VA: Magnetism, That Electricity
Highpoint Lowlife

Highpoint Lowlife reasserts itself as a fabulous resource for provocative music-making with a double 12-inch collection (also available in CDR format) that spotlights four of its signature acts. Essentially four EPs, Magnetism, That Electricity gives an album side each to Mandelbrot Set, Fisk Industries, The Village Orchestra, and The Marcia Blaine School For Girls.

Mandelbrot Set makes good on the opening slot with the suite-like “Astronomy and Allied Sciences” which builds from a slow-motion prelude to a violent, string-drenched episode. If there's one thing that distinguishes the group's sound, it's strings, here so abundant it sometimes feels like entire orchestra sections are involved. Halfway through the side, violins weave in graceful counterpoint over the echoing shudder of guitar-generated shards after which drums kick the band into cataclysmic overdrive during a raucous coda. Listeners lamenting the absence of new Godspeed You! Black Emperor material will find much to appreciate in Mandelbrot Set's contribution to the release. Fisk Industries (Londoner Mat Ranson) then spatters his electronic gear with dirt and grime on four tracks, including the bottom-heavy bass crawler “Blood” and swarming low-rider “Gangu.” Ranson pushes the Fisk Industries sound even more clearly into funky hip-hop territory in “Rhetoric” where MCs babble over a loping base. In terms of genre, Ranson's latest material is more aligned to instrumental hip-hop than synth-based electronic music.

The Village Orchestra (Ruaridh Law of The Marcia Blaine School For Girls) works its magic in the side-long “The King of All Tears,” a nineteen-minute odyssey that swells from windswept washes into full-blown techno propulsion. The trippy closing third cools the pace slightly by exchanging the rhythm attack for reverberant smears and streams. Glasgow trio The Marcia Blaine School For Girls uses side four to showcase its panoramic take on electronic music: “Pinar” royally sparkles with a multi-layered fusion of electronica and hip-hop, “The Ratio” adds Detroit techno to the electronic hip-hop fray, and the stunning “Bottle Stain” provides a gyroscopic, techno-based outro.

The seventy-five minute release exemplifies Highpoint Lowlife's customary attention to detail (optical illusions printed on the discs can be viewed when they're playing) plus the sequencing's well-considered too (e.g., following Ranson's song-like pieces with Law's epic). It would be no exaggeration to characterize Magnetism, That Electricity as one of the most solid electronic-oriented releases to appear in some time and a stronger argument for Highpoint Lowlife's distinctive corner of the musical universe would also be hard to find.

June 2008