To be quite honest, on my first listen to “Its Fear in the Amygdala,” the opening cut from Splices and Phrases, I winced. Here we go, I thought, time to try to find something to say about noise and more noise. And, let’s keep it honest here, there is a lot of that on this offering from Soiled, one of composer Marcus H’s identities, and it’s only going to appeal to listeners whose tastes run toward the quite challenging. It’s created from bits and moments, and revels in its often overwhelming coarseness of sound. Things grate against each other, interfere with each other, and yet—in a fair number of spots—come together quite surprisingly. I can’t say I understand what Soiled is getting at here, or what the underlying idea is, but I find myself, through repeat listens, getting quite pulled into certain moments and how they come about. Late in “Caustic Surplus of Robotic Smiles,” an almost simple and very engaging bit of minimalist techno is rescued from a gnarled cluster of sounds. It may have been there all along, it may be cast off sounds pulled out of the mass—whatever it is, the change up grabs your attention. “Creepy Crawling and Drifting” opens with a spoken word sample drowned in static, then proceeds to change its face several times. Musical phrases repeat as Soiled dirties up the atmosphere with jagged noise. Rhythmic elements grind their way up as three hits on a cymbal strike out over and over. “Footsteps” takes what sounds like an over-amped acoustic guitar, briefly mangles the sound, and then just lets it play itself out. (Granted, the track’s just two minutes long.) There’s something in the straight-up approach that, again, catches the attention largely by making you wonder what the hell it’s doing here.
Splices and Phases is quite content to punch you in the ears and then ask what you thought of it. Its appeal will be limited, but it can’t be denied that there is a lot of work going on. Noisy, distorted, disjointed work, but work nonetheless. Its appeal lies in how it can almost drive timid listeners off, but still cause enough of a Hmm reaction to perhaps get them to stick around for a little more. Experimental music fans should definitely tune in; others, approach with caution.
Available from Elm Lodge Records.