v/a: New Neighborhoods (Freedom to Spend, 2020)

November 29, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: New Neighborhoods

Following last year’s much-fanfared reissue of Ernest Hood’s Neighborhoods, Freedom to Spend has compiled a benefit compilation featuring several current artists composing pieces incorporating field recordings from their environments. Like the original album, these selections drift between being unfiltered field recordings and passages of music. Sometimes they’re combined in crafty ways, like how the clicking and droning slowly rise above the scraping and dog panting of Ka Baird’s “West End”, with a more melodic part gradually emerging like the sun. Lieven Martens’ piece seems to consist entirely of field recordings, from dogs barking, possibly in a fairground setting, to transit whirrs. The brilliant Nailah Hunter plucks a forlorn harp melody over the rushing waters of Yosemite. Jefre Cantu Ledesma turns in one of the more innocent-sounding pieces, filled with birdsong, some sharp mewling, soft chiming, and yes, children talking. Melanie Velarde’s “NYC Files” features a cluster of Riley-ish organs along with a disorienting amount of honking car horns and ambulance sirens — just another day in the Big Apple, basically. Barraco Barner’s piece is a lovely one, with drum machines that seem to tick out of time but stay in sequence, and just lovely Durutti-ish guitar melodies, all surrounded by outdoor sounds. Much sparser is Sugai Ken’s piece, which is seven minutes of a bell (or pot, or other metal object) being struck slowly. Like A Villain’s “What’s happening to me” is accurately titled — the vocals are wordless puffs of uncertainty and tentative syllables, but sung rather than sounding like incoherent stammering, and the music is rich and light at the same time, feeling like a sort of transformation.

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