music for wine glasses

$10 within the US/ $12 anywhere else
Focusing on the experimental, underground music scene that is blossoming in Philadelphia (plus a few artists from Portland and Europe) this compilation is a disorientating mix of folk, drone, improv, and noise that contains some genuine moments of brilliance, as well as a few surprises.

The gentle electronic folk of Stainless Japan –“Water On Your Mind” opens the proceedings with a calming feel that is the perfect way to lead the listener into the strange world of Honeymoon Records, a world which gradually changes as Phosphene take the helm with “Triumph Tree”, sounding like an early Floyd demo, full of psychedelic delights, and well worth hearing. From here on in things become even stranger as Peace Feather disorientate your senses with seven minutes of sonic playfulness, percussion and brass fighting for space in a cauldron of noise, before a twinkling drone leads us home. Sharron Kraus is generally known for her beautiful voice and folksy ambience, on “Ninth Life” however, the voice is used as a drone instrument accompanied by drums, bells and whistles to create an unsettling meditation which works perfectly. Elsewhere, Meg Baird (Espers) teams up with Helena Espvall as Trollslanda, whose “Kling Klang” is a free floating folk song with an aching longing at it’s core, whilst “Fission”-Niagara Falls is the sound of a slowly dissolving mist, gently revealing the landscape within.

One of my personal favourites on the album is “March Hare”-Fursaxa featuring the unique and faintly unsettling voice of Tara Burke, the sound of which, drives this hypnotic and dramatic piece in a delicious manner. The sonic intensity is notched up again by Chris Bozzone-“surrounded By Demons And Butterflies” a slow drone played on the devils accordion, the vocals barely audible through the dense instrumentation and fog bound atmosphere. Rhythm and Harmony are more prominent as The Watery graves Of Portland enter the fray, drums and piano darting and twisting around each other creating a delightful ambience which offers a rare glimpse of sunshine in the proceedings (Not that this album is depressing, just that it does focus on the difficult and the challenging end of the musical spectrum), before Sharks With Wings destroy all sense of time with glorious distorted noise of “Catastrophe/ catastrophe” a song that takes no prisoners in it’s quest for aural destruction. A more gentle approach is taken by Thom Zephyr Roach- “Row Seven” a pulsing electronic piece of music that leads us beautifully to higher ground, a place of rest and meditation, somewhere to refresh the senses.

At almost eight minutes “Meditation On Larry” by The Doctor And Philip is a ramble through the American heartland, the lyrics suggesting a personal story as gently picked acoustic guitars are slowly engulfed by an electric presence that pushes the song into stranger places the guitars sounding like Television in their intensity, the music becoming denser, displaying some excellent playing, before slowly fading into nothing. “Arbor Day”-Noah Raymond Levey takes us to a place where psychedelia and drone collide displaying a whole host of sounds and textures in just over three minutes, offering a synopsis of the whole album within it’s time span. Finally, Eric Carbona does nothing to ease our minds with the heavily treated noisescape of “Music For Wine Glasses” which grinds and attacks the air with a series of differing tones and pitches that get right under the listeners skin and is a far cry (as it should be) from the gentle opening track experienced some 68 minutes earlier.

This is a compilation that is both varied and unified, offering us different interpretations of the same visions, and is well worth getting hold by those of an inquisitive nature. (Simon Lewis)