Various Artists ~ Peace and Plenty

Concurrent with the release of Blackford Hill’s print journal Oscillations #3 comes a 36-track compilation curated by Simon Lewin and Tommy Perman to raise funds for UNICEF’s work in Ukraine.  The cover collage is bright and colorful, the title hopeful and encouraging, an idyllic vision.  The backdrops are occasionally dark and disturbing, reflecting the current reality.  The greatest gut punch is Clare Archibald‘s “Night Lull in Asteroids of Human,” which winds children’s toys in a room of dark chords.  One might think of the track as pretty, until reading the description.  Archibald was thinking of “parents trying to lull their children to sleep in a war zone.”

Churches and chimes are a prominent feature, led by Richard Norris‘s “Endless Mix” edit of Simon Kirby, Tommy Perman and Rob St. John‘s “Church Bells.”  “Endless” is precarious, as this church seems safe, while the Odesa church in which Heinali recorded before the invasion does not.  Other Lands‘ chimes decorate “April 14th – A Prayer for Peace,” recorded as a real-time response to the crisis.  Cowbells sound in Andrew Wasylyk‘s “In Flisk Wood,” a reminder of more peaceful times, while thumb piano dances across The Texture of Silence‘s “Disa.”  Kim Moore‘s “Yellow Flowers” sounds like a series of tiny temple gongs.  Tommy Perman‘s “For Peace and a Better Future for All” expresses its wish in the title, its injured notes seeking to be made whole.  Obakegaku‘s title track pings with light, offering spiritual illumination.

Some of the vocal tracks seem like prayers as well.  Nerea Bello offers heartfelt intonations on “Para Miguel,” accompanied by Simon Kirby and Brian Grainger, channeling the spirit of Lisa Gerrard.  Miaoux Miaoux combines chimes with chants in “Cotton Castle,” combining the above with dance beats.  When will they dance again in Ukraine?  Hanna Tuulikki‘s multitracked onomatopoeia on “Liquidbody” imitates the flow of a river.  Tanat‘s “Seven Weeks” presents percussion like ticking clocks, coos like the cuckoo.  For three and a half minutes, the listener is transported; then reality sets in.  The siege has now lasted eighteen weeks.  Even John Matthias and Declan Daly‘s “Éan” (“Bird”) is bittersweet.  The trees are burning; the nests are gone.

While it’s hard to allow one’s self to feel uplifted in the face of overwhelming crisis, the temptation to give in is even more dangerous.  Peace and Plenty offers music as respite, preserving the feeling that things may still turn around.  The title of Aidan Lochrin‘s “Fragments of Light at the End of the World” sums it all up.  The spirit of the Ukrainian people is dented but not diminished.  It is far easier to destroy landmarks and locations than character and resolve.  One day, we hope there will be peace and plenty again in Ukraine.  As this and other charity projects have proven, the world is ready to rush in and to rebuild as soon as the invaders are repelled.  (Richard Allen)

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