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Sound Principles

Splatter Trio
Aural Collagers: The members of the Splatter Trio mix up their music with sonic elements from here, there and everywhere.

Splatter Trio treats noise as a plastic medium

By Nicky Baxter

IN A FUNKY BUT CHIC art gallery on Shattuck Avenue, about a stone's throw from UC-Berkeley, the members of Splatter Trio are in the midst of a clamorous sound check. Great shuddering splotches of sound buck-jump like minstrels on E, only to morph into a kind of vaporous B-movie soundscape: That whirring hovercraft noise, where did that come from? Now an even eerier din makes the nappy-carpeted floor beneath my feet tremble.

Soon, the source of all this commotion is uncovered. Hanging from the rafters directly above the stage is a gargantuan white sheet. Behind it are the culprits whose silhouetted motions suggest men at work--maybe construction workers whacking away at the tools of their trade. The group, as it turns out, is present as part of a neo-boho multidisciplinary "happening" comprising underground film works, word-Beats et. al. The Splatterers have agreed to provide the musical entertainment.

In a cluttered but well-lighted kitchen at stage right, saxophonist Dave Barrett, drummer/sampler Gino Robair and Myles Boisen, who plays doubleneck electric guitar/bass, are hunched over a battle-scarred oak table. Each takes turns attempting to recreate in words Splatter metaphysics in general and Hi-Fi Junk Note (Rastascan), the group's most recent release, in particular. Veterans of the San Francisco Bay Area's "improvcore" scene, the three subterranean sound militants joined forces just shy of a decade ago. "One way to look at [our music]," Boisen begins, "is as a collage. You take a recognized bit from, say, a newspaper from here, a piece of twine from over there, a smashed can from somewhere else and mix them all up. We look at sound as a plastic medium."

Junk Note, then, can be seen as a logical progression of the unit's philosophy--explored to some degree on its 1992 predecessor, Anagrams, a knotty confluence of (de)compositions fitted with quixotic titles like "11/10 #4 Stretched." According to the Splatter boys, Hi-Fi Junk Note is an assemblage of scraps of material culled from both live and studio performances, which were in turn fleshed out by additional parts and then fed into a computer, which edited and added its own spin to the mix. The album is "a product of 25 hours of music," Barrett reports. "We chopped it up and boiled it down." The end result is a stitched-together aural collage as jagged as broken glass and as oblique and fascinating as a Rubik's Cube.

"Dino Narrative, Shit Hits Houston All Aboard," for instance, welds together a live performance of two separate works shaken and stirred by high-IQ loops constructed by sometime collaborator J.A. Deane. "Party Horn Rumbles" gleans its rarefied essence from a complex of barbituated, flip-flopped beats yolked to speed-freaked improvised sections.

Like Captain Kirk and his Starship Enterprisers, the Splatter Trio is bent by principle on venturing forth where few have tread before. Tidily summing up the power trio's modis operandi, Dave Barrett quotes an Ezra Pound axiom: "No matter what you do, make it new." New? These guys are outta this world.

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From the August 22-28, 1996 issue of Metro

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