VA: Little Darla Has a Treat for You v. 27: Eternal Spring Edition

Darla's latest sampler spreads twenty-seven exclusive tracks across two discs in an environmentally-sound package designed to resemble Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap. There's no unified theme or sensibility but instead a broad stylistic range that encompasses hip-hop, folk, shoegaze, punk rock, electro-pop, and more. Though the emphasis is more on vocal-based pop songs than experimental instrumental settings, the collection is so wide-ranging that not everything will appeal to the average listener. At the very least, when a dud appears, one can pass the time ‘til it's over reviewing the 250 music-related quotations adorning the packaging (sample: Mark Twain's “Wagner's music is better than it sounds”). Even so, it's a bit surprising that there aren't more standouts, given the number of tracks and the comp's near-160-minute running time. Samplings from Darla and associated labels (Ad Noiseam, Other Electricities, n5MD, Psychonavigation, LTM, room40) appear, with the Ad Noiseam tracks adding a slightly harder, hip-hop-inflected sound to the compilation via Detritus's punchy “Borderlines” and the viral drum'n'bass of DJ Hidden's “The Traveler.”

Some of the collection's best tracks come from familiar names: Robin Guthrie's lovely “The Flight of the Painted Lady” presents, not surprisingly, cascades of guitar-based splendor, while Tujiko Noriko, Lawrence English, and John Chantler contribute the beautiful electro-lullaby “Heart Ga Kikeoru,” which finds Noriko's gentle voice resonating against a shimmering electronic web. And sometimes jewels surface in unexpected places, such as Momus' arresting head-scratcher “Odd Man Out,” whose Hunky Dory-styled vocalizing alternates between electro-lounge cool and woozy waltz episodes, and Montt Mardié's sweetly yearning ballad “Sometimes.” Appealing too is The Photon Band's “Everything Was Funny,” which bolsters its melodic guitar rock with swooning pop hooks and a hint of ‘60s charm, and Yagya's “A Small Offering,” a graceful Fluxion-styled dub-techno exercise that's nearly buried at album's end.

Elsewhere, Japancakes' steel guitar proves a natural complement to Ariel Abshire's Patsy Cline-haunted voice in their “Cardboard” collaboration; despite an overlong eleven-minute running time, Keith Canisius's “extended mix” of “Diving Day” sparkles with shoegaze pop allure with a bright female voice wrapped in a blanket of Cocteau Twins-styled ambiance; and Arborea's “Shadow and the Wind” offers a prog-folk acoustic lamentation that'll appeal to fans of Joanna Newsome, Steeleye Span, and Fairport Convention. Add in Bitcrush's ambient-shoegaze psychedelia (“Fathoms”), Almost Charlie's Beatles-esque acoustic pop (“For the Both of Us”), Black Feather's jangly guitar pop (“Lethal Light”), a prototypical Manual track (“Miraparque”), Tiny Magnetic Pets' jubilant electro-pop (“Girl in a White Dress”), plus cuts by Desario, Rumskib, and others, and you've got more than enough to recommend the release. There are a few misfires—Inpsyda's breakbeats-driven remix of Harold Budd and Clive Wright's “Candylion” banishes the original's understated charms to parts unknown, and Mothboy's MC-based hip-hop cut, “Extended Movement,” is marred by silly lyrics (“Tick-tock / Tick-tock all around the clock / It goes tickety-tickety-tickety tock / Go tickety-tickety tock”)—but not so many that the collection's undermined.

August 2009