VA: Belladonna Summer Compilation
Belladonna Records

Initiated as a netlabel in 2005, Belladonna Records (operated by Samarah and Phil Bryant) branches out with its first physical release, a hefty 76-minute and summer-themed set encompassing an equally hefty range of styles and artists. 7 pin dinner certainly starts the collection promisingly, with “Chinese Burn” layering Solvent-styled melodic gleam over skuzzy breaks but that's almost the only time the style will appear (Hellzapop's sunlit “Green Drop” offers a penultimate reprise), as the disc then splinters off into one multiple directions: 21 Hertz's dramatic trip-hop (“Wave of Time”), Saturnines' poppy folk-blues (“Ran Away With the Circus”), Morsmordre's ambient-breakbeat sparkle (“Contemplating the Moon”), and Room's (Audiobulb Records founder David Newman) meditative electronica (“Field”), to name a few. Add electronic jazz-fusion (Phortran's “One Perfect Day”) and strangulated hip-hop grime (The Great Mundane's “Tut Tut”) and you're wending even further afield. Some pieces stand out more than others: suggestive of a Warp-Merck merger, Nix treks unhurriedly through acres of laughing children and bleepy keyboards in “Sunflower Meets Me,” while Adam the Tree's haunted “Slow Seduction” floats out onto murky waters and then vanishes from sight, taking the disc with it. Put bluntly, Summer is eclectic and diverse, but there's also nothing here that startles with greatness; conversely, there are no disasters or disappointments either.

September 2006