By Various Artists
Many years ago, one very clever theologian came to the conclusion that all good things must one day come to an end. It's a cliché, I know, but it's an apt cliché nevertheless; in true fashion, Dance To The Radio's series of 4 x 12" compilations is no exception to this pattern. Having been a compendium of emerging, underground artists demanding wider attention for a year now, (Pulled Apart By Horses, Wonderswan and Esben and the Witch have been but a few of the fortunate acts that have graced the sleeves of these volumes) Volume 4 marks an end to this exciting era and an end to the young, independent label's extraordinary project. And even in its last volume, Dance To The Radio still shows its distinctive ability to discover a group of remarkable, individual artists, and put them together in a unique cauldron of talent.
First up are Philadelphia's Drink Up Buttercup, fusing demented, sonic psych-pop with lush electronica to create the quirky 'Even Think.' The underlying heartbeat of the track is overwhelmingly propulsive, driven by the sweaty bass line and robust drums; when combined with the soaring, howling vocals it can't help but create the ear-splitting noise that could be easily compared to a more punk and raucous Bear Driver - imagine that, if you will. Whilst the overriding organs and synths compete against the fully-reverbed, boisterous guitars, the entire track sounds like the organised chaos of an eccentric circus. In fact, with its swirling poly-rhythms and freewheeling melodies, after a while it seems as though the track doesn't quite know where it's going. But against all the odds, it somehow finds its way to a tumultuous end. There's only one word for this track: hypnotic.
Milk White White Teeth (from Leeds no less), captivating in their own unique way, are borne from a completely different musical spectrum. With their trademark whimsical indie-folk arrangement, they have seemingly raided a school music cupboard, with anything from the accordion to the glockenspiel, cornet to the harmonica at hand, and have somehow miraculously discovered a myriad of instruments that not only combine to make the most delicate and warm listening experience, but a sound which also seems so effortlessly accomplished.
'Calendar Will Crawl' incorporates elements of Los Campesinos' twee punk and Slow Club's folk-pop, whilst having the diverse instrumental arrangement of The New Pornographers, Beirut and Arcade Fire, but with less emotional intensity than the latter. In fact, theirs is more subtle emotion, which is quietly epic in its uncomplicated prettiness.
Ultimately, with a majestic, perky pop melody at its heart, 'Calendar Will Crawl' is marked by its unfiltered creativity, kinetic energy and barrage of cathartic instrumentation, at its best during the swooning, uplifting choruses, when vocals swell, guitars wail, cymbals crash and choirs of instruments balloon. Even at its emphatic, chaotic finish, it seems nothing less than a bewitching delight.
Despite both bands having eight members a piece, aside from that there's very little similarity between Milk White White Teeth's subtle arrangement and the ferocious electro-indie organisation of Ireland's Super Extra Bonus Party. Celebrated and deplored in equal measure at home for their distinct (some might say refreshing) approach and studio experimentation, the shores of England seem to be the next stop for these seven Irishmen and one Brazilian. Following in the same vein as Panda Bear, Yeasayer and Animal Collective, an ultra-modern sound of synths, electronic textures and heavy echo frames their self-produced track 'Who Are You And What Do You Want?'
Original in its own right, its tight, new-rave synth-pop melodies nevertheless draw off numerous palpable influences including funk, disco, art rock and even the 1970's avant-garde of Talking Heads. In the end, complex, electronic poly-rhythms, layers of instrumentation and faint brass and psychedelic collages of samples combine to form an energetic, eclectic track. But for this reason, 'Who Are You And What Do You Want?' is by no means the most accessible track of this volume.
With 'Getting Loose With The Obtuse,' Paul Thomas Saunders has written one of indie-folk's most mellow, sombre and tender tracks that I've probably ever heard. As the droning synthetic ambience builds up so subtly, the doom and yearning of his introspective lyrics abound. The former Leeds College of Music student has the seriousness and sincerity of Buckley, whilst having the downbeat acoustic approach of Johnny Flynn; ultimately, the track's nothing less than a heart rendering melody, propelled by the rustic romanticism of 70's folk rock. At the heart of the track is undoubtedly Saunders' versatile vocals; they soar from the deeply wounded to the searing levels that quickly reconcile the emotional intensity of it all. There's little more to say, except that this is a rich and thoroughly enchanting track if there ever was one.
Although not the most cohesive compilation ever made, Volume Four nevertheless promotes some of the finest young, emerging talent Dance To The Radio has to date. Anyone who doubts the longevity of this label are buffoons; they're clearly going to be at the forefront of championing some of the best artists around these parts and even further afield for a long time to come. Fact.