The Marcia Blaine School for Girls: Some Paths Lead Back Again
Highpoint Lowlife

Though its title might suggest otherwise, The Marcia Blaine School For Girls' Some Paths Lead Back Again is not a collection of amateur recordings in the spirit of Innocence and Despair, The Langley Schools Music Project's infamous take on songs by David Bowie, The Bay City Rollers, and others. Rather, Some Paths Lead Back Again is a solid two-disc sampling of Scotland's burgeoning electronic scene curated by The Marcia Blaine School For Girls and featuring tracks by Accrual, The Village Orchestra, Production Unit, Chris Dooks (aka Bovine Life), and Izu, plus newcomers Feld, Tersh Jetterax, and Daigoro.

The music itself is certainly credible enough, though some pieces draw upon sonic lexicons already perfected by Autechre (Tersh Jetterax's pulverized beats in “An Introduction To Malcomatics”) Arovane (Feld's spectral tonalities in “Beka”), and Oval (Accrual's ambient flutter in “Dodgsons Pleasure”). The collection also encompasses warm melodic electronica (Feld), skuzzy industrial breaks (Izu, Production Unit), and dubby shuffles (The Village Orchestra). Three videos appear too, all fine if not radically innovative.

Three pieces in particular stand out, attributable in no small part to their unique character. In “Ruskoline Monster,” Production Unit conjures a potent mix of hip-hop-flavoured funk beats, typewriter clicks, and aggressive voice samples that eventually morphs into hazy melancholia. Though entirely different in style, Chris Dooks' “Aviaphobia” is equally arresting. Using voice alone, Dooks bemoans his debilitating fear of flying (“I would swap my Apple Mac / For leaving the tarmac”) and pleads for release (“There must be some way / To master the runway”) in this dry charmer. Fittingly, the album peak comes from The Marcia Blaine School itself with “Routed To The Spot,” an epic work of billowing ambience. From an originating core of rippling loops that recalls Steve Reich's tape pieces (Come Out, It's Gonna Rain), the piece subtly mutates over its 12-minute span in almost imperceptible transitions; willowy harpsichord shimmer and surging washes gradually surface, with wave upon cresting wave rendering it even more dreamily hypnotic. Still, given that there's nothing of equal impact on the second disc, the question inevitably arises: Would a single-disc compiling the best of the comp's near-100 minutes of music suffice? Admittedly, yes, even though the slimmer set would have lacked the heft a two-disc package invariably brings. As issued, the ambitious double format makes Some Paths Lead Back Again feel more like an event, which it no doubt is for a circumscribed yet passionate community of listeners.

April 2005