VA: Assemblage Sessions 2
Abandon Building

VA: The Rorschach Suite

VA: Thankful
Temporary Residence

Is it my imagination, or are compilations growing ever more humongous? Abandon Buildings' Assemblage Session 2 squeezes 21 songs into 78 minutes and Moodgadget's The Rorschach Suite packs 20, making the ten on Temporary Residence's Thankful seem ridiculously svelte by comparison. Of course, ultimately quality rules, regardless of the head count and, though imperfect, all three have lots to recommend them.

Assemblage Session 2 naturally features numerous roster artists (DoF, Set in Sand, Sheveks Masada, Color Cassette) but enhances its appeal by adding some well-known guests (Populous, Caural, Adventure Time, Conrad Newholmes). There's a panoply of styles, in fact so many it's almost impossible to encapsulate the collection in any singular manner (though there does seem to be a predominance of dada-like sparkle): Anticon-styled hip-hop (Nimble, Otem Rellik), acoustic piano elegance (KiloWatts), sprawling post-rock (Color Cassette), electro-lullaby wonderlands (Nara, Gutevolk), space drones (Stuntman 5), and even a Meredith Monk-styled vocal drone from Unami. Memorable moments include a tribal mashup of ‘70s glam, Here Come the Warm Jets, and shoegaze from Michael Johnson (“Deathstomp”), noir-tinged digi-dub-hop by Populous (“Back in Black”), and a spacey collage by Adventure Time (Daedelus and Frosty) that exhumes Klaatu's “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (“Ist in Space”). Conrad Newholmes' “Old and News” deftly weaves a bird-call flute hook, hip-hop beats, and an MC's sleazy droll into one of the comp's strongest cuts (he returns later with Sheveks Masada's “Wooden Swords”). You almost feel sorry for Phylum Sinter who's stuck in last place but he overcomes that hurdle with a neon-lit slice of electro-IDM that'll prevent anyone from nodding off.

Compiled by Ghostly International/Spectral Sound associate Jakub Alexander, Moodgadget's The Rorschach Suite presents a remarkably diverse collection of artists, some established but many new. Ghostly aficionados will want to hear sparkling cuts by JDSY (the CD-only “Smoke and Mirrors,” a brief but polished sampling of electronic pop) and Dykehouse while Sublight and kranky devotees will migrate towards contributions by Wisp (“Reminder”) and Benoît Pioulard (“Kids Are Getting Younger”). In some ways, the release is analogous to Ghostly's own Idol Tryouts Two comp, a similarly eclectic collection of largely electronically-oriented music. The euphoric melodies and vocal harmonies that blaze through Small Sails' “Aftershocks and Afterthoughts” set The Rorschach Suite's bar extremely high from its first moment but strong cuts from a slew of others promptly follow. The trip includes blazing electropop (Alpha Crasis, Ghosthunt, The Downtown Division), symphonic electro-delirium (Warez, Direwires), snappy funk-house (Dafluke), ecstatic techno-pop (The Hexx), panoramic post-rock (The Reflecting Skin), and even beatific clicks'n'cuts (A Setting Sun). Mux Mool pairs chugging funk beats with a delicious video-arcade theme (“Lost and Found”) while Dykehouse drops a dreamy cut (“1932”) that's less raucous than his usual fare. The phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches' came to mind more than a few times while listening to The Rorschach Suite. Its superior quality suggests that the artists collectively regarded the opportunity to appear as invaluable and therefore contributed the strongest material possible.

Eclectic is also the word for Temporary Residence's Thankful which features a previously unreleased song from nearly every band the label's signed since 2004's Thank You. Whereas the other comps constantly shift stylistic gears, Thankful follows a clear trajectory from placidity to blistering math-rock: Eluvium's becalmed “Carousel” feels like raindrops falling on a window sill in slow motion while Caroline's gentle ballad “Wonderlust” provides a perfect showcase for her ravishing vocal. But the storm rapidly hits: Cex & Nice Nice ease into it with a stabbing foray into chopped dub-funk (“Jacksonville”) before a hornet's nest of guitars and drums appears in Sleeping People's “Growing Sand” and By The End of Tonight splits a cranium or two in “Ready? Aim. Fire!” The intensity mercifully settles ever so slightly for The Drift's space-jazz, and MONO's lovely “Since I've Been Waiting For You.” Though the number of selections is modest compared to the other labels' offerings, Thankful is more cohesive as the listener grapples less with unifying the diversity; it's also less electronic- and more guitar-based (certainly there's nothing on the other two that calls to mind Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen as does Lazarus's “Thank Thee”).

December 2006