5 out of 5
Label: Skin Graft
Produced by: Weasel Walter (mastered by)
I don’t know if you’re aware, but there’s a right way to do label compilations. Skin Graft have managed to do it a few times, because they are awesome jerks, and now, 30 years and 150 releases later, they’ve done it again… and it’s also Halloween themed, but also also would work year ’round and still be great. Jerks!
SG have been doing the no-wave shuffle consistently during that time, forever ahead of any curve, as doing-your-own-thing is pretty dang timeless. So go listen to the first few releases, or listen to what they’re outputting now – it’s always equal parts shocking, and wild, and catchy, and whatever else, and that’s not just down to going in for weird and noisy acts, but very much about curation. Allowing for one’s appreciation of that brand of curation, “Sounds” is an amazing package of multiple generations of that, connecting to classic Grafters with Jim O’Rourke and Strangulated Beatoffs and Nick Sakes’ new project, Upright Forms, and then back on the cutting edge with new signees like Cuntroaches and Pili Coit.
But anyhow, the “right” way to construct such things is to give a broad sample of what your label has to offer, while also being mindful of how this stuff fits together as an album. As a bonus, give us some exclusive stuff that doesn’t alienate – i.e. make the compilation special, but if this is my first time hearing, say, The Flying Luttenbachers, ideally this track doesn’t throw me off if I go and pick up one of their albums. ‘Shudder’ happens to be all exclusive tracks, and, as mentioned, being an October release, went in for a Halloween thing, but not in an overly shticky way. Lyrics and themes certainly lean toward the holiday’s spoooky moods, but this isn’t a haunted house soundtrack; the Beatoffs’ “Happy Halloween” track could also score your mental breakdowns at any point in the year. Along with that value, every song here is, as requested, an accurate representation of the featured bands, and then also, by no means, B-sides: these are badass tracks. I want to listen to this comp.
And sequencing? It’s a freakin’ tough job to line up O’Rourke’s ambience between the noisy instrumentals of Terms or Luttenbachers, or the dancey groove of Psychic Graveyard, but main Graft-man Mark Fischer has done it: the comp starts with some comparatively accessible rock, courtesy of David Yow (back by Yowie!) and USA Nails, veers toward more off-kilter rock with Lovely Little Girls, then into the genre mash-ups of Tijuana Hercules and Pili Coit, bookending / buffering the experimentations of O’Rourke and Beatoffs with pop (Psychic Graveyard & John Dwyer), noise (Cuntroaches), and slicker instrumentals (Amar’s Volta), and concluding, once again, with more accessible fare – Sakes’ Forms; the electro pop of Azita.
Mastered such that all of these various styles sound seamless next to one another by Weasel Walter, and wrapped in classic Skin Graft illustrations from Rick Syers, I hold my compilation high o’er head with pride for one of my favorite labels.