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V/A - The Wierd Compilation Vol. II

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Artist: V/A

Album: The Wierd Compilation Vol. II

Label: Wierd

Review date: Jul. 11, 2008


Martial Canterel - "Windscreen (excerpt)" (The Wierd Compilation Vol. II)


In late 2006, a bulky, high-dollar compilation surfaced in select shops around the globe, a bold move in the face of declining record sales worldwide. Perhaps the surprise behind this effort, entitled Wierd [sic] Compilation, wasn’t that it was made at all, but that what it contained transcended genre into the emotions and inspiration behind the music within. It was an attempt to join disparate scenes, sounds, and personalities, ones bruised by time and experience; ones that chose to channel the healing, at least part of the way, through technology, in order to make connections with the world outside.

It was, and still is, difficult to classify the contents of its three vinyl LPs and one seven-inch single, just in terms of volume. In short, Wierd surfaced as a collection of music representing a social event, a standing Tuesday night DJ party and performance opportunity, helmed by one Pieter Schoolwerth, and abetted by Glenn Maryansky at the now-defunct Southside Lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Wierd Compilation married the social into the artistic in a manner some might describe as liberating: you would have to accept it as a whole to accept it at all, as everything within was, in some capacity, draining and intense to process. Across minimal synth, dark rock, coldwave, and other products of a forlorn mindset, there were common threads of frustration, sadness, loss, and seduction, all of which demanded an emotional response.

None of these sentiments were exactly spelled out in the first Wierd collection, forcing listeners to confront these issues and draw their own conclusions. The personal nature of the project – hand-numbered editions of a costly production that Schoolwerth defines, conditionally, as “Very Rare,” a statement that defines the scarcity of the format as well as the intentions behind it – called to mind the connections that we made with its pieces. Wierd’s artists were obviously sympathetic to this plight, and it helped that many of them were making their debuts, either to a larger audience or to the medium of vinyl itself, on the release. It was a phenomenon that kept unfolding, revealing new layers of expression; a labor of love from people who have, at least artistically, accepted the role of outcasts, and who relied upon the sentiments derived from their own art, and from the support of each other, to carry on through.

Schoolwerth explains these efforts further in the second installment of Wierd with a long, rambling essay that underscores our dependence as a society on the Internet, and the ways in which communication has changed our natural ability to engage with a person or object. Where we once acted, now we wait. The music therein is a reflection of these elements of society, as technology’s grasp tightens and we are made to confront other issues before solving the problems of the ones that are receding from view. As a ground rule, it also requires the employment of “analogue synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines … abstracting technologies [with] the potential to defy abstraction.” He puts these notions into practice, as well, continuing to host regular Wierd parties at LES dive Home Sweet Home, and promoting electronic concerts in NYC featuring groups like Absolute Body Control, Wolf Eyes, Cadaver in Drag, and Bloodyminded.

Wierd Compilation Vol. II amends this dialogue over four vinyl LPs, capturing the state of mind proffered by Schoolwerth and company. Ten of the 17 artists who originally appeared on the first volume are joined here by 20 more, many of which would be familiar to those outside the specifics of the initial collection (Wolf Eyes/Smoke Dogg collaboration Demons, Hive Mind, No Fun Fest organizer Carlos Giffoni). It’s an attempt to involve more participants in these actions, and with it comes one major roadblock. Song-based material abuts drone and noise projects, and the parts don’t always fit; the awkward sincerity of isolationist electro-cabaret doesn’t necessarily make for a wise combination with the anonymous emotional blackout of the more amorphous acts presented here. Using the same tools, the collection splinters where it ought to converge, with only one artist, Zug im Veins (the last of the collection’s staggering 39 tracks), effectively makes these disjointed concepts work as a singular unit.

How to approach Vol. II is entirely your call, but the first installment flowed much more smoothly. You’re either listening to an exemplary, abundant collection of dark, frigid minimal synth tracks, or a shorter offering of abstract experimentalism, but the two uneven parts are sequenced across the albums in a disruptive fashion. Moreover, the latter genre is much more readily available than the former, even in the small runs of cassettes and CD-Rs that populate its landscape, and is held in a more serious regard amongst critical bodies. It’s basically a clash of rock versus pop. Noise is from Mars, but feelings are from Venus, and it’s much harder for most to try to come to terms with the complexities of music that asks for an investment of emotions, than that which either mandates their absence, or attempts to obliterate them in a show of caustic aural force.

Still, song-based material claims the majority of Vol. II’s two-hour-plus runtime, and accounts for all of its brightest moments. As with the first installment, you will likely be surprised how songs so similar in construction – pulsing bassline, drum machine kick, monotone vocals – can sound so unique against each other. Flesh Graey Display’s “A Smoke Filled Room” enchants with its off-kilter synth lead, likely pecked out with fingers instead of streamed into a sequencer. Offerings by Martial Canterel, Xeno and Oaklander, and Sleep Museum continue where their tracks from the first collection left off, a buzzing and discomforting display of personal politics run through the strictures of the form. Schoolwerth presents each artist in the book with the same degree of care as the ones before and after, and several collages of Wierd flyers, photos from the events he’s thrown, and gushing thank you lists present the world he’s built as one close-knit family, borne of dysfunction but extending a hand of support and understanding all throughout. Such efforts are going to keep the music that he loves flowing, and will extend the history of the form well beyond the medium, somewhere between weird and wired, and “Very Rare” indeed.

By Doug Mosurock

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