Various Artists ~ Embrace

What does Danish music sound like?  The title of Minais B’s opening track is ironic:  “I Think Most People Here Know.”  The problem is that most people around the world don’t know, which is where this compilation comes in.  Most people associate contemporary Danish music with  heavy metal or glistening pop, the more adventurous listeners with Efterklang and Trentemøller.  Embrace has more in common with the contemporary sounds of M.E.S.H. and Shapednoise.  The hard beats are here, along with daring experimentation: wild sonic textures that pour and crash like waterfalls.  A trance influence is present, along with grime, but there’s also an accessibility that turns out to be extremely inviting, most evident in the second half of Lyra Valenza’s “Bomber” as it shifts from bombast to melody.

Embrace is the first of three planned compilations from Petrola 80, its titles inspired by a once-secret Microsoft strategy (“Embrace, Extend and Extinguish”).  This first tape will appear at a two-day label festival at the appropriately named Mayhem in Copenhagen May 24-25.  Petrola 80’s signature sound may be difficult to preserve as the roster grows, but is evident while playing this cassette: aggressive, but not mean; melodic, but not mainstream.  For this one may credit the guiding hands (and A&R choices) of label owners Severin and Yelzin, each represented by a track here: the former with the alternately glistening and pounding “Kontakt” and the latter with the spliced and percussive “No Safety,” which switches midway into a Moroder-esque stormer.  Thanks to wise sequencing, the pair can even find room for outliers such as FHM, whose “Fluxstructure” is likely to flummox erstwhile dancers.  This track, along with Astrid Sonne & Xenia Xamanek’s “Feberite,” underlines the label’s interest in aurality over physicality, as An Gella intones, “as if it’s something that’s outside of us and not something inside of us.”  This brief vocal intro is enough to call attention to “Angelic Cash Flow” and to make it one of the standout cuts.  But Panxing provides a phrase that perfectly sums up the album (and would have been a fitting alternative title): machines of sunshine.  The words reflect the seemingly disparate elements of the compilation, as well as their reconciliation.  (Richard Allen)



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