(This review posted November 29, 2000)

Various Artists: The Archipelago: Islands
(the archipelago - 2000)

The Archipelago is an alliance of Various Artists who document their travels from their earthbound locale of San Francisco Bay area to the far-flung Islands of their sonic imaginations. This set of six mini-CDs (about 20 minutes each) is striking in the variety of the destinations chosen by the artists.

rhomb (a.k.a. Nathan Kreisberg and Michael Bentley of the Foundry) head moonward with the sounds of lunatic marium (of the seas) (13:34) The lunar hills are alive with the sounds of chiming, ruffling and tonal droning as montium (of the mountains) makes obtuse spacemusic.

Purely computerized music is the focus of csero's pikolifter; a Commodore64 sound editing program was emulated on a PC and the six resulting tracks of bleeps, blips and buzzes could be the melody of a robot's dream... A0-42 (wavT_start) features a scruffy rhythm beneath a fluttering sea of chaotic bloopiness, while F0-33 takes a more-minimal, less-agressive approach, blitting and chiming spaciously. Stuttering static backs spiraling electron strands in 00-08.

Discs 3 and 4 come from disciples of Ambient Temple of the Imagination; Seofon delivers three pieces in immanent. Churning rhythms and fluttering wisps of sound are imbued with upwardly rising currents in Skyle accompanied by bass impulses. The track segues into freemantic a billowing geyser of beatless sound seemingly as vast, dense and powerful as a cyclone.

thermal's Span bridges a short-long-short pattern with one-minute "ramps" of more-abstract sound leading onto (then off of) the "main span" (18:55) which is a freewheeling electro-music tour driven by a bouncy e-bass. Light, but very active, beats stir rippling waves and chiming tones on a pleasant little joyride with a few detours from the primary course.

dean santomieri takes his turn with crude rotation where he creates five surreal soundcollages; disjointedly scritchy nostalgia seeps from "gram mo phone" albeit in wraithlike gusts. santomieri's actual spoken poetry (effectively delivered by julie oxendale) is laced into the fragmented time- and space-slipping backdrop of "ati noko". Assorted splinters of deconstructed sources are tossed into the twitching pile of "ears & whiskers" (2:25). Mixed media snippets make a twisting journey through the unknowable musique concrˇte realms of "peach skin canyon" (4:30).

eM twists soundwaves into the eight murky contortions of click pop (which is neither as clicky or poppy as the title may lead one to expect). A fragmented little song "circle" mmmmmmm and abuts the slightly tuneful blips of "convoloptic". Softly buzzy, sputtering soundstreams pulse beneath "coded chaos" which reveals hushed singing woven into those now-warbling strands. Slurry "computer" voices melt together in the brief-but-memorable audio-hallucination of "vox attractor" (0:40).

Go island-hopping with this quite-interesting group project; most of these Various Artists should be familiar to you by now (for shame, if not) and their assorted trips through The Archipelago: Islands explore a range of unusual sonic regions. I say check out the whole 8.5 set (and those little eM-designed CDs and covers are too cute!)

The Islands website will gIve you more info as well as samples.