Splitter – B-Sides (None)

Splitter - B-Sides

Hey, who turned off all the lights? Oh, nevermind… it’s just the album art for Splitter’s B-Sides. I’m enjoying the stark twilit feel of this… the room being so dark, draped with darkness really, and yet the window to the world outside indicates daylight. Very isolated both inside and out, seemingly.

Artist: Splitter
Title: B-Sides
Label: None
Cat#: None
Keywords: Ambient, Experimental, IDM
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

This is a beautiful album. A lonely album. One that feels… left out in the cold, post-IDM world to sit on a decaying swing set or park bench while everything has moved on, full-speed toward whatever new horizon.

‘Urban Void’ really sets a mood at the beginning… very, very lovely ambient sounds, harmonic textures that are deep and lonesome, like a drifting, ghostly walk along desolate grey streets in Winter, feeling a sort of strange love for the world while in relative isolation. It reminds me of walking quite a lot… the sounds are so nice, too. It’s as stark as the album art, and I love the synchronicity between that image and the music. We cut to a deep, sizzling static drone, harp-like piano chords.

‘Korona (Concrete Jungle V2)’ begins with high-pitched tones that converge playfully into dissonant harmonic frequencies. Vocals come in, meshing wonderfully with these tones, feeling very melancholic. There’s something about it that kind of reminds me of Radiohead, though I don’t like to say that because I’m really not into Radiohead for several reasons, but this is very good. Tiny bell sounds ring into the mix as well… the gloom seems to swirl into a lovely, evocative pattern of sounds, like snow being blown around you as you’re overcome with the sensation that the world has a sort of strange beautiful magic to it, when no one else is around to distract you from it. Despite a proclivity for harshness in nature, it can yield so many strikingly beautiful things.

Then, it is ‘Die Leere Der Nacht (V1)’, in which a tiny bell-like piano instrument plays a nice melody. Rising into the mix are a simple rhythm with distorted bass, and some strings. Choirs, more focused layers of rhythm come in. I love the orchestral feel of the ambient harmonies. Like the rest of the material I’ve heard on this work, it feels very much like black & white film. In my mind I imagine the movement of the skies in black and white. Something like this, maybe. The ambient sounds are marvelous.

Some more uptempo sounds on ‘GhFHzk’, with breaks and what sound like electric pianos! There’s a kind of nice urgency to it, that then unfolds into spacy, orchestral backgrounds. A bit of static crackle in the mix, but real subtle. Distorted electro breaks, a breakdown section with strings, random odd bits of electronic noises, lots of nice harmonies that feel just the right amount of urgent and intense, slightly sorrowful, something that carries a feeling I would associate with retribution, the memories of whatever was lost still fresh in mind.

‘The Ocean’ gradually comes in, a breathtaking ambient field of choir and reverb, then piano and a breakbeat. I like the wah synth sequence that follows. There are some sharp, distorted electroglitch percussive tones that zip around in the mix, as well as one that hit for just a micro-second that sounded, or seemed as though it sounded like a midi-trumpet! I was like… did I really hear that? This is really pretty, though! I find with most of what I’ve heard so far that I’m more enjoying the ambient textures, random bits of noise, orchestration and various other melodic components than I am the breakbeats Splitter is using, which have so far possessed an unfortunate flatness to my ears. The rest of the sounds are so rich that they render the drum grooves a certain one-dimensionality, and they sound also very programmed. I think to myself, if the artist had had better drums to work over… this album of B-Sides would be unstoppable.

Next is ‘I’m Getting Fcking Sick!’, which begins with some low sub-bass, string pads… oh, shit, the breakbeats on this track are sounding a bit livelier! Now I’m hearing also a bit of wub bass. There’s a pad that’s kind of something like a very bright string.

On ‘Electric Mind’ I’m hearing a compressed breakbeat, sequenced modulating synth, a thick sawtooth bass wave comes in, sustained and with a touch of phaser adding lots of movement to the mix. Just underneath everything this awesome ambient harmony swells, more of what Splitter seems to excel at! I love these airy, cold vibes and they mix well with the breaks and trance-inducing synth-sequencing on this track. Lovely. We head into a breakdown, with just these nice ambient pads, a clip of a hi-hat rolling on, then some spacy liquid electronics floating in on occasion. Then the breaks are back! The mid/bass sequence now sounds a lot like a guitar… some sequenced guitar harmonics then start up in the higher frequencies, like an arranged tonal feedback melody.

After that is ‘Zero Sum (Remixed By Splitter)’, and I hear echoing piano, a kind of nice breakbeat with interesting frequency damage. This one is probably the most melodically bright track I’ve heard on the album. There’s a sample of vocal, spoken word… hmm, that’s a familiar voice… oh, Trent Reznor… ah, this is something new of his I guess. I had previously not heard any of it… haven’t actually listened to NIN since The Fragile came out, haha! None of the words make sense, but are properly obfuscated so that people will think they’re brilliant, enigmatic, deep. I’m tempted to quote from a conversation a friend and I had a month or two ago…

Friend: Have you heard NIN’s new album?

Me:
No.

Friend: It’s minimal. It’s like, he’s got every fucking synth in the world and still can’t hear anything but the sound of his own voice.

Me: Lol!

Some acoustic guitar begins the track ‘Snowflake’, followed by vocals, then something that kind of surprised me… a house beat! Mellow 4/4 pulse, it’s almost like you wanna pump up the jams, but are struck by this being kind of a pretty track. So, instead you’re like… I’ll just kick back and let the jams pump themselves. I will only slightly elevate the jams. Can’t pump right now, gotta chill. The vocals are naive, which I’m enjoying, very natural and kind of timid which adds to the overall feel.

Lastly, and so sad for it to end, is the track ‘Draumalandið’. It starts with a nice, filtered break, before thrusting us into a spacy, pad-laden voyage on the high-seas! This is like… yacht breaks. I love it. There’s a slight bit of an Enigma, or Orbital feel on this, like worldly ambient tones. Still black & white like the material from early on in the album, but this one of a beach maybe… a barely moving panorama, relaxing you. Oh, hey… this isn’t exactly what I was thinking of, but it works nicely with the music anyway! Very nice malleted sounds, xylophone or marimba coming on. Yeah, I love this track.

Wowie zowie, be sure to click that link everybody! This is an album surely worthy of your ears… I now bequeath unto you:

http://splitter.bandcamp.com/album/b-sides

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