The background to Matthew Colling’s ‘Splintered Instruments’ is an interesting one since it was recorded over a period of three years in Iceland. There is certainly a cold chill running through the heart of this unmistakably intense album, which one feels could have only been inspired an austere, sleepless environment. Nevertheless, the album is also a deep and compelling affair.
Thanks to complex layers of frenetic percussion, string samples, Collings’ own despairing vocals and all kinds of sonic manipulation, the artist evokes paranoia, danger and rainy days of an industrial city all in one song. Tellingly, it’s one of the most straightforward offerings as tracks frequently veer off on to unexpected routes, stopping, starting and twisting around into what seems like a totally different song.
Although not quite as busy in its construction as the opener, ‘They Meet On The Subway’ is, if anything, even more oppressive as great slabs of sound shift around with disorientating results. There are moments of beauty as the sadness of ‘Pneumonia Loves The Moon’ strips away further layers to reveal some minimalism, infusions of woodwind instruments take us from the city to the country (not unlike Hood in their execution) but these fragments are a brief respite as the restless atmosphere soon returns and sucks out any moments of hope. It’s a testament to the power of the album that the sombre post-rock of the last track, ‘Routine’, manages to sound so eerie and yet seem so calm.
Unquestionably, ‘Splintered Instruments’ is a dark affair but it is nonetheless intoxicating as you begin to feel dragged into Collings’ world of abstract melancholia. The skill is that the “immense, violent force” which Collings claims informs this record, is translated into a musical form which is both hypnotic and something which we can emphasise with.
Hood, Flying Saucer Attack, Shoeb Ahmad