Split by Noyades and Jozef Van Wissem

Release date: February 7, 2019
Label: S.K. Records

The Split record is perhaps one of the most neglected release formats to survive to this day. Often considered in the same manner as the B-Sides and Rarities compilation, Splits are all too often overlooked in a groups’ canon of releases, and yet it would be a great loss to overlook the possibilities offered by this bastard format and simply reduce it to a mere means of sharing production and distribution costs. My case and point here concerns the present release you are reading about. The mere mention of a four-way split will no doubt have risen a certain amount of apprehension in some of you; on this I have no doubts.

Bringing together acts from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, French label S.K. Records have gone for an ambitious meeting of the musical minds to commemorate and pay tribute to Studios Davout, whose halls have greeted some of modern music’s most iconic figures including Prince, Miles Davis and the Rolling Stones (to name only a few). Recorded in its iconic Studio A shortly before its definitive closing, the music this record follows a deliberate pace and progression across its tracklist, with every act seamlessly passing the relay baton on to the next.

The French trio known as Noyades starts warming the amps up with roaring, noisy wails of gritty, fuzzy distortion swelling to the sound of cymbals arising. The momentum naturally builds and eventually sets the song in motion. The electrifying delayed fuzzy guitar riffs are wild and heavy yet free-flowing, effortlessly pulling us with the tide and into the groove before leading us through the tumultuous storm, into calmer currents.

Tomaga from London picks up where ‘Djouhri’ left off with its busy drum shuffle, set to fluttering feedbacking ambiences. Clocking at four and a half minutes, ‘The First Lesson is Free’ is minimalistic and steady-paced, serving as a mystical transitional incantation leading us into Jozef Van Wissem’s pieces. Situated at the core of the tracklist, the warm, resonant sounds of Van Wissem’s soulful lute playing chime in with somewhat of a surprise factor for the listener, and yet they prove themselves to be a matching fit for the record. The raw acoustic lute tracks gradually pair up with some ambient guitar swells and melodies, effectively juxtaposing two string instrument sounds that were several centuries apart from one another, blending into a duet that is both beautiful and unexpected.

Tomaga returns on the fifth track with ‘The Inexorable Sadness of Pencils’, an entrancing transit back to the fully electric era, set to the sounds of tribal drums, metallic clunks and ambient soundscapes. As with their previous track, Tomaga’s contributions to the tracklist, although a little weaker when considered as standalone tracks, serve an unquestionable purpose in making this split record as coherent and well-paced.

Last but not least, La Jungle from Mons make the final send-off with a closing, nine-minute track that fires up into a chaotic whirlwind of Krautrock psychedelia, powered by the relentless cadence of the rhythm section and the fiery, off-the-wall shamanic chanting that heightens the energy to a boiling point.

For those who gear their musical affinities towards exploration and discovery, S.K. Records’ release makes the brilliant case for the exciting possibilities that lie in the Split format by bridging gaps one can hardly imagine. Pacing and contextualization being the records’ biggest assets, the collaborative effort will throw you a curve and send you places, no matter how familiar you may be with the bands on display.

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