Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
When you do a little background reading about Stillwater, Oklahoma's Colourmusic, you learn that they've adopted many of the theories of Isaac Newton's "Theory of Color and Sound" into their own music. Newton developed a seven-colored circle, with an orbit built around a big center area that was designated for the color, or non-color of white. The purpose of the location of the white blob - with the color black excluded from the diagram - is to express that "the sum of all the specified colours will result in white light." The German poet, Goethe, conflicted with Newton's view and his theory of Newtonian optics - based on the idea of the separation of daylight by a prism - and snipped, ""Newton created white from all colours. He's even fooled you, so that you will believe in secular world!" Goethe insists that Newton's taking the God out of the brilliance of colors, but somehow this brilliance in color still has something to do with the way sounds sound. The band, the core of which is made up of two friends who met while attending undergrad classes at Oklahoma State University (Ryan Hendrix and Brit Nick Turner), occasionally dresses all in white, the color of this center square of Newton's. It must all mean something. It must have something to do with that prism that's spoken of. It must also have something to do with the waywardness that Goethe spoke to. All of the colors can't possibly mean white light.
It seems as if Colourmusic - while believing in Newton's theories - actually believes in the argument as well, making the kind of music that turns all of their white light and their white energy into drastic flares of rich hues. It's as if they've taken this old ass theory - a theory like any other, developed so many hundreds of years ago, based on wild speculation and stiff cider and ale binges - and spun it to make themselves happier with it. The songs that the band plays here, on this lost session, are jumping with oddities and they feel as if they are THIS close to being discombobulated, tossed onto their ears and criss-crossed in mid-air, giving off smoking exhaust that's been known to spell out marriage proposals and birthday wishes. Colourmusic makes its greatest strokes in strange peach colors - as the high notes in "Moolah" show, when Turner sings, "She got love in her head/She got love in her soul/She got love from the stars/She got love from the gods" - and then when things get heavier, the scene gets infused with dark, brick reds and bark browns that smack and bang. The guitars noodle on "Moolah" as it moves along like a Pavement ballad, but it also goes and breaks down, abandoning a structure that it had settled into. It's a habit-forming way of working and it's at these very distinct points when the backs of our ears go the color of white light and the impulse is shot out to all the senses to just black out into whiteness as the dancing continues.
* Essay originally published June, 2010