VA: Rufs

On Fenêtre's hour-long Rufs, an international cast of artists from Canada, England, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the US guides the listener on a wide-ranging journey characterized by unexpected detours (arriving after a number of instrumental pieces, Nick Grey's vocal chant startles when it appears in the slightly hallucinatory drone “Black Paper, Mountain”). Though its potpourri of laptop collages, electronic lullabies, folk mantras, and piano ballads isn't itself new, the collection is never less than good and includes some bonafide treasures.

The album's broad-minded spirit is established immediately by Beneva vs. Clark Nova whose “I Could Eat a Curry Everday” aligns the animated pitter-patter of tiny beats to a playful mix of field elements, fluttering percussion, and rapid ukulele strums. In Opsvik & Jennings' “Self,” glimmering keyboard sparkle evokes both Lullatone and Isan before acoustic bass and drums push the tune in a jazz improv direction. The album moves into experimental electronic territory in its later third with tracks by Svarte Greiner and Andreas Meland and, though their pieces are credible enough, they engage less when heard after their predecessors' enticingly melodic contributions.

Five of the collection's thirteen pieces are standouts. Melodium beguiles with his electronic folk lullaby “Varicelle” by offsetting the wistful innocence of its moonlit melodies with a harsher rhythm attack. The crystalline flow of lap steel guitar illuminates the spectral atmospheres of The Jedson Project's “Lela,” and Ljudbilden & Piloten's “So Where's the Buffalos?” is graced by a lovely, Rotaesque theme that cycles like a mantra, prodding the cavalry forward on its long journey across the plains. Delicate ambient settings prove that quiet needn't mean unengrossing: with its gentle piano chords, strings, and soft clicks, Rigil's delicately sculpted “Questions in Letters” is as arresting as a vanishing sliver of daylight along the horizon, while Yasushi Yoshida ends the album in lovely manner with the delicate piano balladry of “Little Hands.”

April 2007