VA: Meadow-Cottage Industries Volume 4
Neo Ouija

Neo Ouija's fourth label compilation greatly flatters its roster and the breadth of its artists' music. The collection emphasizes composition first and foremost, with most of its sixteen tracks primarily ambient in character. It's a lovely, even beautiful set—dramatic, lush, and textured, as much rooted in acoustic (piano, guitar) as electronic sounds. The album's overall impression stems more from its cumulative impact than the individual pieces; though exquisite, Sense's (Adam Raisbeck) “Walking Water”—blurred piano chords accompanied by dominant field elements (water, clatter, footsteps)—hardly has enough time in a single minute to make a significant impact, while the cycling waves, smears, and stutters that constitute Cepia's (Huntley Miller) “Wavebnc1” similarly appear briefly.

As stated, rhythmical concerns are largely secondary, even if whirrs and chatter gradually cohere into laconic beat patterns in Pandatone's (T. Sias) “Causios Hold On” and Maps and Diagrams' (Tim Martin) “Twitchel” marries the click of rolling beats with sparkling keyboard melodies. Most memorably, the buoyant sway of Xela's “All the Water but the Books Were Dry” closes the album with the bright pluck of John Twells' acoustic guitar, accordion chords, and glockenspiel tinkles.

Cinematic ambiance reigns in tracks by The Open Directory Project (James Wallace), Atone, Seven Ark (Justin de Nobrega), Ido Govrin, and Julien Neto. Praveen Sharma contributes two pieces, the becalmed “Staring at Summer” and (under the Reporter guise) the Eno-like “Argon Air.” Gentle piano chords and hazy swirls of shimmer float through these meditative tracks, though moods often subtly shift from one to another (Atone's “Qobak Sine” offers stately reveries of dramatic ambient whereas the languid pulse of acoustic guitars gives Ido Govrin's “Digital Day Dream” a more bucolic feel).

There's nary a weak moment to be heard, though some pieces leave stronger impressions for their more developed compositional structures. In Random Noise Productions' “By Now,” Martin Hirsch first pairs lovely acoustic guitar melodies with a warm bass counterpoint and then, as the guitar attack intensifies, dramatically deepens the background with added layers of electronic flutter. And while the paradisiacal washes, delicate piano, and voiceover of Zegunder's “Ribat Soosim” are stirring, Semuin's (Jochen Briesen) “Sasu Spielt” leaves the most indelible impression. The song begins with heavily processed cello bowings and piano, but they briefly drop away when the delicate tones of a kalimba. When the whirr and buzz of the processed elements re-appear, they're unexpectedly joined by a hypnotic male voice reciting lullaby-like verses (“Ring like a bear / Dance like a lion / Roar like a kangaroo”) guaranteed to ease you into sleep. While it's an endearing moment, it's merely one of many such pleasures in this largely beautiful collection.

May 2005