steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Various Artists

"Extracts from the Ether Volume 1" CDR

Kool Tone Records

Genre: rock, pop, etc.

January 2010

The premise here is a noble one: Kool Tone Records' Rob has made it his mission to bring undiscovered bands - scouted out via MySpace accounts - to new ears. With only 200 copies of each volume of this series being produced, the object is obviously to connect these bands and artists with a small community of dedicated musical treasure-hunters.

A compilation should start with one of its best tracks, and Curtis' "How Long Have I Been Dreaming?" doesn't quite cut it - it's a decent, electric guitar fuelled lo-fi instrumental, but hardly anything to write home about. In fact, it takes a bit of digging to reveal this disc's potential, but several significant tidbits are encountered deeper within the comp. Make it through The Fake Boys' generic if melodic pop punk -- adorned with earnest harmonies, at least - and Red Run's crummy noise-rock attempt, and one encounters the sparkling, vindicated guitar-pop of Veil Cassini's "Silhouette." It's a glistening, energy-charged recording with no shortage of hooks. Further within, one arrives at several eclectic and disparate treats, though not without treading through some lesser material. Among the best tidbits are Mugstar's energizing and chaotic post-punk hardcore romp, Playhouse's polished indie rock anthem, replete with reboant vocals and iconic power chords, and Chalou Saint Jude's late-era Superchunk throwback "King of the Roaring Twenties." On the less inspired end are Pop Fosters' hackneyed punk-by-the-numbers, Kontake's bland goth instrumental, and The Polaroid's hook-bereft garage track.

The joy of treading through ambitious compilations like this lies in the possibility of finding little lumps of gold among the masses. One doesn't expect a cohesive set of songs, but rather a sampler - a collection of songs to pore through, pick, and choose from. With that said, Extracts from the Ether has an impressive hit rate, and a remarkable dearth of duds. Why spend hours scouring MySpace pages when you can pick up this slick assemblage of the highlights? And in such a nice little package, too.

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 17 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2009]