VARIOUS ARTISTS - Schnurstrax Compilation 07/08

Various Artists - Schnurstrax Compilation 07/08

17 songs
76:36 minutes
***** ***

Labels are not a new thing for Luxembourg, but on the Internet, they have been rather rare so far. Soundzfromnowhere were the first to try this approach, but lately Schnurstrax Records have been all over the media by not only releasing local and international artists for free, but also by organising quality electro shows. In March, it was therefore time to stage a first release party, which was also the first time they released an album that people have to actually pay for.

The album starts with an ambient piano soundscape from Irish band JC+GK, which would be more fitting to end a CD. Bulgarian artist The Chair Listener is next with a moody electronic track whose melancholic bass line is counterpointed by faster and friendlier 8-bit beeps. On it goes with French/Canadian duo Komparce who also profess ear-friendly ambient electronica, where again a dark backdrop leaves room for consoling synth melodies. One half on the opening act returns as @ and delivers this time rhythmic brooding electro sounds with a recurring plucked string melody working a hypnotic effect on the listener. Chicago two-piece Company Of Big Beats recorded their debut album in the mid- to late-Nineties, and combine the post rock inheritance of their hometown with repetitive beat patterns. The Tobacco Company is an experimental outfit by Schnurstrax label owner Ralph who shows himself from a more ambient sound on this track. How Do You Get Your Inspiration from Luxembourg play a freeform collage that sees an acoustic guitar filtered through god knows how many effects, ending in something which could be found on one of those crazy early Seventies krautrock albums. Protecious from the USA bring finally the compilation into a more musical direction. Their humorous combination of krautrock sounds with rock and funk elements shows that there is also a lighter side to Schnurstrax Records. Local rock troubadour Raftside offers a track from his album "The Desperate Life Of Johnny Sunshine". Onde Orange, a former guitarist of French glam rockers Pink Diamonds who didn’t convince me so much at the Schnurstrax release party, is heading into freewheeling psych rock with untamed guitar freakouts. Short but just the kind of stuff Julian Cope fans should get into. The longest track on the compilation is reserved for Tvesla, who finally, more than two years after recording, have finally released their album full on angular instrumental noise rock songs. Local shoegaze icon Sug[r]cane collaborates on his new works with Japanese artist Baa Rec, whose guitar adds a bit of crunch towards the end of this otherwise rather typical composition. Fracture is the better known alter ego of Schnurstrax Ralph, and his new material shows a lot of depth and maturity, making his songs accessible little dark electro pop gems. Artaban are seemingly unavoidable these days, and their instrumental electro pop has this aesthetic coolness of early Eighties classic. It takes some time to get used to their music, but once they get you hooked, there is no running away. Airstrip One, also knows as Fred from Grand Duchy Grooves (another local electro label) has recently often been seen teaming up with Fracture, but on this solo piece, he combines experimental big beat electronica with aggressive hiphop sounds. Strange but original! Serbian experimental artist Lezet’s piece is a short meditative item that prepares for the end of this compilation, which comes with Cyclorama, also guitarist for psych rockers Karma Lounge, but more electronic as a solo artist, although still embodying elements of bands like Ozric Tentacles and Spiritualized, although the featured track is a mellower foray into trip hop beats.

This first Schnurstrax compilation starts with experimental ambient electronica, then takes a turn into more rock based items before ending again more electronically, although with the locally better known artists. This subdivision makes for an interesting listening experience, and although most songs can be acquired legally for free – Schnurstrax is still a web-based label – it’s a good thing to support them by buying this album which gives a good survey of their catalogue.

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