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Mixed Netlabel Compilation

Here’s one thing that netlabels have in common with traditional labels: various-artist compilations only work well if they have some sort of tenable theme, which Janus, on Stadtgruenlabel, does not, despite a flowery liner note about the two-faced god from which the set takes its name. There are pieces here with the canned maudlin of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtracks (Martin Donath‘s quarter-speed “Plateau White District”; the simple melodic line of krill.minima‘s “Winterweiss”), with the look-at-me introspection of retro new wave (London Issue‘s “Sofaliebe,” a track that locates the Venn Diagram overlap between Steely Dan’s early pop fusion and Matthew Herbert’s desiccated lounge) and with a techno rhythm so familiar you wonder, for a moment, if it’s being ironic (Selffish‘s “Endless Fall”), but none of them do the others any apparent contextual favors; they don’t work toward any particular goal. However, there is a trio of less beat-oriented fare worth considering together: Lomov‘s “Northwest Passage,” which intimates forward movement with snaps and the occasional beat, but prefers to linger in its ambiguous opacity; Danny Kreutzfeldt‘s excellent soundscape, “Polar,” which is far richer than, if just as arid as, its title suggests; and Scott Taylor‘s “Andesite Black,” another soundscape, with rusty industrial overtones. It can’t be a coincidence that whoever programmed Janus chose those three tracks to open the collection. As for single, standout entries, Dataman‘s lowkey “Winter Panorama Window,” which comes midway through the album, is ambitious enough to demand repeat listens; it fades from a cafe field recording to backward-masked downtempo, with a steady but drama-infused beat. Choose your favorites at stadtgruenlabel.net.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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