Last night I finally got to behold the live performance of experimental guitarist and good friend of Swan Fungus, William Fowler Collins. His 40-minute opening slot for Brightblack Morning Light — some F Yeah Fest-related thing — was an exercise in deeply moving and evocative solo guitar improvisations. Collins drew on all the same themes and sounds that made Western Violence & Brief Sensuality (as well as his new LP, Perdition Hill Radio, which I’ve heard and can testify to its awesomeness) so gorgeous and dissonant.
His set flowed flawlessly. He began just with his guitar facing upward in his lap, slowly coaxing sustained notes from the instrument. Deftly swelling and decreasing the volume of each note, he began to build an ethereal drone. A few minutes later, he began to incorporate an EBow to mix in slightly harsher, intense undulating tones. Finally, he began to pick a series of ascending and descending notes, culminating in a wash of noise that smothered the crowd noise in the rear of the room. Towards the start of his set, it seemed as if the audience was unsure of Collins and his intentions. When he reached for his Tibetan singing bowl, rested its bottom on the guitar’s pickups, and began to elicit vibrations with a small mallet, everyone around me that was not paying attention before started listening. Suddenly the performance took on a whole new air. It became transcendent. Deep reverberations and the occasional mallet strike produced a series of overtones that were expertly harnessed by Collins. Whether intentional or not, the confluence of those tones created a feeling of deep calm and bliss. From there, he began to draw a violin bow against the neck of his guitar, creating deep low-end drones that shifted the mood to a considerably darker place. The final portion of his set included a calligraphy brush and a slide used separately and in conjunction with one another to evoke a flux of low and high frequencies that seemed to be at war with one another. As he skillfully closed his set, slowly fading the surging, sweeping sounds into nothingness, I was once again able to take notice of my surroundings. The awful din of voices in the room had long subsided. His work complete, his audience enraptured by the performance, Collins simply nodded to the crowd, smiled, and packed his belongings.
I got to chat with the man for a few minutes before and after his set. He is as nice and charming as he’s ever been in our many online conversations. I’ll be reviewing his new album, Perdition Hill Radio early next week, as well as conducting another interview with Collins about the album for WFMU’s Beware Of The Blog, which will be posted next Thursday (06/04). To re-read my first interview with William Fowler Collins, click that link right there. Please enjoy the following photos from last night’s show. To see any photo at full-size, click on the one you want to see.