A split album is a curious creature; to the listener, it can be two-bands-for-the-price-of-one, a sweeping intro to a genre, decade or scene or an interesting exercise in drawing out common themes.
Sometimes, as on this split from experimental electronic musician Swamp Sounds and equally out there Dundonian Uncle Pops & the Dumbloods, it can be exercise in boundary pushing even if the music itself seems to have few obvious points of comparison.
Swamp Sounds is the work of Yuuya Kuno, an artist based in Nagoya, Japan who also runs his own label, Sleep Jam Records.
Under the Swamp Sounds guise he makes psych tinged electro which smashes into your synapses like a search light being switched on.
Tracks like ‘Marionette’ and ‘Skull Disco’ take circling synth riffs and mash them into the maximalist electro of Rustie or Hudson Mohawke, the latter in particular is hectic and danceable, building into a rave addled blur of synths and drum machines.
Meanwhile ‘Moon Circle’ feels comparatively restrained with washes of synth and a stepping rhythm reminiscent of Gold Panda’s travelogues, while ‘Kontra’ might be the most challenging track so far with distorted Aphex Twin whirrs and clattering steel pans.
Opening with laser bursts, the tightly wound ‘Houndstooth’ manages to repeatedly wrong foot the listener, opening out into spacious piano chords before the synth overload begins again.
After such a brain melting display, it’s interesting to compare the work of Uncle Pop & The Dumbloods and try to figure out what prompted this collaboration.
Easing us in, Dundonian musician Douglas Wallace opens with his own most synth heavy track ‘Harry Smith’s paper planes’, a transporting piece of post-rock/psych with looping synthesizers.
Next up is the melodic ‘Portrait in an egg cup’ which sees fuzzy clicks and hisses form an ambient backdrop for a melody played on plucked strings and creaking fiddle that then explodes into a spy-movie chorus of fuzzy guitar and drums crashes reminiscent of a missing Mazzy Star track.
On ‘The Comfort Zinger’ – you’d be correct in thinking that terrible titles are very much a staple of Wallace’s work as Uncle Pop – slow burn drama and percussion that sounds like either handclaps or the clicks of a camera shutter takes us back into Portishead territory, though the lengthy build doesn’t really deliver in terms of a climax.
‘Song for Broken Singers’ is the longest track on the release at almost seven minutes – more than twice the length of anything on the Swamp Sounds half of the record – and it’s cold and minimal, all sharp tones and sparse notes but struggles to be much more than icily detached background music before Wallace rounds off the album with ‘Autoroute’ a questing, gently shifting Burial-esque shuffle.
At the end of it all maybe Nagoya and Dundee aren’t as far apart as one might imagine.
Words: Max Sefton