Collin Thomas: Windows/Walks
Collin Thomas

Kansas City-based experimental musician Collin Thomas assembled the four settings on his Windows/Walks using natural outdoor sounds and a modest number of instruments (piano the most prominent). However, the fifty-five minute release isn't a “pure” field recordings collection, even though such sounds dominate. Windows/Walks is as much a sound art as an ambient recording, the kind of project that veritably demands that it be experienced through headphones or at loud volume in an otherwise quiet setting. Thomas has composed works for percussion, winds, and chamber ensembles, and released more than ten albums, many of which can be downloaded for free from his web site (including Windows/Walks).

In “A Deceptively Empty Night,” Thomas subtly augments sounds of traffic flow and unidentifiable creaks with echoing electric piano accents that assert themselves almost subliminally alongside the flow. Musically, he functions like an improvising pianist accompanying a silent film by commenting on the filmic content as it unfolds. Sometimes the musical elements drop out for stretches at a time, a move that in turn brings the environmental sounds into sharper relief. That occurs during “Almost Alone” when piano meander surfaces intermittently within a fourteen-minute soundtrack of rain drizzle and traffic noise; in this case, the prickly static-like character of the rain comes forth most vividly when the musical elements recede. The musical dimension assumes a stronger role in “Icicles” when piano playing shares the spotlight with clattering percussive noises (presumably derived from ice striking a window). Of the album's four pieces, “Icicles” is the one that comes closest to a micro-sound classification, with Thomas leaving ample space around the soft clattering noises and piano ruminations. Like a painter, Thomas dabs at the sound mass with a piano note here and another there, while a blanket of hiss ebbs and flows alongside the percussive accents. Though brooding tones occasionally appear, musical elements largely take a back seat to the agitated dribble and echo of a park stream in “Stone to Stone.”

In addition to his composing ventures, Thomas is also an amateur photographer who has produced books, videos, and photographic series; apparently many of the latter reflect an appreciation for deterioration and rust, and a similar dedication to micro-detail is evident in Windows/Walks too.

August 2009