VA: We Are All Cotton-Hearted

Malaysia-based mü-nest's We Are All Cotton-Hearted features twenty-five beatific electronic pop lullabies (most of them previously unreleased) that effortlessly transport one back to a trouble-free childhood realm. Though the term ‘easy-listening' conventionally carries a pejorative connotation, the term accurately conveys the collection's accessible character.

Contributors hail from China, Belgium, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, France, and, primarily, Japan but, interestingly, a healthy number of Audio Dregs artists appear, including label founder E*Rock (“Living, Breathing, Etc”), The Grace Period (“Best of Boston”), Supersprite (“Farewell Cosmo”), and Dim Dim (“Chooby”), with the US imprint's extroverted playfulness a colourful complement to the We're All Cotton-Hearted sensibility. Of course, the Audio Dregs-mü-nest connection is most naturally embodied by the inclusion of Japan-based Lullatone whose “Good Morning Melody” is a nicely representative example of Shawn James Seymour and Yoshimi Tomida's ‘pajama pop.' In addition, Park Avenue Music ( US duo Wes Steed and Jeanette Faith) contribute a piano-based reverie “Piet” that's as pretty as anything else on the collection.

Accompanied by sweetly singing strings, Piana's child-like voice whispers in one's ear in the ultra-pretty opener “Ancient Note,” and sets the tone for the equally lovely material that follows. Throughout, toy pianos, glockenspiels, music boxes, and electronics imbue the material with an innocent aura. Nara 's (Tan Shuoxin) “Auto Auto” would lull even the most sleep-resistant child off to Never-Never Land , and “IHI” by Flau's aus (Yasuhiko Fukuzono) and Cokiyu is dreamy too. Simulated steel drums brighten the already-sunny melodies of miroque's “Botanical Sunset Paradise,” while Yasushi Yoshida's “Individual Regression”—as slow and stately as a funeral procession—offers a rare somber moment. Plus there are gorgeous pop songs by France-based Melodium (“Ballad”), China 's Kulyfile's (“Xi”), and Malaysian artists muxu (“Journey to the City”) and Kaa (“Ki”).

A few eyebrow-raising moments occur—Kazumasa Hashimoto's otherwise pretty “Sweet End” inexplicably includes a soulful vocal turn by Todd Kendrick, Asana's electronic-post-rock fusion (a cinq remix of “Summer Snow”) feels jarring in this largely mellow context, and Taiwan's Lim Giong weighs in with an anomalous, fifteen-minute episodic travelogue (“Marching Forward”) that's more hallucinatory, electroacoustic collage than song—but, generally speaking, We're All Cotton-Hearted registers as an oft-magical collection.

December 2007