Various Artists – Music And Migration

Various Artists - Music And Migration

Various Artists - Music And Migration

In these dizzying days of digital deluge, multi-artist compilations are sometimes considered an endangered species.  All after, if you can so easily pick ‘n’ mix your existing music collection and new purchasing choices, why might you need someone else to foist their own selection upon you?  But when the choice is so vastly infinite, the choosing itself becomes strangely limiting and unadventurous.  Sometimes we need people with discerning trustworthy ears, to guide us the through the audio maze with a strong thread of direction.  This applies most of all to those of us brought up on mix-tapes sequenced with care, attention and a hint of non-religious evangelizing.  With the second super-limited and delectably-packaged release from Second Language – a new ‘boutique’ label helmed by London-dwellers Glen Johnson (Piano Magic/Textile Ranch/ex-Rough Trade Records) and David Sheppard (State River Widening/Ellis Island Sound/MOJO scribe/Eno biographer) and the Copenhagen-based Martin Holm – the supposedly dying art of compilation-making is satisfyingly pulled back from the brink… and then some.

As a whole and almost miraculously, Music And Migration harmoniously houses a broad family of artists both known/unknown to us and each other; captures a cohesive mood without repetitiousness; weaves in a loose yet unimposing ornithological connective theme; encourages further listening without losing a self-contained character; and unfurls a warming winter blanket near-perfect for our currently grey grim days.

Broadly divided between the electronic and the bucolic, as well as along vocal-led and instrumental lines, the collection is blessed with an embarrassment of riches and future rare gems.  Certainly, a gorgeously serene demo track (“Here”) from Vashti Bunyan will be the main draw and highlight for many but there are plenty more pleasures beyond that.  On the more experimentalist front for starters, there’s much to stretch the imagination here.  Both Hauschka’s jazzy folktronic “Lipstick Race” and David John Sheppard’s Roy Budd-meets-John Fahey delight “Small Town Raptor” sound like soundtracks in search of celluloid.  Gareth S. Brown’s Textile Ranch-style electro-organics shimmer and soothe in “Over Biscay” whilst Leyland Kirby and Xela drift in with mysterious drone-based foreboding.

Elsewhere, in more earth-bound terrain, there’s authentic Britfolking in Enderby’s Room’s dainty “Tiptoe” and Winter Cabin’s woozy “Swifts And Swallows”.  Ex-Hefner men Darren Hayman and ANT slip in some stereotypical but comfortably-fitting lo-fi bedroom whimsy, with “Summer Visitors” and “Magpies” respectively.  There are also strong shades of Warren Ellis’s work with the Dirty Three and Nick Cave, with wordless strings/piano-driven elegance and eeriness interspersed throughout proceedings, most notably from Danny Norbury, Heather Woods Broderick and the sublime but sub-editor troubling brave timbers solo project of Last Harbour’s Sarah Kemp.  Alongside former Hood members, Kemp also makes a sterling violin-playing contribution on The Declining Winter’s evocative rustic-chamber piece “Red Kite.”

Admittedly, not everything on Music And Migration is truly indispensable in isolation but within the context of the generous 21 tracks gathered here nothing truly falters out-of-place either, which is a rare feat for even erudite compilers.  So in short, file next to and retrieve as much as Lonely Is An Eyesore, Will Our Children Thank Us, What’s Up Matador, Acuarela Songs and Dark Was The Night, rather than a nauseating volume of Now That’s What I Call Music! or a vintage K-Tel abomination.

“Second Language Label Podcast – January 2010 (featuring extracts from Music And Migration)”