Matthew Collings: Splintered Instruments
Fluid Audio

Anyone who enjoyed Graveyard Tapes' recent outing Our Sound Is Our Wound (Lost Tribe Sound) would be remiss in not also tracking down Splintered Instruments by Graveyard Tapes member Matthew Collings. The Edinburgh-based composer and producer's solo debut is a concise, thirty-seven-minute statement that wears its impassioned heart very much on its sleeve, and the title's well-chosen, given the spirit of high-wire daring that permeates the album's six settings. Tired of ambient music, Collings set out to create a music so visceral and physical, its effect would be almost violent, and Splintered Instruments definitely accomplishes that goal.

All of the compositions are credited to him except for the opener “Vasilia,” which he co-composed with producer-engineer Ben Frost. It's a striking start that finds Collings' voice distorted to some degree and embedded within a Reichian, pulsating mass of drums, pianos, percussion, and synthesizers—the song's style is hardly shoegaze, but its dense sound design is very much reminiscent of the genre's hazy blur. A song such as “They Meet On the Subway” is less a song than an industrial force of nature that contains within its incessant churn electronic and acoustic sounds—pounding drums, smoldering electric guitar, tribal percussion, and, of course, Collings' vocals. The album's material plays as if its originating sound sources—acoustic instruments (guitar, drums, violin, clarinet, contrabass, theremin, trombone, and trumpet) and those derived from physical objects—were transformed electronically to become parts of a seething physical mass that feels constantly on the verge of combusting. It's not always an indistinguishable mass, however; bass clarinet, contrabass, and rustic violin come to the fore within “Pneumonia Loves The Moon” and in doing so lend the piece individuating character.

The aforesaid Reich echo suggests a connection to classical minimalism, and the connection is rendered even more explicit during “Paris Is Burning” in the looped clarinet pattern that's briefly heard during the song's midpoint. In its incorporation of violin, theremin, and piano elements, the closing “Routine” likewise hints at a classical influence, though in this case it's more rooted in modern-day experimentalism. Wide-ranging in mood and style, the nearly ten-minute piece is the album's most powerful and, if anything, argues that it might be more accurate to think of Collings' music as a hybrid beast that straddles experimental, pop, and neo-classical genres in equal measure.

May 2013