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loscil + Lawrence English
Colours Of Air Jon Buckland , February 1st, 2023 09:00

A vivid chromatic wash from two masters of the form

Drone music often impacts me visually. I don’t have synaesthesia, it’s just that I’ve spent too many hours watching films with drone-heavy scores. This has resulted in a sort of mongrel blend of memory and imagination in which my mind stitches images sourced from an ephemeral somewhere onto any stretched canvas of sound.

On Colours Of Air, the dream duo of renowned ambient artist loscil and Room 40 label boss Lawrence English have forged exquisitely emotive and heavily manipulated acoustic tracks on a century-old pipe organ, naming each from the hue that the piece suggested to them. Which begs the question: do people with synaesthesia commonly agree on their cross-sensory perception?

According to various studies, no. But that’s small fry to these two Goliaths of experimental ambience. Veering from the recent organ work of Sarah Davachi and Kali Malone, Colours of Airleads with melody and atmosphere. The ambient environment that it occupies is formed from their suggestive colour palette, as they exchange ideas and sound swatches like batons in a relay race (assuming that the contest is taking place on the moon or in a molasses-filled swimming pool.) Consequently, the flashes of imagery the record brings on appear inspired-by rather than imbued-with the fronds of a particular pigment.

‘Aqua’, for instance, conjures silvery signals that sound like Neptune’s trident fizzing electrical arcs through cool water. Fifth track, ‘Black’ feels more like the sombre veneration of slow motion church worship whilst ‘Grey’ delivers a distant doppler-ing of crawling ambulances. The rhythmic cadence adorning ‘Violet’ evokes a fleeing train being pumped full of lead and then, on ‘Pink’, we get what sounds like John Carpenter succumbing to dementia, doomed to repeat the first two haunting notes from an 80s soundtrack once scored, now scarcely recalled. The refrain lost in an unsettling fog, its trail warping, distorting, and expanding like a giant bubblegum balloon.

Album closer, ‘Magenta’, comes together via wildly panned arpeggio-ing dark pads that clock the right ear before bounding off to the left. There’s the sort of descending drone that has come to denote a space vehicle landing in modern sci-fi, adorning the finale with an anticipatory, cinematic sense of mild peril. The longer the note, the milder the peril.

For all this talk of imagery, you’d be forgiven for assuming this collaboration might neatly drape itself into the background. But, in reality, it’s as engaging a release as you could hope for. The melodic sheets adorning the surface offer enough solace for casual listeners whilst intrigued parties will locate heart-heavy layers if they lean in just a little. As you might expect from the steady hands at the tiller, this is a cortex-hugging drone record of beauty and depth. A soundtrack worthy of living your life to.