Info … & After the Chill Room 
"The Black Album"
compilation album
Untitled & After (Untitled 10)
"5th of July" by Robert Crouch
"Ready To Go Down Together" by Leyland Kirby
"Hovercraft (Chaircrusher Remix)" by Andrew Duke

fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

Untitled & After is a relatively new label exploring the fringes of minimal techno and beat-oriented ambience, skirting physical media pitfalls and using only digital distribution for their products. Despite the absence of antiquated artifacts, their releases over the last couple of years have followed a DJ-oriented model, generally two medium-length tracks that, ten years ago, would have seen the light of day on 12-inch dance singles. The label's tenth release is also its first full-length and its first multi-artist compilation. Entitled simply The Black Album, it presents tracks from the current label roster together with international namechecks like Andrew Duke, i8u and Leyland Kirby.

The compilation leads with a series of rhythmic tracks, aimed at a virtual dance floor, long on rhythmic drive and short on traditional harmony or melody. Morgan Packard opens the album with a short, nicely balanced slice of Apple Pie, blending fuzzy oscillations with a strong underlying beat. Robert Crouch's 5th of July mixes straightforward rhythms with altered field recordings as background and distant off-center fireworks for spice. Andrew Duke and i8u provide two completely different versions of Hovercraft. The first could have been released as a Basic Channel track, with a continuous muffled bass and delicate looped static through long, unchanging passages interrupted periodically by a simple repeated rhythmic riff. The second, actually a remix by Chaircrusher, is faster, but i8u's field recordings seem more prominent, swampy growling supporting more complex rhythmic variations and the first melodic lead on the album. Japanese DJ Birdcage, one of the label stalwarts, provides When Dream and Day Unite, mingling a music box, playing children, isolated phonemes distributed through space, and a dancing bass line to segue to the gentler second half of the collection.

Easing into the more ambient second half is Mouvement Aérian from Bizz Circuits, one of Sebastian Meissner's long-running projects that also appeared on several of the Mille Plateaux Clicks & Cuts compilations. Anchored by a single sparse bass line, Meissner uses high, bright tones with little trills and ornaments like bird song. The rhythm is becoming more spacious here, still in cycles but without a continuous beat, and the natural melodies lead directly to a nocturnal Andamurmur from Sublamp, a gentle cricket drone in the background with organic rainfall rhythms and distant bells and horns. International DJs Jondi & Spesh collaborate with Brian Stillwater on an Ambient Mix of Big Air, which has a subdued irregular heartbeat that frames disparate rhythm and drone events. Santa Fe, from Robert Crouch and Yann Novak, is a short jittering drone piece where the sounds' internal shaking gives the impression of speed, even though the sounds themselves are long and sustained. The album closes with a long track from Leyland Kirby, whose Ready To Go Down Together would fit comfortably on his recent mega-opus Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was. It's the closest this collection has to a song-like structure, full of reverb, poignant harmonies carried by a distant choir, and a couple of odd lead instruments wistfully focussing the listener's attention.

Compilations like The Black Album are a well-established paradigm for the label to take stock of the journey thus far, as well as point toward new paths through the musical forest. They take inspiration from international and established artists, solid momentum from the label's existing musicians, and energy from the new and seldom recorded. Especially for labels like Untitled & After to favor digital DJs, a full-length compendium will branch out to other ambient and electronica aficionados, widening their reputation and listener base. The Black Album works on all these levels, an artistic statement that ties together the previous two years and the next.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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