Maybe I’m not the most objective observer on this series, being involved in Volume One, but I’ve not had any contributing part since then and Volume Four is possibly my favourite of this bi-monthly series so far. This installment feels much more cohesive as a single listening experience and there is, as there always is, some brilliant music from both known and unknown (to me) artists always lurking around the corner.
Before hitting the music, it’s interesting to see that the mini-essay (attached to each volume to ostensibly discuss the musical context and contents) that comes with NWA Volume Four is mostly a defense of the series title rather than a musical discussion. The idea of ‘weird’ is of course, totally relative – to the average Cyclic Defrost reader I dare say that most of this music sounds rather ‘normal’ in the sense that you’ve no doubt listened to and found enjoyment in similar musics already. But most of the debate has undoubtedly stemmed from the appropriation of the entire phrase. I have to confess that it’s not my favourite ever title for a release series, but the bite in Stuart Buchannan’s defensive words indicates that others have been much harsher on the title. It sets up a nice mood of defiance which gives an extra edge to the actual compilation which is otherwise generally a collection of great beauty.
Previous volumes have had a smattering of current indie favourites who definitely do fit the series’ criteria but whose distinctive and relatively well known voices renders them bits of a compilation rather than part of a flow. While there are definitely well known people on NWA Volume Four, and even, with the inclusion of Scattered Order Mk 1, bona fide legendary artists, the whole feels less disjointed, less like pit stops around all the possibilities available now and more like a unified front. Starting out with the electronic/operatic conflicts of Textile Audio’s ‘Some Kind Of Mininova’ and concluding with Silver Bulletin’s truly new wyrd folk ‘Minding Time’, the arc of the music is a darkly beautiful one, never abrasive but constantly evocative. Paint Your Golden Face do massed a capella harmonies, sometimes over big drums recorded in a little room to give a blistering lift early in the set. The aforementioned Scattered Order bring things right down to a dark spectralness, with dashes of subtle jazz samples and electronic radiation on their ‘Ruined By Me’ while Scissor Lock gives a typically beautiful exploration of pure sound processing. But the real highlights to my ears come in the second half. A string of tracks – starting with No Zu’s ‘Lay Of The Land’ which utilises post-punk exploration in a non-retro manner (though traces of David Byrne and Eno are evident), then building through The Townhouses abstract lullaby ‘Jigsaws Under The Clouds’, Gold Tango’s ‘Telescope’ which stews shoegaze, drone, Stereolab and primal to potent affect and Alpen (Buchannan’s co-conspirator Danny Jumpertz) with the atmospheric, stuttering, shifting and continually engaging ‘A Meditation On Flight’s – are of the highest quality.
If there might be any reservations, it could be that an actual ‘New Weird Australia’ sound is starting to develop, which is the reason for the cohesion. But then, on reflection flicking through the tracks, the sonic scope and range is still incredibly diverse, it is just the mood of this one which is consistent. I’m a big fan and supporter of these compilations and, even if there is the odd lesser track (which there really isn’t on this installment), as free downloads I’d recommend that there isn’t much reason not to explore and enjoy them, particularly this month.
Free download from New Weird Australia.