V/A ~ Field Studies Vol. 1

The Friends and Friends label has teamed up with Chillhop Music for a fresh winter compilation reminiscent of Hed Kandi’s classic Serve Chilled and Winter Chill series.  Trip-hop and descendant chillhop are rare these days, so it’s a comfort to hear the styles resurrected, especially at this time of year.  Those who follow our site are already familiar with Somni, and may also meet some new artists, both instrumental and vocal.  On this compilation, the flow is far more important than the lyrics or lack thereof; the album produces what one might call an appropriately chill vibe, like the hours relaxing around a fire after a day of skiing or snowboarding.

Each artist community is close-knit, so it’s fun to see how well they mesh.  Opener “Embers” splits the difference with sweet, harmonic, lyric-free vocals from Enluv & Molly McPhaul, immediately setting the mood.  Already one can feel the troubles of the day melting away.  And are those cicadas we hear at the end of this track, and crickets throughout Somni‘s languid “Drift” ~ hints of summer in the middle of winter?  Those tree houses look incredibly cozy, exactly like locations where these songs might be played.  When Yasper‘s “Philanthrope Lost” lands, we realize that the similarity of tempo has a lot to do with the extension of the vibe.  The piano of  Leaf Contour‘s “Sleepy Fish” is playful and coy (not koi), dancing like the sunlight on the stream.

By Sweatson Klank‘s funky “Love at the Swimming Hole,” birds are singing, brass is blowing, and the hemispheres are turned on their heads.  They will keep singing, right through Afternoon Bike Ride‘s “Better.”  ABR also appears with SwuM on the nostalgic “Rewind.”  There’s irony in the line “we saw we couldn’t swim,” considering the moniker!  When SwuM resurfaces on “Starry Eyes,” he doesn’t sound lonely; the album underlines the power of friendship to help us to feel together even when alone.  An odd aside: while only 1/4 of the tracks have lyrics, they comprise 2/3 of the singles.

Late in the compilation, saintpoort surprises with another highlight, as “Foliage Bokeh” removes the drums mid-piece to concentrate on toy box textures.  Shrimpnose, whose own Under Fire! is out April 1, follows with non-album track “Colorblind.”  By the time “That Midnight Air Rushes Through The Window” on Sundrenched‘s closing piece, one has forgotten all about the cold, and turned to the warmth and light of home and hearth, friendship and light.  We hope these friends will join forces again!  (Richard Allen)

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