VA: Tired of Standing Still
Highpoint Lowlife

Highpoint Lowlife is regarded by some as an electronica label—not an incorrect characterization, necessarily, just an incomplete and imbalanced one. While recent recordings by Bovaflux, The Village Orchestra, and The Marcia Blaine School for Girls offer hours of listening pleasure to the electronic connoisseur, recent signings like Fuck-Off Machete and Like A Stuntman showcase the label's harder-edged style. Even a cursory listen to its 2001 maiden voyage, the double-disc compilation Tired of Standing Still featuring twenty-seven songs from primarily San Francisco bands (with a few familiar names like Brian and Chris, Broker/Dealer, and Xiu Xiu scattered amongst the multitude), fills in the label blanks considerably.

Disc one provides a wondrous vocal and instrumental mix of shoegaze (Stratford 4's “Rebecca” and Snowmobile's “Top of the Hill” two particularly splendid examples), slowcore, post-, and indie-rock that's clearly more indebted to My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies, and Sonic Youth than Autechre. An electronic dimension is almost entirely absent (a bit of synth sputter ends Novasonic Down Hyperspace's “Heave Ho”), with guitars—seething, delicate, crushing, snarling—the instrumental nucleus of material that encompasses drowsy post-rock (Another Cavern), dream pop (The Jim Yoshi Pile-up), and sweeping, L'altra-esque emotionalism (Sappington).

The less song-based second half embraces a broader stylistic range (though a healthy smattering of wide-screen post-rock appears here too from bands like Twilight Spy and Staalmätte), with pieces longer and more experimental compared to the first disc. Glistening harp swirls and shimmying beats merge in a dreamy Garden State wonderland (“Five-Thirty Is Better Than Six”) while organs and synths stream down Krautrock freeways in the almost eleven-minute “Dymaxion Waves [a] Flight Sequences [b] Bionic Eurostile [c] Science Class Defender” by The EP Sound. Whether it's guitar meditations (Your Friend, Air Is The Fuel), ghostly drones (Joshua Torres), elegant digi-funk (Broker/Dealer), bubbly electro-pop (Brindle Spork), or hiccupping glitch-hop (Polyphonic), the collection does everything but stand still. If anything, the discs' material argues that Highpoint Lowlife was as forward-thinking in its conception four years ago as it is today.

November 2005