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V/A – Broken Nightlights

V/A - Broken Nightlights

CD, Suspicious Records, 2006

Compilations are difficult creatures to master and can make easily make for unsatisfying listens, from label samplers with only two talented acts on to generic scene round-ups where every song sounds the same – dull. I can count on one hand the number of compilations I value as actual albums – one of them is Hive’s “Fuck”. I can now add this new release from Hive’s downtempo sister label to that list.
Featuring 16 tracks of rolling beats, strings, glitchy touches and yearning synth sounds, the record features an even balance of vocal and instrumental tracks from familiar acts such as Detritus, Leaf, Saltillo and Sunday Munich next to a slew of lesser known artists. One of the many joys of this album is the consistent quality throughout – no song sounds poorly made or produced and no song feels short of ideas.
The album is crammed full of atmosphere and emotion, from the vertiginous distorted strings of Atonalis’ “Downloadthedown” to the bubbling-under sorrow of Antenne’s “Redmoon” passing through standout tracks like Lacunae’s “Stars Burn out” where an echoing music-box builds to a deep, menacing rumble before fat insistent beats pound the track home. Other high-points include Leaf’s “The Ridge” where a plaintiff country guitar and harmonica nestle over trippy beats with light IDM skitterings and Saltillo’s “Denim”, recalling Sneaker Pimps vocals over a rolling, punchy beat and orchestra loop peppered with dusky piano trips. Though the tracks all evoke similar emotions and share a certain sonic mindset, judicious song selection and sequencing means each track has its own space and forms part of a journey through the album.
The one area this highly recommended compilation loses point on is the vocal tracks. Though these are every bit as strong as the instrumental tracks musically, many of the vocalists sound very similar in both voice and style. These women can all sing but their voices aren’t particularly distinctive and, as such, these tracks come across as more homogenous throughout the CD rather than the output of many different bands.
Another top quality release from Suspicious Records. Essential night-time listening.


— Christopher Fry

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