erasing clouds

We Are Not Alone: Songs for Lo-Fi Generation

reviewed by Dave heaton

"Songs for Lo-Fi Generation" is the subtitle for the We Are Not Alone compilations released by the Best Kept Secret cassette label. "Lo-fi" here refers less to the physical characteristics of the sound recordings--in other words, most of those tracks don't sound too bad--than to "lo-fi" as a general description of the attitude taken by the musicians involved. These are people who make music because they want to, because they have to, not because they think they can become rich and famous from it. A phony ideal of "perfection" isn't worth striving after. This isn't about corporate-generated visions of what "good music" sounds like; it's about people creating.

We Are Not Alone volumes 2, 3, and 4 showcase music that is, generally speaking, pretty, dreamy and spacey, more oriented towards "out there" than here, more towards otherworldly sounds than the harsher side of day-to-day living. The music is rock, ambient, electronic, pop and more; it's by musicians from all over the world. What they have in common, besides a DIY attitude, is a knack at using music to capture beauty.

With so much music (40 songs by the same number of musicians), it'd be unfair to generalize too much. It's also hard to mention every musician in one article when there's that many. So instead of continuing with a broad overview, I'd rather point out some of the highlights of these compilations (all three of which are filled with enticing and unique songs).

Volume 2

--"96" by Lorna: Ambient noise gives a steet-life quality of realness, while a sexy voice whispers poeticly worded feelings ("a thousand summers of nothing to do/a thousand summers of chasing after you") over a melodic track, with layers of electric guitar building up.

--"Let Me Explain" by Swooner: One of the most "lo-fi" tracks in the sense most people mean by it, this one has a cloud of noise balanced with gentle guitars and mellow vocals seeking a state of healing.

--"Enough" by Sharashka: A very 80s electroscape, with clear, pretty female vocals (a memorable, enigmatic but revealing line: "You're holding me down because you can't get anywhere").

--"Doppler" by Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory: Fuzz-guitar meets laidback melody for a slightly psychedelic, relaxed reaching towards the sublime, with near-falsetto vocals and an intense crescendo toward the end.

Volume 3

--"Nite in Electricity" by Anthony Distefano: An electronic moodpiece capturing the eeriness of night in the city, with electric whirs, atmospheric synth and background saxophone.

--"The Horizon Swims Blue Green Emotional" by Full of Emptiness: A pretty, slowly turning, blissed-out sonic sculpture with a slightly warped beats-and-synth sound.

--"Ignition Sense" by Don Campau: A funky but light trance-like groove, with pretty synthesizer over it.

--"Dying Patients" by New Waver: Moody synthesizer and tuneful, bittersweet guitar supports, complements and battles a clip of a hospital worker talking about coming to grips with mortality ("we are all dying patients").

Volume 4

--"Channel" by Sway: A little piece of a dream--a busy, enigmatic sonic texture with noise, piano, low vocals and more.

--"Your sad…tired…beautiful eyes" by Electric Bird Noise: Absolutely beautiful! A sparse, mellow instrumental ballad with guitar and keyboard sounds that shimmer.

--"Yellow Clothes" by Should: An ominous cloud of noise leads into catchy rock with a dark edge, soft harmonies and a groove.

Issue 8, January 2002 | next article

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