Painter and executive producer: Lee Ashcroft
In 1967, American recording artist Ken Nordine released an album entitled 'Colors', one of his series of 'Word Jazz' albums. As this label suggests, the album consists of 24 tracks of lounge jazz music, accompanied by spoken-word poetry readings, all relating to different colors (or, if you prefer, as I do, "colours") and the emotions and feelings each carries. It is one of the most bizarre commerical recordings ever released, and has gained a cult following over the years from fans of the more obscure outreaches of music.
In August 2003, socially inept teenager Lee Ashcroft (that's me) received a B in GCSE art. Largely on the basis that I was the only person in the class with any knowledge of Adobe Photoshop. Teachers included.
In March 2009, Digital Vomit regular Mixomatosis (also me, furthermore known as Za Ginipiggu) first came into contact with this release at the Shunt Lounge in London. In an event hosted by Jonny Trunk (founder of splendid soundtrack reissue label Trunk Records) intreguingly named 'Jazz Painting', audience members (myself included) were invited to move stage front and take the colour of their choosing. Jonny then played the corresponding track from the Colors album, and asked each volunteer to paint with the music. Some painted huge delicate swirls of yellow and green, others literally threw their cans of emulsion at the canvas. I chose black, and threw my paintbrush (and everyone else's paintbrushes, come to think of it) at the canvas as hard as possible in a fit of mock-anger even rivalling that Fast Show sketch. Although I drew the line at actually destroying the canvas. None of the painters had previously heard these recordings.
Since then I've become mildly obsessed with this album. It is an utterly bizarre piece of musical history; very quirky yet always entertaining. And what a voice Nordine has: gravelly, yet playful. And the experience in London was truly one of the most fun music-based events I'd ever attended. But I wanted more. Having spent less than 2 minutes with the paintbrush, I knew there was more fun to be had yet. I wanted to paint the entire album (including the 10 bonus tracks released on the 1995 CD reissue). But I've heard the whole album now. The whole point of the exercise at Shunt was that it was totally spontaneous. I had no idea what the music would sound like, so my reactions were absolutely pure. How could I hear the whole album again for the very first time?
The answer - give it to the patrons of Digital Vomit and beyond. Let them reinterpret, remix, and recycle the original album to create 34 brand new pieces of audio, that would remain unheard until the moment I faced a canvas again.
Thus came: Colo(u)rs - A Ken Nordine reimagining opportunity.