Various Artists – History is Bunk Parts 1 & 2 (Hefty/Inertia)

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Hefty Records are spending much of this year celebrating their 10th birthday, and these two compilations (I’m not sure why they didn’t just put out one double CD) cover much of that history, albeit in a somewhat revised form, as the subtitle would imply.

Hefty can be a difficult label to pin down, covering all the bases of Chicago music, from modern jazz to post-rock and “future roots music”, a term label boss John Hughes III coined for his 2004 Slicker album We All Have A Plan. In something of a coup, each CD features a remix by a Yellow Magic Orchestra member: on Part 1, Ryuichi Sakamoto turns Telefon Tel Aviv’s “Sound in a Dark Room” into something like minimal dub, while Haruomi Hosono’s work on Slicker’s “God Bless This Mess, This Test We Pass” is almost invisible at first — a strangely unradical interpretation of the original, although it’s nicely minimal. Daedelus, on the other hand, is in radical form in his reworking of Savath + Savalas’ “Paths in Soft Focus” (originally from the Rolls and Waves EP), doing his stumbling jungle thing, lots of fun.
Elsewhere, L’Altra’s contribution to Part 1 jolts a little with male vocals not entirely to my taste, but the strings are lovely, as is the production which I assume is probably Telefon Tel Aviv. Also on Part 1, Perth resident Victor Bermon presents “The Lonely Tired Dance”, very pretty with its guitar chords and subtly clicky sampled percussion, and STS9, Slicker and Retina.IT collaborate with some minimal hip-hop with guitars.
Japan’s Spanova open Part 2 with the lovely layered vocals on “Absentminded”, which eventually turns into a kind of funky ambient electro. Telefon member JLE remixes Slicker in familiar style, and Jan Jelinek is typically minimal in remixing jazz trio Samadha.
It’s a shame these two comps aren’t a double CD, because many listeners will probably, like me, find a few tracks they love on both and a few they don’t particularly care for. Still, they’re both solid compilations from a very fine label.

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