VA: Cloud 11
Cartesian Binary Recordings

Cloud 11, the first compilation issued on Rena Jones' Cartesian Binary Recordings, is distinguished, first of all, by the presence of a number of front-line artists, with the likes of Funckarma, Helios, The Moving Dawn Orchestra, and Field Rotation among those taking part. Certainly the attention the release will receive on their account will help give exposure to less well-known acts such as Komposit, Hands Upon Black Earth, The Abominable Twitch, gasp, and Komposit. Just how broadly the compilation's range extends—everything from Warp-styled IDM to broken beat to electroacoustic is included—is indicated by the participation of both Funckarma and Helios, whose styles hardly overlap if at all. What helps hold the collection together is Jones herself, who adds her string playing to three of the thirteen pieces, but if anything that move suggests how much better the release would have been had Jones appeared on every piece, thereby turning Cloud 11 into less a compilation than an inspired collaborative recording involving Jones and other artists.

With echoes of Boards of Canada nipping at its heels, Disonaur's (Nick Bonardi) “Spirit Platypus Guide” opens the collection with a wistful sampling of downtempo IDM that shimmers and shudders mysteriously. Komposit's (Damon Fonooni and Patrick Campbell) “Pma Pnku” dishes out some jazz-inflected broken beat and woozy electronic-IDM gymnastics sprinkled with a bit of Autechre spice. In Funckarma's “The Magnetic Flip (8D),” the Funcken's signature low-end beatsmithing and bass wobble is elevated by the inclusion of Jones's strings contributions. Their second collaboration , “Ymadyn,” is a darker affair that eschews conventional beats for melodramatic string and percussion flourishes. Elsewhere, Portland-based Ben Milstein's “Homage” starts out in slo-mo instrumental hip-hop mode before re-shaping itself into a kosmische drone.

On the ornate electronica side of things, Helios's “Stasis” offers a characteristically lovely four minutes of melancholy electronic from Keith Kenniff, Field Rotation's (Christoph Berg) “Life as a Paper Sail Boat” wends an equally evocative trip down a becalmed and string-drenched river, and The Moving Dawn Orchestra (Brighton-based Guy Andrews) presents an also lovely blend of natural sounds (piano, cello, vocals) and electronics in his uplifting “Your Light.” EVAC's ponderous “What Once Was West ” also grows memorable when Jones's sinuous violin carves a path through a dusty outpost of electroacoustic melancholy. The absence of stylistic unity is Concept 11's sole weak point—the predominance of a particular style (or Jones's presence on all of the tracks) would have lent the release more coherence as a collection—but the release certainly succeeds well enough on quality grounds when its tracks are considered as individual productions.

May 2011