CD Review: Various Artists — Nophi Compilation Four

Various Arists
Nophi Compilation Four
Nophi Recordings

By Giles Turnbull

This 20-track compilation CD is the fourth in a series released by Nophi Recordings since 2000. Nophi was set up in 1999 as an experimental label for electronic music, of which founder Randy Garcia is a veteran exponent. Over the years, Nophi has given deserved exposure to some of the southern region’s emerging talent. This disc focuses on bands from Atlanta and the surrounding area.

Grossly over-simplifying to squash it into a nutshell, over the last two decades electronic music has largely fallen into one of two camps: the mainstream, designed to fill clubs and dance floors, and the experimental, some of which may find favor or fervor. Advances are usually driven by the irrepressible evolution of technology, though in recent years, more than ever before, we have seen collaboration across genres bring a fresh vitality from the cross-fertilization. Just as the nature of electronic music has evolved, Nophi’s focus too has expanded, and this fourth compilation can be described as electronic and “danceable” rock.

For the most part, the bands use the electronic canvas to paint expansive pictures, with smart sounds, serious vocals, views, atmospheres and connections. There’s constant variety in the compilation, which makes it an engaging listen and easy to maintain interest. As with most compilations, the different styles mean that not all tracks will appeal to everyone. It’s also true that, whilst quality is consistently high, the bands are naturally at different stages of their careers, and some tracks therefore sound more polished and stage-ready, whilst one or two still feel more tied to the home computer. But that’s not a fundamental criticism, just an observation of where the music is in space and time.

“Head Down” by Atlanta band Sonen is a rousing start to this compilation, with an opening reminiscent of Leftfield’s “Phat Planet” (from the 1999 hit album Rhythm and Stealth), but somehow pressing those heavy drums into a decidedly jazz style groove, before they wind into a track-long stomp. Next up, “Dump Truck” by Capibara also shows how to incorporate difference styles, welding a bit of electro and dance onto their usual rock, and then sticking punk vocals on top.

In the tradition of many great dance tracks, there is some fantastic vocal work on this CD. Extraordinary Contraptions’ “No Waste” puts guitar riffs and hot beats under the acrobatic lyrics; Sue Wilkinson’s very classy “Sympatico” supports delicious singing with subtle synths, and would slot comfortably into any album by giants like Faithless or Hybrid; it sounds that good.

In the world of experimental music, anything goes! Exponents like Future Sound of London (and their Amorphous Androgynous alter-ego that has produced some brilliant electro-rock) have spent some 20 years crafting landscapes, stretching literally from Dead Cities to Lifeforms. Other pioneers have jumped into the minefield of noises and beeps and squelches (and some survived to tell the tale); Compilation Four shows that both experimental extremes are alive and well in the Atlanta area.

In the realm of noise are tracks like “Rotting On The Vine” by alGARhythm, a cross between an angry mutant 1980s computer and a mad scientist with a noise machine and vaporizer. Noise might not be as glamorous as the chart-topping forms, but sounds like these often represent the innovative edge of electronic music, and leading figures like Two Lone Swordsmen have built serious reputations along these lines.  Back on atmospheric shores, Reklein close out the disc with the musically explorative “Wortham,” whilst lurking midway is “Jodrell Bank,” Tay0‘s instrumental take on the astronomical observatory of that name, appropriate symbolism for several bands here, who manage to look down their musical telescopes and pull in some coolness from the extremities.

Elsewhere you’ll find still more lyrical, experimental, and cross-genre styles, along with conventional electronic and danceable rock tunes, ranging from hardcore to mellow and even emo. It’s a healthy sign that bands from Atlanta are getting out and putting their tunes into the air, battling, as musicians always have, against the ravages of economics and life on their art.

The full track listing is on the Nophi website,, where a limited edition of 100 hand-numbered copies plus bonus Nophi goodies is available to pre-order now. Compilation Four is released September 15, 2010.


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