When the news story broke a couple weeks ago, many were shocked to hear that half of Puerto Rico was still without power. People asked, “Wasn’t the hurricane months ago?” Yes ~ but disasters occur, ravaging millions of lives, and the news cycle moves on.
As The Washington Post reports, “Without electricity, there is no reliable source of clean water. School is out, indefinitely. Health care is fraught. Small businesses are faltering. The tasks of daily life are both exhausting and dangerous. There is nothing to do but wait, and no one can say when the lights will come back on.”
This is terrible, and we can all agree on how terrible it is, but did we do anything about it (apart from telling other people that we felt bad)? I did not.
So when one of the artists told me about this benefit compilation ~ and it is a very good compilation ~ she sent me a download code and asked if I could spread the news. But I didn’t use my code. I bought the album instead. How did I afford this? It’s simple. Instead of having a chicken wrap and grande iced doubleshot at Starbucks for breakfast this morning ($11), I had a bagel sandwich and coffee at the local deli ($4). There it is, $7, and I feel better. Yes, I admit it, I’m a spoiled suburbanite, and I know that my little donation is just a drop in the bucket, and that the endorphin rush I feel will soon wear off. But now the Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico have $7 more than they did yesterday, and I may have helped a child somewhere, and there’s good in that. Hearing the children play on Illl’s track, I can even imagine things getting back to normal, hopefully sooner rather than later.
I like knowing that 100% of my donations go to the causes rather than to overhead. And I’ve always liked the idea of benefit compilations. The bonus of this one is that it’s worth the money. While the quality of the tracks is not the point, in this case it’s an added benefit, pun intended. Twenty artists contribute to eighteen tracks, and their work is superlative. Our readers will recognize many of the names ~ The Green Kingdom, Pleq, Tomonari Nozaki ~ and discover new names along the way.
While the entire set is solid, there are a few standouts. Blamstrain‘s “South of the Border” launches the album with a soft, soothing timbre that grows more ever louder and more urgent, like the approach of a storm or the growing crisis in its aftermath. Markus Mehr‘s “Duck Before Swan” is constructed around a memorable string loop, landing more on the side of modern composition than his recent effort Dyschronia. When the chimes sound in Olga Wojciechowska‘s “All These Worlds Are Yours”, one can imagine the beauty of this instrument wafting through the dark, barren streets, providing a modicum of hope, while Confessor‘s “Ghosts” adds a hauntological elegy for all that has been lost.
The album’s second half adds beats, as if to say that Puerto Rico will awaken again, will dance again, will celebrate again. The lights will return. The taps will be clean. The children will return to school. And if we can be a part of this in some small way, all the better. (Richard Allen)