Matt, Matthew. Collins, Collings. You’d think that after three years I wouldn’t have to keep looking it up. We’ve not met, at least not the old-fashioned way, and this is part of it. But what’s more, I find it difficult thinking of him as someone with a name attached, this force so driven to compose, yet so wholly unmoored from genre. His sound is off-grid and experimental, but never beaches itself. Once raging, now restrained. Once complex, now remarkably simple. Names, you see, are for those things we can name.
Elysia came to life in mid-2011, mere months after the release of Days of Being Wild and Kind, which Collings offered under his alter-ego Sketches For Albinos. To be sure, it belongs to a different catalog, because, frankly, it belongs to a different era. The former album is a gentle, sometimes gloomy cycling of piano, voice, samples, and stuff, where Elysia is voiceless and guitar-based, explosive and pacing: a mushroom cloud without the fungus. Collings performed it live for two years, but now offers it up for name-your-price purchasing on Bandcamp.
What’s that we’re hearing? Good question:
Elysia uses a custom setup of an Electric Guitar both as an instrument and as a control device, influencing the behaviour of compressors and gates within Max for Live in real-time, and prepared amplifiers whose speaker cones are prepared with objects manipulated directly by the performer.
Elysia is relatively brief: 22 minutes diced into six parts (at this writing, Parts One, Five and Six are available for streaming at the Bandcamp page). The briny, cavernous, whipping guitar symphony has many faces, from the contained anger of the first movement to the dulcimer echoes of the second and short-circuiting anxiety of the third. More, those familiar with Collings’s Fluid release Splintered Instruments will recall his artist’s statement when listening to Elysia: “If I could somehow take the electric guitar and melt the sound of it and play it with my body I would.” Those two closing movements share features with Parts Five and Six here: a buzzing, reedy stomp that turns out to have been repurposed guitar all this time.
It’s hard to top first impressions, so for some of us, Days of Being Wild and Kind still represents Collings at his best: patient and inspired, with the inventive restlessness of a young soul but the nostalgic gravity of the old. Yet there are plenty of counterexamples to this: the collaborations with Dag Rosenqvist and Ben Chatwin, the Graveyard Tapes release with Euan McMeeken, the tongue-in-cheek, wall-of-noise Convex Mancave project, the still-unreleased OST for the short film Guilt, and, by all means, Splintered Instruments. At last we have a studio version of Elysia, with its luxurious noise and smart melodic core. Collings assures us this is the future of his music, so get to know it at the links, however you spell his name.