An unusual album from an enigmatic artist, Splices and phases delivers on the promise of its title by including multiple genres, often within single tracks. The album goes through phases, and seems spliced from a large sonic soundboard. For example, the opening track (“Its fear in the Amygdala”) begins with a radio transmission, but soon sprouts feet of bass and arms of synth. One expects a vein of percussion to be mined, but it doesn’t happen; those who want drums will have to wait. The subsequent track (“Caustic surplus of robotic smiles”) is even stranger, morphing from an ambient intro to a near-industrial churner to a psychedelic guitar piece and back. It’s a beautiful title, signifying the alienation of modern man. “Autumn in Flashbacks” continues this commentary by juxtaposing warm acoustic sounds with electronic feedback: the sound of signals falling short.
Soiled (Marcus H) has been active since 2003, and in that time has had his fair share of acclaim while remaining a well-kept secret. Part of the reason may be the lack of a signature sound. (“What does he sound like?” “Like everything together.”) It’s not an easy sell. One way to market this material might be to highlight the variety of timbres. Where else might one encounter anger and sadness, curiosity and resignation in one instrumental set? It’s also the latest work to highlight the Serge synthesizer, last heard here on Thomas Ankersmit’s Figueroa Terrace. The recent rediscovery of this instrument has proven a source of inspiration for many artists, who are discovering that what once sounded futuristic now sounds pleasantly nostalgic. When combined with loops and bass, it becomes “Creepy Crawly and Drifting”, although we must admit that the sound is no longer creepy, but oddly comforting.
At times the album seems to rest in a trough of low drone; at other junctures it rises on tiny electronic wings. “Spectrum binary training” seems ready to leave the atmosphere, but the tempo section fades after only a minute. The actual birds follow a track later. The final word is given to the guitar, which rules “Footsteps” with warm languor. By wrapping back around to the second track, Soiled proves that there’s a pattern to his experimentation after all. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 6 October 2014