From the opening feedback squeal of ‘HYPERION’ BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER is not messing about. It is just wave, after wave, after wave of unrelenting feedback, noise, and general unease. Sometimes after an initial visceral gut-punch, the levels are lowered, to let you catch your breath. Or to shock you into paying attention. But BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER does not do this. Oh no. Instead he just throws more noise, feedback, tortured synth noises at us until we start to buckle at the impact. Around the halfway point a feeling of nausea starts to take over. It feels like seasickness, but how can this be? You have not been on a boat for years. You feel it in the pit of your stomach and there it grows and swells, much like the music, until it is an all-consuming feeling of unease. And it feels incredible. Instead of giving us something to passively listen to, BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER has given us something to feel. Feel in our heads, guts, and legs. Then as quickly as it started ‘HYPERION’ is over.
The Oil of Vervain side starts off more sedate. In all fairness, how could it try and compete with the sheer devastation of BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER? Instead we are greeted by a strumming acoustic guitar. As ‘Strange Lights’ progresses, more noise motifs start to seep into the mix. However, unlike the BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER they never overwhelm the sedentary acoustic guitars, they just add an extra level of texture to the proceedings. ‘Ciara’ is another sedate affair. After an opening of strummed guitar, Mark Van Vasey of November Bees pops up and delivers a sombre monologue. There is a confessional vibe to Van Vasey’s vocals. Like Nick Cave on a Tor track. As ‘Ciara’ progresses, the guitar playing gets heavier with an urgency to it. Van Vasey’s delivery changes too, and things start to take on a more sinister vibe.
Split tapes do not just offer a cheaper way for artists to get their music out there by sharing the costs with a friend. When done right, they offer a chance for the listener to experience something that a solo release would not deliver. Here BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER and Oil of Vervain have thought about the medium and delivered something that not only showcases their talents but compliments the other. If both sides had been blistering noise or subdued guitars, the tape would not have worked as well. Instead one side is the calm before, or after a storm depending on your listening preference, and the other is the storm. What ‘SPLIT’ does effortlessly well is invite us briefly into the world of two very different, but similar artists. It is a world of texture and tone, over melody and rhythm. Once you make the mental switch to that distinction the world feels like a slightly different, and more, exciting place.