VA: Chronik 1

After issuing three releases, numerous film scores, and projects in the new media and audio-visual fields, Zurich, Switzerland-based Trepok rec. engages in a “European dialogue” with Chronik1, a stylistically diverse compilation of electronic music. Contributions come from Sweden (Utom Alla), Norway (Eiko), Denmark (Fibra), Austria (Ritornell), Italy (Giovanni Dal Monte), Marseilles (Philippe Petit), Portugal (Vitor Joaquim), and, of course, Zurich (Bit-Turner, Trepok rec. founder Aito Takeshi) too. It's a mildly interesting collection that includes some better-than-average pieces, some passable, and at least one that verges on downright annoying.

The good news first. Eiko's “Floating Through a Black Hole” is a neat shape-shifter that starts out in brooding electro-pop mode with a female voice emoting over martial snare rhythms and ends with an injection of disco-tinged flavour. In Bit-Turner's dystopic electronica piece, “Devil's Dance,” sheets of squalling noise batter a bass-throbbing pulse funky of design, and in Aito Takeshi's “Stattler & Waldorf” crisp and forceful beatsmithing underlay billowing electronic atmospheres and crystalline melodies—too bad the track comes and goes so quickly. Portuguese electronic artist Vitor Joaquim (whose Flow was praised by The Wire as one of the best electronic records of 2006) fares best of all with “Sunset Boulevard,” a slowly blossoming and gyroscopic swirl of voices, machine whirrs, and synthetic sounds.

Utom Alla opens the release decently enough with “Elskade Sjukdom,” a soundscape of electronic textures and distorted voice murmur. The title of Philippe Petit's “Planet of the Ants” promises more than the woozy interlude is able to deliver in less than two minutes, and Dal Monte ends the collection with an atmospheric, meditative setting for vocal and electric guitar (“Nothing is Changed”). Less digestible by comparison is Kiku's “Brass & Dumm,” which amounts to five tiresome minutes of beat shredding and dental electronic squeal, and Fibra's “Knuckles All White,” which spews an accelerated speaking voice over clattering beats in a track that might appeal to fans of Kid606 or another such sonic jester.

Chronik1 ultimately registers as a middling compilation that, at the very least, has one thing going for it that other similarly-styled releases don't: economy. How refreshing to encounter a ten-track electronic collection that states its case—not terribly fantastically, admittedly—in a fleet forty minutes.

August 2009