Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Collingwood Is An Emerging Artist

Chris Malinowski by R. BirchKeeping together a genre-defying, heady progressively soulful rock band with long meandering songs is never easy. And since its beginnings in 1999, the Pennsylvania-based rock band The Collingwood has had five incarnations with a lineup that forced the band to continually reinvent itself as members dropped off after personality clashes, marriages, addictions, and death.

Yet, somehow, frontman Chris Malinowski (guitar, vocals), who also has his feet firmly planted in filmmaking and 35 mm photography, has never given up. This time around, with Bill Ackerman (bass), James Pennington (guitar), and James Boruch (drums), Malinowski believes he might have the lineup right.

Ackerman, a friend from film school, relocated closer to help shape the sound. Pennington met Malinowski at Accent Music where he manages the music store. And Boruch was added after a chance meeting on Craig’s List. All of them have deep roots in music. Malinowski has fronted two other bands, most notably the heavy metal band Freakshow, which he founded as a teenager, and then a goth-rock inspired band called The Absurd.

"I formed The Absurd after tiring of metal and a rift between members, and released a few albums," said Malinowski. "But then broke away from the band so I could go to film school at Ithaca College, one of the best decisions in my entire life."

Malinowski attributes some of the cinematic qualities of The Collingwood's music to his film work. The long-drawn songs tend to capture a pacing similar to cinema with an incessant awareness of creative pacing, planting lulls, builds, and climaxes in the sound.

Even the familiar minor key motifs inspired by horror classics made in the Seventies inform the music. Malinowski and Ackerman's film experience is also apparent in the production of the bands's full-length music videos.

F**k Yeah, Hollywood! makes for an excellent introduction to The Collingwood, opening with its harshly ferocious lyrics before drifting into a retrospective soft, melodic chorus. The song unexpectedly dips toward a different bass line at the half point like a second act, delivering some of the most memorable elements of the song.

Poor Man's Potter and Birthday Cut work much the same way. Birthday Cut opens with a hypnotically drifting foundation and slowly builds with horns adding a soulful blues-infused feel before building, climaxing, and dropping in a bluesy bleakness that introduces the second act. Deliciously brilliant. Poor Man's Potter strikes a similar arrangement with its Rush-flavored false open before diving down into a slow-moving, meaty drifter with several climatic restrained chorus points.

"We still haven’t found a label that’s brave enough to take us on. We’re healthy, willing to tour, and light up a supreme fire with our live shows," says Malinowski. "Maybe a label with bravado will find us one day and marry us to a lifestyle of consistent releases and yearly tour dates. We're in. But even if they don't ... we have our own thing moving nicely."

The Pitter-Patter Of Little Everything isn't easy to categorize. With influences that capture both progressive and retroactive elements, it often feels like an experimental rocker's version of the beat generation, allowing the music to move in its own unexpected flow, even if it is structured with purposeful pacing and a radio unfriendly play length.

"I just want to share the songs and the resonating existential crises/hopefulness with the proper audience," says Malinowski. "And maybe dance a bit with them in a live performance so everything is brash and charismatic. Hey, this is all quite fun."

Everything about it seems fun, but Malinowski is striving for an elusive perfection that may even lend itself to songs grappling with the sourness of life. It's there within reach, if only it is worked a little longer.

Every track begins with main riffs before rough melody lines and lyrics are added by Malinowski. Other members then pick their instruments, improvising off the looping riffs until something concrete begins to come together.

How they come together requires painstaking patience and attention to detail as engineer Rich Degnars worked in his basement studio in Wilmington, Delaware, from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. two nights a week (along with Malinowski) for an entire year and a half. Degnars even played the drums to help close Birthday Cut, an easy favorite from the album.

Along with Degnars, the album includes the combined talents of Gina Degnars, who also fronts the alt pop rock Little Invisibles (backing vocals), Brian Naudain (some drums), Joe Harris (saxophone), and Gerald Chavis (trumpet). Most of them work with Malinowski and Pennington at Accent Records. Off the album, Malinowski hints at a muse and lifelong companion.

The Pitter-Patter Of Little Everything By The Collingwood Cracks 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There really is nothing like The Pitter-Patter Of Little Everything on the market. While the album isn't perfect given that Even The Black Lamb Tuckers wraps itself up so tightly inside the 1970s B-movie disco rock grooviness it becomes almost unbearable, even three of the five tracks will deliver 22 minutes of unbridled riffs, drifts, and atmospheric tenseness that most bands save for live performances. We already anticipate The Collingwood will be landing here again.

Just as important, the real measure here is that even if The Collingwood only ever captured a smaller following, someone will be inspired and influenced by their offbeat viscous tracks. Count on it. The Pitter-Patter Of Little Everything is available exclusively on iTunes. Malinowski also recently directed and produced a 33-minute artfully primal feature short entitled Alms, You Say.
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