VA: Analog for Architecture
Highpoint Lowlife

The always superb London-based label Highpoint Lowlife makes a distinguished entrance into the ‘digital-only release' ranks with Analog For Architecture, an encompassing collection that splits contributions from its full roster into four parts: Brutalist, Deconstructivist, Expressionist, and Metabolist. Amuse yourself with deciphering how the categories match up to the seventeen cuts, or simply dig in and enjoy the incredible feast.

Naturally there's a healthy sampling of electronic music: Fisk Industries gets things started with a brooding, funked-up slice of lurching electronica (“Into The Lungs”) while Bovaflux and Marshall Watson's contributions are as beautiful as the genre gets, the former's “Bleak” an elegant setting of sparkling melodies and perky beats and the latter's “Walking Down To Teletubby Park” a lovely marriage of pitter-pattering beats and gentle melodies.

The second section, where Analog For Architecture unleashes the heavy guitar artillery, is the most arresting, with three epic pieces, each more than ten minutes long, leaving a huge cumulative impression. Mandelbrot (Keung of Mandelbrot Set) weighs in with an incredible monolith, the fourteen-minute “Effect / Delay,” that begins with a grinding distorted mass that slowly escalates into a seething maelstrom of feedback. Eight minutes in, the noise abruptly stops except for a high-pitched, flickering tone that earmarks the piece's shift into the glacial noise-drenched crawl of its second section. (Calika's “The Nervous Bird” seems a welcome calm after that storm.) The two others are standouts too, if not quite as mesmerizing. With its whistling organ tones and haunting piano atmospheres; Rose And Sandy's soundscape, “Map One,” simulates a deep rainforest of bird and animal noises, followed by The Village Orchestra's “ALA” which subtly blossoms into a gossamer cloud of flickering string surges and clicks.

It's never less than accomplished and each contributor squeezes the most into his allotted time (e.g., randomNumber's action-packed “RG Smash” bursts with snappy jitters, willowy electronics, and slippery voice edits), and it's also good to see Highpoint Lowlife making room for a rockier cut by Like A Stuntman and a trademark dub setting by Si-cut.db. Cuts by Production Unit, Izu, Calika, Tigrics, n.Ln, Matthew Rozeik, Achrid, and The Marcia Blaine School For Girls feature no shortage of splintered tones, snarling synth squelch, hammering pulsations, droning organs, and ricocheting beats. In fact, some of it's so good, it rivals in quality the material on artists' own recent Highpoint Lowlife releases (Mandelbrot Set, Marshall Watson). Anyone unfamiliar with the label's output could certainly do a whole lot worse than start here.

Sweetening the deal immeasurably, the special edition DVD-R version (100 copies) includes the 17 tracks in both .mp3 and .wav formats, plus a motherlode of audio and video extras: mp3s by Fisk Industries, Fighting Kites, Ckid, Friends of the Jitney, and Erstlaub (the 58-minute "The Goodnight Stars"); live mixes by Izu, Accrual, and Marshall Watson (a half-hour ambient and two-hour DJ set); 17 mp3s from The Marcia Blaine School For Girls (Music for Theatre and the remix EP Halfway Into the Woods); plus seven videos by randomNumber, Alex Alpine, Fisk Industries, Mandelbrot, and Rose and Sandy. Unbelievable.

December 2006