Various Artists

Praeface

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San Francisco and the Bay Area were the theater of a surge in experimental music activity in the early 2000s. Praemedia is one of the many small independent labels that popped up as a result. But if Pax Recordings, Edgetone, and even Accretions focus mostly on free improvisation, Praemedia's manifesto hits closer to the laptop. And the compilation album Praeface, the label's first release, does sound like a manifesto. You are treated to tracks from upcoming albums by Stars Like Fleas (a New York collective belonging to the circle of -- that is, sharing members with -- the No-Neck Blues Band and Gold Sparkle Band) and Tim Perkis, pieces by the people who carry the label on their shoulders (Lance Grabmiller, Shannon Fields, and Martin Nieznanski, in various combinations), and contributions from a cast of international friends, including ex-Tu M's, mou, lips!, Wobbly, and Haco. Most of the tracks feature computer treatments of source recordings, be they field recordings, acoustic, or electric instruments. The mood is kept rather quiet and serene, with a couple pieces introducing a thumping beat, but nothing harsh to startle you. Highlights include Fields' collaboration with the Gold Sparkle Band ("Emphasis Mine"), Grabmiller's duo with fellow Abstractions member Ernesto Diaz-Infante ("Electrostatic Blues"), Fields' extensive treatment of Daniel Carter's flute and Matt Lavelle's bass clarinet in "Solo Flute C," and a beautiful trio by Haco, Lisle Ellis, and Grabmiller. This is a first step for the label, but it is by no means tentative. Praeface describes a precise esthetic; you'll just have to see if it becomes a springboard for new ideas or a constricting canvas.

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