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V/A - Net28CD 1

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Artist: V/A

Album: Net28CD 1

Label: Net28

Review date: Mar. 7, 2008

At first glance, Madrid's Net28 is minimalist to the point of parody. It named its first compilation 1. Each track title is a numeral, which if you add up gives you a net of … 28. Black and silver is the grayscale combo of choice. What you see is what you get – for the most part.

1 gathers tracks from Net28's six imprints: Apnea, Beemysheep, CMYKmusik Cyclical Tracks, Mupa and Pulpa. But there's a consistency across the disc's 11 contributions that suggests Net28 is much more than a depository. Beyond its core of Spanish contributors, Net28's roster includes acts from France, the UK, the USA, and even Georgia. Despite this international sprawl, the label's sound is distinct and pervasive. If Dial, home of Edfemin and Pantha Du Prince, filtered its somber techno through classic Detroit machinist clatter and emitted it back through kosmiche disco's lunar coordinates … voila, 1.

Shades of dusk color these head-down rumblers, each track full of tightly-coiled activity and concentrated to the point of opacity. There's little flash and even less frills, just taut rhythms under looming thunderclouds. Though far from dubstep, it shares some of that genre's pressurized dread.

Despite the cheeky moniker, From Karaoke to Stardom sets the disc's darkly-hued tone with opener "3." No easing in, the track air-drops the listener in the calcified NetScape. Steam jets spit from the edges of a muffled pulse. The bass palpitates in a nervous flutter. Alien blips sproing across the radar screen, followed by an indecipherable voice, syrup-soaked and gravely slow. The track moves at a dancefloor-suitable clip, but there's no fighting the pull of its cavernous vortexes.

Damian Schwartz gets bogged in gelatinous bass on "7." A woozy slather of distortion slips and trickles across his tightly-bolted turbine as it clicks, pops and claps. A Rhodes-burnished arpeggio implies an (albeit slight) human touch.

A sense of mounting tension and pooling energy underscores much of 1. Only on Nate Fisher's mildly luxurious closer "10” – all breathy pillow whispers billowing through a fizzy breeze – does a bit of warm light break through the smoke and concrete. But this ethereal oasis may just be a hallucinatory byproduct of 1's sensory deprivation.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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