I feel good when something dumb I do translates into something awesome anyway. In this case, my dumb move came in not being prompt with my review of The 8088 Record Collective‘s Compilation Vol. III, which I’ve had for a long time. I thought it was a DVD, because the two-disc set comes in a DVD case, and until recently I haven’t had time to sit down and watch a DVD. Then I found out that it’s not a DVD and felt dumb.
But! The fourth volume of the compilation is coming out Feb 20 (uh, yeah, that is later this week). So this review is more of a promo for 8088 Record Collective as a whole, and for their upcoming Vol. IV than the specific Vol. III compilation.
And I feel okay about this because the 8088 Record Collective is awesome. (seriously, if I didn’t feel okay about this, I would have put it in my ‘reviewed’ stash and tried to forget about it. but no! That’s not how I roll.) What is the oddly named 8088 Record Collective? It’s a group of artists from all around the nation who get together to pool resources for compilations (like this one, and Vol. IV, which comes out Feb. 20), book shows together, and exchange ideas. It started in Conway, AR, and spread from there, collecting hubs of artists in Austin, Texas; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Brooklyn, New York. There are artists from other places as well (notable: Asleep, Audience…Dream! from my current digs of Oklahoma City, OK).
And because the collective is based on mutual idea-sharing and not on any particular genre, this compilation runs the gamut. The songs are arranged in alphabetical order by band, so as not to give preference to any particular artist. Even 8088 founders and experimental DJs Ginsu Wives fit 11th, between the goofy experimental pop of Clapperclaw and the boy/girl indie-pop of Harmute. The genres range from Chiaroscuro‘s technical metal to Betaplayer‘s rap to Androctopus‘s giddy indie-rock to Bad Credit No Credit‘s whacked-out kids’ music with adult lyrics. And that’s just on the first disc.
Surprisingly, though, the second disc settles into several themes. There’s a lot of dark indie rock, several instrumental post-rock bands, lots of electronic-influenced rock and indie, and several straight-up electronic/techno artists. If this sampler were only composed of disc two, it would be a strikingly solid indie/electro sampler. Mt. Comfort‘s “Put the Paw to Your Praying Person” is a beautiful ambient instrumental, while the last four tracks (by Somebody Else’s, the binary marketing show, Transmography and Two Eyes Meet Redux) all traffic in electronic-backed rock/indie. Again, it’s a solid disc, and one worth checking out in its entirety.
As I usually do with comps, here’s a list of bands from within that you should check out: The Octopus Project-esque Androctopus, the modern rock of Bridge Farmers, the technical metal of Chiaroscuro, the charming girl/boy pop of Harmute, the Of Montreal-esque Memphis Pencils, the gorgeous ambient work of Mt. Comfort (personal favorite discovery), Phalynx‘s techno, Proscenium‘s acoustic-led ambient post-rock, and the four electronic-backed indie rockers from the top of the last paragraph.
All this to say, The 8088 Record Collective is awesome, and Vol. III‘s double-CD bulk is great. I hope that their new one (which, if you haven’t heard, comes out Feb. 20 in a two-day release party in Austin, Texas, among other cities), is just as legit.
I often wonder at the sheer number and variety of genres and sub-genres. In my more cynical moments I am convinced that obscure genres are the products of a conspiracy between musicians and writers attempting to make unoriginal or unbearable music appealing to college students or habitual Myspacers. Admittedly, I fall into both of these categories, but I have never been the type of person who refers to a band with a phrase like “my new favorite post-Marxist-futurepop duo.” When my cynicism temporarily resolves itself, I realize that frenzied sub-genre creation has its roots in unique music: Bands make original and progressive music and listeners try to classify that music with the vocabulary at hand. Self-described as experimental noise pop, Brooklyn’s the binary marketing show seems difficult to place, even with hundreds of sub-genres to choose from.
Their latest album, pattern, opens with “shape of your head,” a piece that adequately demonstrates the major elements of the binary marketing show’s elusive sound. The song begins with a swirling and sweeping soundscape—a mix of electronic drum samples and acoustic percussion, a short, bell-like loop that seems to have escaped from Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, and ethereal choral voices—that gives way into a more driving drum beat and what one later recognizes as their signature guitar sound. This guitar sound, an element in most of the album’s tracks, is especially striking in “la boheme,” where the guitar picking exudes solitude, like a post-modern interpretation of the musical score from an old Western film. The guitar playing is minimalistic, thriving on repetitions of a scant riffs, its clean sound colored by just enough reverb to hint at deliriousness.
In fact, “minimalistic” is an apt adjective for the entirety of pattern. Many of the songs are built around the repetition of a particular loop or musical theme, and the overall arrangements are sparse. Acoustic drums are relegated to simple timekeeping and the use of the snare drum is rare. Minimalism is especially noticeable in “white template,” a song that moves the listener into, out of, and through an unearthly soundscape of tom patterns, electronic noise, and repetitive guitar picking. On this track Bethany Carder’s vocal delivery reminds me of Alanis Morissette, if Alanis were more indie and bothered and had better music to sing over. Some songs, such as “628 hertz,” contain only one lyrical phrase, plaintively repeated throughout the piece. Even the album title itself hints at the band’s affinity for minimalistic compositions.
The band also has an impressive ability to make seemingly incongruous elements hold together, although only barely. It is not uncommon to hear harp loops, harmonica, bells, dub-style horns, and synth drones. “trust and candor” begins with a quick ukelele chord that quickly cuts into a breakneck conga loop layered with bird sounds, mariachi-style trumpets, acoustic drums, and the idiosyncratic vocals of band members Abram Morphew and Carder, whose vocals play share space on nearly every track. My favorite song on the album is “fear,” a folk-pop tune that starts off with a church organ dirge and choral vocal layers. But the song heads up-tempo and its catchy melody is backed by a ukelele sample. The whole piece rises in energy, its zenith a sort of restrained angst.
The precarious arrangements certainly warrant calling the binary marketing show an experimental band. However, they are akin to other great experimenters—Grizzly Bear, Modest Mouse, Talking Heads—in that their eccentricities make them engaging and captivating. It is when the songs are barely holding together that I find myself being held rapt by the songs. The music begs a critical ear while at the same time also rewarding trance-like listening.
So how does one classify the binary marketing show? Indie-Experimental-Electronic-Minimalism? Really-weird-but-endearing-and-sometimes-powerful? Yes, those all work. Although, more simply, how about: “really good”?
Buy it here. –Max Thorn