For the August edition of the collaborative blog, members of the collective discuss some of their favorite compilation albums - from remixes, label retrospectives and more.
Album: Pomegranates: Persian Pop, Funk, Folk and Psych of the 60s and 70s
Year Released: 2009
Favorite Track: “Gol-e Yakh” - Kourosh Yaghmaie
Just before the Islamic regime overthrew the Iranian government in 1979 and restricted artistic expression, a new wave of pop music had just begun to emerge in the music scene. This era, known as “The Golden Age of Iranian Pop”, fused together traditional Iranian instrumentation with Westernized characteristics, i.e. electric guitar, experimental song structures, and psychedelic effects. This Finders Keepers compilation highlights some of the best singles from this era, ranging from soulful guitar ballads like “Gol-e Yakh” to absurdly funky psychedelic tracks like “Helelyos”, which all almost disappeared after the Revolution. Finders Keepers is my favorite label for compilations, but this one in particular has a place in my heart for the beautiful history that it preserves. For a more in-depth read of this comp and Iranian pop music, you can check out a blog I wrote about it here.
Album: LTJ Bukem’s Best of Good Looking Records
Year Released: 2013
Favorite Track: “The Western” - Mike Ricochet Mix
If you need a lesson on drum and bass, take it from the master - LTJ Bukem. This compilation is not only a great sampler of d’nb pioneer Bukem’s label, Good Looking Records, but also serves as a Drum and Bass 101 crash course. Between each track, Bukem provides a ~25 second commentary describing the importance of the song, info about the artist, and other interesting tidbits about the release. There are so many stellar tracks on this compilation, but they all showcase that distinct, moody and atmospheric sound that Good Looking Records became famous for.
Year Released: 2002
Favorite Track: "Wth>You" - Chairman Hahn featuring Aceyalone
“When this first started off it was just Linkin Park…”
The prognosis of Nu Metal in 2017 is not so good. We, the internet, have meme-ified and contorted it into such an irredeemable joke that I found myself throwing out my once-prized Slipknot and KoRn shirts a few years ago. That I haven’t seen a series of think-pieces on the cultural appropriation of rap by the genre is a testimony to its insignificance. On this note, I won’t bother discussing what Linkin Park became, which is to say anything post-Meteora, but what Reanimation meant to the people involved with it and to those who listened to it.
The mission of Nu Metal was to blend genres, specifically rap and metal, in the holy crusade for perfection of musical angst. For a moment in 2002, Reanimation fulfilled that mission. There are a few questions around this album still. I had a difficult time finding much history of how and why this album came to fruition. It seems unlikely to my judgmental mind that Mike Shinoda (spiky-headed DJ extraordinaire) knew all of these artists, and many were definitely not in contact with record companies. How did they find these people? Why are all the track titles written in L33T? Also, why did so many rappers agree to collaborate with a recently-popularized rock band? My pet answer is that Linkin Park in this era was a highly, and weirdly, relatable band. Their lyrics are dripping with angst. But that angst is pure. Unlike a Korn (mommy issues!) or a Limp Bizkit (anal retentive issues!), Linkin Park’s angst from Hybrid Theory to Meteora was vague and relatable. I listened to them as an emotionally abused 12-year-old and felt that they understood my family. I listened to them as a heartbroken 18-year-old and suddenly those same lyrics were about the end of love. I listen to them now as an angry citizen under a fascist regime and they’re about society. Other people seem to feel this too; for some reason in 2004 Jay-Z collaborated with them to make Collision Course. Later, UK Ice Skating team made the almost inappropriate choice of the to use KRWLING from this album for their 2010 Olympic bid for Pair Dancing. Something about the early albums of Linkin Park will carry you through the tough times, if you let them. Maybe that deeply relatable and vague angst is why over 20 rappers, Djs, trip-hop producers, and other artists agreed to make this album with Linkin Park. I have a hard time believing it was just for the fame.
In Reanimation, Linkin Park itself took a back seat.Over twenty artists artistically influenced, remixed, and rapped over and mangled the angst of the original tracks. Most of these artists were then-lesser known rappers who were building names for themselves in their scenes. My favorite features being left-field rapper Aceyalone from LA (feat. on Wth>You), Black Thought (feat. on X-Ecutioner Style) and the deep-voiced Chali 2na from Chicago (feat. on Frgt/10). For many of these rappers, some of whom later made music with artists like Jay-Z and Erykah Badu or formed groups like The Roots, a credit on a triple-platinum record and the third best-selling remix album of all time was the springboard to success they needed without sacrificing their personal styles. It’s remarkable that the only recent success of Linkin Park was utilize to the benefit of so many other artists. In some songs, Linkin Park is present only through their sparse melodies or clips of recorded voicemails. Reanimation gave the main stage over to the features. Even though the songs from Hybrid Theory were by no means dead, the features give them new life, another life. For once, rap and metal were successfully combined into something Nu.
Album: Jewelled Antler Library
Year Released: 2008
Favorite Track: Harbinger of Spring - Fursaxa
This is a real gem and one of my favorite pieces of physical media I own. Jewelled Antler was a collective of artists and musicians straddling the lines between freak folk, lo-fi, ambient and field recording. The label was started in 1999 by Loren Chasse, a fantastic field recording artist whose recordings are featured heavily, and Glenn Donaldson as an outlet for their drone folk outfit, Thuja. They released on 3” mini-CDs over the course of the next several years, mostly featuring artists from around the Bay.
Jewelled Antler ceased to exist around the time this box was issued. It contains the entire output of the label. It captures the entire musical moment that these folks participated in, spanning across the world. It contains work by Thuja, Uton, Dead Raven Choir, Hala Strana, Fursaxa, Kemialliset Ystavat, each of whom ranks as one of my favorite projects, as well as several other artists I’m less familiar with. It’s quite hard to dig up coherent narrative surrounding a group of weirdos who recorded in the woods in 2002, so having this complete set is really one of the only ways to experience this music. Nearly none of it is on Youtube, most of these bands don’t exist anymore, and no one has uploaded a pirated copy. There are, at the time of this writing, 11 for sale on Discogs; otherwise, most of this material is pretty elusive. (The Famous Boating Party’s output on this box is available on Youtube, for those who are looking to hear at least something)
In terms of a well curated collection of music that is indispensable as a compilation, this one takes the cake for me. It’s the only way to hear much of this music, and most of it is pretty damn good. It seems like a unique way to capture a small sub-sub genre of dedicated artists, and I’m very glad to be able to have a glimpse into those misty woods.