So I discovered this release after poking around on the Controlled Bleeding facebook and decided to give it a whirl. For those unfamiliar, Controlled Bleeding (and founding member Paul Lemos) have had a widely varied career, but perhaps are best known for noisy industrial assaults, ambient passages, and Wax Trax!/Nettwerk type Industrialized EBM. I was previously unfamiliar with Sparkle In Grey, prior to purchasing this album. You can order physical copies (digipack CD, limited to 300 copies, some signed by Paul Lemos) or digital downloads here. The split has 10 tracks, 6 for Controlled Bleeding, 4 for Sparkle In Grey, with the CD and digital versions having 1 unique bonus track from each artist. That means each release has 12 tracks, with 14 total available for purchase from this split/session. I bought the CD, was pleased, and downloaded the 2 tracks unique to the digital version.
The split is broken up into 2 parts, the 1st being "The Perks of Being a Perv" AKA the Controlled Bleeding section. The 'Intro' track has some chill acoustic guitar devolving into bizarre bongo and distorted voice madness, followed by the head-bobbing drive of 'Garage Dub;' a bass guitar riff droning behind some snazzy jazzy drums and a reverbed-to-psychedelic-fuzzed-out guitar lead that's quite exceptional. I haven't heard anything quite like it this side of 60's Germany. Maybe I'm just ignorant of experimental rock post-'Krautrock' movement, but this definitely felt like it could belong to that time and mindset. 'Spingtime In Brooklyn' is a tender and calming keys and tripped-out guitar type of tune. I really dig it, but my version of springtime in Brooklyn (having lived here for 4+ years) would be far angrier, probably much more in line with the vibe of the next track, 'Perks Pt. 1' which is a nasty Merzbow-meets-Throbbing Gristle noise-punishment endurance test. This is followed by the mildly noise-to-calming guitar-jazz ambience of 'Birdcanned Pt.1.' Good come down there, with just enough variance to keep you paying attention for the next track. 'Birdcanned Pt. 2' starts with distorted chicken vocals leading into demented near-No-Wave jazz insanity.
Sparkle in Grey take the helm next with 'The Rant Of The Idiot Savant- Idiot Savant Pt.1-4.' Pt. 1 is tender keys and strings with strange found-sound background textures that feel like slipping into a depressive fugue in a haunted house. Pt. 2 takes it into a more beautiful direction, perhaps as the fugue turns into personal fantasy with lots of strings, subtle keys, and interesting percussion. I say interesting because the recording sounds very low-fi, adding some dirt to the otherwise very clean track. Perhaps the very grounding element of percussion, time-keeping, prevents the track from pulling away from reality entirely. It seamlessly flows into Pt. 3 which keeps most of the same elements, except they become eclipsed by terrifying noise bits that would be most unsettling to listen to in the dark, alone. It's like the suspension from reality's distractions begun in Pt. 1 has now lead to hellish introspection, personal demons loosed over a near-pristine daydream. The track drops elements out until it's reduced to only keys for a somber and lonely finish. Pt. 4 takes a new direction with a loud, wet bass drum and jangly guitars. The suspense is higher if you've listened all the way through Pt.'s 1-4, as you don't know what might come next. It slowly builds and adds/subtracts elements, never really reaching a hard climax, but satisfying nonetheless, finishing with a reduction to only a jangly guitar and then many seconds of silence. Perhaps this is the sound of working through and resolving underlying psychological issues uncovered with by a meditative fantastic-turned-phantasmagoric fugue through music. May your experience be so enlightening.
BONUS TRACKS (AKA 'Extra Perversions'):
CD Version: Sparkle In Grey 'Melvano Pt. 1'- combines eerie strings, bongos, cymbals, and found-sound water samples to produce disturbing atmosphere.
Controlled Bleeding 'Live In Brooklyn, 2012'- more psychedelic guitar riffs and textures. Dreamy, transcendent, highly recommended.
Digital Version: Sparkle In Grey 'Iurop Pt. 2'- an instrumental track containing more strings and jangly guitar over jazzy drums (recorded in a dirty low-fi style). It feels very chill yet energizing; it's refreshing like a cool drink on a hot day. It's really a great track but wouldn't have fit in the 'Savant' progression on their portion of the split. Definitely worth picking up if you enjoyed their tracks on the split proper.
Controlled Bleeding 'Untitled Trang Song'- a really fun song that's easy to dance to and very upbeat in composition. It's basically some pleasant female vocals with a repeating progression over jazzy drums and bass lines, with some fuzzy, tripped out guitar making its appearance towards the end. It's a bit repetitive, but the repeated bits work so well that I can't get enough of them; the portions which deviate make the return more powerful.
------ ------ ------Overall, a great release to put on and chill out to, I like to use it to wake up while I'm exercising or walking in the morning with the rising sun. It's varied enough that it keeps my attention but not so abrasive that I have to give it my full attention; I bob along with its passages as I move about doing whatever else. For me, this will be a release that I don't put on every day, but when I want it, nothing else will do.
*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*