A Split Second are a prime example of an influential band that is largely slept on by music history enthusiasts. The reasons for this can be narrowed down to a few things, for one, they hail from the musical underground of Belgium. Two, they were part of the Micrart group, which was a ragtag effort of independent music production and distribution of which A Split Second managed to become the most commercially successful artist for. Three, their greatest claim to fame is kickstarting a subgenre of electronic music that time forgot, one that they never even really belonged to in the first place. Apart from a small, but rabid cult following that still exists to this day, Belgian New Beat never really took off commercially, but it's enthusiasts will tell you the legend of how DJ Marc Grouls once played the 45rpm A Split Second vinyl Flesh at 33rpm, with the pitch control set to +8. Thus, a bunch of attendees at the Boccaccio nightclub in Ghent, Belgium sought a new sound, and a small slice of history was crafted.
Whether or not the implications described in this story are true, A Split Second were certainly a very different kind of musical act in their ten odd years of existence and did enjoy a string of club hits that ultimately found attention in the famed Chicago industrial music label Wax Trax! presenting an opportunity for distribution and touring within the United States. Whilst they did see a number of significant changes over the years their earliest period is documented best in Neurobeat
, which is technically a compilation but in a similar way to how The Cure's Boys Don't Cry
album is a compilation. That is to say, it takes almost the entirety of the groups first album Ballistic Statues
and changes around a number of tracks with others that appeared on earlier EP's, as well as a couple of remixes.
The formula of the group is very raw at this point, but they demonstrate a unique take on New Wave flavoured EBM in a few distinct ways. The vocals of Marc Ickx offer something sinister and darkly humorous in his delivery, the groups rock leanings also important, searing electric guitar leads punctuate a number of the songs. At its heart though this is a showcase for the synthesiser, even on tracks that nod more towards guitar based post-punk such as Neurobeat
Chrismar Chayell's infectious melodic hooks on the instrument voice themselves wonderfully. Indeed, much of the album is largely driven by drum machines and fat analogue synths, which at times makes the production sound rather dated. In almost every instance this happens however it is followed by a musical section which brings itself across as rather intriguing. On Command
is a good example of this, after much repetition and gruff vocals a highly percussive break cuts up the monotony and turns it over on its head into something special. Whilst most flaws here can be leveled towards a flat production and lack of vibrancy, there is plenty of atmosphere to be had in Rigor Mortis
, which is to date one of the best songs A Split Second has recorded.
takes a bit of a nosedive towards the middle, but it is still a fine EBM/New Wave release that deserves attention amongst 80's buffs who like to count a bit of electronic music into their listening habits. It is arguably the superior cut when compared to Ballistic Statues
, which features a few original songs that aren't present here but the non-completionist could probably do without. This difference in quality in negligible, however, and the opportunity to hear A Split Second on either release is one that should be made.