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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Various Artists
Subvaritrax
Subvariant Recordings

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


November 30, 2005
A label sampler of amazing proportions for those who like melodic to mid tempo electronic or IDM music, Chicago's Subvariant Label sets out with Subvaritrax to position itself as a premier label for the inventive and the daring.

The compilation largely succeeds; the artists on this disc, including Quantazelle, Popkan, Kero, Tim Koch, Quench and Matthew Mercer among others, have a knack for marrying the ideas of experimentation and melody. Each track features an abundance of blips, beeps, glitches and squiggles courtesy of various computers, but there's always a dominant and often playful melody to prevent these songs from becoming pure experimental dissonance. While more prominent groups in the IDM world like Autechre concentrate more on experimental freak-outs, Subvariant's roster understands the plain fact that melody and hooks are what bring people back.

Even without the presence of vocals, as a whole, the disc comes off as emotional and moody. There are many cuts here worthy of pivotal movie soundtrack moments: a cut like Marshal Watson's "Fall without Change" seems ripe for the plucking as background music to an introspective scene. And fuck "Eye of the Tiger", Tim Koch's "Minor Rendered" could be a new, more suave and hip soundtrack to training, prevailing and kicking some ass. On the other side, there are occasional tracks that oppose the soothing sounds to come off cold and metallic. Derek Michael's "Similak Jiggles" sounds like an automated factory, and Quench's "Vegetta" sounds like it came from a future super-computer age.

By balancing the experimental and the accessible, the artists on this comp all come with a similar aesthetic; their cohesion makes for an enjoyable but somewhat overwhelming experience. Each artist is able to craft a layered and dense sound collage that you can easily get lost in - from the warm and soothing to the steely and distant - and for the most part, these groups can stand alongside similar melodic compatriots like Plaid, Boards of Canada and Four Tet. On the shoulders of those innovators, Subvaritrax introduces some exceptional and inventive rising stars.

Reviewed by Dan Williams
A staff writer based in Brooklyn, New York, Dan Williams is a frequent contributor to LAS magazine. He once lived in Köln, Germany for a semester, is currently persuing his MBA in New York, and recently switched sides and began working as a publicist for Special Ops Media in New York.

See other reviews by Dan Williams

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