Splinter Group: Blowing Down Blue Sky (2003)
This album is cool! Sorta like crashing down your favorite alley in the back seat of Satan's Cadillac with the top down and the radio tuned to a shortwave criss-cross. Imagine hearing fuzzy nods to the likes of Can circa '74, Fred Frith guitar drones, strange Casiotone renditions of Fontana Mix, Jannick Top's magnetic bass lines, and Naked City stopped by the border patrol between what and where...jam it all together into a Kurt Schwitters-esqe collage, stand it up in a corner, and you'll begin to get a idea of where these folks are coming from.
The Splintered Ones have pushed the "Jazztronica" cultural envelope with their recontextualization of sonic media. On Blowing Down Blue Sky they seem less concerned with creating a backdrop for soloists, and much more concerned with breaking up the function of beats/rhythm (like early blues, the guitarist, G.E. Stinson often serves as the rhythm core), and establishing electronic trance states (reference: Can, Neu!, and the music of Jajouka filtered through Talvin Singh) as the foundation for improvisation.
To these ears, the Splinter Group is the "Jazztronica" edition of Ornette Coleman's early Prime Time band. Compare SG's sonic stew to Coleman's Dancing In Your Head. Both musics are focused on the ensemble voice and the restructuring of melody and rhythm. Both groups are interested in embracing every sort of cultural frequency (i.e. music, language, or patterns) to incorporate into their sonic matrix, and both groups are/were composed of strong improvisers.
A major difference between Splinter Group and Prime Time is that Coleman's concepts always included strong themes as the focus for group improvisation, and SG's do not. For instance, "Spoon" starts out in an amorphous cloud of illbient psychedelia, then gains momentum with simple drum overlays, one of the main threads of the piece is the simple wah-wah pattern of the guitar and the surging pulse of the bass, and the non-linear vocal style of Kaoru adds a soft melody to the mix. The second tune "Egg Shell Necklace" builds from a similar base, but goes into a more muscular, but no less dreamy state.
The heart and center of this band is revealed in "Snowman," where sonic overlays lap and weave a tapestry composed of extended guitar tones, subterranean electronic musings, surrealist singing, a wizened turntable babbler, and a throbbing bass. It is an opal of sound where the darkened intermittent transmissions from single voices combine into a neo-harmolodic choir of enlightened grace.
A strong sense of meaning courses throughout this disca Rosetta Stone for lost moderns, perhapsthat elevates the overall impact of this ensemble. They're on to something here, and it seems they don't know quite what it is... which is a good thing! They're as interested in the search as they are the goal of their quest.
Visit the Splinter Group at www.wdtchc.com
Track Listing: 1.spoon 2.egg shell necklace 3.snowman#1 4.shadow 5.blowing down blue sky 6.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