Writing about the set performed by Lawrence alumni Matt Blair ‘17, Jacob Heineman ‘17 and Devin Drobka (not an alumnus) is rather hard to do. It is difficult to categorize their music, as it is heavily experimental and improvisatory. Blair performs on the piano and electronics, Heineman plays bass and Drobka beats the drums. Junior Ben Portzen opened the event by playing a piece that also sounded improvised and rather experimental. It seemed as though, and I’m no expert, he was playing the same deconstructed chords over and over again at different pitches and volumes in an effort to create a piece with an actual narrative. It was pretty dark sounding music and it kind of made me feel like I was falling down a bottomless black hole, but in a good way.
Earlier in the day, the group hosted a clinic discussing their lives as professional musicians with current students in the Conservatory. Each member brought up their personal experiences with undergraduate musical training, regional musicianship and building community with other musicians; the decision to go or not to go to graduate school and continuing education; and self-production and working with labels.
After Portzen was finished playing, the trio, calling themselves Collector, took the stage and played continuously for about 45 minutes. Heineman’s bass was at first the leading instrument as Blair and Drobka’s playing was much more subdued. It almost sounded as though each performer was given the opportunity to “talk over” the others with their instruments. I would label their set as challenging, considering I had no idea what was going on and I am still struggling to describe what I heard. Most of the notes I was taking turned into gibberish and scribbling as I was sucked down into the Collector rabbit hole. I will say that their performance left me feeling dazed and certainly left an impression that lasted the rest of the night. President’s Ball was that same evening, and I had to leave the dance earlier than I would have otherwise because I was still in a trance from the Collector performance. I am left wondering what kind of venues these young men perform at that can handle their intense and obscure music. At certain points, all of the instruments would be playing loudly at once and it would create a cacophonous soundscape that made one feel trapped, but in a good way. It is impossible to convey through writing all of the things I was feeling while listening to this set, and it is harder still to describe exactly what the music sounded like. But you can find out for yourself because Collector has a record coming out called “Post-Rock Lately.” I am not going to listen to it because I feel like one listening session, particularly a live show, of Collector is therapeutic enough. But if you are in the mood for some experimental “post-rock” that will make you feel like you are dissociating from all that is real but occasionally rises to the level of catharsis, then you will be in for a treat.