There are four forms of "collection" or "compilation" releases. 1) a "best of" compilation of material by a band. 2) a sampler of material released by a particular label. And 3) a collection of previously unreleased material by a band or the bands featured on a particular label. And 4) the "tribute" album, in which several bands perform cover versions of another band's music.
Let's investigate a few examples of these forms.
SHAMALL: Collector's Items 1986-1993 (double CD on 2L Productions)
Class: a collection of rare tracks (a sub-division of the unreleased class).
Shamall (aka Norbert Kruler) has been creating a riveting blend of symphonic rock and heavy-handed electronics since the late Eighties.
This music is dominated by versatile keyboards that are in constant motion. With ample application of snappy E-perc and thundering drums, Shamall's melodies explode from the launch pad to soar to incredible heights that are jam-packed with clever hooks and engaging riffs. Superb guitar and mammoth basslines round out the compositions, achieving a wholly transcendental level that is guaranteed to liven your spirits and start your feet tapping.
Here you have a total of 146 minutes of music not featured on any regular Shamall releases. Included are 53 minutes of "Original Demos" which give the listener an intimate glimpse into Kruler's creative process and the electro-pop roots that spawned this now renowned musician.
TANGERINE DREAM: Tang-Go (double CD on Tangerine Dream International)
Class: a "best of" release.
Considered by many to be the fathers of modern electronics (and certainly one of the indomitable pioneers of the "Berlin school" of electronics), Tangerine Dream have gone through numerous changes (in personnel and sound) since their appearance in 1970.
Entering the Nineties with a low key, new age presence, the band ended the decade with a fiery injection of pep and power to their output. This double CD compiles tracks from that decade, including two new tracks (of a quasi-techno nature), for a total of 146 minutes of electronic material.
One could say that Tangerine Dream is primed and ready to go. This collection gives the listener a sonic glimpse of that immediate legacy with tracks from the band's profuse recent catalogue.
Much of the material included in this collection embodies the band's energetic sound. Rapid synthesizers, overlapping sequencer rolls, and appealing keyboard riffs are propelled by E-perc of masterful complexity. Heavy on melodic and equally endowed with gripping rhythms, this tuneage affords an excellent examination of the band's expressive wattage of the last decade, as their music evolved away from ambience and toward intricately tempo-driven pieces.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Amateur Hour--a Global Tribute to Sparks (double CD on Fan Mael Records). (Fan Mael Records, Stintjesduinstraat 25, 2202 LA, Noordwijk, the Netherlands)
Class: a "tribute" collection.You can't but like the music of Sparks, their pop tunes are so undeniably catchy and cheerful.
Well, here we have a collection of surprisingly different takes on Sparks' classics. The music on this double CD (a total of 101 minutes) wanders from folk to country to techno...there are some highly weird cover versions going on here.
Imagine "This Town Isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us" done with voice, piano and cello. Or acoustic guitar playing the rapid percussion of "Beat the Clock". Or maybe you'd like a strictly modern Drum & Bass version of "La Dolce Vita"?
Sparks' music is rich with vocal quality, so expect these covers to play with numerous vocal variations on Russ Mael's chatter-voice.
There are admittedly no "big names" on this release, but that is immaterial in the face of the sheer scope of musical styles employed in these covers. Enjoyable and amusing, a worthwhile tribute.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Best of Manikin Records (CD on Manikin Records)
Class: a record label sampler.
Manikin Records specialize in European electronic music cut in the old German sound. The music on this sampler delivers strongly with dense sequencers and growling rhythms.
This 79 minute CD features material by: Fanger & Kirsten (aka Mind-Flux), Rainbow Serpent, Keller & Schönwälder, Detlef Keller, Ramp, Arcanum, Broekhuis, Keller,Schönwälder, & Friends, Spyra, Rolf Trostel, and Steve Hug.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Convergent Evolution (CD on Greenhouse Music)
Class: a collection of previously unreleased material.
This release features 71 minutes of ambience by:
Vidna Obmana: This track possesses a layered structure that evolves from a twinkling opening into a blissful ambient passage of echoing tonalities, then adopts more body for the finish with a hint of distant keyboard chords.
Samsa: Here, the atmosphere rings with elongated bell-like tones that sweep slowly into moodier terrain with careful breezes, then pulsations enter the mix, softly caressing each other like lazy airborne bubbles. The piece accumulates a deeper manner for its finale.
Vir Unis: Glittering electronics are soon punctuated by sinuous percussive elements. These rhythms introduce a comfortable pep to the see-sawing harmonics and pleasantly playful atmospherics.
Exuviae: This track is extremely minimal, comprising tonal airs that drift on a nearly non-existent wind. There is a gradual progression throughout the song, as those airs swell with a prominence that never attains a disruptive peak.
Mono No Aware: Exhibiting more activity than the other tracks on this collection, this piece fills the ambience with delicately piercing pitches and sneaky sweeps of blooping signals. Then acoustic percussives enter the mix, lending a subtly compelling edge to the harmonics.
Steve Roach: Here, the electronic ambience is enhanced by rattle sticks and the distant patter of languid tribal skins. The calm is laced with astral tonalities which serve to drive the melody beyond the clouds. For its conclusion, the piece rises above the sharper sounds to drift away into the void with sighing resonance, giving the drift a receding quality.
Jayme Washburn: This track returns the music to a floating nature accompanied by wavering tones that tickle the listener's inner ear with light textures.
Me: Possessing a more cyclic distinction, this piece displays little variance once the pattern is established, carrying the listener on a wave of steady ambience.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: A Groove Sampler (CD on Groove Unlimited)
Class: a record label sampler.
This CD features 78 minutes of material by various musicians found among the Groove Unlimited catalogue. Included are: Ron Boots; Future World Orchestra; Eric van der Heijden; Hemisphere; Frank Van Boggaert; Syndrone; Wavestar; Steve Roach & Vidna Obmana; Rudy Adrian; Intelligentsia; Kees Aerts; Michael Stearns; Victor Cerullo; John Dyson; Kees Aerts & James Clent; Ron Boots, Ian Boddy, & Harold van der Heijden; Alpha Wave Movement; and The Blue Team.
The general tone here is one of rhythmic electronics, soft music that pulses with ambient melodies and soaring emotions. Dreamy electronics share the sonic stage with keyboard passages and tender percussion.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Swim Team #1 (CD on Swim Records)
Class: a record label sampler (with some new material).
This CD features 73 minutes of entertaining and quirky material by artists on the Swim label (which is operated by Colin Newman (from Wire) and Malka Spigel (from Minimal Compact). Included are: Silo, Dol-Lop, Lobe, Symptoms, Newman/Izzo, Legion of Green Men, Immersion; with new tracks by Spigel, Newman, Ronnie and Clyde, S. Gears, and Bumpy (aka Ben Newman, pre-teen offspring of Malka and Colin).
Esoteric and strange, these excursions into electronics span from overly raucous to dreamily ambient.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Unsettled Scores (double CD on Cuneiform Records)
This one doesn't fit into any classification, although it is a record label sampler of previously unreleased tracks. It can also be considered a warped kind of tribute release.
What makes this release different is that here musicians who have been released by Cuneiform Records do cover versions of songs by other Cuneiform artists.
You get: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic doing a Forever Einstein song; David Borden covering a Hugh Hopper piece; George Cartwright doing a Univers Zero track; Djam Karet performing a Richard Pinhas piece; Doctor Nerve completing a previously unreleased song by Univers Zero; Forrest Fang doing a Piero Milesi song; Forever Einstein doing a Birdsongs of the Mesozoic song; Peter Frohmader covering a Richard Pinhas track; Happy Family doing a Daniel Denis song; Hugh Hopper doing a Doctor Nerve song; Henry Kaiser and Friends doing a Curlew song; Piero Milesi covering a David Borden track; Phil Miller doing a Hugh Hopper track; Miriodor doing a Present/Univers Zero medley; Virgil Moorefield doing a Henry Kaiser track; the Muffins doing a Forever Einstein song; PFS doing a Miriodor song; Philharmonie doing a Miriodor song; Richard Pinhas & John Livengood doing a Birdsongs of the Mesozoic track; Present doing a Doctor Nerve song; Rattlemouth doing a Virgil Moorefield track; U Totem covering a Hugh Hopper Band piece; Volapuk doing a Doctor Nerve song; C.W. Vrtacek doing a George Cartwright track; and Kit Watkins & Coco Roussel (from Happy the Man) covering a tune by the Muffins.
Makes your head spin, huh? Well, the actual music found on this 128 minute-long double CD will keep it spinning in a most entertaining way. A more interesting congregation of cover tunes you will not find.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Vaccination Records Co. 2000-2001 Rawk Party (CD on Vaccination Records)
Class: a record label sampler of upcoming releases.
Vaccination Records specialize in truly odd music...bands that fuse elements of grunge and metal and art rock and deviancy to produce a wholly unearthly style of music.
Bands like: Grndntl Brnds, Red Bennites, Nine Wood, Mumble & Peg, Idiot Flesh, Rube Waddell, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. You get 66 minutes of utter strangeness, music that is guaranteed to disturb, annoy and enlighten. Be amazed at the extremes to which rock music can be taken.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Weightless, Effortless (CD on Hypnos Recordings)
Class: a collection of previously unreleased material.
This CD features 71 minutes of all-new material by musicians who pursue the ambient electronic genre. The music contained herein is buoyant and unintrusive, evoking numerous qualities attributed to the void of outer space. Included are:
Kevin Keller: Dreamy tonalities accrue volume with ringing clarity.
James Johnson: Minimal chimes drift in peaceful manner.
Dean DeBenedictus (aka Surface 10): The (digitally generated) sounds of a scratchy record accompany haunting textures, evoking a post-rain feeling.
Ma Ja Le: Possessing a subtle romantic quality, delicate airiness slowly rises in altitude.
Rod Modell: Dense tones mix with a synthetic surf, building toward a more melodic finish.
Dave Fulton (from Dweller at the Threshold): A gritty beginning evolves into a pulsing space walk, achieving a mellow drama for the finale.
Loren Nerell: Softly churning liquid metal fills a vast lake shrouded in torpid mist punctuated by muted bell-tones.
Scott Fraser: Heavenly tones grow in slow strength for a sustained level of calm.
Steve Roach: Textural atmospheres descend from above, saturating the listener in a calm that sinks beneath the ground.
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