music

Mixing Colours Expanded: Polyphonic Bliss in Monotonous Times

September 2, 2020

Lauren Berry

It’s a tale as old as time by now—Melbournian winters are perennially grey. June hits and it comes round all at once—just like that we’re plunged into months of cotton-wool skies and scarves and quietness. 

It hasn’t been the best winter for us. Where we’d usually seek out the merriment of one another’s company to break through the silence, we now only have our own four walls and 23 hours a day (24 if you opt not to exercise, which is entirely reasonable) to enjoy them. 

Released last month, the expanded edition of Roger and Brian Eno’s Mixing Colours is a timely injection of effervescence into the dullness; 25 richly-layered yet elusively nebulous tracks, depicting all the colours, minerals and textures we might forget by the time we’re out of this supposedly interminable present. 

It’s the kind of music you’d listen to if you wanted to keep the curtains shut for an entire day and picture yourself in a 12-hour long music video, visualising that the light streaming through is anything but permanently grey. Six months ago this would’ve sounded like satire, and the album is only an hour and forty-three minutes long anyway, but such is the world we live in now, where time dissolves if you let it, and there are worse ways to spend a morning, really. 

The album abounds with vignettes of polyphonic musicality, from the texture of ‘Obsidian’ to the melodies of ‘Iris’, and these are equally reflected in new pieces from the expanded version (‘Marble’ and ‘Vermillon’ are respectively two great examples). 

There’s plenty of technique in there as well: tremolos line the upper register of ‘Manganese’, imitating the sounds of clanging metal, and the ostinato throughout ‘Ultramarine’ gives it a rolling, mythical quality, as if straight out of Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo. I really got a music diploma just to write these sentences.

The end product then is exactly the sum of its parts—waves and waves of ambient texture with enough ear candy throughout to keep you there, and do we really have anywhere else to be right now?