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V/A - American Noise

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Artist: V/A

Album: American Noise

Label: L.I.E.S.

Review date: Jan. 14, 2013

“I knew a bunch of people who were just sitting on tracks, and I had some tracks of my own,” recalled Long Island Electrical Systems founder Ron Morelli in an interview last year. “Everything aligns at the right place and the right time and it just kind of organically happened… There was no set goal at the beginning, just get this music out by these couple people and that’s it.” But as anyone following dance music surely knows by now, L.I.E.S. has gone from a friends-of-friends white label generator to a name of reverence as one of electronic music’s elites in just two years. If you’re familiar with the label, I don’t have to tell you about RA’s Label of the Year accolade (well deserved) or how the star power of the bunch (i.e., Legowelt) is trumped entirely by the quality on a whole. I probably also don’t have to tell you about American Noise, the double-disc, CD-only compilation released in November as a peculiarly rockist victory lap. You already have it.

If you’re not familiar, however, these two unmixed discs will be a great way to introduce you to a world everyone generally accepts as Morelli’s own by some unidentifiable tastemaker’s touch. What makes L.I.E.S. so successful and enviable is that, firstly, Morelli has made it clear he cares for nothing except the nebulous concept of “energy” upon which so many of these artists and tracks thrive. By pursuing such a vague ideal, the discography is blown wide open; nowhere is that more clear than on the first disc of rarities, kicked off by Jahiliyya Fields’s ambient “Servant Garden” and carried on through tracks as diverse as Legowelt’s familiar-sounding “Sark Island Acid,” Maxmillion Dunbar’s evocative “Cassette Arabic,” Bookworms’s deeply warped transmission cries on “African Fields,” and the industrial coarseness of Vapauteen’s “Measure.” And those aren’t even all the highlights.

While the first disc is a great primer for those who couldn’t afford to pursue or keep up with the ludicrous vinyl prices (especially through import), the second is also worth hearing in full. Among the standouts, Torn Hawk throws you in at the deep end with the turbulent “This is Crime & Lace,” Terekke’s funky “Asidis” is another promising performance preluding a full-length later this year, and Delroy Edwards’s “Feelings” can warm you up for Ben UFO’s Fabriclive 67. The highlight of both discs may be Unknown Artist’s “Journey I,” a deliriously deep house jam clocking in at somewhere around 11 minutes that feels like it could go on forever.

What unites such disparate songs and artists isn’t necessarily BPM or conceptual endpoint, but rather a very dirty, organic, “old” sound to their productions. The avoidance of a sterile, straight-through-laptop-type of approach appears to be the very blanket “energy” that brings them together and helps Morelli’s loose-ended ideas attain some semblance of cohesion.

On a final note to that end, the aesthetic doesn’t hurt here. It makes a lot of sense that Black Dice’s Bjorn Copeland did the artwork for American Noise — in a roundabout way, this simultaneously pushes L.I.E.S. further away from the usual electronic organs while also drawing Black Dice back into the contemporary dance music landscape, reaffirming their relevance and greatness (in case you’ve forgotten). The album art makes American Noise look like a D.I.Y. punk record. Which, I expect, is the point. Those three magic letters: L.I.E.S. shows that even now, we can still learn something from them.

By Patrick Masterson

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