CD, Sublight Records, 2007
During its short existence, the Canadian label Sublight Records was home to artists such as Venetian Snares, Enduser, Fanny, Richard Devine and Datach’i, with a more-or-less constant stream of quality releases. Sadly, the good thing that was this label came to an end, and the compilation “Imaginary Friends” (companion to “Eyelicker,” released the previous year) was to be its swan song.
The opening of “Imaginary Friends” is nothing if not auspicious, with three memorable and hard-hitting tracks that go from Datach’i’s rhythmic electronics to Lynx and Ram’s rock electronics (for some reason reminiscent of Lords of Acid in attitude) and the raging and uncompromising digital hardcore assault from Belladonnakillz, complete with growling vocals. Sincere Trade follow through with something that can be described as a sandpapery emo-IDM ballad which, while having interesting instrumentals, could benefit from different vocal treatment. Jason Forrest, under his “Donna Summer” moniker, provides a self-styled party track that can be compared to the mad uncle that gets drunk and then decides to liven up the party. Though not an outstanding contribution, Acrynm’s track (chaotic breakcore peppered with chiptune melodies) is the other crazy relative.
The Flashbulb opens another chapter in this compilation with an initially laidback IDM track with a few melodic synthpop touches, though it eventually twists into something not so pleasant. Despite their chaotic nature, Puzzleweasel’s distorted IDM beats have some power and Mark Swift brings back the lounge-IDM, coupling warm synth lines with clever laidback breakbeat constructs and the ubiquitous “Amen break.” In contrast, Gareth Clarke’s track seems to be afflicted by some sort of personality disorder, unexpectedly shifting as it does between moods, but is a standout track nevertheless.
The third part of “Imaginary Friends” revolves around breakcore and drum’n’bass/jungle. Two tracks by Ra and Duran Duran Duran aren’t particularly surprising or enticing, especially the latter, which is a textbook case of “start calm and explode halfway going faster harder faster.” On the other hand, the three closing tracks are worthy of notice. Well thought out and with nice use of samples and breaks, Ebola’s track has definite groove and shows a quite bit of talent. Enduser doesn’t disappoint either, with a contagious jungle track as oppressive and moody as its title, “Fear”, hints at. Fanny provides an apt closing to this compilation with a track that is hard to categorize: a drug-fueled nightmare of beats scraped from a dirty floor, blended with a batch of hallucinatory and fucked-up melodies – its only shortcoming being that it is too short.
Like all Sublight Records releases I’ve heard, “Imaginary Friends” is an outstanding example of pristine sound quality, and while some tracks could use alternative placements (so that the compilation might flow better), the artist selection is still noteworthy. It is an excellent showcase (some may even say a testimony to posterity) of what Sublight Records was about: uncompromising quality electronics from IDM and downtempo breakbeats to drum’n’bass/jungle, breakcore and even some rock electronics. Like “Imaginary Friends,” the music released by Sublight Records probably wasn’t for everyone, but the overall the quality of its output is undeniable. R.I.P Sublight Records (2004-2007).
— Miguel de Sousa