Record Review: William Fowler Collins – Perdition Hill Radio
One year ago I interviewed William Fowler Collins for this website. We discussed his first album, Western Violence & Brief Sensuality, his home state of New Mexico, and his musical past. Since then we’ve kept in semi-regular contact with one another, and as you may have read on this website he put on a great show in Los Angeles during the last week of May. I recently conducted a second interview with William, which has been posted on WFMU’s Beware Of The Blog. This second interview deals with the recording of his new album, Perdition Hill Radio, which will be released by Type Records on July 7th. The album, which is strictly limited to 400 copies, is already available for pre-order from Boomkat and Forced Exposure.
The album opens with “The Hour Of Red Glare,” an ominous note for an ominous record. Repeated distant, fuzzy pulses echo like thunder before fading into an extended, dark drone. The mixture of murky tones with radio static creates an aura of unfathomable depth and uneasiness. So many sounds jockey for position, layer upon layer of harmonic effects creating a continuous loop upon which short bursts of energy sound excruciatingly heavy and intense. It is a nine-minute trip through the most barren of deserted landscapes, a perfect representation of what is to unfold over the course of the next five (or six, if you own the 2xLP) tracks.
Another William, William Basinski, has traversed this terrain before. His Disintegration Loops — in which deteriorated recordings on magnetic tape were literally broken down and destroyed as they passed the read/write head while he was attempting to transfer them to a digital format — possessed similar feelings of decay, fragility, and warmth. Those loops and Perdition Hill Radio share a sort of bucolic beauty, even as one was created in New York and the other in New Mexico.
“Dark Country Road” is an entire album in and of itself. It begins with a beautiful slide guitar intro juxtaposed to static. “Beggar’s Banquet slide guitar,” Collins calls it. He claims the track — with its dobro playing, heavy field recording mixes, and gorgeous use of a Tibetan singing bowl — is an attempt to first stabilize listeners with a recognizable sound (guitar) before transporting them to a deep, dark place highlighted by field recordings of traffic noise from a road near Collins’ house. Twenty minutes after that slide guitar intro, we are left with the epic drone of the singing bowl, which creates the aural equivalence of being chased down by an oncoming train. It’s a perfect representation of how far the drone/ambient genre has come since the heydays of Tony Conrad and La Monte Young, with artists such as Tim Hecker, Phillip Jeck, Aidan Baker, Rutger Zuydervelt and many, many others progressing along parallel paths, moving towards exciting new developments in sound manipulation.
Perdition Hill Radio, with all its sustained parts and minimalist tendencies, is never a boring listen. You may find yourself, as I have, steadily attempting to break apart the compositions to classify their unique, definable elements. It is a perfect soundtrack for late-night drives down unknown highways, or when stuck at home and unable to sleep at four o’clock in the morning. This album is a stunning achievement in drone-based music, and I cannot wait to for whatever spiritual journeys William Fowler Collins decides to lead us on in the future.
As previously stated, Perdition Hill Radio will be released on CD by the venerable UK experimental label Type Records on July 7th. The limited-edition 2xLP vinyl edition, with its 23-minute bonus track, is currently available from select online retailers.
Leave a Comment