VA: Hope
Fluid Audio

Hope comes pretty close to being everything a compilation should be. The material—notwithstanding the limitations implied by the label, it's nominally IDM—is consistently strong, and, no doubt inspired by the compilation's "positivity" theme, the artists responsible for the tracks (Digitonal, Hol Baumann, Ishq, Bersarin Quartett, James Murray, Field Rotation, Iambic, Snakestyle, Playb, Halogen, Ben Beiny) bring a unifying sensibility to their contributions too. More specifically, Fluid Audio commissioned the artists to produce compositions that would reflect their interpretation of the word “hope” and the idea of alleviating strife through the translation of emotion into soothing sounds. Consistent with that theme, an understated spiritual dimension is strongly communicated by the material.

The album undergoes a subtle evolution over the course of its seventy-four-minute running time, gradually segueing from restrained moodscapes to pieces with a more pronounced rhythmic heft. Ishq begins the album with the ambitious, eleven-minute “Forever.” Alternating between soothing passages and grandiose episodes, the composition unfolds as an atmospheric travelogue that patiently merges soft synth patterns and choral-like exhales into a seductive whole. Having been primed by Ishq's track, Snakestyle's “Hopeful” ups the ante with a more rhythmically emphatic take on the IDM template. Swaying rhythms and a hard-hitting snare snap lend forcefulness to the track while a serpentine melodic hook and deep bass add ear-catching colour. Field Rotation incorporates rain sounds into his melancholy “Regenzeit” (German for “rainy season”) not simply for effect but to communicate how the element brings hope to people in arid regions who desperately need it to survive the dry seasons. What makes the piece most memorable, however, is the mournful flute-like cry that drapes itself over the track's slow-motion beats. Though short, Iambic's “Turn the Seasons” also proves affecting in its melancholy weave of piano and synthetic strings.

The album's generally restrained tone is ruptured by the jarring blast that punctures the Bersarin Quartett's otherwise soothing “Was uns Bleibt” but such a moment is definitely the exception to the rule. Playb's “Acoustics of the Piano” is less piano etude and more a slow-building and dramatic folktronic exercise, while Halogen's “Sunriser” works a guitar section into its insistent IDM swing. Ben Beiny animates his beatific piano-electronics setting “Start Again” with a locomotive beat punch that nudges the track in a post-rock direction before closing the recording with the languorous bonus track “A Part of You.” A tribute to the indomitable human spirit, Fluid Audio's first release is also noteworthy in that it's as environmentally-friendly as a release could possibly be, plus fifty percent of the profits earned from the release's sales will be donated to Toybox, a charity providing aid, shelter, and support for homeless children in Latin America.

August 2009