Those Missing Will Complete Us
Collision Stories are something of an improvising “supergroup” of the Bay Area, featuring label boss Bryan Day, Mason Jones (the man behind Charnel Music and SubArachnoid Space), Jorge Bachmann (who is ruidobello and one half of Snowsteps), and Michael Gendreau, who is best known as Crawling With Tarts – never liked that name, but the Tarts’ use of motors and found records to create creepy grinding noise was non-pareil. On Those Missing Will Complete Us (PE137), the foursome use a wide range of methods and unusual instrumentation to create an hour-long epic segmented into ten parts; their efforts deliver strange and exotic noises, plenty of incident and subtle contrasts of timbres, and a situation where no one player can really be held accountable for the totality. There’s no denying the restraint and performative skills of all those involved. A sinister mood hangs over the proceedings though, and it’s hard to shake it off; a ghastly horror-movie presence creeps towards us very slowly, but there is no real payoff to all the tension. Lugubrious, nocturnal, grim; a swamp of unpleasant noises sucking us in to the bottom.
The earliest memory that Disaster Amnesiac has of Industrial Music enjoyment: being entranced by the hypnotic back and forth of the wiper blades on my mother's Volvo as we zipped through rain storms in suburban Virginia. The sound and rhythm of those blades most definitely primed me for an appreciation of experimental music. It seems to me that one must be willing, when listening to Industrial or Experiment Electronic, both of which fit nicely as descriptors for Collision Stories new release, Those Missing Will Complete Us, to embrace the type of pure sounds that emanate from the machines that surround us as music.
Disaster Amnesiac mentions all of this not as some sort of qualifier for approval, but simply because Collision Stories do such a fine job of making compelling music from within those stated rubrics. Made up of ten interlinked parts, running continuously for a bit over an hour, Those Missing features all kinds of great, mysterious sound interactions between a quartet of highly skilled improvising experimenters. Collision Stories are making true band music, but have simply dispensed (for the most part: Disaster Amnesiac has heard a few guitar strings in the mix) with the usual instruments, instead jamming out group interactions more with electronic patches, stand-alone pedals, contact mic'd stuff, and Public Eyesore Records founder Bryan Day's fascinatingly singular instrumental creations. The disc's ten tracks feature disciplined movement as the group wends its way with a quite sublime mixture of focus and patience, through highly intriguing sound spaces. Themes arise from one player, the rest of group, as they are listening, are able to add to and comment on these themes; this interaction builds up layers that rise and move with a nice organic feel. Additionally, its engineering, so crisp and clear, really allows for deep appreciation these feels.
This is band music in principle and act, top flight Industrial/Experimental band music. As such, it can complement the sounds that whirl around those of us living within the Grid, or, presumably, entertain those that may have the luxury of not having to do so.
In Disaster Amnesiac's case, Those Missing Will Complete Us satisfactorily fits into my mental imprinting, done long ago, for appreciation of the type of action offered from Collision Stories. I guess one could miss out and complete Jorge Bachman, Michael Gendreau, Mason Jones and Day, but, as for me, I'm glad to have broken off a piece or two.
Space vampires. Those are the two words that immediately come to mind for this reviewer when listening to the instrumental album Those Missing Will Complete Us by the improvisational San Francisco quartet Collision Stories, but don’t let that impression hinder anyone’s imagination, which has ample opportunities to be provoked by this fascinating release.
The “vampire” impression comes from the subtly sinister and mostly ominous vibes emanating from the album, and its careful building of suspense makes it perhaps appropriate for a horror soundtrack; just a handful of certain tiny synth slivers bring fleeting hints of John Carpenter scores, and a momentary use of music box sounds injects uneasy and unexpected innocence into the enigmatic proceedings.
Throughout the album, electronic notes and noises, some of which sound like they were created from tinkering on open control panels for emergency repairs, provide the sci-fi aspect, with synthetic squeaks and a disquieting ambiance providing an inorganic detachment.
Also, the use of space is key on Those Missing Will Complete Us, with the performers often showing restraint to build up each clearly audible layer—it’s complicated without sounding recklessly messy; with an abundance of space, there’s a deep loneliness evoked, as a trapped space traveler peers at the void of outer space both longingly and fearfully.
Those Missing Will Complete Us was edited together using both live and studio recordings made in the spring of 2016, and its four members—Jorge Bachmann, Bryan Day, Michael Gendreau and Mason Jones—are seasoned non-traditional aural creators. They each have huge bags of tricks drawing from their varied backgrounds in composition, instrument invention, acoustics, psych-noise and other fields.
It’s paradoxically a little startling when, at times, actual guitar notes can be heard, amid the hard-to-place synthetics that dominate the album. It’s a spooky album that never lets the listener get too comfortable to allow the sound slip away into the background of consciousness.