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Colin Wilson, Phenomenology

A World of Colin Wilson – review

Colin Wilson’s voice has appeared on disc before – on his own “Essential Colin Wilson” CD (of readings from the same book), on the Julian Cope offshoot The Sons of TC Lethbridge, and on The Orb’s UFOrb amongst others. Anthony Reynolds’ A World of Colin Wilson is a welcome addition to the above.
Beginning with a Zappa-esque blast of static, jazz tootling & speech, Why Life Fails Us is the opening track on this album. It drifts into an Eno ambience of lazy bass strings and synth which compliment the Wilsonian speech riffs drifting in and out – Eliot, Shaw and Maslow – familiar to all his readers. A circular sample of “Why does life fail?” sounds a little like later Throbbing Gristle, who once threw a Wilson sample (before there were samplers!) into the mix of one of their chaotic live gigs. There can’t be very many albums out there which have a mention of Japanese Maslow editions, as this track does! The ambience has a sonic break when Colin shouts “Joy, close that door!” as jazz trumpet – vintage “Outsider” sound – fades it out. The next track is an industrial soundscape of distorted voices. Whose voices, I’m not sure (Anthony Reynolds?) Colin’s seems to be buried in there somewhere. Intentional or not, the ghost of the first wave of Industrial Music rears its head. Apt, as some of the artists in that scene would reference Colin now and again.
‘Why we make it difficult on ourselves’ is self explanatory – Colin discusses why over acoustic guitar and occasional tape distortion. What is interesting about the use of sounds and samples is that they work together to create a receptive mood to engage with Wilson’s ideas, rather than just overlaid on top of each other. Satie piano is laid over voice on the next track.
The Hill is similar to another Wilson recording – Anatomy of a Poet by In The Nursery. Colin reads the Rupert Brooke poem over strings and noise, and it’s brilliant – if too brief (someone once said that Colin had the most comforting voice in the world).
A phenomenological epoche is the driving force of New York Ozone Memory: the observation about New York being as real as the here and now is reprised. The original Faculty X concept, from The Occult. Again, the music works with the philosophy and doesn’t either become mere background or foreground.
“We’re not sitting in an execution chamber”, he says on ‘Life is all there is’. His philosophy in a nutshell.
Distortion crackles over track 8, ‘Cornwall’. A challenge to discern what is being said, but a good one. Sonically, it’s radio waves and tape slippages of the Stockhausen/Cage variety. What sounds like a heartbeat appears near the end.
A bit of a lighter tone on acoustic guitar and voice works well with Colin’s clear voice on ‘The colour and light around me’ as he describes his pre-Outsider ‘tramp’ days. A delight. The loop of laughter sounds like the end of Dark Side of the Moon (did the Floyd get that title from The Occult, one wonders?) A vaguely dubby melodica and a female backing vocals drift in and out as drums start the first rhythm of the album. That laughter sample floats about the song. Makes me smile.
The final track, ‘Keats…Shelley…Eliot…’ reminds me of late seventies indie legends Young Marble Giants. Drum machine clacking away and the cheapest keyboard sound. More Colin in the mix, repeating the phrase “over and over and over again”.
Anthony Reynolds has made a very interesting addition to Wilsonia with this album. It works musically – and it illustrates his philosophy very well with unusual textures and editing. Colin’s ideas of “the reality of other times and places” come through strongly on the disc. Nice retro packaging too.
A World of Colin Wilson is out now on Rocket Girl. Thanks to Vinita at the label.

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