This stellar collaboration springs from a conversation that Scott Morgan and Lawrence English once had about especially "rich sources" for electronic music composition. Unsurprisingly, that discussion led to the inspiration behind much of English's recent solo work: a 19th century pipe organ housed at the Old Museum in his native Brisbane. Colours Of Air is often quite different from English's drone-inspired solo fare, however, as he and Morgan sifted "the swells and drones of the organ for every shivering shade of radiance" and found "flickering infinities in ancient configurations of wind, brass, stone, and dust." In less poetic terms, that means that these eight color-themed pieces "reduce and expand" English's pipe organ recordings into a hallucinatory fantasia enhanced by Morgan's talents for elegantly textured sound design and submerged, slow-motion dub techno pulses. Obviously, promising-sounding collaborations between electronic music luminaries are a dime a dozen, but this is one of the rare ones that feels like an inspired departure from expected terrain and something greater than the sum of its parts. While I suspect my perception is at least partially colored by the album description and the timeless majesty and religious nature of old pipe organs, the best moments of this album beautifully evoke what I would imagine light filtering through stained glass would sound like if I had been blessed with synesthesia.
The opening "Cyan" is the album's masterpiece, as it slowly builds from the "suspended animation" feel of a single looping organ chord into a slow-motion loscil-style dub techno piece with a gorgeously warm, alive, and shimmering ball of light at its heart. While the remaining pieces admittedly feel a bit less supernatural and transcendent than that initial statement, "Cyan" is nevertheless an ideal illustration of the "rich source" notion that guides the album: the piece is basically just a few chords and a simple bass pattern, but Morgan and English do one hell of a job at luxuriating in the glimmering details of those chords. That is not the duo's only trick, however, as the rest of the album features a number of compelling variations on their sacred-sounding minimalist deconstructions. For example, "Aqua" gradually evolves from a seesawing bed of melancholy yet dreamily aquatic-sounding chords into a smeared, Noveller-esque melody that evokes the haze of a comet slowly streaking through the cold night sky over a mountain range.
Elsewhere, the coldly throbbing and futuristic "Magenta" feels plucked from a sci-fi nightmare, as its machine-like and insistent pulse provide the stark backdrop for plunging tones that evoke burning wreckage falling from the sky in extreme slow-motion. It feels like it would be the perfect score to a Lessons In Darkness-style documentary devoted to the smoldering landscapes of ruin and burning metal portrayed in the dystopian future of the Terminator films, so aspiring documentarians should definitely keep that in mind when our artificial intelligence inevitably turns on us and reduces our cities to cinders. "Black" is yet another highlight, as its deceptively straightforward drone foundation acts as the shore for heavy, slow-motion waves of quivering psychotropic magic. I suspect there may be some gems lurking among the remaining four pieces as well, but it will probably take a bit more deep listening before I am attuned enough to their time-stretched wavelength to realize what I have been missing, as it definitely took me a few listens before the sublime sorcery of "Black" fully revealed itself. While those other pieces may be eluding my desire for instant gratification at the moment, the ones that I have connected with thus far easily rival the past glories of either artist. I suspect I have only begun to penetrate the full depths of this immersive, inventive, and emotionally rich union.