Dan Whiting is an Australian musician and member of The Splinter Orchestra. Having previously contributed to Flaming Pines’ ‘Rivers Home’ and ‘Tiny Portraits’ series, “The Line Never Held” is his first full-length solo album for the label. It opens with echoing, guitar-led drone, first track ‘Onset’ switching between calm and heavily distorted noise. Ear-splitting feedback announces ‘Promise Me We Can Listen To Nirvana’, soon giving way to deep underwater rumble and narrow shafts of light. Coiled springs ping open, and the guitar rushes to the surface with bubbling noise.
The longest track on the album is a live recording of a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. This seems to take the form of one held chord that gradually increases in volume and complexity, adding and removing different tonal layers until the harmony is so dense that it’s practically pink noise, constantly changing and shifting its tonal centre. Snatches of splintered guitar weave in and out, stammers and interruptions. A deep bass pulse enters, repeated at regular intervals, as the now-huge chord gradually dies away; the pulse interval halves as shimmering guitar swirls around its central axis, until only the multiplied pulse is left, skittering.
A huge, grand distorted guitar theme carries the final piece “A Study For Eight”, sweeping all before it. Metallic squeaks and squawks maintain the album’s tension between concordance and noise, without breaking the generally elegant and elegiac atmosphere. “The Line Never Held” is ambient in technique, but constant wide-ranging shifts in harmony and timbre prevent it from becoming mere aural wallpaper. Like a tidal line that is always moving, despite all the levees and sea walls and other coastal management techniques used to try to pin it down, change is this music’s one constant.