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Splendid   (www.splendidezine.com)


The third release from Oakland-based studio wiz Dave Halverson is what you get when Robert Miles and Joe Satriani get together for coffee: with its twinkling keys, lush atmospherics and occasional slabs of wanktastic electric guitar, the enigmatic Fragments of What is a new-age record wrapped in a rock record inside a chillout record. It's an enjoyable guilty pleasure, though, layering scrubbed-up, precision-tuned guitar chords over waves of ululating synth throbs, with bells, phonemail voices, Wurlitzer oompa-loompa and electronic detritus in unexpected places.

Lacking vocals to hide behind, Halverson's arrangements are left to carry the album. Most of his constructions don't need them, conveying distinct personalities and moods through pace and tone. "In the Name of the Higher Quadrivium" offers dark, sinister thrills powered by grumbling bass and icy keys, the fantastically-titled "Cursed By Robot Gods" bounces along to a mechanized thump, and the not-so-fantastically-titled "To Lose Blood So Fast Challenges the Consciousness" is one long, modulated drone experiment.

Fragments of What's main sticking point lies in its slick, hermetically-sealed production.  The sounds here are often remote and plastic, diminishing their mood-making effectiveness. Still, crisp and clean rule the roost in the new age business, so there's no point in docking marks for playing to type. If Windham Hill ever launches a rock imprint, Halverson's name ought to be on the very first contract.


-- Steve English