Rutgeter Zuydervelt AKA Machinefabriek’s Colour Tones was composed for an exhibition entitled Colour Tales at the WM Gallery in Amsterdam in 2011, the pieces inspired by colour themed short stories by Latvian author Imants Ziedonis. Built from guitars, synths, effects, samples and digital processing, Zuydervelt’s drones veer between the crisply contoured and the amorphous, from musty crackle to sinuous line, but like all Machinefabriek releases Colour Tones is defined foremost by an utterly refined sense of sound dynamics and a beautiful balance of texture.
I tried listening blind and guessing what colour Zuydervelt was aiming for without success; and on the basis of this I’d argue that matching sound to colour is a largely subjective experience. Using the titles as primers provides an interesting entry point however, judging the music against its referent and assessing how it measures up to your ears. ‘Green’ plays with split channel activity, mixing a wet sloshing sound with grainy hiss, rustled beads and woodwind tones. ‘Red’ is sharper, close ticking and soft pads bleeding into distortion. ‘Brown’ works with light marimba tones and vinyl quivering on a manipulated turntable, while ‘Blue’ centres on a rising arpeggio of soft blips and mournful pads.
These descriptions do point metaphorically to the corresponding colours – green = nature, red = distortion, brown = wood, blue = introspection – but sonically it is not so straightforward; the right elements are there but the mood is all obscure and confused. Most misleading is ‘Grey’, a colour inherently spelled out to me in the metallic shades of dub techno, but for Zuydervelt it’s faint cicada chatter and sine tones. We’re also presented with a fifteen minute live performance with ‘Mosaic’, a medley of sorts, but the original four minute snapshots are perfect, regardless of how your personal colour sense operates.