VA: (We're for the) Unknown, Unbought & Unbossed

As I listen to the sixteen exclusive tracks comprising the Nosordo/Glasvocht split compilation (We're for the) Unknown, Unbought & Unbossed, I struggle to discern some unifying thread. Thinking that a geographical theme might be common to all, I note the presence of Swedish artists but then also discover contributors from North America, Japan, and Germany. I consider that a common stylistic approach, perhaps ambient, might apply, until I encounter a jarring blast of guitar-based post-punk (The Cheese's “Save the Beard”). Eventually I realize there may be no theme beyond the mere fact of label association and a standard of musical quality, and then concomitantly realize that that in itself might be theme enough.

The trip's initial leg is acoustic-flavoured (Ljudbilden & Piloten's placid guitar meditation “Seventeen Curves/Five Lines” and “Elur jario,” Do's delicate ambient setting) but then enters more purely electronic territory with Mapstation's (To Rococo Rot's Stefan Schneider) glistening synth romp “For Malmoe” and The Idealist's (Swede Joachim Nordwall) “A Single Pistol Shot,” abrasive clinical electronics in a Pan sonic vein. Yasushi Miura's manic techno throwdown “sounds.visual,” Fractional's (Pierre Remy of Belgium) breakbeat storm “Dini2na,” and Seth Warren and David Dupuis's “Fraying Rain No Sleep,” a morphing industrial soundscape of phantom voices, crackling showers, and ghostly poundings, testify to the comp's breadth.

Highlights? Belgium's Dijf Sanders weighs in with a brief but punchy Spanish guitar-driven electronic charmer “Cheerleader Memorial,” while shudders, chimes, and flutter ring throughout Osso Bucco's (Gregg Kowalsky) majestic soundscape “Three Days They Slept.” Emerging midway through the collection, the lush wavering pools of aqueous haze that constitute Douglas Ferguson's ten-minute “Dawning” are particularly lovely. Recalling Múm's instrumental side, Det Svenska Folket's (a Norway trio) “Sometime Next Year” is also memorable, a lush, rainswept setting of country electronica caressed by the melancholy smears of a melodica and anchored by the snip of a scissors motif and electric guitar.

Like many compilations, (We're for the) Unknown, Unbought & Unbossed is a generous, almost eighty-minute set, making for a long journey with a few stops one regrets having made. The Ordinary Seaman's “Flames,” for example, sounds like the sloppy work of an amateurish garage band and doesn't match the comp's overall standard, and Massaccesi's (John Fanning) “Disappointment Descended out of Control” is an ambient noisescape that's headache-inducing (probably its intent). But subtract such moments and this worthwhile collection's a still-generous sixty-eight minutes.

May 2005