It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from E and I (Emmanuel Witzthum and Craig Tattersall). Their last album was on the sorely missed Cotton Goods label; the only thing we don’t miss about Cotton Goods is the tiny print runs. Eilean Records is a great nest for this duo, as their sound fits the label’s profile, whose disc pressings are three times larger ~ although they do tend to sell out in a day or two. By now, regular readers of this site have already gotten on their mailing list ~ right?
The beauty of the Cotton Goods roster was its careful intricacy. The sense of timelessness remains apparent here. With three 20-minute tracks, the album has room to breathe; the choice to keep the extra eleven minutes and release the album as a double disc demonstrates the new label’s confidence in the duo.
What is the colour of sound? The question has haunted musicians for years, and their answers have varied. Even synaesthetes cannot agree on the colour of specific sounds, proving that the answer is in the ear of the beholder. Witzthum writes, “Ever since I was a child numbers and colors went side by side… I saw a number and it was transformed into an undulating pulsating hue of shimmering beauty… It was an immediate emotional appearance, one that I could not control or explain. Gradually the same became of music… Sounds as pieces began to shape into waves of colors, moving as waves in the sea.” On a physical level, the track titles are each numbers, while Eilean has assigned the number 74 to the release; the label also defines the album as “orange/brown/yellow”, and while we’re not sure what E and I thinks of the assignment, this listener has to agree. To these ears, the album sounds like autumn, with gentle breezes and rustles of leaves.
As Witzthum implies, the music also arrives in waves, albeit of unpredictable intervals. These waves are more emotion than water, washing over the listener with the salt of sound. Each artist contributes electronics, although we suspect the more static-based sounds stem from Tattersall; Witzthum also contributes viola, smoothed into a fine sonic paste. On occasion, the strings surge forward like a rogue wave interrupting a sine wave: a clash of forms. Their most declarative moments arrive in “35”, the only track that fits the profile of a single. This is followed by the moments most reminiscent of The Humble Bee, as stuttered pops decorate “9” from beginning to end. But the second disc is where it’s at: two sprawling pieces, with a long descent and ascent between them. While listening to this disc, one’s daydreams may continue uninterrupted. If shades and hues begin to suggest themselves, all the better. Ultimately, sound is a proliferation of tints and tones, and this album celebrates the diversity of such associations. (Richard Allen)