CD, White Label Music, 2004
Curated by Ann Shenton and Andy Fraser, this somewhat ambitiously-titled 20-track compilation purports to showcase the state of the art in ‘electronic’, which if I understand things correctly, doesn’t refer to electronic music in general but specifically to the genre of lo-fi analogue punkery that has arisen in the wake of Add N To (X) and leeched some of the attention from the more retro elements of the dying electroclash scene. Accordingly then, Shenton’s new project Large Number appear twice on here, but then White Label’s only previous album release was her “Spray On Sound”. So a degree of cross-marketing is only to be expected.
Perhaps as a tip of the hat to the scene’s collective influences, the first track is by Richard H. Kirk in the guise of Pat Riot (great name), and contains a little drum fill that is instantly reminiscent of “Nag Nag Nag”. There are a few other familiar names here, although none quite as seminal as Cabaret Voltaire; Drew Mulholland features as both Mount Vernon Arts Lab and N, the High Llamas and Lol Coxhill make appearances, and even Jarvis Cocker crops up with his sleazy electronic rockers Relaxed Muscle. Things intially progress in a fairly tuneful, lyrical vein, with Shenton’s particularly catchy first number, and Kings Have Long Arms and Boywithatoy in a shootout for best newcomer — newcomer being relative to my own fairly limited knowledge, of course.
Around the halfway mark however, things get much odder, crossing the experimental spectrum from the COH-ish bleepy minimalism and post-industrial of Fashion Flesh to the Zorn-esque free-jazz assault of Coxhill’s Phosphene, not to mention both of the Mulholland tracks. I like my music as varied and surprising as possible and it’s nice to know that other people also appreciate that there’s room for both searing white noise and almost-inaudible subtlety. It’s also nice to know that Shenton and Fraser have structured the CD the same way I would have done, charting a course back in the direction of off-kilter (although somewhat variable) electropop after the mentalism of the middle bit. Raüberhöhle’s Chicks On Speed-style disco anthem is perhaps the strongest tune here.
This clearly isn’t a history or snapshot of electronic music in general, in the way that the documentary “Modulations” tried to be; neither is it really an introduction to a clearly-defined genre, since there’s a whole world of difference between N’s drone hypnosis and the crooning melodic electro of Black Rainbow. Perhaps it’s better regarded as a fairly personal collection of music that the compilers like, although the biblical name does allow them to include some pretty cute artwork. It’s a shame Christmas is over, as it would make a good mind-expanding gift for someone whose electronic frame of reference stretched as far as Goldfrapp and Peaches. Hell, if you love them enough, get it for them anyway.
— Andrew Clegg