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Splinter Group: Blowing Down Blue Sky (2003)

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Splinter Group: Blowing Down Blue Sky No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

G.E. Stinson’s Splinter Group experiments with popular song forms by microwaving them. Often the most sonically adventurous member of a band, Stinson plays with his own kind here. Steuart Liebig, Kaoru, and DJ Chowderhead add shards, shreds, and splotches of sound to the robotically unadorned beats. Known for his fluid imagination and flowing funk technique, Liebig contributes to the electrical storm brewing through the songs. Kaoru recites and sings, often unintelligibly but never without effect. She also dispenses electronics and sound objects. DJ Chowderhead recalls DJ Soulslinger in his willingness to repeat raw sounds, but without the latter’s slamming beats. The Splinter Group improvised all six tracks live in the studio.

“Spoon” opens the disc in a steaming jungle of sounds. A stiff lethargic funk emerges with Stinson on abrupt wah-wah, and Kaoru vocalizing like a cross between Lydia Lunch and Phew. The song dissolves back to the Qliopth of resonance. “Egg Shell Necklace” wants to dance, urged on by Liebig’s basslines. “Snowmen #1” starts spaciously, long tones, dropped percussion, and Kaoru asking, “What happened to the Snowman?” When the beat comes down they sound a bit like Throbbing Gristle. A complex group of loops causes the song to lurch forward like a one legged turtle. Clouds of intonation roll over the structure, obscuring it. A new beat rises and G.E. trades Mothra-sized jagged guitar slabs with Kaoru’s Noh-play vocals.

“Shadow” features Kaoru singing low key with slowing morphing electronics shifting around her. Liebig adds what sounds like prepared bass. Deep in the mix Chowderhead adds Robert Ashley’s “She was a Visitor.” “Blowing Down the Blue Sky” samples a pounding drumline for Stinson’s dense chords. Kaoru’s vocals are multi tracked, processed, and poppy. Liebig’s bass wallows on the bottom. “Sleeping Not Sleeping” comes together as several bright tones slip in and out of phase. Chowderhead throws some gamelan through it, and after grating steel wool tones Kaoru briefly recites. A loping riff emanates from the soundscape and Kaoru’s vocal intensifies.

The Splinter Group’s blend of illbient and improvisation creates an otherworldly mix, a futuristic aurality.

Track Listing: Spoon; Egg Shell Necklace; Snowman #1; Shadow; Blowing Down Blue Sky; Sleeping Not Sleeping.

Personnel: G.E. Stinson, ex tech guitar, electronics; Kaoru, voice, electronics, toys, objects; Steuart Liebig, contrabass guitars, applied tools, tech; DJ Chowderhead, turntables, minidisc

Record Label: W.D.T.C.H.C.

Style: Modern Jazz


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