matthew collings - splintered instruments

  • Cat No : den206
  • Label : Denovali
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MATTHEW COLLINGS is a Scotland-based composer. Not only being a solo recording and live artist, he collaborates regularly with artists from all kinds of fields including musicians (e.g. Dag Rosenqvist from JASPER TX and Denovali label mate TALVIHORROS), dancers and filmmakers. He’s responsible for several installations using custom-made software, which have been exhibited at Burning Man Festival in San Francisco or Glasgow's Centre for Contemporary Arts. His work for films includes a specially commissioned live score for Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent classic, ‘The Man with the Movie Camera’ and an invitation to work on ‘The Invisibles’, a commission from Amnesty International. Before settling down in Edinburgh, he lived in Iceland for six years, where he wrote a number of albums issued under the name of his lo-fi/ambient project “Sketches for Albinos” and where he met fellow collaborator Ben Frost. His music can be roughly described as 'an elemental whorl of electro-acoustic (de)composition' (, ranging from tiny delicate moments of intimacy to all consuming noise. Strongly influenced by avant-garde guitar music, it calls the minimal music of Steve Reich or Gavin Bryars to mind in like manner. Having received remarkable praise for his debut “Splintered Instruments”, Denovali Records is re-releasing the debut album accompanied by the release of his new and second full length album entitled “Silence Is A Rhythm Too”.

While looking back to an extensive period of creating music with his ambient project “Sketches for Albinos” Collings felt the urgent necessity of starting with a completely different approach to music, as the ambient aesthetic didn’t match any longer with new ideas burgeoning in his head. He wanted to create a more direct sound to involve a much grander and more dangerous range of emotions. The composition process of “Splintered Instruments” came out of personally reckoning with two contrary forces, something vicious and unrelenting challenging with a soft and kind energy – getting to their core and the dynamic interrelation to one another Filtered through melody and vaguely resembling songs, driven by nested rhythm patterns, one can imagine that the first sound Collings picked up on as a leading impulse “was like Sonic Youth’s ‘The Diamond Sea’ meeting ‘Music for 18 Musicians’. I wanted to take songs and kind of dissolve them and then bring them back again, with everything just being on the edge of these various types of structures.”

He worked closely with Ben Frost on the creation of “Splintered Instruments”, who took influence in the physicality and size of sound and helped to achieve him to reach into the deepest parts of human nature, pulling it out in a hybrid-pop-experimental-noise form. According to Collings, the record is “a revolt against machines” understanding the sense of precision as something pretty unnatural. He avoids working with computers only using them for convenience, not as a principle. 90% of the record is organic sourced from or played on acoustic instruments or objects, being drawn to sound of every kind which is more human, more imperfect in its subtle variations. Splintered Instruments '…is not about noise or the decibel levels – it’s about the sheer uncompromised approach to raw sound design' (Headphone Commute).

The title of the record 'Silence Is A Rhythm Too' goes back to a line from a 1980ies punk/new wave song by The Slits called 'In The Beginning There Was Rhythm', though Collings has mostly been pre-occupied creatively by an idea of painter Mark Rothko upon creating the album. Following Rothko’s statement, that the only things worth making art about were romance, tragedy and death, Collings condensed and transferred this thought to the antithesis of life and death represented by noise and silence. “Silence Is A Rhythm Too” isn’t conceived as the absence of sound like a Cageian silence that is simply a span of time that is empty, but rather how silence and sound can be processed in a composition. Collings interest is musically based on huge densities of sound just as he’s fascinated by opposing forces to wrestle with each other. Silence seems to be harder and harder to achieve in this technologically saturated age and Matthew Collings admits that it reveals the habits of his own hearing, from being obsessed with its opposite: noise. “Silence Is A Rhythm Too” is about trying to find grace, space and expanse as much as tension and menace, and reconciling the two.

Stepping away from song-like structures, which filled his previous record, “Splintered Instruments”, Collings creates more spacious sounds and evokes the impression of time stretched through the three dimensions. Still being intrigued by the idea of materials on the edge of collapse, he catches them up in their dying breath: The record is full of these processes, including prepared amplifiers and electronics pushed to the extreme to coax new sounds, close-micing and high volume. Despite the fact that most of his work is mediated by technology, he’s far more excited by the sound of acoustic. Featuring brass ensembles and a string quartet the instruments and sounds are full of cracks, breath, embedding rough materials informed by luscious intentions. “Silence Is A Rhythm Too” keeps an eye on the small textural details as it is about harmony and physicality in the moment where silence and noise meet.

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