Various Artists

Decadence: 10 Years of Nettwerk

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A unique imprint, based in Vancouver but operating with a global perspective, issued a retrospective in 1995 to celebrate a major anniversary. Decadence: 10 Years of Nettwerk offers a captivating, five-disc overview of the label's multiple personalities. Nettwerk's roots lie in leading-edge electro-pop and techno-rock, although it has also nurtured a talented lineup of semi-acoustic-based singer-songwriter types, led by introspective thrush Sarah McLachlan. The combination works because the acoustic contingent isn't American-style granola/folkie stuff, but a sophisticated, Euro-artsy variety that shares compatible reference points with its more wired division. And so on Disc one (1985-87), early electro tracks by Moev, Skinny Puppy, SPK, and Severed Heads tend to overwhelm the Water Walk's languid, shoe-gazing; by Disc two (1988-89), reinforcements arrive in the persons of McLachlan, Bill Pritchard, and Lava Hay. As you move through the chronology, the dense, intense Consolidated and MC 900 Ft Jesus, for example, are offset by Rose Chronicles and Ginger. Disc five focuses on the future, including new-for-1995 artists (Cam, Tara McLean). One huge gap is the complete absence of another of Nettwerk's more commercial mainstays, The Grapes of Wrath. It's regrettable that continued "sour grapes" between Kevin Cane and his three former bandmates (who now record as Ginger) contrived to keep the late, lamented group out of the Decadence history books. All five discs contain enhanced-CD multimedia, appropriate as Nettwerk was an early pioneer in merging music discs with computer-readable data. Here, an inviting interface guides to video clips, bios, and slide shows for most of the performers. Unfortunately, the label hasn't kept up with technology on one front -- you still have to manually skip over the lead data track to play the discs in a regular CD player, even though several solutions now exist to solve this "track one" problem. Decadence also maintains Nettwerk's reputation for investing in presentation and packaging in a manner that does justice to the music -- the vintage, flip-book portfolio that graces the initial 10,000 pressings is a work of art in itself.

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