Cole Collins is always looking for a new chess opponent. And he also plays over a dozen instruments (that’s just on his new release alone). The multi-talented 20-year-old local is dropping his second disc “Living History” today and will be playing a release show tonight, with Grace Joyner as an opener.
The new album, “Living History,” has a decidedly cyclical, bittersweet feel to it, something that resonates through the arrangement of layered instruments and airy yet yearning vocals that recall something deep within and even out of the listener.
“My personal relationships are what fueled most of the strong emotional content in this album,” says Collins. “As far as how I felt when writing the songs… Writing a song can either give me lots of anxiety and doubt for my future, or it makes me feel excited and eager to put everything together.”
You can hear that battle between apprehension and bliss in every track. You can also hear the influences of Andrew Bird and Arcade Fire in the intricate layering of instrumentals and particularly the standout sound of violin.
“I usually start the layering process with guitars. Piano is usually the next instrument in line. Then, I add the meat of the song with bass and drums. Once I’m this far, I’ll start on vocals. Violin comes after the vocals, so I can make sure the string melodies won’t clash with the vocal melodies. I guess glockenspiel usually comes next. And from there, everything else is icing. Sprinkled in whenever necessary. There’s no better feeling than the one I get as a song is coming together well,” explains Collins.
Beyond the instruments mentioned, Collins also added bongos, books, wrenches, steel wool and chimes into the blend. And yes, he is the performer of all of them.
Single “The Product,” which already dropped prior to the disc’s release, serves as a telling precursor to what the rest of the album has to offer. Beginning in a soft, sweet place and growing into something powerful and profound, the song develops and builds in the most emotionally enticing way, dropping off at the end for a violin solo with chiming glockenspiel for a thought-provoking finale.
Then, there’s “Cinema,” which opens with a soft reverb echo that escalates into a speedy guitar melody, which is then overlaid with heavenly glockenspiel and soaring violin. With wailing lyrics, “Everything existential has a fall, ” it offers undeniable truths amidst a search for something deep and emotional in oneself. The layers crescendo like the transcendental feeling that consumes the piece, harmonies and drums building on top of the stack of already overwhelming sound.
“Denial & Infection” offers a dreamy piano solo that seems to beckon into a peaceful oasis that ends with contented keys escaping from the heaviness of so many layers before descending back into an increasingly grotesque and all-consuming reality. Wow. That sentence was a mouthful.
“Studious People” opens with guitar and violin plucking that turns into a solemn reminiscence. Lyrics “Nothing is felt when you’re not alive” exude a sense of emptiness in the present moment. Then, anger explodes into a series of screams that dissolve into soft acceptance…or denial.
Last track and title track “Living History” wraps up the sound with a style that stands apart from the rest, the strings especially expressing a sense of pain and discord in their wavering vibrato. “It’s basically speaking from an alternate universe where nobody is original,” says Collins.
The disc was mixed by Neil B. Young and mastered by Dave Cooley who “worked wonders.” The artwork for the album was created by Collins’ close friend Josie Maszk.
Collins’ release show will be held at Kudu Coffee today, March 20, at 5:30 p.m. Grace Joyner will be opening with an acoustic set, and Collins will be playing with six other band members to help him with the live performance.