Sketches for Albinos has been quiet for four years, but Matthew Collings has not; he’s been recording under his own name. Fireworks and the Dead City Radio is the artist’s piece of unfinished business, a deeply personal record that fell into the abyss in 2010. In the ensuing years, the album has been heard only in fragments on Soundcloud, but never in full. “Don’t forget,” Collings sings on the opening track. These words serve as an overture. When first written, they referred to a specific period of time in the artist’s life; ironically, they now serve as a reminder not to forget the album. Collings never forgot those tumultuous Icelandic years; nor did he forget about Fireworks and the Dead City Radio. Thanks to mini50’s vinyl and photobook release, what was once humble collection is about to become grand.
Listening to Fireworks is in fact a lot like flipping through a photobook, as snippets of dialogue and song are welded to curious arrangements. “i think we grew again” is particularly memorable, as a woman waits for some active percussion to end, then intones, “Now I open the front door; and now I’m out in bright sunshine.” After that, the song calms down a bit, with ambient textures welded to an electronic beat, signifying both internal and external change. The track closes with a classroom recitation. In like fashion, the narrator of “february with the wolves and angels” searches for words, then suggests, “We should always turn left on every crossroads.” What does this all mean? As the album progresses, one continues to seek cues, attempting to build a narrative. Dreams, memories, and observances collide like disjointed descriptors scrawled in scrapbooks. This has always been Collings’ intention; even the name Sketches for Albinos suggests suggestion. The sketching aspect is given aural form in the chalk lines of “the sailor in the city is buying up time”, while “she drew a pentagon on fire” includes the action in the title. (Those tempted to regard this as a 9-11 tribute should know that it is instrumental; one is left to draw one’s own conclusions, pun intended.)
The original Dead City Radio (1990) was an album of music and spoken word offered by William S. Burroughs and friends. The spirit of that album is present here, although the 2014 work is more impressionistic, filled with fragments instead of poems and paragraphs. This is more of the way memory works, although the two works share an interest in the revisitation and revising of memory. As late as February, Collings was still changing the names and sequencing of tracks, and even left one off the final album. We do the same thing with our own memories, dwelling on some while attempting to purge others, revising our impressions and stories. We exaggerate (fish stories), diminish (“I am not who I once was”); and discard (burning love letters and photos). Fireworks is about to become a fixed form, ensuring that it will soon become a snapshot itself. In time (perhaps even the day after release), Collings may look back on the album and say, “that was how I once felt about what once happened”. This reality has already passed beyond our vision. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 24 March