Review: Henry Collins – Prepared Rain (zamzam, Oct 5)

After Tuesday’s review of Raven Chacon’s new album, the gloomy water-filled grey skies of today’s edition of The Slog™ bring me to examine another recent work by a sound artist with a sporadic release schedule. Though Henry Collins has a formidable arsenal of aliases and side projects credited to him, since 2013 he’s only put out a few things under his own name: a couple of splits with fellow UK noisemaker Robin Foster, the sprawling Astral Projecting on S.S Great Britain on Treguard, and a pair of fascinating sonic redaction/erasure works on Seth Cooke’s Every Contact Leaves a Trace (Music of Sound, which consists of the audio of The Sound of Music, and The Masters, which features recordings from the BBC broadcast of the titular golf tournament; both sources have had any speech, music, or other impurities removed). It’s clear that Collins doesn’t shy away from either totalism or absurdity—indeed, the two often come inextricably hand-in-hand—in developing the conceptual basis of his art, an open-mindedness that makes his music some of the most fascinating I’ve ever heard. Prepared Rain, to my knowledge, is something new, less focused on direct defilement or fundamental alteration of relevant sources/mediums and more on, unsurprisingly, active preparation. Playing back the audio of a movie with all of the voices and songs scalpeled out is a relatively passive creative role, but for the 55 minutes of this new tape Collins is ostensibly always moving around, rearranging various elements of his haphazard “drum kit for the sky” as well as repositioning the microphones capturing the sounds of the raindrops hitting it. For the completely passive role the rain has in this process, it acts as a surprisingly astute agent of dynamics and pacing, sending the makeshift soundmaking spiderweb—comprised of what could be anything from plastic bowls and cups to elaborate metal contraptions and Rube Goldberg machines—into a lushly cacophonous blanket of percussive textures at the outset of the album, slowly easing its weight and breadth as the track progresses, then following up this faltering frenzy with a sparser and more rhythmic B side. This is music for rain at any time of the day, or even to provide the sound of rain when it’s desired but can’t be found. As Mark Anthony Pierce says in the foreword, “I hope you get thoroughly soaked listening to this.”