The twenty-fourth-and-final issue in the Split 12” Series happens to coincide with the anniversary of its parent label, as FatCat Records turns 25. Over the years, the Brighton-based label has been a touchstone in the release of quality modern electronica, and there’s no better send-off to the influential series than a split release featuring the angelically-warped music of Ian William Craig and the lesser-known talents of Estonian artist Kago. The Split Series has always been an essential part of FatCat’s output, and began life a quarter of a century ago. This release is the first to get the party started in what will be a year of celebration, and this kicks it off in purrfect fashion.
1997 was the year it all began. The Split Series was initially set up as a sporadic outlet for more out-there, abstract, and experimental sounds which would normally defy classification. Running in parallel with FatCat’s early output, the Split Series soon grew legs and traction, and has continued to grow ever since; it was only supposed to last for a couple of years, if that, but things have a way of continuing, and the series has now surpassed two decades. Over that period, the series has become a cult, collectible item, ‘accruing regular critical acclaim and a reputation as a gateway outlet for adventurous collisions…pioneering new sounds’. To date, the series has taken in forty-eight different artists and united five continents.
Its aim was to curate high-quality, challenging…12” records that resisted easy classification and would continually shift.
Creativity knows no bounds, and the Split Series has always gone beyond the veil, stretched itself beyond standard expectations. Always engaging, always challenging, but providing easy accessibility all the same, nothing else sounds quite like it. Quick-turns and surprises lurk around the corners; the music can feature sharp, rollercoaster-like bends and dips, and always pushes the boundaries of what modern electronic music is capable of producing.
Split down the middle, the record consists of Canadian singer and composer Ian William Craig’s eighteen-minute ‘Because It Speaks’, and music from poet and singer Kago. ‘Because It Speaks’ zig-zags between stunning harmonies and outright decay, its higher, spaced-out zones recalling a nostalgic, amusement-park psychedelia and a pale euphoria, while its rougher textures attempt to drag its music back down into darker, no-go areas, where light has faded entirely, and the dying flames of the sunset seems to make things more sinister.
Kago’s vocals have more of a sharper pronunciation, birthing strong rhythms of their own. Slim, hypnotic electronics are also in the vicinity, creating something truly original. The fresh air and the clear atmosphere helps distinguish this part of the record from Craig’s hazier, clouded sound, offering 20/20 visibility after the earlier perfume.
On the surface, the two musicians don’t appear to have much in common, but this helps to create a stark contrast, and they both share a universal truth in the use of their voice, and the passion they demonstrate for diverting it, morphing it, and mutating it, until it takes on a new shape and a new personality. Tonally-different sounds live at opposite ends of the spectrum, separated from one another, but joined by a single record, and the contrast fits the stark black / white clothing of the series. Another admirable quality is its long-running promotion of unknown artists, the record divided between fresher faces and more established names, giving them a space and an outlet on a much-larger scale. This record ends the long-running series on an immense high, a series which, over the years, has contributed greatly to the expansion and exploration of electronic and experimental music.
Residing in the distinctive aesthetic of the series – hand-drilled, numbered sleeves, and a stark black / white design – the record is available either digitally or in a single vinyl pressing of 500 copies.