Info Two sides of RP Collier 
"Lamellaphone"
by Robert Patterson Collier
an independant release (independant)
"Deconstruction of Twilight"
"Jet Stream"
"Prongulator"
"Capriccio"
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RP Collier Thumb Piano Project

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fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle



Portland, Oregon, might seem an unlikely location for an experimental collection of instruments that originated in sub-Saharan Africa, but Robert Patterson (aka RP) Collier not only builds them, he hooks them up to stomp boxes and wires them directly to computers. His 2008 album Lamellaphone is fourteen demonstrations of possibility, all created from his vast collection of unique handmade mbiras, kalimbas, and other lamellaphone variants.

The range of sounds from these simple instruments is impressive. Some of the tracks sound like what one would expect from a thumb piano, a vaguely wooden sound like bamboo wind chimes. More amazing are the highly processed sounds of a track like Jet Stream, where the kalimba sounds more like a rock guitar, adding a resonance that sweeps unnaturally through the pitch spectrum. Gentle backgrounds combine with more abstract leads, from clear bell tones to deep resonating gongs. Collier never samples the instruments, but plays them, so the music all retains an expressive performance quality, regardless of the processing or layering involved. Even so, the music ranges from abstract gestures to Reichian loops on Prongulator, and even a techno shuffle on Capriccio.

Collier plays standard instruments as well. Another 2008 release, Deconstruction of Twilight, is a remarkable half-hour long guitar improvisation that sounds more like a group than a solo performance. The album's web site calls it "ambient space," but Collier's guitar style is sometimes closer to Derek Bailey than Robert Fripp, not only through the spidery lines but the absence of overt effects processing to alter the sound of the guitar and the willingness to leave in extraneous noises. Like his thumb piano work, his melodic lines are a-rhythmic, disconnected notes gently meandering around the fretboard. He maintains a slow grounding theme throughout, an underpinning that provides a vague sense of structure and keeps the piece from dissipating into the expressive melody lines. As the piece progresses, sustained notes become more prominent, more important to the overall sound, softening the music into a harmonic cloud.

Collier has been making music for several years, from an early interest in guitar and flute to his more recent work building and playing unconventional instruments. Lamellaphone and Deconstruction of Twilight are the two most recent examples of a long history of independent and highly creative music making.

Review by Caleb Deupree

 

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