Various Artists ~ Trace Elements

“Let the dancing begin!” intones an unnamed narrator on Agah Bahari and PAS Musique‘s “Lucky Number 7”.  And so Trace Elements starts ~ with a dub, a beat and a bell.  But despite the pulses of the first few tracks, this is not a dance compilation.  Instead, it’s a wide-spanning sampler that encompasses numerous genres.  The cover is an indication of the paint splatter within.

The Alrealon Musique label has a large umbrella.  Also in the dance arena, Fat Kneel‘s “LSDmons” (good song, bad title) manages to combine film noir with avant beats for a pleasingly cinematic rush, while original tracks by Borne, Chester Hawkins and Jan Swinburne operate on the moodier side of club culture, slow dancing in the shadows while the fog machine sputters and coughs.

The ambient department is represented by Kate Carr‘s sedate “I made this track from wind, hunting signs and music I secretly recorded” and [ówt krì]‘s “The Traveller’s Memoir”, but Alrealon is normally known for drone.  Fans of this genre will not be disappointed, as they will encounter the accumulating electronics of Jeff Surak‘s “Monitor Outside”, the return of Rapoon, whose whispery “Dersariti-tam” hums and whirls its way to a satisfying conclusion, the angry, struggling machines of K0Ks and the rotors and steam of Be the Hammer‘s “Safe” (whose growls and guitar turn it industrial at the end, making it sound anything but safe).

There are some tracks that would never be played on mainstream radio: collaged repetitions from Black Saturn, aggressive improvisations from The Jazzfakers, rock distortions from Mark Harris & JOHN 3:16.  Add to this a few outliers ~ vocal tracks that still manage to avoid the obvious.  Rachel Mason‘s voice is surrounded by assertive synths, Fairy Scouts‘ percussion by frequent injections of “Hi!” or “high”, Murmurists‘ hard beats by atonal song, spoken word and loud strum, Your Grace Adriana Natalie‘s deep bass by eastern intonations.  The Strange Walls closes the set down with a new wave/punk piece, replete with guitar distortion and male/female leads.

In the paragraphs above, we’re re-sequenced the album by genres.  While listening to Trace Elements, fans of one may find themselves suddenly liking another; there are trace elements of corresponding genres in each selection, visiting each other’s hues.  A wide range of experimental music is on display here, from accessible to avant garde ~ enough variety that there’s something for everybody, a door that Alrealon has opened that we all might peer inside, and perhaps, our curiosity piqued by unusual sounds, enter in.  (Richard Allen)

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