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V/A - Good Night: Music To Sleep By

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Artist: V/A

Album: Good Night: Music To Sleep By

Label: Tigerbeat6

Review date: Jul. 31, 2003

Pleasant Dreams

Music To Sleep By is an apt subtitle for Tigerbeat6’s new double-disc Good Night comp, but it’s also a bit of a misnomer as well. It fits because at its frequent best, the tracks here conjure up those same feelings that course throughout the body as you nod off at three in the morning – warmth, calm, and content. However, behind the fuzzy electronics and subtle restrained instrumentation that courses throughout, there are layers of subtle textures and understated brilliance flowing just underneath the surface. Think of it, then, as the soundtrack for those waning hours of the day, or maybe as a good couple discs of Music To Take Downers By.

The two discs unite a bunch of talented folks with some normally diverging interests. This time out, bound by the simplistic idea of “good night”, most of the material tends to traffic in microsound aesthetics. Unsurprising, then, that the best tracks here come from those artists with more of an affinity for pensive, brooding, cloudy textures. Stephan Mathieu clocks in with three excellent pieces, ranging from the supple waves of “A Pillow for Sue” to the quaint, naïve melodic repetitions of “Little Pismo’s Lullaby (Loop)”. Tim Hecker matches his quiet moods with “Indigo Aerial”, thirteen-plus minutes of sustained underwater ebb and flow. But it’s Oren Ambarchi’s stunning, twenty-minute “Stacte.4B Ver.2” that turns out to be the true gem of this collection. Harkening back to the great minimal suspended-time guitar playing of his solo records, this piece is an exercise in pure restraint. Simple, repetitive notes play off of one another, stretching out infinitely over the course of the track as billowing drones well up from within, countering faint traces of melody with a lackadaisical heartbeat.

Other tracks in the set find artists tinkering with the softer dynamics of their sound. Kid606 eschews any beat-oriented tendencies for casually escalating sonics, relying more here on subtlety and turning in three nifty tracks of laptop and guitar drones mixed with drugged-out rhythms. “Circumvent (Before and After Part 1)” is the best of his selections, working a restrained rhythm against an army of guitar tones to excellent effect. Brad Laner’s Electric Company project also turns up here as well. His two tracks favor distinctly rhythmic patterns, although with an ample array of ambient drones to match his clicks and cuts; “With Iliac Airport 2” is the more gracefully effective of the two.

After hearing Pimmon’s wondrously amorphic soundscapes that start off the second disc I feel compelled to expand my knowledge of his work, particularly because of “It Scares the Health Out of Me” and its shimmering walls of drones and squelching electronics. Main’s “Cede” turns out to be one of the more minimal pieces on Good Night, working varying tones over the course of the track that gradually segue into patches of blissful ambience. Kurt Ralske adds the intriguing “Lilyguilding” as well as some short videos to round out the remainder of the compilation. While his audio doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the mix, the visual components complement his drones to neat effect.

While not every piece of music here is a direct hit, nor is anything wildly new or inventive, Good Night earns its marks for being one of the most cohesive and enjoyable electronic compilations I’ve heard in quite some time. Most of the artists’ individual works are probably more representative of their own sound (and more fully realized to boot), but that still can’t detract from beautiful soundscapes contained herein. Regardless of the minimal sounds and loping textures, nothing here will lull you into sleep. Rather, the strength comes from the music’s ability to conjure up that same feeling of calm and peacefulness that comes late in the evening or early in the morning. Good Night is indeed just that – a wonderfully serene soundtrack to all those quiet moments, or a great headphone masterpiece for when you’re on the nod. Either way you choose to look at it, these two discs won’t do you wrong.

By Michael Crumsho

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