Monday, September 10, 2012

A World of Colin Wilson

Circa 2003 Anthony Reynolds embarked upon a pilgrimage to meet writer Colin Wilson at his Cornish home. There he interviewed the dapper egg-head and expert on all things esoteric about his life and ideas. This meeting and the subsequent recording form the basis of A World of Colin Wilson. But don't go expecting a conventional spoken word LP. The indefinite article of the title hints at the impressionistic rather than the concrete and this proves emphatically to be the case.

In fact Wilson's vocal presence here is frequently elusive, buried beneath Reynolds' strange, often eerie, atmospherics. Then suddenly, as if picked up on some obscure radio wavelength, his perfectly enunciated words burst through the sonic weirdness and we hear him name-dropping Abraham Maslow, LH Meyers, TS Eliot and George Bernard Shaw. Tantalising snatches of conversation seep through the ether as Wilson muses on ontological themes: "What guarantee have we" he asks, on Life Is All There Is, "that we are not sitting in an execution chamber?"

As is often the case with fans Reynolds discovered the writings of Wilson in his youth. Books like The Outsider and The Misfits have cast a spell that has outlived Wilson's waning literary reputation. Down the years a steady drift into esoteric hackwork has seen the writer's stock gradually fall. If you don't own a book by Colin Wilson then your collection will almost certainly include one that has had an introduction penned by him. Yet it is precisely Wilson's almost heroic path to creative self-suffiency, in which the autodidact has embarked upon an idiosyncratic career of his own choice and making, that one feels Reynolds is really celebrating on this album.

Time and place are also strong themes. The taped document acts as a trigger for Reynolds as he weaves musical phrases, subdued melodies, and occasional moments of Faculty X-like intensity around Wilson's words. Songs such as Cornwall and New York Ozone Memory further underline the Proustian connection between sense trigger and place. After the near abstraction of much of this album it concludes with two of its more conventional sounding songs. The Colour and Light Around Me progresses pleasingly from laid-back psyche to catchy Latin groove; whilst Keats... Shelley... Eliot consists of a hypnotic vocal loop that rapidly insinuates itself into one's consciousness.

Let's face it Anthony Reynolds isn't going to get rich any time soon on the back of A World of Colin Wilson - it's just too weird, too highbrow for the Simon Cowell generation - but his creative ambition and willingness to experiment make for a fascinating and essential listen. A treat for the discerning and literate punter this album will certainly satisfy fans of both Reynolds and Wilson. Kudos also to Martin Carr and La Muñeca de Sal for adding their own unique musical qualities to the recording.

*A World of Colin Wilson is available now on Rocket Girl records.