VA: Hear You Soon
Blue Bell

Hear You Soon is actually the premiere outing from Sacramento, California-based Blue Bell Records and, in keeping with the locale, its style of melodic electronic pop is suitably bright and sunny. The comp's musical style aligns it with established precursors like Audio Dregs, Suction Records, and Morr Music, all of whom receive nods of thanks in the liner notes. Its seventeen tracks are exclusives or mixes and include a satisfying mix of established artists (Marumari, Freescha, 808 State, Greg Davis) and newcomers, some of whom show much promise.

There's not a rotten one in the bunch, although most of the pieces, while good enough, are neither spectacular nor groundbreaking. Marumari's inclusion is especially welcome, given its relative silence the past few years, but while the spectral “Casium” showcases the group's signature style of meandering synths and skittering beats, it's ultimately familiar ground and sounds like an extra from the Supermogadon sessions—not a bad thing necessarily but slightly disappointing nonetheless. Similarly, Freescha's “Making Oranges: Version” and Lullatone's “Ballet Recital” offer variations on their existing styles—a beatless reverie of incandescent washes and an innocent oasis of child-like melodies, respectively—which are again satisfying but not stunning. Two other high-profile artists impress more, to some degree because their contributions deviate from the comp's overall sound. Much like Curling Pond Woods, Davis 's bucolic “Good Morning, Amanda” evokes day's beginning with tinkling bells and chimes, signifies gradual awakening with a gently plucked acoustic guitar, and grows denser with the addition of harmonium and shakers. In obvious contrast to Davis's folk leanings, Manchester's 808 State dons its Cologne techno garb with the slamming beats and touch-tone melodies of “Metaluna,” and even offers subtle allusions to “Autobahn” with its ascending synth motif and two-note surges that suggest cars racing past. Other artists offer variations on melodic synthpop, whether it be Junobot's rubbery, vocodered “Baby,” I Am Robot And Proud's willowy “Circuit Breaker, Line Noise Faker,” or F+N=Robot's (Junobot and label head Faith Wolfram) “Learning a Bicycle,” distinguished by a looping harp motif. Ringing cymbals and hushed vocals give Aarktica vs. Aaron Spectre's brooding “Alceria” a shoegazing ambiance, while hollAnd pairs a Blondie beat and querulous synth melodies in the classic New Wave of “I Steal And Do Drugs (Mixed).”

The comp's three strongest tracks, though, come from Figurine, Tycho, and Blue Ribbon, the latter two newcomers. Figurine's sumptuous electropop “Way Too Good (2 Good Mix)” opens the set with a stuttering vocal hook (“Insecurity”) and then adds a delectable vocal harmony to rinky-dink organ and snapping drum beats. Tycho's “Dream As Memory” pairs vocal murmurs and snaking bass lines into a dreamy concoction, and the soaring “Eagles Fly” by Blue Ribbon distills breezy vocals and massed synth banks into five minutes of New Wave electropop bliss. All told, Hear You Soon registers as an auspicious label debut and a satisfying set that bodes well for its sequel. Admittedly, it hews fairly closely to templates already established within the melodic electronica genre (by the likes of Morr Music) but its new recruits show they're certainly capable of breathing some new life into it.

May 2004