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V/A - All Tomorrows Parties V. 1.1

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Artist: V/A

Album: All Tomorrows Parties V. 1.1

Label: ATP

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

The concept behind the All Tomorrow’s Parties is at times almost too good to be true, and the results are often equally staggering. The ATP festival, in which one ”curating” band chooses the entire lineup of a three-day festival, has been responsible for impressive reunions (Wire, Television, Mission of Burma (kinda)) as well as equally impressive performances by the notoriously reluctant (Boards of Canada, Dead C, Merzbow). The ATP 1.1 compilation is a companion to this year’s upcoming ATP L.A. festival (curated by Sonic Youth) and is the second in the series of ATP cds. Like the lineup for the LA shows (available at www.alltomorrowsparties.co.uk), the album features an all-star lineup of contributors. However, as is the case with most all-star events, the participants do not perform to the best of their abilities and the resulting compilation is more completist fodder than it is a worthwhile album.

Each track is fairly representative of each artist’s most average work, and in that sense it could make for a nice souvenir for any actual festival attendees. Sonic Youth’s “Fauxhmians” is a fairly ho-hum crescendo of drum then guitar, then guitar, then bass. Oddly enough, it is most effective as a seamless segue into the Unwound track that follows it. Unwound’s “Behold the Salt,” the best song on the album, sounds surprisingly different from last year’s Leaves Turn Inside You. A single repeating bass line provides foundation for whooshing keyboards and syncopated piano. The song builds to a plateau and crumbles into backwards-tape chaos as Unwound out-Sonic Youth SY themselves.

Stereolab’s “Old Lungs” sounds like a wisely out-taken track from Sound Dust, while the normally infallible Stephen Malkmus’ “Good Kid’s Egg” sounds like a wisely unpursued demo (complete with hard-panned vocals). Cat Power dodges another bullet by submitting yet another cover, this one of a Robert Johnson song. Papa M’s “How Can I Tell You That I Love You?” (a Cat Stevens cover) is another one of the album’s highlights as Dave Pajo’s ability to produce sparse folk songs now seems to come to him as effortlessly as his ability to write long, lush instrumentals. Cannibal Ox wisely/lazily contribute “Pidgeon” from The Cold Vein, and Dead C, the Boredoms, Kevin Drumm and Russell Haswell noisily finish off the album’s remainder. While the individual songs generally disappoint, the album as a whole flows with impressive cohesion. While sequencing may be largely responsible for this, it also speaks well for Sonic Youth’s curation. While ATP 1.1 is a good companion for what should be a fantastic festival, it does not live up to the potential given the contributing artists.

By Sam Hunt

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