VA: Fourthcity

Led by founder Zach Huntting (aka Zapan), the Fourthcity imprint presents no less than eighteen artists on this seventy-five minute laptop-centered comp, and in the process provides a fairly thorough portrait of the obviously healthy Seattle music community. That Huntting & Co. stress emotion and composition over gear and technology is borne out by the opening trio of songs: Scape's languid dub groove “Sabia” where a lovely string sample interweaves with Rhodes sprinkles, Former Selv's electrofunk head-nodder “Nichiyobi” with its fuzzy bass lines and xylophone-like plinks, and Bumblebee's “As Brothers Part” whose dreamy orchestra floats over a deep hip-hop groove. While not as dour as its “Requiem” title suggests, Absolute Madman's rich and exotic array of instrumental sounds—dulcimers, harps, skittering beats—enhances the song's generally melancholy feel.

After the opening handful of tracks, the comp largely veers away from melodic IDM and into hip-hop and downtempo funk territories, with Yitearp's mellow “Narcoleptic B-Boy,” Atlas's shimmying “Plum Wine,” and the mangled voices of Bob 2.2's Frippertronic “Child's Play” a representative sampling. Thankfully, the comp allows room for Kris Moon's “Metal Splinters,” a delectably reptilian hit of prickly Chain Reaction dub, and Bethurum's “Bad Luck Drifter,” where Michele Khazak drapes her soulful vocal over sweet house-funk. Balsa's zippy synthpop “St3” and LoFreq's mellow closer “Love In/Out” also stand out. As expected, an occasional weak moment arises—Naoto Yamazaki's otherwise effective “Noisefactory,” for instance, is undermined by an annoying ringing noise that repeats throughout—but that's the exception to the rule on this stylistically wide-ranging collection. While its contents ultimately don't cohere into a 'Seattle electronic sound,' Fourthcity does provide a satisfying portrait of the city's thriving scene.

November 2004