Before I begin my rambling, please note one thing – To me, a compiled playlist of songs (especially if art and/or a title are involved) is considered a mixtape. And that’s just perfect, because…
…if there’s one thing in this world that I know, it’s the mixtape. I’ve been building compilations since the early 80’s. My first cassettes were made for road trips, new music fans, and, of course, to (attempt to) impress the few “indie” girls who were in my class. The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, Wire, Echo, Gang of 4, and many others would flow together on so many wonderful collections. Eventually, the mixtapes simply became the easiest way to introduce new music to my friends, and to compile my favorite songs on to one convenient 90-minute medium. I had access to a huge library of records while I was working for WPTS (University of Pittsburgh, 1986-1990), so I was cranking out the tapes on a regular basis. I had a name (A Colony of Slippermen Production), I named/numbered every mix, created art for the covers, and I even kept a journal of the playlists and eventual owners. I still really enjoy going back through the logs, loving the memories attached to each of the collections. Tapes gave way to CDRs (my production slowed a bit at that point – real life started getting in the way of my free time), and then to my current “mid-life crisis” – a music/blog web site featuring compiled mp3s, streaming for anyone who visits and clicks play.
Throughout this long-time music adventure, one thing remained constant – a carefully-planned consistency and coherent theme for each playlist. Mixtapes are more than just a random selection of songs that are pulled together from the stacks. There should be a comfortable flow to the playlist, and the collections have to ‘just feel right.’ Anyone with a CD player and/or turntable can rip a handful of songs to a CD/cassette, but it takes practice, patience, and commitment to put together a mix that captivates the listener and truly motivates them to further explore the represented bands.
Now, you’ll find countless music blogs on the Internet that feature mixtapes. And many of them are really great. But every once in a while, you find one that is exceptional. The fine folks curating the instrumental music collections, collectively known as A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters, are in that exceptional category. The 4th volume has just been released, and features 10 outstanding songs that flow perfectly, and combine into one really solid collection of rock music. Of course, I may be somewhat biased since, 1) I’m a huge post-rock fan (visit 6forty project for a taste of my hobby), 2) I love the other three collections, and knew that the guys were going to maintain the high standards set on the first three, and 3) I really enjoy all of the bands featured on this release.
My real job tends to keep me utterly consumed most days, so I rarely have time to write reviews, but in this case, I’m on a long flight, my laptop battery is expired (yep, this was written in a notebook with a pencil), and I’m listening to the collection on my iPod. So I figured that I would write a few thoughts about Volume 4.
Lost in the Riots – I Find your Lack of Faith Disturbing. A perfect opener to volume 4 – tight, hard, and driving. I would love to see these guys on a bill with Listing Ships and Alright the Captain. An excellent song.
What The Blood Revealed – Waiting for the Storm. Taken from one of my favorite albums of the year so far, this tune is ominous, powerful, and thundering. This is a great teaser, but to truly appreciate the impact of what The Blood Revealed, check out their full-length record, ‘Harbour of Devils.’
Lions Are Smarter Than I Am – Galbras. The track on Volume 4 is my first time hearing this band. Melodic monotone guitars, trudging rhythms, vocal instruments, and frequent tempo changes – so good. I’m really looking forward to exploring more from this band.
The Rustle of the Stars – Drawing Lines to the End of the World. A night-time song – sparse guitar, strings, melancholy soundscapes. So sublime and relaxed; a nice interlude on this rock playlist.
Karhide – Turing. Tim integrates such a refreshing combination of sounds on this recording. Heavy guitars, keyboard and other electronics, and a driving mechanical beat, all synced together into the perfect new-wave / prog / post-rock mashup.
A Hundred Black Kites – The Last Day. Shoegaze post-rock?! That’s just fine with me. Melodic swells, chiming guitars, a relaxed meandering tempo, and a grand exit. Very nice. Another new band in my collection that I’m eager to check out further.
Arbor Lights – Post-Rock/Paper/Scissors. I really like this song. It has such a smooth movement – clean melodies, a tight arrangement, and an easy focus. I’m reminded of my favorite early Cure instrumentals, which is why this song works so well for me…
Flies Are Spies From Hell – Nerves Still Beating (edit). Even in its slightly shortened form, this is still an epic and huge song. Flies do it so well – guitar swells and a driving rhythm, alongside their trademark (and wonderful) piano arrangements. Don’t forget to check out their full EP to hear this track in its extended beauty.
Dead Red Sun – Caverns. This is my favorite song on Volume 4. Racing guitars weave and surge on top of staccato beats, building in intensity as the song crescendos to the end. I love their EP, and can’t wait to hear more from these guys.
Eschar – Singularity. This song is so good, and is such a great way to end the collection. It’s heavy, and yet perfectly melodic. Post-rock or post-metal or whatever tag you want to assign – to me, it’s simply excellent rock music.
Remember, no matter what type of music lives on the mixtape, the person taking the time to compile the playlist had one primary goal – to introduce the listener to music he/she may not have otherwise known. Which hopefully leads them to buying record(s), motivating to see the bands play live, and/or just continuing to pass on the love of great independent music. The art of the mixtape continues to thrive. And thanks to collections like A Cheery Wave, listeners will continue to have interesting and exciting new music to discover for a long time to come.
Here’s a link to the latest volume, along with links to the previous three collections:
A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters: UK Post-Rock / Instrumental / Math-Rock (4th Wave)
A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters: An Instrumental / Post-rock Compilation (Issue One)
A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters: An Instrumental/Post-rock Compilation (Volume Two)
A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters: UK Post-Rock / Instrumental / Math-Rock (3rd Wave)