V/A: The Speed by Which We Fall (Rollerderby Records, 2005)
Having sat on the shelf for two years, the Rollerderby Records compilation has finally seen the light of day. The compilation is packed with a group of stellar artists who range from shoegaze to dream pop to ambient. With the likes of Jessica Baliff, Air Formation, Timonium, Landing, Electro Group, My Education and many others, this disc is one of those compilations I savor. In my opinion, there isn’t really one weak track on this disc and that is what makes a great compilation in my opinion. That said, lets get to the individual tracks.
The Speed By Which We Fall begins with a track from Printing House. The track is called “The Treachery” and it has all the makes of Echo and the Bunnymen meet Slowdive. The vox are subtle and charismatic which light synths, fuzzy bass and straightforward percussion. The song really reminds me of my younger days listening to Echo and the Bunnymen and OMD. The female vox are angelic as they sing in the background of blissful keys. The Somnambulants follow with “In Transit.” The bright, poppy vocals of Lorraine Lelis float on top of seas of keys with bass and drums. Joseph White does a fantastic job with his programming and synth work. The Somnambulants certainly do not sleepwalk through this tune and they bring a nice blend of shoegaze and dream pop elements to the table.
Air Formation contributes “The Sound Will Come to You,” and, as expected from one of our favorite bands, the track is dreamy and blissful as ever. The song is patient and has a build at the beginning that lasts almost two minutes before kicking into high gear. The vox then move back into the mix and really begin to float between the cracks and crags of the wall of sound. The guitars shimmer and the bass and percussion work is quite expressive. The.Dithering.Effect start off with a more computerized sound and some piano in their “The Swarm You Fed Me.” The feel of the song is sluggish and ominous at first but it picks up eventually and drum programming is actually quite interesting. The synths float in and out of the mix and bring a spacey feel to the somewhat chaotic piano notes.
Jessica Baliff contributes a breathtaking, eerie piece called “Let Time Breathe.” The song is stripped down, simple, and floating. The keys float about from speaker to speaker as Baliff’s haunting vocals mesmerize the listener. This track floats in and out of the compilation like a ghost. Landing contribute a soft, beautifully relaxing track called “Solstice.” The synths float about, fluttering through soundscapes with minimal percussion and bass in the mix. Eventually, guitars weep within the track. It’s beautiful how Landing is able to take such sparse and quiet sounds and weave them together into something so beautiful. Timonium contribute an epic sounding, yet peaceful track called “Nodochord.” The song is patient and there are swirling syths floating about among the angelic vocals of Tracy Uba. Eventually, a male vocalist comes in and the guitars begin to reverberate and shimmer across their quiet soundscape. Vitesse change the mood a bit on the comp and play a more dream pop style of music with their “Sad Days.” Again, this band reminds me of those great bands of the 80’s, especially vocally. There are OMD synths mixed with some great, jangly guitars and charismatic vocals. Vitesse craft a perfect pop song and really show the best that the 80’s influence has on some current bands. The keys and guitar work perfectly together with percussion blissfully playing under all instruments.
Masculine Feminine is a techno pop band in the vein of Freeze Pop or Joy Electric. The sounds are bright, yet solemn in a weird sort of way. The vocals remind me of Camouflage, although, I think that the lead’s vocals are a bit weak. Maybe they are supposed to sound drab or something, but they are too unfeeling for me with the techno music behind it. Electro Group contribute “Noon Blue Apples” which seems to be an odd track for them. There is guitar picking and some organ that turns into a strong dream-pop feel. Beach Boyesque falsetto vox playfully dance between the lines of walls of sound made by distorted, layered guitars. The organ and guitar picking eventually come back in giving way to walls of sound again. It’s a short song, but it’s perfect in its briefness. My Education begin by quieting things down for their track called “Thanksgiving.” The track has a smooth, almost jazzy feel to it with spacey sounds floating among the bass, percussion, and light guitar work. The piano work on this tune is perfect and really blends with the instrumental feel of the track. They really play with volume and tones really well and have an Explosions in the Sky type feel.
Azalia Snail contribute “Space Enthusiasts.” As the name implies, this track has a vast landscape of sound and sounds that remind me of waterfalls and the drippings of nature. Very large walls of sound under gird this lush landscape while hums and vibrations dance across the surface of its ponds. Star as Eyes begin their contribution with a very cold, electric mix of fuzzy and hard sounds. They whirl about amidst a warm, throbbing warble. This only lasts about 3 minutes and is the perfect length for this type of potentially grating track. Flowchart contributes the last track entitled “Bliss in Your Iron Maiden Kiss.” It starts out with spacey synth that reverberates and flows. The sound in the track slowly builds as the bass and other sounds become more prominent in the mix.
This is a stellar comp and should be bought by all who love ambient/shoegaze/dreampop. Go to the Rollerderby records site now and pick up a copy!
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