V/A – A Somatic Response

The Cover!

The aesthetic beauty of the front cover is absolutely astonishing. A hint of minimalism, overload of darkness and a subtle ambition. With a synthesizer brain, you can’t go insane. Also, the geometrically aligned dots with numbers make an excellent expression, as if this is a calculated (which it is) release with lots of things to offer. The ambiguity of it is perfectly fitting with the black, white and gray layering. As if you’re storming into something you haven’t seen before, revealing details of a flawless manufacturing with multidimensional influence.

Which at large can become a little bit too detailed, but it makes for the interesting contrast of the backside featuring a small Beläten symbol with roman letters contra a computerized URL. So, in case you’d wonder about it, you won’t really escape the pin-pointed detail and cleanliness of it. But I really like the multifaceted approach of keeping the cover tidy and minimalistic, but at the same time experiment with immense detail. Nothing hits the spot more than some scientist trying to squeeze some synthesizer knob, and at the same time being branded as “nr. 1“. Apparently the brains synthesizer seems to be labeled in German, making it sound even more underground. What number 3, 4 and 5 are references to seems pretty unsolvable. But the a, b and c seem to be in the geometrically correct position.

The aesthetics become a reminder of experimental electronic covers, and since this release comes in tape-shape, it makes it even better. Since the resemblance of older tape-released experimental electronica comes to mind, with grinding gear and industrial feeling. You can actually see the depicted character on the front push a button, in which the line of sight and geometrical line goes in total symbiosis with it. Like a well-oiled machinery, or a symbol of man and machine – e.g. a cyborg. Also, when opening up the folded cover, it discovers the secret passages of “E” and “F” on what seems to be disco-lights. Excellent.

Programme A!

First out is a stop-and-go sounding industrial piece, with a crunchy post-punk bass and arpeggio-synth. This is Blitzkrieg Baby with their song “Your Happy Place“. With a dadaist approach to the lyricism, a speaker makes his words clear as if the alarming background makes it into somewhat of a propaganda-piece. Words, carefully marked with authority, seep through the shaped lips – recanting: “Running through the pools of blood…“. “You’re not innocent, yet you wish that you could just… go“. Painting a picture of a man responsible of doing harm, yet not taking responsibility and ending up in harm’s way himself. A tale of a man trying to make his way out of former known regions, but having to look around for enemies. Same beat almost the whole way through, but it’s well-arranged and stands it’s ground throughout. Not too bombastic, not too distorted. Something that will toss you around and make your world turn upside down. Accompanied by situational synths, making themselves noticed and matching the telltale with maximum precision. In the chorus, a dreamy but alarmist synth collide with the words of the speaker which makes it sound even more sinister. The ending portrays a soundscape, as if it’s the end of the tale and the mans last breath and beating heart is about to lay itself to a rest. The instrumental passage after the last uttered words by the speaker: “…silence rings in all directions” is simply genius.

Secondly; we’ve been through a transmission that got interrupted, forcing our way into the realm of lo-fi and a crisp sound scape. Time for Television Set with their song “Staveley Shed“. While the heart is beating in a faster pace since the first song, this song manages to seal the rhythm of it in an odd fashion and keep the tempo of the heart (mind you, slowed down) as its timetable. Minimalistic waves blended with an almost post-punk inspired new wave. This one surely is a calm one, as if you’re listening to a picture slowly burning away at the hands of your own fate. Totally instrumental, with only the clicking noises and sometimes dreamy riff is like a fire for your heart. Or, as if you’re alone in your room while it progressively changes into a Victorian-themed royalty room with an open fire, lighting the candles around the room and handing over a brazier to light up your own world. I really enjoy the sound scape, somehow the monotonous feel to it makes itself noticeable somewhat, but I think the layers of the bass is in complete harmony with the riffing. With a dreary and dreaming subtlety, it can go on for as long as it likes, whereas the listener with the finely tuned ears will pick up the changeable elements. Not saying that it’s oblivious to everyone else, but it’s necessary to float with the sound scape to be able to decode the visual experiences. A really joyful and pleasant ride, good placement which pushes down the heartbeat a notch, but takes it out of the beholder and locks it into it’s own environment.

In almost the same tempo, the third song “Expose” by Vita Noctis make up for the lack of vocals so far. This sounds somewhat like an anti-pop ballad or phenomenon, like a cluster from an experimental love-song taken out of context and being put in a commercial situation. As if it doesn’t, at least in the beginning, fit the sound scape. The vocals are sometimes not a match for the steady and sturdy sound scape, as it’s soaked in reverb. In the beginning it’s almost outstanding, but somehow in the middle it loses all it’s sense, or at least my sense of purpose while listening. But maybe the theme of this song served it’s purposes, since I changed my mind in about half-way through as the singer makes a more grandiose effort with her voice. Maybe this was the thought, to lure me into a corner and then make me face the devil myself. Somehow sugary-coated virtual reality that slashes its bond with reality. A really well-done piece, which gives me all sorts of visual experiences. The sound scape alters in about a 3/4 into the song, which is really interesting to hear, as if someone injected it with a bit of neo-folk/dark-folk drums. But at the same time kept the minimalistic singer, but made her develop into something more, something above the normal.

Well, it’s time for you 8-bit maniacs to shine a bit. Club Amour introduce their song “Disconnected” with melodic 8-bit posturing, coated in synth-pop agony. First a more primitive sound makes it’s entry, building up the gap in between the more melodically sounding 8-bit mania. As an arpeggio background-synth fills up the much needed space in between the melody and a rhythm with a nice touch to it starts stampeding. About the same time, the choir based on a singer dealing with himself in two layers open their world to me. His voice really fits the angst that’s about to build up, as he sings about mediocrity and how you’re going to be strong in life. I realize why the voice fits so good, it’s because the general theme (even though melodic) is basing itself upon a progression from a more happy-themed song into agony, melancholy and the utterly materialized and unimportant things of life. This sound scape also sounds very retro, but with a new touch of future-pop and synth-pop blended together within the main melody. “Dislocated, disconnected, dislocated, disconnected“, making use of the very basic terms but making it as agonizing of an ordeal as it possible can be. It never looses steam or tempo, but make some well-worthy switches in between the different tempos that are usable. A very creative, very intriguing and rewarding experience.

Did you really think you made your way out of hell? If you thought so, you’re gonna get a reminder of why that’s not true. With Nimam Spregleda and their song “Fire“. Forget the dreamy, agonizing and somewhat melodic sound scape of a synth-pop dream. This is pure hell. In the beginning it almost sounds like an intro to a Nitzer Ebb song, but I’m reminded why it’s not. As the supposed singer whispers with a raspy voice: “Fire, fire, fire…“, things start sounding even more sinister and hellish. “On your knees, suck my dick. Pussys, on, fire!“. This sure is one wicked sound scape, but it actually sounds original to some extent. It sounds as if you’d pick up things you’ve dumped somewhere and started up an experimental band trying to make the best of it. Commence the banging on dust bins, shake the grid and turn yourself into this blind rage and madness. Well, if they wanted to scare you with a sound scape these people have managed to do that. I must admit that it’s not my cup of tea, but it sounds textured and well-arranged even though there’s loads of distortion and high-pitched noises.

At least I managed to pave my way through hell or whatever that was. Now, it’s time for Makina Girgir and their song “Alpha”. It begins with a strict bassline and a kickdrum, slowly accompanied by a moving sound that flies by and a french voice that utters something that I don’t understand. Evolving into some form of minimal wave with experimental elements adding to the sound scape, and a faster but flanged arpeggio making itself noticed by flying through the left ear to the right ear. Somehow this sounds melancholic, like a minimal wave session dipped in french coldwave. Not a very exciting song, but maybe something to wonder about when listening. The minimalistic experience alone is good enough.

Well, lets head on to the last song on this programme. With Kord and their song “Running Through The Night“. It sounds like a blend of Kraftwerk-esque nostalgia and a more newer approach á la Metroland. Add in a robotic voice singing about “Heroes of the neon-light“, a nice and slow beat that will make you burst into dance in any second. This one surely moves my body to the rhythm, which I would say is a good enough reason to proclaim this a rhythmic masterpiece with a robotic 80’s touch. Not very much can be said about the sound scape, but in all it’s essentially it utilizes the basic concept of a good song which will make you dance. This song would be one of those that you’d spin on the decks for the coming night.

Programme B!

So, now, here we are within the second programme. Accompanied by Estroboscorpio and their song “Slugs“. The introductory of it features a weird rhythm and a pulsating beam of synths coming right into your face, whilst the other synths are experimenting with themselves to re-wire your brain. Other than that, the intro is painfully long but also very futuristic. If anything, this would be the definition of an well-oiled machinery trying to move its way out of the factory where it was produced. The wailing singer must be the driver of this monstrosity, and he does it well. His desperate shrieking and wailing could make anyone fall on their knees. At the same time the sharp and somewhat disturbing mechanics are evolving into tiny pieces of different rhythmic that work in symbiosis without making it awkward. The ending of this song is pretty damn cool, as the synth seems to decay into a puddle of mud. Weird but good piece of electronica.

Now for the cold embrace of Lust For Youth with their song “Gehenna“. Sounding somewhat like an introductory to a Tiberian Sun-song, or something alike. Dreamy synths weaving into each other, trying to find the source of light that will make them even more powerful. Like swimming in a pool at night, with strobes on your head. It’s slowly accompanied by an even faster and menacing arpeggio-synth that tears it’s way through the peace of the night and slams into the sound scape, making it form bubbles in the water as if someone had something cooking on hundred degrees. The peace might never have been disturbed fully, but the breakbeat drumming featured with an overwhelmingly distorted and smaller sound scape would give everyone claustrophobia. The ending seemed kind of weird, but I guess that’s where its at by now. But the main synth in this arrangement still managed to instill some form of emotion among the emotionless havoc that was going on. Not in a negative fashion, but it became too experimental.

Continue down the path of experimental, you shall. With Goz Mongo Alliance and their song “So Please Go Away”. If you were drunk, this would be the soundtrack. Or at least if you were drunk and hearing voices in your head, that is. Now the post-punk element returns in fashion, with an improvisatory jazz-feeling added to it. Throw all that into a blender with coldwave and minimal wave, then you’ll have your drink for the evening. When the singer utters the words “These moments, gonna make me insane…” the sound scape moves into different rhythmic phases as if his voice is powerful enough to send the electronics into an unprecedented off-beat wobbling. I like when the jazzy tune comes into the sound scape and accompanies the slow post-punkish bass. Also when the whole set of electronics goes into a world of themselves, off-beating like a champion. Somehow this reminds me of a more scaled-down and more electronic version of The Birthday Party – minus the eccentrics of the mentioned band.

We’re back for another snack from the electronic machine. Xiu and their song “Something“. Monotonous singing accompanied by an arpeggio synth, haven’t we really heard that before? But this song gives that sentence some well deserved justice, since her voice accompanies the dreary but dreamy synths into magic. Echoing along the walls, as the low-pitched drums are outnumbered by her around them, but never fading into her voice. As if you’d separate everything that doesn’t fit, screw it together and then fit the most uncanny elements together and making it work. Like having ketchup with ice-cream, but instead of making it horribly distasteful, actually managing to fit it somewhere in between the textures. This is also a well-placed song considering that I’ve already been through hell before, and I needed something more down-tempo and less maniacal. I really love how she throws the words around and how they bounce back thanks to the energy of the sound scape and the perfect echo.

Ok, you’ve made it this far without cringing and thinking my writing sucks, good riddance! Now we’re at station Soma Sema with their track “Dream Baby Dream“. It sounds like anything from the 90’s, but with an added UN-orthodox and anti-version of itself. Like a shallow and pop-infested song, except that it turns the table with the interesting synths in the background, like it’s making a statement against itself. Somehow the basic lyrics “Dream baby dream, forever” seem to fit this bill. This is also one of these songs that make your body dance, without you feeling guilty about it afterwards. A very catchy song that emulates a stable environment and multi-dimensional electronics to make it flow the way it should, but way more extravagant and complex than your regular synth-pop billboard hit.

The Conclusion?

I must say that I’m very impressed. It takes a lot of time to select proper songs that will fit in the end, but at the same time include a variety of different genres. They were placed in a very good manner also, making it more pleasurable to endure those things that weren’t really your cup of tea. Since I’ve lost all hope about the newer compilations out there, this one gives me hope once again. It might also push us into a new era with good, modern and retro mixed in all together and making the musical experience enjoyable again. You could certainly hear that every artist on this album puts a lot of energy, will and time into their music. Even though I didn’t like some songs because they weren’t my style, I could tell that it was something that had been put a lot of effort in. I also find the mixtape idea to be a good one. I’d love to see more mixtapes curated by the artists on this particular compilation. Hopefully that will be the case, and there will be something like a serie, with everything connecting but at the same time moving on. The cover also tells a tale that’s wonderful, even though you can’t understand some of it. Which adds to the charm of asking about it or at least developing the tale further with another release in the future. Very well done, very aesthetically appealing and wonderfully executed.

Cover art: 8.5/10

Music: 8.5/10

9 out of 10 is the final verdict!

One thought on “V/A – A Somatic Response

  1. Pingback: The best releases of the year 2012! (Part I) | INVISIBLE GUY

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