VA: Collapsing Culture

Collapsing Culture: twenty thoroughly sorted exercises in electronic boom-bap by five Texas-based Exponential artists (Aether216, A.M. Architect, Darby, Mnolo, and Theory of Everything), the listening experience strengthened by the seamless flow between the cuts (one especially nice example: the almost imperceptible transition from Darby's “Quality Television” to Theory of Everything's “Backpack”) and the artists' dedication to detail and elegant craftsmanship (check out the froggy voice stutters that intersect with plinking mechano melodies in Darby's faded “Portrait” and the harp cascades that swirl throughout Mnolo's melodramatic “Fall From Grace”). Though typically only three to four minutes long, the tracks are treated like mini-symphonies in numerous cases (e.g., Darby's densely orchestrated “Ciudad de Leche”).

Dabrye's a conspicuous reference point (how could Darby expect otherwise?), given the sawtooth bass lines and handclapping head-nod pulses that anchor some tracks, but the varied moods keep things interesting nonetheless and dispel any sense of over-derivativeness. Compare, for instance, “Upon,” a glorious piece of bucolic melancholia fashioned by A.M. Architect (Diego Chavez and Daniel Stanush), to the doomsday vibe of Mnolo's (Manuel Antonio Escobar) “The Abyss” and Darby's funereal synth dirge “Many Colored Days.” Elsewhere, Theory of Everything (Ernest Gonzales, who launched the San Antonio label in 2000) drops bleepy boom-bap with “Little Prince” that exposes an appetite for arcade melody-making while Diego Chavez's Aether216 material (the brooding “Renascent” and pastoral “Memoir of Nova”) reveals a maturity far beyond his twenty-one years. Worth noting too that, unlike some comps, this one stays strong for the duration with its graceful closers (Theory of Everything's “Lullaby #5” and A.M. Architect's “What If”) the equal of anything coming before.

June 2006