Various Artists ~ From Ukraine, For Ukraine

Standard Deviation’s first charity compilation was released just as the invasion began, after which the label closed down for nine months to help their community in immediate ways.  After some soul-searching, they came to the conclusion that music is also essential (we agree!) and solicited 20 musical contributions from neighbors and friends, including some recent favorites: Koloah (whose album appears on our Top Ten Ambient list), Katarina Gryvul (who appears on our Top Ten Electronic and overall Top 20 lists) and Splinter (UA), the leader of Corridor Audio, our 2022 Label of the Year.  Now From Ukraine, For Ukraine joins Corridor Audio’s We Are Invincible and Flaming Pines Liberty (which appears on our Top Ten Drone list) as the best of the hundreds of Ukrainian compilations we’ve heard so far.  One of the reasons is the unanimity of tone, which the label describes as “melancholic and fragile, yet hopeful.”  Another is the sonic variety.  But the most important is the overall quality; these songs prompt the listener to seek out other music by the same artists.

human margareeta‘s “broken but still works” launches the set in melancholic fashion.  One can imagine this music box found in the wreckage, a Road Warrior artifact that symbolizes the land’s destruction.  Evita Manji‘s moody “One Up Too High” is our introduction to the Greek composer, whose full-length debut, Spandrel?, is just two weeks away, while Poland’s enigmatic Yana Ilo, represented here by “Nonplussed,”  released her debut EP Dew in August.  Katarina Gryvul‘s “Ocean” is an album highlight, further cementing our belief that she is one of the most exciting artists around.  The blend of a gothic-industrial sensibility with new electronics is immensely appealing, as is the clash between trumpet and dark ambience on Heith‘s “Concrete Friend.”

On “Colours,” Koloah continues in the vein of “Dyvo,” enlisting the aid of Studnidzky; the track is calm at the start and encouraging by the end.  The latter part of the compilation turns even more club-centric, with particularly engaging contributions from M.E.S.H., Louwave and Splinter (UA) and Andriy Kostyukov, a vision of a possible future in which the rubble is rebuilt ~ or perhaps that in the meantime one might dance in the ruins, redefining the nature of a club.  It’s only fitting that Ars Was Taken receives the closing spot with “Free Ukraine,” a reminder that the best way to celebrate the efforts of this international roster is not to listen, but to give.  (Richard Allen)

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