Various Artists – [2010] SYNTHEMATIKA TWO

Essential industrial synth-pop compilation from the golden age of netlabels.

In only five years from 2009 to 2014, netlabel Synthematik managed to publish over 30 albums or compilations with a matching style, this being my third review and more to come surely. That style is industrial future pop, so distorted sawtooth synth pads galore and half-shouted lyrics abound.

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Ballpen – [2010] The Dreams Trilogy

Dreamy friend of electro acoustic experimental sounds, akin to Crepusculum. Sleepy weird well crafted.

If that text blurb threw you off a bit – that was intentional. This album has the same effect on me. While it is clearly expertly crafted, the songs never seem to “start” for me. Yet, they make perfect backdrop material for me writing this very text, so apparently they do something right. And from the praise it has drawn back in 2010, not all can be pure hype, can it?

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Rare & Cheese – [2010] Jazzpolice EP

Classic hip hop sound with frisky jazzy loops and funky lyrics. Fresh Prince from Bel-Air style!

With this release already 10 and the nineties already 20 years away, its sound promising you back the golden age of hip hop is alright nostalgic. Rap worked with a simple and catchy musical loop, slow-paced spoken lyrics with stretched rhymes.

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Various Artists – [2008] The Silent Ballet, Volume VII: Có Vẻ Như Trời Sẽ Ngớt Mưa

Carefully crafted slightly experimental ambient post rock or drone tracks, with tender vocal tracks throughout.

This marks my fifth review for one of the Silent Ballet compilation entries. This series is – or rather was – centred around ambient post rock, with a focus on experimental artists around the world. This entry is no exception. Mostly calm, slow tracks are featured on this instalment. See which two tracks I after the fold:

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King Shi – [2018] Red (LP)

Expertly produced fusion of instrumental hip hop and trip hop. Groovy, yet downtempo goodness.

Netlabel Dusted Wax manages to stick close to its signature sound, which sometimes can become boring for a treasure hunter like me, always curious for a new sound experience. This release is such an experience: familiar flavour, but new spices added left and right, and the result is all the better for it: delicious beats, served with specially recorded instrument tracks, and electronic effects on top.

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Various Artists – [2008] 月餅

Exceptionally varied compilation of experimental to conventional electronica from Phonocake.

It’s hard to talk about a release who’s name you cannot pronounce, and more genres included than I possibly could fit into this tiny review. Ranging from art pieces that you would expect screening in an avant-garde museum opening. The comparison is fitting, as this whole release is a nice marker for the state of Creative Commons music in the late 2000’s on both ends of the creative spectrum.

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Various Artists – [2008] Breathe 02

Essential listen for downtempo enthusiasts. Different artists cover wide range of styles.

Breathe Compilations is a (former?) Mexican netlabel that – surprise – specialises in releasing compilations, active between 2008 and 2018 (as of 2020). Although the label’s back catalogue (92 releases) has not seen an addition for almost 2 years, its Soundcloud profile buzzes with activity. So I don’t fully call off any hope for a comeback. But in the meantime, I could as well review one of its earliest releases:

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University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra – [2000] Also Sprach Zarathustra

Essential live recording of an essential classic. Quiet listening conditions apply 😉

Image credit: own work, based on Public Domain painting (1918) by Max Liebermann

For us free music enthusiasts, orchestral works are naturally hard to come by. Musicians deserve to earn a living, which is why professional recordings typically don’t come free. But then there are these lucky exceptions, like this concert, well preserved for us collectors, so that we can enjoy an (almost, NC-ND…) libre recording of one of the most well known classical themes of all time.

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Banabila, Grem, Cramer – [1996] Lieber Gorilla : Visionen

Extremely experimental theatre / sound art / pop music album by a Dutch theatre outfit.

I spun the time wheel heavily for this review, looking how far back the netlabel era would carry me. 1996 is the first year for which noticed output on the Internet Archive, my fishing grounds. Look what colourful specimen I caught us here! It features everything from synth rock over quirky, genre-defying instrumentals to pure spoken word tracks. Probably not your usual musical diet.

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Various Artists – [2011] BACKUP11

Exceptional chiptune compilation for Platine Festival in Cologne. Great contributions from well-known artists.

If you want to saviour a varied selection of different classic 8-bit as well as modern interpretations of the genre, look no further. From classic pure console sounds to blends of chip and studio music you can feel served. I can fully recommend each of the 10 tracks, yet will only showcase you the habitual two here:

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