VA: Peeling
Gaarden Records

Peeling, the debut CD from Gaarden Records, offers a good overview of artists associated with the fertile Portland community from which the compilation springs. Many of the contributors will be familiar to listeners with a taste for the unusual and the underground, as Gaarden managed to bring Et Ret, Bexar Bexar, Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium), and Madagascar members Anthony Lambright and Michael Lambright on board. Many of the pieces exude that home-made, relaxed feel so characteristic of the ‘bedroom' producer—a vibe Ponytail's Dustin Wong captures in the title of his contribution “Breezy Comfort.” There's no question it's a wide-ranging affair, one happy to trade unity and coherence for diversity and sprawl.

The collection begins restrainedly with Et Ret's “Today's Cake,” an unadorned (save for some phase-shifting treatments) setting of electric guitar shadings. Following it are a laid-back, indie-pop vocal song (“Jubilee” by Electric Kastle aka Martyn Leaper of Elephant Six's The Minders), a guitar-and-vocal indie-rock tune (the CD-only “Chords of Fame” by Holy Sons), and even an eight-minute slab of ambient minimal techno beamed in from Saturn (Jason Urick's “Floorbird”). Drenched in flurries of voice transmissions, “Radial Summer / Signal Evening” provides a predictably stirring meditation from Cooper, while Bexar Bexar adds a creaky, dust-coated instrumental of fuzzy guitars and laconic rhythms (“Lions”). Experimental guitar-based tracks appear also, with Tests (Anthony Lambright) generating shards and swirls of electric guitar splinter and echo in “Blanquet,” and Charles Stanyan (of Concert Silence) contributing a soundscape that, at certain moments, seems rather Fenneszian in character (“The Path From My Door at Night”). There's a misfire or two—I could have done without Lexie Mountain Boys' feverish tribal ritual “Punch Balls”—but it's a rare compilation that satisfies completely. Only 150 copies were produced, so don't wait long if you're interested.

April 2010