VA: Fork Ends
Audio Dregs

Being so plentiful, it's tempting to slot label comps into categories—leftovers collection, label manifesto, bald-faced promo ploy—but like most, Audio Dregs' Fork Ends transcends a single category. All sixteen tracks are exclusives, so it's not blatantly pushing specific releases from its catalogue and, in a generous display of communal spirit, guest labels like Melodic (Baikonour), kranky (Strategy), and Carpark (Greg Davis) join Audio Dregs' party, with the result a satisfying hour of bucolic melodicism and global excursions.

Some artists hew to their established styles while others venture further. The brief African hoedown “Turu Ru Ru” complements the sound of Un caddie renversé dans l'herbe's other releases, and Greg Davis's electric piano oasis and rollicking guitar groove pairing in “Regional Potato Chips” maintains the expansive style of Curling Pond Woods. Some artists add unexpected twists to their contributions. Lullatone's “Bushman's Samba” finds Shawn James Seymour visiting the African outback with a bubbly interweave of percussion and organ. Pairing ostinato piano and glockenspiel patterns with kalimbas and saxophones, Flim's intricate “Donkey Trains” sounds like some Steve Reich-Lullatone-Greg Davis merger. Other highlights include Strategy's burbling patterns and woozy flickers (“Super 80s Future”), E*Rock's flute-flavoured, herky-jerky “Breaking Things and Fixing Them (Again)”, FRZ's firefly weave of sparkling flutter (“Teenage Big Boss”), and Lineland's danceable mélange of buoyant bass and popping drums (“Meriwether”). In addition, there's Nudge's shuddering guitar reverie (“Your Castle's Vaporware”), Honey & Colleen's hallucinatory “Lala Musica,” and Kazumasa Hashimoto's meditative “Ending (Variation).”

Par for the course, a few tracks disappoint. F.S. Blumm's “Bedvanilla Further,” for example, focuses a bit too much on samples (like its slowed-down 'Charlie Parker and Strings' “I'll Remember April” excerpt) and too little on Lichten-styled folktronica. Still, such moments are rare, making Fork Ends a flattering label portrait and a collection worth recommending, especially when its contents are so stylistically wide-ranging.

October 2004