This debut release from David Collier is an engrossing sweep of the Irish composer’s recent work. The nuanced and expansive meditations of the string quartet Smacht are presented together with the pulsating brilliance of Dusk, a dazzling work for four percussionists. Collier’s compositions – sharp-focussed and sincere – radiate warmth and vitality, and are presented in a beautiful vinyl edition with artwork by Louise Gaffney.
Smacht, performed here by the all-star string quartet of Cora Venus Lunny, Adrian Hart, Robin Panter and Kate Ellis, grew out of a workshop with the band This is How We Fly in 2011. “I came across videos of fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh performing his solo material with a loop pedal and loved the hypnotic feel to his music,” says Collier. “I started playing with droning on one string of a violin while changing the notes on another and hit upon the seed that would become Smacht.”
Collier wrote Dusk during a percussion course at Princeton University, where he also met the New York percussion group Mobius Percussion, who later recorded the work. Dusk brings together delicately balanced strains of diverse instruments – glockenspiel, crotales, triangle, wood blocks, cymbal and bass drum – in an ambience where time is at once frozen and in constant adaptation.
The final track on the record is a remix of Smacht by Seán Byrne, a radically different take on this potent material. “So many of songs I loved when I was younger were remixes,” says Collier. “For me they were a portal into the less commercial side of the musical world and really opened my ears.”
Collier’s evocative work is already the basis of a breathtaking film by Irish filmmaker Bob Gallagher, with Smacht as its emotional, tonal and structural bedrock. “I came to Bob with the idea of doing a film about travelling the breath of Ireland in a single night to watch the sun set in the West and chase across the country by night to watch it rise again in the East.” Gallagher took this idea of travel and adapted it to a new narrative. “Together we travelled along the west coast of Ireland following a man as he journeys to the edge of the earth to scatter his father’s ashes.”
The Smacht release tour reaches Amsterdam, Dublin and New York in 2016.
To coincide with the launch of Smacht, Collier has commissioned a limited edition set of handkerchiefs created by textile designer Ruth Doorley at Dublin textile studio Print Block. “The design is part of an enso which comes from Japanese Zen Buddhism, a circle that is hand-drawn in one uninhibited brushstroke to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create,” explains Collier.
“The circle may be open or closed. In the former case the circle is incomplete, allowing for movement and development as well as the perfection of all things. I was really interested in Japanese aesthetics at the time I was writing Smacht and just afterwards, particularly the aesthetic of wabi sabi which is the beauty of transience and imperfection.” The handkerchiefs are for sale with a digital download of Smacht.
“I would also add that this music is ingenious, inventive and actually full of tension despite the seeming serene focus. The nuance of touch and timbre are brilliant and that timelessness … that frozen quality of the combination of sometimes busy surface and slowly unfolding structure, that is bewitching here. Momentum and stasis.” – Bernard Clarke, Nova, RTÉ lyric fm
“The string quartet Smacht is … a fine, slow-building piece full of pathos…” – Liam Cagney, The Journal of Music
“From the point of view of genre, were Jónsi from Sigur Rós to start singing at any point during Smacht, it wouldn’t feel like a surprise, the style of the music being decidedly hybrid.” – Liam Cagney, The Journal of Music
David Collier is an Irish composer based in Amsterdam. His music is inspired by minimalism and ambient electronica and has been described as “aurally stunning” (Totally Dublin) and “conceptually elegant” (I care if you listen). Performances of his pieces have been given by ensembles and musicians including orkest de ereprijs, Ensemble Avalon, So Percussion and Kate Ellis. His music has been featured at international festivals including New Music Dublin at the National Concert Hall, Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Young Composers’ Meeting.