Various Artists

Skampler [Silent]

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The songs that make up this excellent compilation of artists on Manchester's Skam label are as minimal and experimental as Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) tracks can get. Three of the 13 selections are exclusive to the compilation, and the other ten come from releases by Skam artists. The featured bands are Lego Feet, Boards of Canada, Jega, Bola, Gescom (an alias of Autechre), and Freeform. Virtually every track is built on a series of jagged blips, cuts, beeps, ambient sound effects, and warped keyboard sounds toward some emotional, electronic destination. It's remarkable how similar the artists are in their execution and overall sound. It's quite clear that most of the bands have found their inspiration in Detroit techno and Autechre's experimental take on the genre of IDM. Bola contributes one of the highpoints in "Forcasa 5," a pretty song that suggests a kind of electric waterfall of cascading, melodic synth sounds. Freeform's "Refane" sounds a great deal like what one might expect from a ยต-Ziq remix of an Aphex Twin song. It's reminiscent of the Richard D. James composition that was used in an advertisement for Pirelli tires, with the addition of fine sounding jazz inflections. Jega's "Phlax" comes across like a more ambient, instrumental early-New Order song, only it layers on the dying-fuzzy electronic sound of the artist's modern IDM peers. It's nearly impossible to fault Skam's roster of artists. There's not a wrong note or misstep to be found on the album. Skampler is a superb, lengthy sampler of artists pushing the boundaries of passionate, electronic music. Some listeners might find many of the contributions here too harsh, but given a chance, the music reveals an emotional depth and many pristine, pretty melodies. Alternately sad, angry, and joyous, Skampler is definitely worth seeking out for IDM admirers and completely accessible to listeners new to the genre.

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