Various Artists - Quit Having Fun [Boring Machines - 2009]In just under two and a half hours, Northern Italy’s Boring Machines presents twenty five artists from at least thirteen different countries across two disks. Surprisingly, only a couple of them are part of the label’s current roster, making Quit Having Fun less of a label showcase but more like a portal leading to a vast network of boutique labels and alliances.
Sonically speaking, this series of short tasters generally shares a focus on contemporary collisions in post-rock and ambient electronics as exemplified by Chicago’s Kranky Records and Montreal’s Constellation Records. Field recordings are abundant, from Andrea Marutti’s morose opener, ‘A Depressing Study in Wandering Wonders’ which captures a short journey on a wet, rainy day to Le Reve Reveille’s ‘l’Avenir’ whose exquisitely recorded footsteps on fresh, crunchy bracken offset the baleful caw of a crow. The sometimes unrecognisable ambiences are more often than not used as a backdrop onto which gentle guitar or tender piano refrains are draped, unbound and lazy, conforming to no beat, baton or grid.
This style, albeit generalised, poses a small problem for the compilation – in packing in so many contributions from so many different countries each artist has no more than a postcard on which to develop their ideas, whereas you get the feeling that the gradual, stately evolution of timbres and soulful searching would benefit from much larger canvasses. This means that some of the more wayward, atonal experiments, like the urban rattling of Claudio Rochetti’s obtuse ‘Be Shy!’, feel like fragments, anecdotes displaced from larger more involving work, or sometimes, like the spirited but aimless improvisation ‘Mouth like the sun’ by Erika M Anderson, simply unfinished and casual.
And there’s nothing wrong in that, it just puts the jauntier pieces into sharp contrast, where their more traditional, sometimes pop-like structures lend themselves to vignette status. This is particularly the case with Ezra Buchla’s ‘Didn’t’ where warm synth tones bristling at the edges with feedback, become a throbbing riff for a Suicide-esque song drowned in murmur and static, or the more psychedelic and folk-influenced artists found mainly on disk two, like the strangely charming ‘Radio Silence, Weightless and Windpower’ by Black Forest/Black Sea, who paint what sounds like a busy Buddhist aviary with phonorgan, cello and guitar!
Almost every single one of the twenty five artists presented here run their own label, producing hand-crafted packages in severely limited runs. Conversely, many of them also offer free downloads of their music online, often as complete albums or even entire discographies. In taking the temperature of interrelated experimental post-rock scenes, ‘Quit Having Fun’ gives a diagnosis bursting with health and vitality, too big for two disks to contain.Russell Cuzner