VA: Captain Woof Woofs' Guitar
Bearsuit Records

There's no apparent guiding concept at the heart of Bearsuit's latest compilation, Captain Woof Woofs' Guitar, though one could argue diversity's the fundamental principle involved. The hour-long album features fourteen tracks from a largely obscure range of independent artists, with some names more familiar than others. The opening four tracks are representative of the stylistic range on offer. Port Mone, a Belarus-based trio of accordion, bass, and percussion, gets the album off to a steam-rolling start with the accordion-driven rambunction of “River,” after which Japanese duo Kirameki drops a wacky funk-bomb aflame with electric guitar twang, electronic noise, and garbled voices in “Sayonara, Gangsters.” A guest vocal by opera singer Ingvar Wixell (at times manipulated into a roller-coaster warble) pushes the Per Olund Band's brooding set-piece “The Crippled Court Jester” into its own unique territory, making it sound more like an opera excerpt than conventional song. Taub's (Nonine's Me Raabenstein and Harold Nono) “Badlands” weaves acoustic (piano, acoustic bass, glockenspiel) and electronic elements into a gently swinging instrumental with lounge jazz and electro-pop overtones.

In addition, we get a jubilant piano-and-glockenspiel-laden romp from Whizz Kid (Belgium-UK duo J-Kane and Yo Yo Neilsen) (“Summer Bubbles”), a haunting harpsichord-heavy setting featuring a smattering of child-like vocals and whispers from Milenka (“Atta Atta Remix”), and a meditative setting by Italian trio Sadomundo for tremolo guitar and glockenspiel that eventually gives way to screaming electric guitar lines (“Ninth Train”). Alone Together's (Yuki Ota) blissful “Komoriuta” features glistening cascades of brilliantly chiming melodies, followed by Harold Nono and Hidekazu Wakabayashi's “I've Heard Giants,” which ends the album with five minutes of peaceful piano, glockenspiel, guitar, and electronics. Decent offerings by Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai (“you are completely tired” in Japanese), Mr Fritz and Magnitophono, Lettelete Aka Ememe also appear. A lilting folk-pop song boosted by vocal melodies that swoon and yearn and augmented by strings, The Temple Cloud Country Club's (Dean Fances-Hawksley and Andy Suttie) “A Hole in Water” offers the album's sweetest moment and, in its unassuming way, the most powerful.

Pretty much all of it holds up well enough (only The Artificial Sea track from Brooklynites Kevin Smith and Alina Simone strikes me as a lesser effort, and the untitled “hidden” track should have been omitted), and the constant variety holds one's interest. Not surprisingly, the compilation is somewhat of an advertisement for upcoming Bearsuit releases (in the works are projects by Taub, Whizz Kid, and Nono-Wakabayashi) but, in this day and age, no one should begrudge a label making good on the opportunity to promote its product.

September 2009