Various Artists


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Released at a time when the Australian label Extreme was resuming its activities after a hiatus brought by their production of the mammoth Merzbow 50-CD box set, Serpentine takes a quick look back and around. The focus is kept on the label's more easily accessible (aka, listener-friendly) artists, with Soma, Pablo's Eye, and Maju providing seven of the 11 pieces. Needless to say, the overall mood of this compilation is cool, atmospheric dub and ambient rock. There is one track from each of Maju's trilogy, plus cuts off then-recent releases by Soma, Pablo's Eye, Christian Kiefer, and Ether. But of course, the real interest of this CD is its treats: previously unreleased tracks. A deep drug trip, Soma's "The Winged Measurer" opens the disc. Pablo's Eye's "A.M. (Piece pour Violon et Avion Qui Passe, pour Patrick Robyn)" ranks in the group's high average. Social Interiors' "Under_Tones" provides the quietest, most minimal moment of the set. Exactly halfway through the disc listeners encounter two tracks by Kiefer. An oddball in the label's catalog, his banjo-and-vocals folk songs may sound a bit out of place, but they introduce the contrast that makes the other pieces' experimental edge sharper. That said, his "Erendira" and most of all the exclusive "Story 9" (based on "Ave Maria") show very strong songwriting skills. In the end, Serpentine makes a fine but slightly confusing listen -- but isn't that what Extreme is about?

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