Category Archives: Compilation
I used to work with this bloke who had a joke that ended with the punchline “bus shelters, air raid shelters…” and I can’t remember what it was. It was probably a smutty joke, as he was a smutty man. He used to tell the joke at least three times a week. Now I very much appreciate an abandoned shelter too, but I think he and had different views about what activities we were using them for.
The recent release by A Year in the Country, The Quietened Bunker is an exploration of the abandoned and/or decommissioned Cold War installations (i.e. my favourite places). And (spoiler) it’s brilliant – an absolute contender for my album of the year. Every single track is expressive of the theme, though they all take a different approach to presenting it.
Keith Seatman kicks us off with Lower Level Clockroom, featuring dueling arpeggios and an icy pad mixed with the ominous ticking of a clock and snatches of speech or laughter. The occupants of the bunker counting down to nuclear Armageddon? The longer the track goes on the more it feels like you’re being led closer and closer to a disaster.
What better way to follow up that than with some genuinely unsettling drone? This comes in the form of Drakelow Tunnels by Grey Frequency and evokes a real sense of unease that conjures up images of moving slowly through abandoned tunnels, torch in hand illuminating corroded walls, doors and furniture, unsure what may lie around the next corner. The final 40 seconds or so of the track ends with a faint tapping sound on metal bunker walls, a chilling discovery perhaps of something or someone trapped down there.
Maybe the person trapped down there is the last man playing the last piano, star of the next track The Filter’s Gone/The Last Man Plays the Last Piano. The tinkling piano slowly mixes with static and synths, it’s beautiful and fragile and could fall apart at any moment.
There next three tracks take the tempo up, Aggregates II by Pannbrites introduces glitchy, percussive pulses, while Polypore’s Bunker 4: Decommissioned takes us down a much more horror route, enveloping us in a swirling wind of synths and a creeping beat. Comms: Seen Through the Grey by Listening Centre harks back to a time before the cold war bunkers were abandoned and East and West nations were monitoring each other’s communications. You could (almost) dance to this one.
Both Crafty Mechanics by Time Attendant and Crush Depth by Unknown Heretic are claustrophobic, doomy listens. The latter pushes in similar musical directions as Haxan Cloak and is as outstanding as it is terrifying.
Those hoping to end the album on a more uplifting note aren’t going to find it in Waiting For the Blazing Sky by David Colohan, but it is a ten minute long magnificent slab of swirling and droning synths punctured occasionally by snatches of dialogue; the perfect soundtrack as we watch the world burn. Indeed, events of the year 2016 may have us all waiting for the blazing sky, but not before you’ve got your hands on this compilation.
PS I’ve remembered the joke my old work colleague used to tell. It was: “I’ve lived a sheltered life. Bus shelters, air raid shelters…”, followed by a wink even more creepy than an abandoned bunker…
Post Tangent is a charity compilation supporting CalAid, a group of volunteers collecting for the Calais refugee camps. The compilation seems to have been set up by some of the bands playing the ArcTangent festival in Bristol last month, so it’s essentially 32 tracks of post-, math-, noise-, glitch- and drone-rock.* BBO favourites Deerhoof are as full of beans as ever on ‘Kuma Kita’:
And the last track, the more contemplative ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,’ comes from the brilliantly named He Was Eaten By Owls (who were new to me but are well worth investigating):
I don’t know anything more about this compilation beyond what’s on Deerhoof’s facebook page, but it’s definitely worth buying – excellent music for a very good cause. The Bandcamp page is here and it’s £4 or more. You could always donate to CalAid too, here.
* do you like that hyphenated rock?
The strength of any compilation is equal to the consistency of its content – this much is obvious and true. After the first few listens, too many albums sit in the ‘Various Artists’ folder and get little to no airplay. This is due mainly to that duff track; that track that is always looming and waiting to annoy your ears such that it colours your pleasure irrespective of how speedy your fast-forward finger is. Well, somewhat unsurprisingly the curatorial excellence of The Outer Church and Front & Follow have combined to produce an anthology that requires no readiness to press skip. In fact, there are so many brilliant highlights here I feel duty bound to eulogise as many as possible.
Commencing this epic 28 track collection, Embla Quickbeam produces an incredible study in harmonics meeting a babbling sea. Some Truths (aka Bass Clef) gives an engaging lesson in bass and high end bleepology. BBO favourites, Pye Corner Audio builds the tension superbly with sweeping analogics, filters tweaked and a bass line on the verge of something famously Radiophonic. Black Mountain Transmitter are wonderfully crepuscular in their idiosyncratic musique concrète, whist The Wyrding Module present something even more creeping and shadowy. Position Normal do bubbling flamenco oddness. Old Apparatus harness spooky strings, as VHS Head parades a grinning jittered funk cut-up. There’s skewed and spooked dub-techno from Broken Three and Graham Reznick’s treats the ears to some electro-stomp. Wrong Signals gently build the kosmische weird, Sone Institute time-travel to a time of booty-shaking electric boogaloo and Tidal’s ‘Scry Baby’ is the aural equivalent of luxuriously polished obsidian.
If forced to pick a standout track it would have to be Baron Mordant & Mr Maxted’s ‘Roehampton at Night’ – a throbbing masterpiece with glittering interjections that makes the experience of its title both apparently dreadful and strangely appealing.
Pye Corner Audio ‘Black Mist’:
Hacker Farm ‘Bluebeam’:
Broken Three ’96D’:
Big-hearted Jamie Audio Antihero has put together another excellent charity compilation – in fact I think this is the best yet. There’s the big names – well, you know what I mean – who are already Friends of the Label (Jeffrey Lewis, Darren Hayman, both lovely songs); the amazing turn-out of the label’s own stars (Wartgore Hellsnicker, Ben Shaw, Jack Hayter, Paul Hawkins & the Awkward Silences, Broken Shoulder and Fighting Kites… plus new AAH band Cloud, who we will be hearing more from soon); the post-AAH bands (The Jonbarr Hinge); and some established/emerging bands like The Society of Poor Academics and Internet Forever.
That sounds like a lot of tracks? Damn right it is – 31 songs, nearly 2 hours. And it’s great. The mighty Wartgore contribute nearly 8 minutes of craziness, the rest of the AAH roster contribute alternative takes and hard-to-find stuff, and there are other crackers scattered throughout the rest of the collection. It manages to be both a great AAH sampler and an end-of-term report on the class of 2013, like those cassettes you used to get on the front of magazines.
And it supports a very good cause – Rape Crisis England & Wales and Rape Crisis Scotland. You can get the compilation for a minimum donation of £3.99 or you could pay more. £4+ for 2 hours of music. What are you waiting for? Stream the lot then buy it here – though I should warn you that Jamie’s track-by-track guide includes puzzling wrestling chat.
If you want a taster then I suggest these two tracks. First, this lovely version of Jack Hayter’s ‘Sweet JD’, one of my personal favourites from his Sisters of St Anthony singles series, which is also highly recommended; find it here.
And second, this little belter from Internet Forever, from their album of last year. This is perfect pop, somewhere in the vicinity of Helen Love. The album can be found here.