The Splinter Orchestra

The Splinter Orchestra

Mating the minimal in sound with the maximal in personnel, this CD by Sydney, Australia-based Splinter Orchestra is instructive in that it demonstrates how subdued 26 musicians can sound in performance. Blending triggered electronic impulses and improvisers’ uncompromisingly extended tropes, the assiduous five-part suite also encompasses a couple of blazing, tutti explosions. But the fortissimo ferocity of those outbursts, plus their short duration serves to underscore the reductionist ethos of the rest of the program.

Built up from a series of whooshes, squeals, clicks and drones, the Klangfarbenmelodie rarely isolates one pulse from another. Interesting enough, those players who do stand out are ones, such as keyboardist Chris Abrahams, bassist Clayton Thomas and flautist Jim Denley, who have previously recorded solo CDs. Among the corrosive sounds stacked on top of one another are ones that gradually leach into each other’s sonic space. Abrahams’ cross-pulsated metronomic lines are rhythmically propulsive. Thomas’ thumping bass line makes its presence felt among the timbral extensions of motor-grinding and clicking laptop and synthesizer oscillations, scraped and tangled percussion ratcheting and the swelling, portamento horn breaths.

At one point Denley, who recorded solo in his country’s rainforests, manipulates flax to expand the cohesive but limited spectral scope. He saws harsh textures through the undifferentiated horn breaths and tangled percussion taps with the same decisiveness with which he crunched through the underbrush.

A CD whose subtle progression rewards careful listening

— Ken Waxman

In MusicWorks Issue #101