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4.0 out of 5 stars BiP_HOp Generation Volume 9 Review (8/10), 26 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Bip Hop Generation Vol. 9 (Audio CD)
There's something warm and fuzzy about an indie label going out of its way to bring underappreciated and often ignored musicians to the attention of a wider audience, something that does much to convince the old heart that the Earth is not such a cold, forlorn place after all. So I think that thanks are in order for French label Bip-Hop, who have been running their Bip_Hop Generation series of compilations for eight years now. Beginning in 2001, the series has assembled works from a geographically and stylistically diverse range of musicians and collectives, doing much to disseminate admirable notions of musical ingenuity and creativity. Its quality has always been high, and this year's anthology, Vol.9, is no exception.

The album opens with two tracks from Germany's Kammerflimmer Kollektief, which together prepare the listener for the extraordinary range of styles and emotions on display. `A Dark Grey Moonlight in the Lowlands,' is a beatific piece of music consisting of lush, evaporating droplets of clean electric guitar that waft over lightly brushed symbols as a carefree saxophone glides in and out of view and a female offers us barely audible whispers. Then comes `Kassiber,' which could be by a different band altogether, with its skittish sax breaking up the initially chilled, mellow atmosphere laid down by urbane glockenspiel and spacious electronics. As it plays out, a glamorous couple secretly plot to strangle each other. Next, we have two tracks from the UK's very own Spaceheads, a duo whose music is centred on trumpets, drums and the loops, effects and electronics the former two are treated with during live performances. Their first contribution, `Deep Blue Deep,' has a very noirish, jazzy vibe, with unsettled percussion, a sly bass line and a paranoid horn that gradually slips into outright panic as the piece reaches its climax. Their second, `Urban Bull,' is a dynamic, electro funk workout full of insistent drumming, fuzzy, convulsive guitar (or is it a trumpet?), whirring electronics and strutting bass. Listening to it, one meets with the temptation to dive over their sofa like some hip secret agent.

A world away from this cosmopolitan, effortless chic, are the mournful contemplations of Ukrainian Andrey Kiritchenko, whose two tracks, `A Walking Distance to My Happiness' and `Liberation,' are sparse, delicate affairs, within which gently picked acoustic guitars trail a path of lamentation, guilt and fading desire. Accompanied by eerie harmonica and various field recordings, these two instrumental pieces are more subtle and obliquely suggestive than direct and confessional, and they provide a fittingly contrasting and restive centre to the album. This repose is destroyed however by Italy's Illáchime Quartet and their jarring, sci-fi tinged cinematics. `Cluster' and `High Noon Electric' are songs which creep by in a darkness of hidden tension; spacey electronic bleeps and pulses, futuristic synths, chromatic piano and a metallic electric guitar having a fit somewhere off in the distance all fuse together to chart the aftermath of some kind of scientific research centre calamity. With these tracks, the Quartet provide another unexpected change of scenery, and yet another very strong and expressive showing.

Speaking of expression, `Piano Glass Laptop,' is condensed with an infinite number of allusions. This piece - the collaborative work of German pianist/composer Volker Berterlmann (appearing here under the recording name Hauschka) and London experimental duo Antenna Farm - is the album's longest track at just over 17 minutes and probably the most conceptual. It revolves around interchanges between the versatile piano of Berterlmann and the found sounds of Antenna Farm, found sounds which, because of their unidentifiable and isolated nature, prove to be unexpectedly harrowing. Yet the piece also contains moments of stirring poignancy, such as the initial movements of piano which repeatedly crumble into atonal plinking before managing to reach efflorescence, as if representing a dementia sufferer's attempts to recollect the love once felt for a family member. After that tragic note, `Bip_Hop Generation Vol.9' ends with one number from Australian pianist Adrian Klumpes, `Together Under The Clouds Rolling In,' which unusually for the album is similar to the track preceding it. Full of minimalist, often dissonant, ambient piano, it slowly permits scales to burrow their way underneath the morass of stray keys so that a melodic, yet strangely hollow, resolution of sorts is finally reached for the CD's close. Although low-key, it is a fitting end to the album, being as perversely unexpected as it was.

So for anyone mindful of developments in the world of experimental music (I'm looking at YOU), `Bip_Hop Generation Vol.9' is virtually a must. Touching upon jazz, folk, post-rock, funk, ambient, avant-classical and electronica, it is an album brimming with ideas, one that will keep the listener occupied in discovering all of its merits for the weeks and months to come. (Simon Chandler)

For fans of: The Grassy Knoll, Sukia, Cinematic Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist, Eric Satie, Philip Glass, Gastr del Sol, Bark Psychosis, Tortoise, Long Fin Killie.
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