Splitter is the nom de guerre of one Benjamin Sievers of Bremen, Germany, and an artist I came across a few months ago. I was linked to his album Lost At Sea on Bandcamp, where his very respectable discography is available for free, and, despite initial misgivings, I rapidly became hooked. That particular album was named after a line in the Radiohead song ‘In Limbo’, which rather unfairly set off alarm bells in my head – an embarrassingly huge Radiohead fan myself, it nevertheless seemed a forebodingly unconfident move on the artist’s part, a sort of tacit admission of derivativeness. A track titled ‘In Rainbows (v2)’ frankly seemed to be taking the piss. I needn’t have worried, however – it was a beautifully produced and assured album, with a blend of influences ranging from the sun-kissed vibes of Tycho and old school synths of Boards of Canada to darkly claustrophobic techno and skittish glitch. And despite its breadth, it never stumbled, or failed to pull off its tricks with anything except aplomb. Indeed, my main criticism would be that the original Radiohead reference was unnecessary, not only as a name drop, but as a summation of the album’s themes – varied and cultured, it certainly never evoked anything like the isolation of being lost at sea. Quite the opposite – Splitter’s music is cosmopolitan, and sleekly modern – though it’s to his credit that there is, throughout, a sense of not being entirely at ease with that fact.
It seems appropriate, then, that his new single ‘Bournout Syndrome’ should feature as its artwork a picture of a smoggy, sepia cityscape. It’s a fast paced track, and melds his familiar chiming Rhodes piano with an insistent beat, melancholy synth pads and a bass line that manages to sound confident and ambivalent at the same time. The Radiohead influence, ironically, is undeniable here. It’s very nearly a great track – the gradually escalating ending coda in particular is powerful stuff – but ‘Bournout Syndrome’ is, sadly, let down by the artist’s vocals. This is not a particular criticism of Splitter’s voice in itself, which greatly resembles that of Josh Klinghoffer. The track ‘y-Teic Os’ on Lost At Sea, for instance, uses his high, nasal vocals to great effect – but that’s because they are integrated fully into the music, rather than acting as its centrepiece. That, in my opinion, is the fundamental misstep in this latest single – the oddly parsed vocals, so obviously supposed to be the focus of the track, add nothing to, and distract from, what is otherwise an evocatively broody and atmospheric instrumental piece. The single also includes a remix by Prose that removes the track’s best feature, its momentum, and a pleasingly tranquil instrumental named ‘Restlicht’ that, in its dreamlike minimalism, recalls Aphex Twin’s later ambient work.
Splitter is currently offering all of his work for free on Bandcamp, but I’d urge anyone who likes his music to support and encourage the artist. Despite the slight misstep of this latest single, his work to date is exceptionally strong stuff – and with a new album on the horizon, he’ll hopefully accrue the interest he deserves.