I recently spent a weekend in a city that seemed to play only 80s pop music. Every store, bar and radio station shared the same playlist. As I drove away at the end of the weekend, I was thankful for Adaadat’s Trade & Distribution Almanac Volume Four, which returned my ears to normal. The label bills the album as “eclectic experimental music from all over the world,” which sounds just about right. The collaged cover is an apt visual representation.
Why is so much modern music uncreative? Why do listeners crave (or at least cave into) bland formats? How many times do people really want to hear “Don’t Stop Believin'”? I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that last one. But it’s just as clear that a compilation such as this will never resonate in the mainstream. It includes hip-hop, electronic tracks, drone, fuzz, and much more. Most of the artists were unfamiliar even to me. And this is what I wished I’d find in an unfamiliar city ~ something to tell me that the place was unique. The last Adaadat compilation (Fractal Meat Cuts Volume One) was a bit more abstract, but here, abstractions are allowed to frolic among the melodies. For every clearly experimental cut (Eks’ “untitled”), there’s a matching gateway piece (Jang MP’s “Over the Cliff”). Those two tracks set the tone for all that is to come.
With 20 tracks in 63 minutes, there’s a lot to choose from. The first few times I listened, I allowed the music to wash over me, cleansing my palette. When I switched the CD from the car to the home stereo, I began to choose favorites. Kayaka’s “A Half Cup of Earth Resonator” is a blend of modern classicism and electronics that tells a tiny tale in two minutes. Josh Booth’s “16:15” is only 3:59 here; an excerpt online clocks in at 25:53, and the title is based on intervals. The piece comes across like a flattened version of a video game; his experience with Dälek is evident. Hypercube’s cavernous “Playground Memories” seems to stem from a dark childhood, but what a childhood, stuffed with monsters and shadows of monsters! Dive down the rabbit hole to learn that that Hypercube was a contemporary of Future Sound of London, and that he has just released his second album, 19 years after the first. Those who enjoy breakcore (CDR, Memero), noise (Venta Protesix) or toytronics (Punsuca) will prefer other tracks. But everyone who listens to this compilation is likely to feel a certain gratitude, knowing that we’re not doomed to listen to 80s pop for the rest of our lives. (Richard Allen)