When it comes to “most hated genres,” supermarket music comes in second only to elevator music. SØVN Records hopes to change all that with its 30th release, a creative compilation from across its 6-year roster. Where else might we always be able to gather and mingle, if not the produce aisle or wall of breakfast cereals? “If any supermarket decided to play the resulting selection,” writes the label, “we can assure you, that supermarket would be about the best in the world.” The only competition, as far as we can recall, is Strategic Tape Reserve’s Shopland World: Music for a Discovery Park of Miniature Supermarkets.
Tershkova’s opening piece, “Help Is On the Way,” is a serenade for those who are having trouble with the self-checkout scanners. They seem like they will save time, but often end up being a suburbanite’s worst nightmare. Beeps and repeated prompts can send a shopper into a spiral of madness, and as the music begins to blur like a carousel, one can feel the insanity. At the end: a human!
Since the checkout is usually the end of the trip, the track acts as an overture. Better experiences await, beginning with “The Snack Aisle.” Tomer Baruch captures the glee of a child told they can have anything they want (but only ONE thing ~ put those back!). A promise of sugar prompts the dance, which continues in Graham Dunning’s mallet-happy “Quest.” But then arrives a blast of anger, as Ido Bukelman purportedly can’t find his favorite type of yogurt. (We’ve all been there! So many selections and why is mine not included?!!!) Graham Dunning attempts to answer with the abrasions of “FIFO” (first in, first out), a reasonable explanation but we still want our flavor. Speaking of which, Chobani, where is my caramel yogurt with the chocolate on the bottom?
The compilation continues to wander from place to place, aisle to aisle, following some bizarre series of arrows and lines laid down on the floor like COVID markers or dance steps. Guybrush’s IDM is perfect for those moments of indecision when we’re not sure if we’ve forgotten something and are trapped in line by people having happy conversations. Or maybe we sing to ourselves in fragments like YokoKomo, unaware that we are doing so. The point is, anything can happen in a supermarket, and a supermarket promises everything through its products: love, sex, joy, a new lease on life. Both comedy and tragedy are summarized by Andrea Bruera in “premium toilet paper.” As an aside, at least one company experimented with cinnamon scented toilet paper a decade ago, to predictably disastrous results.
The entries ~ eighteen in all, similar to the number of aisles in a supermarket, are an extension of the commercial dream. By the end, one feels invited and overwhelmed, as the protagonist at the end of The Hurt Locker, stunned into submission at the display stretched before him. If the music had been better, would Jeremy Renner have reenlisted? (Richard Allen)