Various Artists

Eye of the Beholder III

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Almost ten years after the spine of Flying Saucer Attack's Further proclaimed "home taping is reinventing music," Tascams are still turning living rooms and dressing tables into legitimate recording studios. The Indiana-based Tract imprint does its part for profile-raising with the Eye of the Beholder series, now on its third volume. Look no further than Nashville's Diana Darby to witness the raw intimacy of something sung into a microphone propped up on a coffee table. Her voice a labored exhalation, with only light cello and a few strums of guitar as background, Darby still convinces listeners she's "Crazy." "Don't get too close/I'll kill you/I will." The quiet Swedish underground is represented here, too: the brittle acoustics of Boy Omega and Homeland are warmed by plaintive vocals; regular Tract participant Racingpaperplanes (aka Richard Wilson) turns in the pretty Neil Young homage "PQ"; and Bianca's "Loosen Up" accentuates its nylon string lead with soft keys, hand percussion, and harmonica. Burd Early's "Woken" suggests the weary, lo-fi folk of early Sebadoh; it's accompanied by the interesting note, "recorded 1998 and 2004." Rivulets uses the inherent limitations of microcassette recording to his advantage, transforming the attendant hiss, muffle, and warp of "Your Light and How It Shined" into the kind of weighty ambience found on ancient 78s, or even a rare and fragile cereal box flexi. Other Beholder highlights include psychedelic holy man Devendra Banhart and his pleasant meditation "Nature Walk," those sardonic Aussies in Sodastream having some fun with trombone and rangy bass on the brief "Bring Him Down," and the typically austere, yet totally gorgeous "Gloria Wrist" from underrated Rochester, NY, songwriter Annika Bentley. [Beholder III's 18 tracks are previously unreleased; it was issued in a limited pressing of 500.]

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