I must apologize to the labels who worked so hard on this beautiful little box. Trying to wrap my head around all this material well-enough to write a review has been a trying experience. It?s all so much, even when it?s all so minimal! It may not have sold out yet, but damned if it shouldn?t very soon. The stats will sell this without my adoration: 3 CDs, 55 artists, 225 minutes, and priced under twenty bucks. An amazing labor of love and respect for the artists who work so hard in this scene, Epicene, Public Guilt, and Underadar have spent a good part of the last two years carefully culling tracks from some of the most talented experimental artists from the U.S. as well as a few choice spots from artists on the International scene. And though most everything on this box can be labeled noise in some form or another (even the drone bits,) it?s hardly a three-hour bombardment of no-talent scenesters with a lot of heart but not many ideas. Genuine artistry and originality bleed through every second of every disc. I must say the track ordering has a lot to do with the success. As they shift through several different (dark) styles over the course of the individual discs, there?s always a coherent flow. Similar ideas between divergent artists are accentuated, making this comp sound like a pointless game of connect the dots. But in the end, we are not given a novel picture of the noise scene known, but rather a nebula of experimental artists in which each track is merely an illuminated particle, pointing out the potential future of this genre.
Disc one sets the table with a lot of harshness punctuated by long bouts of drone architecture; a formidable intro to this little megalith of the darker ends of the underground. Door is an artist I?ve been looking to get some exposure to and his track does not disappoint. It comes in hard even after the semi-familiar Black Meat brings it harsh on the opener, both tracks tearing the shit out of my eardrums, boring my brains into a gelatinous puddle. A great one-two punch. Jason Zeh?s minimalist noise piece ?Scant? is also an early standout; layers textured bits of micro-noise into a laser-faced cacophony over time. I couldn?t help but be a little disappointed with some of the more known names associated with this project (with a few choice exceptions) but the talent of the unknown artists keeps things from falling apart. While the Teeth Collection and Thurston Moore tracks could have worked harder to be more than generic noise piles ? sorry, but I?ve heard both do a lot better ? strange tracks like tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE with flubberized tuba solos (I guess I needed a little humor at that point) and Strotter Inst. with slow-motion slow kid percussion experiments were a necessary shock to the system. The last five tracks move away from harsh noise and cut-up into a more drone-informed space. Mike Shiflet and Leslie Keffer produce a couple interesting noise drones with not a whole lot of movement though interesting effects over a long period. Mermaids and Magicicada find a much more mellow ground to laze about and offer the listener a little respite from the weirdness.
BxC?s ?Let?s Name her Snowy cuz it?s Snowy Outside? kicks off the second disc in proper fashion. Amid well-layered cloud of drone, abstract sound objects dance chaotically through the haze, a storm of electrified snow in which each flake glows like a neon ember. Disc two?s first half is perhaps the most minimal found on the three discs, especially after the harsh bombardments on the first disc. I often found myself zoning out for most of the first half, only waking briefly during Robert Inhuman?s short piece and back in the saddle after the splendid harsh affections of the Cherry Point. Oblong Box, 1thousand holy shards, and Sick Ill Cell all provide great work here, though the second half of the disc provides a more thrilling listen. Ben S. Jacob offers an electronically-twisted violin solo on ?Invocation.? It?s watching a fantastically dark theater piece: the neck is strangles as he saws at its guts with so much pleasure in his eyes. Blango gets us into a bit of skittery noise cut-up and there?s not much better junk collage to be heard (though I wonder if I?ve heard enough.) Ultral/Vires provide a bit of tape saturated percussion loops before the band starts tuning up, slowly lurching out the cave. Something like ogres playing dominoes on an ivory table comes to mind. A very strange sound indeed from a project I?d like to hear more of. Subterrane follows up that track with a thicker bit of dark drone swallowing a biting wind of white noise and feedback that is a truly satisfying bit of minimal harsh noise. Leave it to Destructo Swarmbots to chill you out after that unnerving piece. ?I?ll Have Three of them Barbarian Cremes? is just a gem of an ambient piece with lovely guitar drones and strange samples dancing beneath its surface. All that?s left is Darsombra?s almost-normal rock song to close out disc two with some Hawkwind-solo space flight that gets us back to beloved basics.
Disc Three opens with a definitive highlight courtesy of a true veteran, Andy Ortmann, under his Panicsville moniker. ?A Dragon Fly for Each Corpse? is a psychedelic mixture of organic noise field recordings and darkened synth chords that give way to tribal drumming and flute solo(!) But just when you think he?s gone all ?freak folk? on us, he just nails a spastic noise assault that had me nodding my head in agreement. Way to sum it up, Andy! And can I say that I totally love the old school gangster beats and heavy ass black drone on Josh Lay?s ?Endless Black Void?. That shit was synthetic fresh, kid. Other highlights of Disc Three include the ever-destructive Sword Heaven still damaging amps and bass drums with the most creep-out vocalist of all time. Hum of the Druid continues their quest to wed a Black Metal sense of dynamics with their pursuit of the purest of harsh noise. Cotton Museum is definitely on the psych side of the noise spectrum with a whacked-out melodic sense buried underneath its ugly, harsh veneer. Forbes Graham plays a duet for trumpet and electronics that is an insane humanity dancing through a digitized landscape with little direction. Small Life manages to sneak a little bit of acoustic guitar beauty that sounds even more fragile given the corroded landscape in which its been planted. Guilty Connector takes up the rear with the longest track on the comp. Repetitious synthesizer alarms whine insistent with little respite though slowly-added layers of static dip in and out of the mix. A strange and fittingly minimal way to close the proceedings.
While most comps lose the love when I get tired of skipping to the good tracks, I can see myself returning to this box set for a good long time. Despite my constant gauging of the more original from the merely average, I have to reiterate that all three of these discs can be played straight through like any album should. A petty investment for a very refined piece of curatorship at a time when there is no shortage of label (and able) curators. So, not only does it provide a spotlight for a lot of different artists, it brings a whole new interest to the labels? past and current catalogues. A lot of what goes into hunting for new artists is finding labels with a shared aesthetic, and all three involved with this project certainly prove to be on the cutting edge of a scene that?s constantly deforming in unique and challenging ways. 9/10 -- Kenneth Zubiate (12 September, 2007)