VA: One Five Zero

Anyone new to n5MD could do a whole lot worse than to start with this superb label overview. Celebrating the label's fiftieth release, One Five Zero compiles new material, cover versions, and remixes from the full complement of label artists—Another Electronic Musician, Arc Lab, Bitcrush, Damiak, Funckarma, Last Days, Lights Out Asia, Loess, Near the Parenthesis, Proem, Quench (Funckarma in disguise), Run_Return, SubtractiveLAD, and Tobias Lilja all contribute—and, in doing so, provides an encompassing portrait of the imprint's wide-screen sound. One Five Zero teems with expansive vistas, celestial soundscaping, IDM-breakbeat workouts, and even an occasional stab at post-rock.

There's nary a weak cut to be found on this generally solid double-disc set, though naturally some pieces prove more memorable than others. Near The Parenthesis (real name Tim Arndt) in particular makes a strong impression with his contributions, including the opening “Into the Green,” a stirring soundscape that embeds elegant piano patterns in a field of glistening slivers and clickety beats; he elsewhere turns Another Electronic Musician's “Green & Olive” into a becalmed, piano-based paradise and gives Proem's “3 Days” a celestial makeover. Last Days' beautiful “Points Bridge” is one of the loveliest pieces from his own latest offering, These Places Are Now Ruins, and SubtractiveLAD's placid remix of Arc Lab's “The Several Song” proves dreamy too. Recalling the glory days of Tri Repetae-era Autechre, Vesna's “Chaika” merges gleaming synth melodies with rollicking funk beats, while Loess's remix of Quench's “Bud” offers a sampling of glacial, Rhythm and Sound-styled dub. There's also a wide-screen and surprisingly restrained Funckarma makeover of Run_Return's “Metro North” to go along with the Funckens' “Skaind,” a protoypically slippery fusion of squelchy funk and rumbling hip-hop. Tobias Lilja's resigned croon sets his material apart, whether it's the slinky synth-funk of “My Teacher Died” or the haunted digi-dub of “Five Days,” Bitcrush impresses with the symphonic post-rock of “What Would Hope Be Without Disappointment,” and cuts by Lights Out Asia, SubtractiveLAD, and Keef Baker hold up credibly too. Though the term cinematic is casually used in an electronic music context, n5MD's sound fully earns the label.

December 2007