V/A: Bliss of Life (Auralgasms, 2005)

by Jason

Bliss of LifeAuralgasms.com is in the same business that Somewherecold.net is in: introducing great music to music lovers. In this effort, Auralgasms has released a second compilation of great artists ranging from pop to pure shoegaze bliss. Their website, if you haven’t visited, is a cavalcade of genres and bands with tons of information that most of our readers would love. Go visit soon, and, oh yeah, pick up their new compilation Bliss of Life.

Bliss of Life begins with a great 80’s inspired, blissed out pop song from Blue States. Hailing from Sussex, this bliss pop trio has made a beautifully crafted song in “Across the Wire.” The track begins with spacey keys and floats into a trip-hop style drum grove with whining guitars and perfect bass work. The vox remind me of Ian McCulloch at his best. There are what sounds like Rhodes keys and great violin accents. This track really reminds me of good ol’ KROQ in the middle of the 80’s when they were discovering bands from Britain like Depeche Mode, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. If this track is any indication of this band’s sound, I highly recommend Somewhere Cold readers check them out. Next up is a track by the band Lunascape called “Praise Me.” This track also has a great 80’s feel. Lunascape is duo made up of Kyoko Baertsoen and Walter Hilhorst. Kyoko’s vox are angelic and the song catchy. The track has an ethereal trip-hop feel that explodes right out of the gate. The bass work is aggressive and interesting while the drums really hold the song together. The guitars add accents and atmosphere along with keys. This track has an epic sound and the emotive elements in it are strong. Paco provides track #3 called “My Love.” Paco is made up of members of Ivy among others and has a groovy, psychedelic feel. Again, the bass work is impressive and the female vox gorgeous. The guitars are aggressive but not so much that they take over the rest of the elements. There are great mood changes in this track along with subtle, intricate accents. Brilliant!

Astaire contribute an electro-pop track called “L-L-Love.” The beat is infectious and pulses while keys swirl through the speakers and Erica Driscoll adds her angelic and charismatic vocals. She is joined by her brother Bruce Driscoll who paints walls of glorious guitars with great vibe strings mixed in. Hector Zazou, who is accompanied by Nicola Hitchcock, provides a moody, understated electro-ambient track with Hitchcock’s beautiful vox. There are some killer moments with saxophone that give the song a smooth, jazzy kind of feel. Sleepthief, featuring Jody Quine, compose another moody, electro-track called “Eurydice” that has angelic vocals as well. The vocals float on top of keys and swirling beats. There are stings incorporated in this track along with moments that have an almost Spanish guitar feel. This track is intricate and beautifully epic sounding. After about 5 or 6 tracks on this disc, one gets the impression that all these bands have gathered the most angelic female singers around. I don’t know how they found all of them, but they all give a real continuity to the compilation. As “Eurydice” progresses, the build up is brilliant. Great songwriting is happening here.

Hungy Lucy’s “To Kill a King” is much more steeped in the electronica genre at the beginning. Strong, pulsing beats and shakes fill the speakers and eventually are combined with peaceful keys and innocent sounding vox. The keys rumble, creating a fuzzy pillow for Christa Belles vocals to float over while beats play in between. The Autumns contribute a track called “Cattleya.” It begins with acoustic guitar and what sounds like some xylophone. The electric guitar is far up in the mix and Matthew Kelly’s vocals are charismatic as ever. The mix of electric and acoustic guitars with the keys creates a blissful wall under the full backing vocals. This turns into a raucous sound that comes and goes with periods of silence in the bridge. The song fades out into piano and softly swirling guitars. In-Flight Safety contributes “Lucky Boy.” This begins with Piano and male vox. There are soft, subtle drums and variously placed other keys. As far as the comp is concerned, this track is the first not to hit me like the others. For a pop song of this nature, I found the track to be drawn out and much too long. They do eventually mix in what sounds like some guitar, but it’s far into the song. Also, it feels way too much like Keane, a band of which I am not really a fan. But, if you like them, you may like In-Flight Safely, that is if they have the same sound throughout their own album.

Her Space Holiday’s “Something to Do With My Hands” opens somewhat like a Richard Swift track may open on The Novelist. This quickly gives in to a minimalist electronic track with breathy, talking style vox. There are various clicks and samples in the track. Structurally and musically, this track is very interesting. Highspire contribute a track from their brilliant release Your Everything called “Skies You Climb.” This track is pure shoegaze bliss, with driving bass and drums and walls of atmospheric sound and recessed vox. This song will make any shoegaze fan weep with joy and want more. Hot on the heels of Highspire’s fantastic tune is Asobi Seksu’s “Walk on the Moon.” Hailing from New York, Asobi Seksu brings a brand of noise-pop that is explosive and refreshing. This track begins with spacey keys and Yuki’s beautiful vocals. The drums and the guitar eventually turn into walls of sound with the bass driving underneath. The waves of sound can be crushing, but in that great, shoegaze sort of way. Unfortunately, their recordings don’t do their sound justice. Go see them live and get your face peeled off by the My Bloody Valentine style volume of sound.

Monster Movie, another Somewhere Cold favorite, contributes a track off of their To the Movie disc called “Beautiful Arctic Star.” This track begins with vibraphone, floating keys and fantastic, charismatic vox. The song is ethereal and floating throughout with a rumbling undertone. Au Revoir Borealis contributes the perfectly titled “Blissfield.” This is a minimalist electronic song with ghostly, female vocals and a floating bass under-beat. I do believe that this is an original track found nowhere else right now. It’s beautiful and haunting, while, at the same time, it is equally catchy for an ambient tune. Jody Quine presents a Kat Jones style piano song. The drums are subtle and the bass work sits perfectly in the mix to meld the parts together. Quine’s vocals are strong and beautiful. This is a straightforward pop song, but it is very well written.

Harland contribute another straightforward pop song. The track is called “Little White Lies” and, well, the vox are perfect but I am not very enthusiastic about the writing of this song. It sounds much too familiar to be interesting. What may redeem it is the bridge. The bridge changes up the feel to a more jazzy, trip-pop feel and, frankly, I wish the whole track was that good. Eskobar round out the disc at track 17 with “You Got Me.” They hail from Sweden and have a Violet Burning sort of feel. This is glitter pop at its best. The acoustic guitars are aggressive over the electric guitars and the bass and drum work are pretty straightforward. Again, this song is ok, but not the best on this compilation by far.

Having ventured through 17 tracks, I find this compilation to be top-notch. I may not like a few of the songs, but some may disagree with me and that is fine. I mean, what is criticism except (I hope) a somewhat educated opinion? Anyway, the strong songs on this comp will surely introduce you to many a great band and, perhaps, cause you to empty your pocket book in order to support said artists with some of your hard earned cash by picking up their cds.

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