Wordcolour’s Playful Electronic Sound Echoes a Cinematic Past
Coming from the world of film and TV, 2020 has seen electronic artist Wordcolour spring onto the scene with multiple EPs and mixes released just over the last few months. While firmly rooted in the beats-n-bass world of the club his tracks feel fresh and emotive, with the cinematic touch popping up in the harmonic and dynamic progression of his tunes.
Wordcolour’s latest EP paints some interesting pictures: erratically chopped electronics form a backdrop to melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a wii music channel, while haunting background textures and inexplicable snippets of sound fill the space to create something that feels fresh and inspired.
The simple but effective synth sounds, novel combination of samples and that touch of film-composer harmony creates something that feel playful but dark, like a child with a horrific secret. Blissful chords and playful melodies come punctuated by darkly detuned sonic tails, snippets of chromatic melody and haunting atmospheres interspersed with atonal effects.
While the music feels almost naive in it’s playfully uplifting simplicity there is a wealth of complexity here that keeps me engaged on every listen. Take Juno, the second track on Juno Way: an erratic breakbeat chops its through vocal snippets, dreamy synth chords and funky bass riffs before building through a cinematic medley of piano and saxophone riffs that drops into a joyously disconcerting medley of falling bass, dissonant percussion and stuttering atmosphere – with breezy synth chords coming in to top things off. The blend is subtle and the changes don’t feel intrusive at, with Worrall showing his cinematic skills in seamless blends between disparate sections. The eclectic nature of his sound and sample choices puts me in mind of a fresh, childlike Aphex Twin. It feels dark, but curious and uplifting at the same time.
Wordcolour’s style of sampling is one of the key draws of his music for me, and the first tune to catch my eye to this is I Waited For You This Morning. Spoken word samples set the scene and over time become chopped and twisted, creating a dialogue that weaves its way through beats and bass lines and develops alongside evocative synth chords to create what feels like a moving, breathing conversation. The music feels inquisitive, with words and voices poking their heads up in curiosity amongst the sound. While there’s no single lyrical line, the track tells a story in a way for which I love electronic music; engaging, ambiguous and evocative, it allows the listener the headspace to dream up the narrative.
Wordcolour seems to have taken three different descriptions of this album – the frenetic, the pounding and the blissfully relaxed – and instead of splitting them into different tracks or sections he lets them breathe as one, soldering each tune together with a good pinch of all three, with some hefty bass for good measure. The result is something with as much depth of complexity as simplicity of joy. It’s perhaps unsurprising, given the time of its release, that it feels like music to listen to at home as much as in the club.
Juno Way feels like an album for many moments: universal and inclusive in the depth and breadth of sound and emotion, it’s well worth a listen some time. Stick it on, watch your mind breathe and let your inner child come out to play.
An Eclectic Journey Through Sound
Wordcolour is Nicholas Worrall, a composer who’s previous electro-acoustic work earned him credits on Gardener’s World, The One Show and many others. While the Wordcolour alias seems to be taking shape as a beat-driven club-dwelling alias its origins are closely rooted in Worrall’s cinematic work, debuting as the accompaniment to ‘Mum I’m in the Fourth Dimension, See!’, a theatre piece described by its creator as “a dance, a poem, a fit of rage, an exorcism and a queer, secular hymn to the impending capitalist apocalypse” for which Wordcolour is credited not as a musician, but as a “sound designer”.
Given this it’s perhaps unsurprising that the first Wordcolour mix was an eerie blend of sonics and words. Ambient tracks, cinematic score, ASMR videos, spoken word samples – Wordcolour dived deep into discographies and youtube vids alike to create an inexplicably organic feeling conversation between instruments and voices. It’s a delightfully bizarre sonic journey that blurs the lines between mix and composition and feels like a digital piece of musique concrete, a style born of cutting and rearranging prerecorded tapes that laid the groundwork for modern sampling.
In combining sampling with cinematic tracks the mix listens like a stepping stone between the worlds of cinema and electronics and, while it feels closer to theatre than techno, similar flickers of technique and concept pop up between this mix and his debut E.P Tell me Something. They carry the same playfulness and creativity, with the novel contrast of sound packed tightly into choppy beats and innovative structures. The feeling of conversation within the music continues into tracks like It Goes… Er… and I Waited For You This Morning.
The sound on the EPs is undoubtedly, unashamedly directed at the clubbers, but Worrall’s cinematic touch comes through in the chords and atmospheres that nestle amongst the bass and beats. Listen to Kicking and Screaming and you’ll find a funky beat scattered with wonky rhythms interspersed with playful chords. The UKG inspired Tell Me Something hits hard with a grooving mix of kick, snare and sub that builds into rattling percussion and foley lines but finds itself offset by mellow synth pads.
Worrall’s refreshing approach to sampling is exemplified in It Goes… Er. With a nod to musique concrete, a spoken word sample describing the rudiments of sampling is played and then chopped into melody. While vocal chops of “jack it” and the like are commonly used in dance music of all forms, Wordcolour’s splicing of verbal snippets feels like it does the words justice, painting a vivid, humanistic picture out of electronics that feels connected in itself without relying on the listener’s environment. The whole of the Tell Me Something EP feels fresh, and lays a blueprint for the further development of Juno Way.
With his unusual background, novel approach to sampling and fresh blend of sounds, Wordcolour might be the most intruiging electronic entrant I’ve heard this year. I’m excited to see what he does next.
Not long after this article was published, Wordcolour released a second ambient mix called “People Can You Hear Me” – you can listen to it here.
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