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Splintered - Between Scylla and Charybdis

Splintered - Between Scylla and Charybdis coverEarlier this year Splintered made one of their rare live re-appearances performing at Cafe OTO in a Fourth Dimension Records and Lumberton Trading Company label event alongside Alternative TV, Bass Communion and Edward Ka-Spel. The event coincided with the release of their 6th album and first since 1997. Back then, Splintered were considered part of the nineties UK "noise rock" alongside Godflesh, Ramleh, Skullflower, Terminal Cheesecake, Loop. Each group had their own take, and while Splintered may be the lesser known Splintered went well beyond the typical guitar-noise group incorporating a wider range of instrumentation and on later albums pushed the boundaries further as they explored experimentation to a greater extent culminating in a split collaborative album with German sound artist Ralf Wehowsky. That album released in 1996 marked the final Splintered album - although in the intervening years there's been a reissue of Moraine with extra new tracks and Turned Inside Out, a double CD set of singles, compilation appearances and more - before they went on a lengthy hiatus.

Between Scylla and Charybdis was recorded in sporadic sessions during 2021 and 2024 with the original members joined by later member Stuart Carter (The Fields of Hay, Theme) using the same sort of rock instrumentation, electronics and field recordings that informed their previous releases. However, let's be clear this isn't a noise rock album, Between Scylla and Charybdis references a Greek myth detailed in Homer's Odyssey about two sea monsters, one representing a rock, the other a whirlpool which sailors had to navigate past in narrow waters. Neither option was inviting, leaving you caught between two equally unpleasant alternatives. It's a theme applied to current turbulent times in the lyrics. They're nigh-on impossible to distinguish though, as the vocals appear obscured and distant amidst music which is heady and intense with an emphasis on atmosphere capturing something hypnotic within its expanded and lengthy structures, furnished with watery field recordings.

Keeping with the theme of the album the opener 'Permutation 1: Furta Sacra' is a thick fug of bass tones and slow wailing and wavering guitar feedback drenched in the splurge of watery field recordings. The heaviness continues unabated with 'Scylla' a slow writhing crawl of sculpted guitar squall anchored around pummelling beats and shrill electronic clatter. Vocals are pushed back as it slithers onwards gathering a momentum of sorts incorporating tribal rhythms locking into a heaving hypnotic groove, of sorts. Heavily intense, it's a hefty lumbering beast combining low end bass tones, distant vocal clamour, flailing and distorted guitars propelled by both hand drums and forceful drum rhythms, breaking down into electronics and lapping water.

Carried on a mass of crawling squall of guitars, 'The Horrors Of Linden' is perhaps the one track most reminiscent of earlier Splintered, as it comes closest to anything that could be considered "noise rock" - which this isn't. However as unintentional as it might be it does coalesce around and locks into a slow Loop-ish guitar drone riff emitting shoegaze tendencies, offset with blurred electronics and obscured vocals within the dense atmospherics.

It really feels that this reconvened Splintered have created something of their own. Sure you could point at influences but this is a singular release evident from the following tracks where they take the inherent heaviness in different directions to great effect. 'Charybdis' swells from tribal beats and watery field recordings into an extended wave of disorientating guitar atmospherics. Submerged wailing vocals pan throughout but with queasy electronic shudder it gets pulled down into a swirling undertow of alarming disarray, emphasised by watery recordings, casting off reams of electronic noise and scattered percussive clatter. Dense, claustrophobic and deeply hypnotic it's no wonder it all gets sucked down and drowns under its own weight. And then there's 'Bell Harry's Lament', which may or may not refer to the tower in Canterbury Cathedral, which is something entirely different but just as hypnotic. A resolutely bleak and languorous combination of distended guitar and electronics, loping low end bass shudders, clanking bells, watery field recordings and birdsong sucking up rippling improvised guitar tones, as it unfolds mantra like with a vocal deployed deep and, at times, chantlike, and almost subliminally adding a further layer to an already thick and unrelenting 15 minute sound exploration of bleak psychedelia.

Drifting out on distorted guitar atmospherics and howling electronics accompanied by the sound of lapping waves the surprisingly brief 'Permutation 2: Pillars Of Salt' which closes Between Scylla and Charybdis from a revived group who could have gone in many directions. In the event they have reconvened around a heavy, hypnotic beast of a sound that leans heavily on atmosphere and intensity. Naturally it's one to play loud to catch all the subtlety and nuances. Housed in a sleeve featuring some wonderful example of Paul Wright's sculpture submerged in water, this is great stuff. Between Scylla and Charybdis is released on CD from Fourth Dimension Records