William Fowler Collins: Perdition Hill Radio

Albuquerque, New Mexico-based composer William Fowler Collins uses electric guitar, laptop, field recordings, steel guitar, processed recordings, micro-cassette tape recorders, and home-made electronic devices to create cavernous “black ambient” soundscapes that meet at the intersection of drone, black metal, and doom musics. Even before a note is heard, the music's hellacious character is foreshadowed by the album cover, which shows the barest outline of an obscured natural landscape and the moon's glow barely visible through the dense scrim, and song titles such as “Grave Robbing in Texas ” and “The Ghosts of Eden Trail.” Within Collins' set-pieces, instruments and sounds lose their identifying character and blend into colossal, seething masses.

After an introduction of industrial blasts, “The Hour of Red Glare” unleashes a storm of fuzzy noise streams, while “Grave Robbing in Texas” might be likened to a hornets' nest swarming for a relentless eight minutes; the later “On Perdition Hill” resembles an amplified recording of someone scraping a hollowed-out tunnel with a corroded knife. The album's first conventionally recognizable sound appears in the third piece, “Dark Country Road,” when slide guitar playing sends the twenty-one minute journey on its way. The moment passes quickly, however, as the music then plunges headlong into the rumbling center of a volcanic mass and remains there for the duration (though the material remains abstract in character, it's actually created from a variety of sound sources, among them field recordings, processed guitar, traffic noise, and a Tibetan singing bowl Collins played through his electric guitar). That Perdition Hill Radio (Collins' follow-up to 2007's Western Violence & Brief Sensuality) appears on Type means that comparisons to the “dark ambient” stylings of Xela and Deaf Center are as understandable as they are inevitable. Collins, however, takes his music to a further apocalyptic extreme than those artists, with Perdition Hill Radio more inviting a noise classification than dark ambient. Even so, though a powerful noise dimension is present, Collins carefully tames his material so that it becomes an even-tempered flow that straddles the line between pain-inducing and soothing.

August 2009