When I first read about this compilation, I figured that it would be a super-limited affair of the likes I would never get to see. Not only was it on a label that I'd never heard of before, but there were some fairly major players involved (at least, in the underground music scene) including Labradford, Windy and Carl, and Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive. Just judging from the aforementioned artists and the title of the compilation, I knew it wouldn't exactly be an upbeat affair, and that it might just be a dream ensemble in the drone rock / ambient side of music.
Imagine my surprise when I not only ran across the disc recently, but actually found out that it was a reasonable price. Not only that, but the packaging is beautiful as well. I know that I've mentioned several times that I'm a sucker for packaging, but the people who put this one together definitely did their homework. Not only is there a transparency and rice paper, but the NASA and micrograph photography on the inserts fit the tone of the music quite nicely. There's nothing like having a lot of nice things to look at in a CD design the first time that you're playing the discs.
Now that I've talked about seemingly everything but the music, I suppose I should actually get to the task at hand. Basically, if you like shoegazer ambient drone stuff with a smidge of goth flavor, this is definitely a double disc set for you. In style, it kind of reminds me of an updated This Mortal Coil, with a bit of a different bend to it, and I mean that reference in all the good ways possible. On the first disc, things start out with a trancy track entitled "Herald" that moves along with some repetitive percussion and a droning keyboard, and also features treated guitars over the whole thing. It's a swirling dervish of a track that starts things out nicely before the album winds down completely into the uber-dreary "Touching Still." Lonely vocals by Gordon Sharp are accompanied only by ocassional warbled-out bass pluckings and some background electronic washes. Things pick up again with a beat on the amazing "Misdeem." Although it is one of the more traditionally arranged tracks on the disc, its fuzzed-out guitar and bass and multi-part vocals make for something exciting. After another amazing instrumental track, and a couple nice, mellower tracks with vocals, the super-group again moves into more mainstream territory with "Follow Sun Ra." With the addition of a slide guitar, it falls into almost a western groove, albeit a sort of twisted one with haunting electronic washes and other odd artifacts. Before winding down with a "hidden" instrumental track, the disc lets loose with a blast of feedback and noise on "Beyond The Latter."
Whereas the first disc relied more on tracks with vocals (and using the vocals as yet another layer in the music), the second disc is almost entirely opposite in that there is only one track with vocals. As one could expect with the lineup, though, things never get boring and it's easy to hear new textures almost every time that one listens to the disc. In addition to nearly all of the songs being instrumental, there is also a more wide range of actual instruments used in the songs construction. While more standard fare like guitars, bass, and keyboards (even though much stranger-than-normal sounds were created using such instruments) were the focus of most tracks on the first disc, the second one goes a little more out on a limb with a ring modulator, an amplified chair frame, a clarinet, a cello, and a good old piano. Of course, several times the original instrument is barely recognizable, but that's part of what's interesting about what the musicians do on the disc. They create a (mainy) haunting atmosphere using not only electronic methods, but good old fashioned instruments as well.
Overall, it's quite a good 2CD set. It's probably not one that you'll be playing a lot on sunny days, but when the sky gets overcast and the wind starts biting at the skin a little more, you may find this offering lodged in your player quite often. Lots of interesting sounds and some great songs as well. If you like any of the above mentioned groups or are simply in the mood for some alien aural landscapes, check it out. Plus, it's not that expensive, so you don't have an excuse.