Various Artists

After Dark, Vol. 2

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When Portland electro-pop producer Johnny Jewel and his Chromatics returned from a long gap between records with 2012's translucent Kill for Love, they perfected the cold fusion of dark, goth-tinged indie songwriting merged with icy electronic production they'd been leaning toward since their 2007 album, Night Drive. Around the same time as Night Drive, a compilation came out entitled After Dark, gathering up remixes and other scattered tracks from artists affiliated with Italians Do It Better, the label co-founded by Jewel that sought to provide a home for artists of the same mind as he. That turned out to be pretty easy, since Jewel served as either bandmember, producer, or remixer for a vast majority of the artists featured, but that wasn't really much of an issue. The barrage of vintage synth and drum machine sounds funneled into a monochromatic rainbow of frigid, haunting sounds. Informed by minimal electronics, Italo disco production, and keen attention to detail, the tracks all gelled to the point where the lines between the performers were pleasantly blurry. After Dark, Vol. 2 is much the same, offering 15 slices of chilly nocturnal electro sprawled out on over an hour of similarly midtempo bpms and darkened moods. With three or four tracks each, Jewel's main projects Glass Candy and the Chromatics make up the majority of the comp and offer its brightest highlights. Glass Candy's celebratory set opener, "Warm in the Winter," finds singer Ida No addressing the audience with a monologue about fan appreciation that ends with a series of singsongy "I love you! We love you!" exclamations. The Chromatics' cinema noir electro perfection comes through on tracks like "Looking for Love" and the flawless dead-eyed pop of "Cherry." Vocodered vocals, glistening synth arpeggios, and trudging beats make up tracks by lesser-known acts like Mirage, Desire, and Twisted Wires, and famed Italo DJ Mike Simonetti contributes the hard-edged thump of "The Magician," one of the more punishing and dance-based instrumentals on the comp. The IDIB formula is really what's on display here. More than a variety of styles and approaches, After Dark, Vol. 2 highlights the incredible after-hours dream world that Jewel and his counterparts have built with the label. The interchangeability of the songs and artists is one of the best parts of the hypnotic, detached, and ultimately insular sound.

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