Various Artists ‎– Pulse From Mid-America

5 out of 5

Label: Anatomy Records

Produced by: Various

“Good music” is obviously subjective in the first place, but a “good compilation” might be even another step removed from that. I mean, is it as simple as liking all of the music? Maybe, but I tend to apply other qualifications, such as having some kind of thematic link, and ‘accomplishing’ something, like making me interested in whatever’s compiled. ‘Pulse From Mid-America’ might fail on both of those fronts – I don’t even like every song on here – and yet, I’d still consider it a good compilation; possibly one of my favorites, given that I revisit it more often than any other given random comp in my collection.

The ‘theme’ here is suggested by its title – a collection of groups from a particular region – but it doesn’t communicate that at all – there are zero liner notes; the sub-title is simply “a various artist compilation” – and the relative mystery regarding the Who’s Who of the featured artists affects that second point about accomplishing something, given that I can’t track down any of these bands beyond a random google search, especially in 2003 when internet info wasn’t all fingertip accessible as it is now.

And yet, all of this somehow does go in to establishing a DIY vibe that runs throughout the comp, and the complete lack of reference info – as well as some groups sharing similar sounding vocalists, or a similar off-kilter weirdness – makes it feel like these various artists are all playing in the same pool, and you’ve just happened to stumble into it: friends playing tracks for one another, and you’re welcomed to listen in. That prevents “Pulse” from coming across as cherry picked songs, and also seems to encourage an inherent weirdness in a lot of this stuff. (Of course, if you recognize some names – Racebannon, for example – that’s not necessarily surprising.) The sequencing also kind of guides us between styles effectively, despite it coming across as tossed together, starting us out with the heavy distortion rock and punk of Mike Dixon, and the Coke Dares; segueing into more poppy stuff from Pop Lolita; hitting edges of the spectrum with hardcore punk ([Longlive] The Romance Morgue), beats (DJ Spikes), and slocore (Early Day Miners) in its middle; edging into oddball psych (The Impossible Shapes); and then concluding on especially outre notes with Turn Pale and midwest all-stars Racebannon… and good sequencing is another comp consideration of mine, so I’m well led through this seemingly vaguely defined experience, and realizing it’s not vague at all. The variation-but-connectedness of the music prevents track skipping; rather, you wait to see what each track has in store, and if it’s not to your tastes, you’re eager to see what’s next.

Now with more discog-y clickthrough options to check out who these bands are / were, it is indeed apparent that there were many exchanged members, and a lot of Indianapolis-ness, but also, that sense of mystery and DIY is still in place, given that a lot of these acts seemingly only appeared on this comp and ne’er again. And relistening to it for review, a decade plus after picking it up solely because of that Racebannon track – and, by the way, another bonus being that I think all of these tracks are unique (or unique versions) to this comp – I’m reinstilled with the desire to track down albums by the groups who had them, recalling the joy of discovery of finding some fun and unique corner of the music world when I first heard this collection.