It's shaping up to be a pretty damn good year for the compilation, which has sadly always sort of let me down. For what few I do actually own–label comps, musical collectives, various artists comps–I rarely go back too. Please indulge me in a very winged hypothesis that maybe the 'compilation' as an art form/object is just now finally coming into its own. Or, a far more likely scenario: I just haven't been looking hard enough for the good ones. The ones that really dig their hooks into the listener.
With this said there are some giant exceptions, Elevator Bath's A Cleansing Ascension from a couple years back was and still is very enjoyable. Recent personal discoveries like the highly anticipated and grossly delayed release of Paper & Plastic on suitcase/petri supply/incubator (March 2010), and the Patrick Mckinley (aka Murmer) curated Framework 250 (Much more info on that soon, check back at the end of the month) discs have re-sparked my faith in the potential potency of the compilation. If some of you remember or can refer back to the Not Alone 5 disc set compiled by Mark Logan of Jnana Records and Current 93's David Tibet from 2006 then you might understand where my criticism of comps stems from.
Before you start sending me negative vibes and waving your arms around in rage... stop, and hear me out. Almost every artist on that compilation was a favourite of mine at some moment in time, and actually, I was exposed to some bands that I ended up really liking as a direct result of it. Furthermore, as a Doctors Without Borders fundraiser, you couldn't really argue that it wasn't for a good cause. But! those discs did lack something. Because of how eclectic all the musicians were it there lacked a fluidity and cohesiveness that other compilations have been able to achieve. I don't blame Logan either, as it must have been hell trying to lump all those acts together. I don't actually think it could of turned out better than it did with so much variance in musical style. So what's my point? let's just say that there is something to be said about the selection and attention to the congruity of musical styles when assembling such delicate documents.
'Physical, Absent, Tangible' cd-r (Contour Editions, 2010)
Physical, Absent, Tangible is kept simple, which plays out very much to its favour. The four artists found within fill their respective musical roles with a unified understanding of what those roles represent. The whole thing works very well. Canadian based i8u kicks things off with an eleven and a half minute analog synth work that juxtaposes high and low frequencies resulting in a pleasant sonic parallel. The experience is a lot like standing on a small patch of land in between two rivers. Christorpher Delauenti's two pieces are absolutely sublime, the first, "sigil" is a short but impressive arrangement of feedback squall and tonal noise. Where as "nictating" begins as a looped low-end rumble that eventually dismantles as a simmering drone; the album's high point. Gil Sansón provides eight short pieces that seem to represent fragments of a whole. In consideration of their brevity–and that usually this kind of off-the-grid minimalism is best represented in the long form–Sansón's section remains very strong. The final contribution, a collaborative work by Brian Mackern and Gabriel Galli (both new to me) is a static soaked excursion into subdued tactility. What sounds like morse code thrown into the mix gives this piece a real Tracer era Omit feel–definitely a good thing. Impressive stuff. Kudos to a very tasteful ice breaker for the label Mr. Garet.