V/A: Flow (Make Mine Music, 2004)

by Jason

flowMake Mine Music is an artist run label in the UK. Portal, Epic 45, Schengen, Innerise, July Skies, Northern Lakes, Weyland and Acrocar are the members of the Make Mine Music collective and they control their releases through the label. It’s actually a very cool idea. Any decisions made about or for the label are made as a collective and all money made or lost on things like compilation albums is divided equally. This is truly an independent label in the unified, artist run sense.

Flow opens with a track by Schengen called “City.” This begins with sparse keys and a little girl speaking “City, the suburbs, the towns, the country, the streets, the avenues, the buildings…” There is an adult in the background talking as well. Eventually, percussion kicks in and keys take over with the girl’s samples. This has a great, older style feel to it as far as early electronic music goes. It certainly uses older sounds from older keyboards. It’s kind of nostalgic to me. Epic 45 contributes track #2 called “I’m Getting Too Young For This.” It begins with light percussion and guitar picking. This develops into fuller percussion and bass work as well. The vocals are soft and breathy, like Halstead’s quiet moments in Slowdive. They have a very stripped down sound production wise, but they also have glossy, dreamy guitars. Honestly, Epic 45’s tracks are some of my favorite on the disc. They bring innovation to structured song writing.

Acrocar’s first contribution is “Cinematography.” This is a moody, electronic piece. Fat bass and spacey keys with great vocals really fill out this track. It is somewhat repetitious, but in that electronically wonderful sort of way. Another element of this track that I really like is the fact that the vocals bring a very organic and warm feel to them. Innerise offer “Like Sunrise.” This begins with what sounds like rain sticks, spacey keys, and gorgeous, lofty female vocals. After a bit, some old Depeche Mode style keys enter the mix. Again, this is another great song with experimental elements but a lot of structure to the song. In fact, I would say this is pretty close to electro pop. Portal’s first track is called “Arion 2.” This is an ambient track with a backbeat, piano, and glittery keys painting a vast soundscape of beauty. This is the sort of track that you turn your stereo up and lay on the bed in the dark, close your eyes and just feel. What I really like about it is that Portal doesn’t draw it out. It’s not a particularly complex ambient sound, so they seem to stop right when it seems it should.

Following Portal is July Skies with “The Says We Played.” Shimmering guitar usher the listener into Antony Harding’s wistful vocals. This song is calming and beautiful. Yellow6’s first track is titled “August 26.” It too begins with shimmering guitar that seems to repeat and blend with another guitar. This dual guitar is laid over a beautiful drone that hums the listener into peace. This plays out for some minutes and really is a great soundscape of gentleness. Avrocar’s second track, “Served in Silence,” is a more ambient piece with a rougher edge to it. It has fuzzy echoes and deep tones, almost foreboding. This, too, is a shorter track and really is a perfect length for what Avrocar is doing. Epic 45’s “Train to the Sea” is an acoustic piece accented by strong snare. It really paints a picture of traveling in the train, watching the countryside and arriving in a beautiful oasis. Innerise contribute a second track called “Mermaid Café,” which is complex and full in its sound. There are a lot of layers in the beats and the drones/ambient sounds. There are variations throughout the track that keeps it from being monotonous. Again, like those ambient tracks before, turn out the lights and turn up the stereo.

July Skies contribute “Royal Observer Corps” as their second track. This is a short, ambient track that is quite beautiful. There are seagulls mixed into the drones, which swirl about one another. Peaceful and breathtaking are adjectives that come to mind when I listen to this piece. Portal’s “The Sun Will Rise (Version 2)” is atmospheric. It includes a female singer that has a hypnotic voice that has a singer-songwriter element. Her voice floats on top of bass, blips, and ambient oceans of drones. Yellow6’s “Quarantine” has some fuzzed out drones that depict tension in them. Guitar sings in the background while shifting noises overwhelm it. The percussion comes in halfway and fills out the sound of the track nicely. Schengen’s “Just Lately” begins with reverse sounds and spacey blips. This has trippy percussion that the sounds really swirl around. Northern Lake’s only track on the Flow compilation is “The End of Resolute.” It has a pulse through it, with light acoustic guitar and stripped down percussion. This track feels a little too long, but, it is relaxing and a wonderful meditative piece. Weyland also contribute one track called “Gosh Said Jane.” It has a country style guitar to it with people talking about Elvis in it. This is probably the least similar track on the whole album to the rest and it certainly stands out. It is really short, and kind of quirky.

All in all, the bands of Make Mine Music have sold me. There are some weak moments on the album, but, for the most part, all the tracks are strong. I want to hear full lengths from almost all of the bands represented here.

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