Various Artists

At Least You Can Die With a Smile on Your Face

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Bella Union is the boutique record label of Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde. Established in 1997, Bella Union releases creative, intelligent music without concern for commercial viability, artist reknown, or other major-label pratfalls. At Least You Can Die With a Smile on Your Face is a two-disc set collecting tracks from 22 different Bella Union artists, ranging from lissome pop to electronica, trip-hop to indie rock. Disc one is the more "mellow" of the two, referencing many of the same ethereal pathways traveled by the label's founders. Czars' "Drug" is a languid, sensual affair; John Grant's voice is like cool water on the back of your neck. Later on disc one, Raymonde himself contributes "Worship Me," a piano-driven ballad that recalls Mojave 3. Sing-Sing is ex-Lush singer/guitarist Emma Anderson's project with vocalist Lisa O'Neill. The band's "Feels Like Summer" contribution does exactly that with its '60s jazz percussion and sassy vocals. The material on disc two nods to indie rock, electronica, and big beat. Lift to Experience begins with "Into the Storm," a somewhat creepy number that marries the rhythms of My Bloody Valentine with fire and brimstone vocals. Meat Beat Manifesto founder Jack Dangers' "No Secrets, No Surprises" is spacy, percussive big beat, while the drifting lullaby of Aeriel's "So Warm" once again recalls Cocteau Twins. Ultimately, At Least You Can Die succeeds not only as a worthy introduction to Bella Union's stable of artists, but as a document of the depth and diversity possible when a label has an adventurous mind.

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