sided white vinyl
record (as used in the exhibition) in a simple sleeve. This includes a download code for the music in digital format, including 'Mosaic'.
Hear an/or buy 'Colour Tones' at
Bandcamp (with immediate download)
To say Rutger Zuydervelt, aka Machinefabriek, is prolific would be a total understatement, but I can say with some confidence that he consistently creates interesting and compelling music. This album, which is meant to represent a series of colors musically, is no exception. While saying something along the lines of, “I can hear the colors,” almost seems like a lame Cheech and Chong joke, that’s what Zuydervelt asks the listener to do with “Colour Tones.” And all kidding aside, the results are better than you might think.
In reality, the music on this album was designed for an exhibition and based on a series of color-themed short stories by the Latvian writer Imants Ziedonis. For the album, Zuydervelt gives us his interpretations of Green, Red, Grey, Brown, Blue, and the intriguingly named Mosaic. (Naturally, these are also the names of the tracks.) Musically, he weaves together his own mosaic of sounds with guitars, memo recorders, tape loops, test records, a Korg Monotron, pedals, a computer, and various live instrument samples. While it is interesting to note the instruments, the overall sound of the album really shines beyond its individual parts.
“Colour Tones” opens up with “Green,” which begins as a wall of static and builds into rumbling electronic drone. This eventually gives way and the song closes with melancholy tones from saxophone and bass clarinet. In the noisier parts, there are sound that sound they came from the outdoors, which might account for the whole green idea, here. “Red” comes next and continues the mix of noise with gentler instrumental sounds. Parts of this are certainly loud and abrasive, but are still tempered by lighter background noises. Seeing as red can symbolize both love and violence, this is seems strangely appropriate. Following this is “Grey,” which is appropriately hazy and mysterious, not unlike the muffled feeling of being lost in a fog, with musical sounds only periodically peeking through in this sound soup.
The deceptively titled “Brown” is really anything but dull and dirt-like, as one might expect. Instead, you get an odd bit of wild electronic jazz with propulsive drum rolls and riffs along with errant xylophone notes. Following that is “Blue,” which is as soothing as “Brown” was hectic. It flows along with a light, slow keyboard riff accompanied by the ghostly fluttering of a Philip Glass style organ trill. Honestly, this song evokes an oceany quality, and for that reason feels like it gets as close to source color as anything on the album, not to knock the other pieces, of course. The closer, “Mosaic,” lives up to its names, as it brings in the emotional highs and lows of the preceding tracks. Opening with glitchy samples of keyboard, it builds to include other instrument sounds and staticy tape noise. With touches of saxophone, bass clarinet, and cello, this song has an odd feel of chamber music to it, albeit chamber music awash in bursts of analog hiss. From there, it evolves even further, bringing a slow acoustic guitar riff to the forefront.
In the end, it might have been a mental stretch to force my own concepts of color onto the music, and that could just be years of mental conditioning to separate the senses or a lack of imagination (though my pride refuses to allow for the latter). Still, our senses are our own, so can anything really be wrong here? Whether or not you can detect your own ideas of color in this music, it is a beautiful collection of well-crafted pieces that’s a joy to listen to no matter what it brings to mind.
Its easy in words to oversimplify our relationship to colour – the reality is always more complicated; our experience of colour can be shaped by our own personal histories of encounters with visual art, music, literature.
Colour Tones compiles Rutger Zuydervelt’s music (under his Machinefabriek alias) for the exhibition Colour Tales organised by Lesley Moore at the WM Gallery in Amsterdam last year. The exhibition featured readings of Imants Ziedonis’ short colour themed stories alongside Zuydervelt’s music, along with Moore’s semi-sculptural abstractions.
The album Colour Tones presents the music alone, each track four minutes long and named after one of the stories: Green, Red, Grey, Brown, Blue. The sixth track, Mosaic, is a version of the live appearance by Machinefabriek at the opening of the exhibition.
Often in contemporary music, sound sources are obscured, abstracted – here, Zuydervelt simply lists the tools he used to assemble this collection of detailed miniatures – “guitars, memo recorders, looped tapes, old test records, a Korg Monotron, effect pedals and a computer”. The recording also features snippets of sounds by various Machinefabriek collaborators on cello, saxophone, bass clarinet. Rather than demystifying the work though, knowing these complex pieces were made from such simple means still leaves us more often than not thinking – “where did that sound come from?”
So what do these colour tones sound like? (and can we work out which colour we’re listening to, with, as the press release suggest, our eyes closed?)
There is a common palette of crackles and hiss, but each track has a distinctive ‘feel’ – the static on Green gives way to gentle woodwind tones, Red has pithy synth pops, a snare roll dominates the start of Brown, and so on. What is more interesting is the way this album feels coherent – the tracks flow into each other and with such feel for pace (if a non rhythm driven album can be said to have pace) that you forget the first five tracks are all exactly the same length. Miniatures these may be, but nothing feels rushed or cluttered, and the final, longer Mosaic is a perfect complement to the brevity of the earlier songs.
Without the accompanying readings, without the titles, might we still get hints of colour from these tracks? Of course. Though our subjective experiences will colour (no pun intended) our readings, and what may sound ‘brown’ to me might sound ‘blue’ to you. Best to simply live with this record for a while, and appreciate it for its concise beauty, its measured brevity; another great Machinefabriek recording. – Highly recommended.
...Ten eerste is de cd Colour Tones op het kleine kwaliteitslabel Fang Bomb. Hierop staan de kleuren om ons heen centraal. Kleuren en muziek? Geen rare gedachte aangezien muziek van alles en nog wat kan oproepen en zeker de associatieve muziek van Machinefabriek. Overigens zijn de kleuren hier geïnspireerd door de tot de verbeelding sprekende verhalen van de Letse schrijver Imants Ziedonis; dus in feite kleuren naar muziek vertaald. Leuk concept, maar los daarvan hoop je dan ook op muziek die prettig is om naar te luisteren. Rutger slaagt daar wederom prima in. Hij creëert de muziek met gitaren, memo recorders, tapes, testplaten, een Korg synthesizer, effectpedalen en een computer. Daarbij maakt hij nog gebruik van samples van Espen Reinertsen (sax) en dikwijls muzikale partners Gareth Davis (basklarinet) en Aaron Martin (cello). De hoes van het album geeft een grijs-wit getinte regenboog aan, hetgeen wellicht aangeeft dat de kleuren die hij hier presenteert niet zo zwart-wit bij de luisteraar zullen binnendringen en dat hij de kleuren niet aan je op wilt dringen. Bij twee van de zes composities heb ik het bij het juiste eind, bij de rest kleurt mijn luisterervaring anders. Normaal zie je groen van jaloezie, rood van woede en blauw bij melancholie, maar dat hangt bij muziek natuurlijk in grote mate af van je stemming, Hoe dan ook doet het niets af aan de schoonheid van de individuele stukken. 'Green', 'Red', 'Grey', 'Brown', 'Blue' en de blauwdruk voor een live optreden 'Mosaic' mogen er namelijk allen wezen. Het is een prachtige, caleidoscopische mix van ambient, drones, glitch, experimenten en subtiele noise. Dit weet enorm tot de verbeelding te spreken en is van een bijzondere melancholische schoonheid. Een kleurrijk prachtalbum.