Various Artists
Split Series 1 & 2

By David Gunn

Although of clear benefit to bedroom-twiddlers around the world, the affordability of compositional software is something of a double-edged skillet. Whilst it has given many artists an opportunity to explore new forms of composition, it has also led to a burgeoning growth of mediocre meandering. And, in many ways, the recent Split LP series provides a neat exposition of this.

The Split series are an ongoing set of long-players released on Dutch label Narrominded, each divided into two complete works of around twenty minutes. The first of these was released towards the end of last year, and starts out very promisingly under the aegis of Narrominded founders, Living Ornaments. In spirit, it exists somewhere in between Fennesz's early walls-of-glitch and the lush ambience of Bowie's Moss Garden. As the piece progresses, it oscillates between these extremes of abrasive granularity and synthetic idyll to great effect, creating a diverse collection of landscapes that are well worth exploring. To be critical, it does come across as an EP of moments rather than a more structured, coherent statement, but in the main it is a enjoyable, promising work. which is more than can be said of side two, inhabited by Accelera Deck. The first track, a 15-minute drone work, does little to endear him – there may be moments of interest but nowhere near enough to justify the effort required. The latter tracks are better, but still, the sense of adolescent indulgence is hard to shake.

By contrast, Split Series No 2 is a far more balanced affair. The first half is occupied by the debut EP of Dutch artists Hydrus. The artists behind Hydrus are current studying at the Sonology Department of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and this release does feel slightly academic – a little over-fussy and self-conscious. However when they do relax, the work is engaging – with an ability to combine serene clarity with some rather complex and varied rhythmical detailing. Kettel's work is also strong, but represents a rather more upbeat and disordered bag of fun. Exhibiting a similar preference for simple melodics, Kettel's approach distinguishes him by his liberal use squelches, rattles and a host of other noises drawn from the crib of a baby. There is a self-conscious innocence here too, but at the album's best moments, it is accompanied by an off-kilter playfulness that prevents the music from veering into outright sentimentalism.

The Split LP series, then, is by no means an unmitigated success. However, it has begun to provide an invaluable platform for a series of artists who seem to be finding their own voices in an admirable manner. And if you're looking for an opportunity to sample some unknown and interesting electronica, this series is well worth seeking out.
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