VA: #100
Electric Deluxe

#100, a 150-minute collection from Electric Deluxe designed to celebrate the occasion of its 100th podcast, is a curious affair on at least a couple of counts. Presented in the form of four twelve-inch vinyl albums and curated by Speedy J, it's a white-label release whose eight parts include no track lists or artist credits, the idea being that each side is an experimental podcast DJ set that's been turned into a bootleg vinyl side. The constituent parts represent eight side-long pieces—seven of them nineteen minutes exactly and one seventeen—selected from the ninety-nine podcasts produced by Surgeon, Luke Slater, Peter Van Hoesen, Lucy, Brendon Moeller, Dadub, The Black Dog, Ambivalent, Chris Liebing, Vatican Shadow, Xhin, Tommy Four Seven, and Perc, among others. Conceived as music one might hear as part of a hypothetical afterparty (a pitch that helps account for the sometimes non-dancefloor-like character of the material featured), the bi-monthly podcast was launched by Speedy J in May 2009.

So no comments about specific tracks or artists can be offered; instead, the most that can be done is for observations to be made about the character of the sides and how they differ from one another. First things first: they aren't conventional club mixes designed for the dancefloor—if anything they're light years removed from such a style. The opening side, for example, develops into a delicate, even child-like dreamscape, something one could imagine a parent playing in a child's room to induce calm before bed-time. Acoustic and electronic elements, harp strums pronouncedly among them, swim within a controlled swirl that halfway through comes to resemble a beatless, Deepchord-styled soundscape. In sharp contrast to it, the second side gets underway with punchy, grime-coated boom-bap as the foundation, the industrial grit of its character dramatically unlike that of its predecessor. Vocals appear, only partially audible within the mix, spouting off about destruction and other matters before a scene change occurs at the five-minute mark. With the smoke having partially cleared but still permeated with foreboding, the material plunges on into a murky zone of garage-inflected clicks and nightmarish textures resulting in a suffocating, Burial-styled ambiance—the opening side's diseased underbelly.

Side three's opening seconds hint that it might become an epic kosmische musik exploration heavy on synthesizers and pulsations, but the addition of funky percussion rhythms and yelps twists the mix into earthier shape. Almost drowning in hiss and crackle, the material fluctuates between realms, at one moment leaving the planet far behind and in another firmly rooting itself on its raw surface, before whooshing off into the upper reaches, its twinkling ascent bolstered by a hypercharged chug. In the fourth mix, the spotlight shines on a peaceful ambient soundscape where classical piano patterns, strings, and silken washes waver and drift, whereas the fifth, while as laid-back, opts for slow, dub-techno-styled moodscaping heavy on echo and reverb (the fleeting appearance of soulful female vocals halfway through lends the side a strong bvdub quality). In a mix that blends bleepy electronica and dub-techno, downtempo clicks'n'cuts rhythms surface on side six to nudge the material in the direction of Raster-Noton. The seventh offers a bold take on dark ambient collage and symphonic noisesculpting replete with plaintive string passages, while the provocatively experimental eighth takes flight armed with percussive found sounds, mangled pitch-shifting treatments, and harp patterns—about as far from a dance mix as one could possibly get.

Though the particular contents of the sides differ, each adheres to the common pattern of undergoing multiple scene-changes over the course of the mix, a smart move in that it lessens the possibility of the listener disengaging at any given time and drifting off. Not so many shifts happen, however, that their doing so becomes a distraction; in that regard, the sides' creators—whoever they are—also share the habit of sequencing source materials in such a way that an overall seamlessness colours their individual set-pieces. Specific details about #100 might be few and far between, but that doesn't prevent the recording from being engaging, especially when the sides present such a range of contrasting styles.

January 2014