More often than not, when two acts get together for a split album, it’s usually because they’re good friends or are on the same label. Sometimes the music meshes together, sometimes it doesn’t. For the latest release from Pleasence Records, though, there could not be a better fit for two acts.
Montreal- and Edmonton-based acts collide for this split record. There’s Hobo Cubes (Frank Oulette), who’s done stuff with Dirty Beaches and CFCF but is a profound explorer of ambient sound in his own right. Then there’s TAIWAN, the act that released the eerie Belladonna.
Both sides of the split record fit each other to a tee, but each side has its own distinct voice to it. The first side belongs to Hobo Cubes, consisting of three long-ish songs, beginning with the eight-minute-long “The Hourglass.” This song, like the other two songs, does a good job of keeping a repetitive sequence of sound in the listener’s mind which is eventually overtaken by other sinister sounds.
The sounds could be almost anything—distant synthesizer whirs, crashes on a drum kit, static-y hisses are just some of the things you’ll hear. As it moves onto “The Flame,” the extramusical tool kit is out in full force, employing pretty much every noise that would make people alone in a dark house jump if they heard. “The Rose” is the shortest song of the three tracks at about four minutes, but it manages to morph the feel from a suspense flick to film noir with its vocal samples, keys and blasts of saxophone.
On the other half of the album, TAIWAN stays true to its self-description of “direct-to-VHS romantic horror.” Over 20 minutes, it manages to cram in 10 songs, each with its own distinct mood but blending seamlessly into one another. TAIWAN allows very little room for silence; a fading instrumental will usually provide the bridge from one to the next, usually in the form of a beat on the drums.
The movie that his half could narrate would definitely be a scarier movie. Opener “Swimming Pool” provides a blast of synths with the sound of a door opening, moving to the funereal “Le Petit Mort” to the thumping “Invitation to Love.”
That TAIWAN is now a three-piece is a great thing. Founder Philip Dickau has added David Ferris on drums and Matt McKenzie on bass and the addition of those instruments has made the band even tighter. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the later track “Red Room” with its killer bass riff and smoky-bar vibe. But the instruments are a welcome addition as well.
“In My House” actually has vocals, which will snap any listener out of an ambient lull, especially because it suddenly gets much louder. Speaking of louder, “Sunday” gets pretty loud itself. The keys take more precedence in tracks like “Empty Glass” and “Basement.”
All in all, the split record is nearly 40 minutes of cinematic, ambient brilliance. TAIWAN and Hobo Cubes should just combine into one ambient entity and rule the instrumental world.
The record can be pre-ordered (and streamed) via Pleasence Records.
Top Tracks: “The Rose”; “Le Petit Mort”; “Red Room”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)