Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A Brief History: Collodion Positives Volume I

"In lieu of more traditional means of communication, I imagine Richard Youngs and Andrew Paine engage in otherworldly sonic conversations.
The excellent 'Collodion Positives' CD-R is the first of several 2006 artifacts to deliver, what I presume to be, transcripts of their musical exchanges. This particular session captures two near 20-minute episodes of a shifting, drunken waltz. Somehow (well, with great skill), the duo manages to employ a mess of distinctive instruments yet still perfect a singular aura. Both tracks on the album carry an eerie sense of cool: like a score for swirling threads of silhouetted cigarette smoke. But this isn't a mere soundtrack, Youngs and Paine's sphere of sound will damn near swallow your senses.

Meet the main characters: a punch-drunk guitar, a totally lost electric bass, and the meanest flute I've ever heard. The first track, 'Collodion Blues,' begins with the sustained whisper of Youngs' shakuhachi, a beautiful Japanese bamboo flute, which soon expands into a delightful sputter and squeal that'll remain front and center for the whole odyssey.

The persistence of the shakuhachi is contrasted by Paine's half-crazed guitar picking and the bleary electric bass. The instrument combination results in a full-on invasion of your psyche. This is the type of skilled improv that can be both consuming and atmospheric (foreground and back). Track two, 'Collodion Positives,' is the least playful of the couple; it's less about narrative and more about the moody overcast.

Nagging, ear-perking punctuations of piano complement the less prevalent bass and guitar, while Paine's whoozy Theremin swish-swashes around the whole mix. Youngs' shakuhachi reappears as well; its presence serves to loosen the alien tension a bit before it dips from the scene.When everyone in a crowd is trying to tell their own version of the story, no one comes across perfectly clear. But taken together, it's obvious that the scene is busy with independent thought. That's basically how Youngs and Paine collaborate. The two distinctive multi-instrumentalists forego their individualism in search of some higher cohesion.. (Youngs does edge upon spaz-out flute soloing during track two.)

The songs are at their best when there's no clear beginning, and no clear end: just one spooked interzone. When 'Volume 1' reaches its pinnacle of cohesion, it's hard to tell whether sounds are coming or going.

Thanks to Paine's nascent, but ultra-productive imprint, Sonic Oyster, I'm assured my ears will again be privy to one of these long, strange, and brilliant collaborations."

9/10 -- Andrew Meehan (16 October, 2006: Foxy Digitalis)

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