The Infinite Greyscale label has been quiet since its double-disc debut last year, but the silence is broken with this new 10″ release from Mouse On Mars’ Jan St. Werner. As with the other records, this is an object d’art, one that is as much a pleasure to own as it is to hear. A screenprinted b-side guarantees that this is more than simple paint splatter.
This particular record began as an installation, albeit a lonely-looking one, described as “an individual listener on headphones and speakers”. In other words, it’s us, but in public. Related to St. Werner’s Fiepblatter tape series on Thrill Jockey, Split Animal Sculpture is warm in tone, the byproduct of its sources: organ and church bell. But while the sources can be detected, the timbres are not what one might expect. Lightly manipulated and distorted, they often come across like an organist being electrocuted but courageously playing through the pain. Synthetic notes join reverberated tones to form an unnerving piece, one that most parishioners might find frightening. But of course God is supposed to be frightening and ultimately unknowable, so despite its lack of spiritual intention, Split Animal Sculpture still inspires meditation. The more one plays the piece, the more one begins to discern patterns in what first seems random; a bit like the slow understanding of modern life, or one’s place in the world. When the chimes begin repeating in the second half, one relaxes, feeling that everything is in control, even if it’s not: the strange alchemy of a peculiar piece. (Richard Allen)