- Avant-garde electronics from Helm's excellent label.
- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The famed introduction to Charles Dickens' A Tale Of Two Cities could easily apply to today's underground scene. It's harder than ever to sell 500 vinyl records, but there's more good music out there than ever before. Record stores and distributors are closing left and right, but retailers like 2 Bridges Music Arts in New York and Low Company in London are doing brisk business selling esoteric music. Perhaps the experimental scene is best equipped to deal with the grim financial realities of the market in 2019. Uncompromising music has always moved in limited quantities. Ideally, this remove from the mainstream can encourage creative freedom. Over the past few months, there have been a couple compilations surveying various sides of the experimental underground. L.I.E.S. put out Eminent Domain, a 22-track compilation of outsider electronic music from the States. ALERT!, the new compilation on Luke Younger's Alter, focuses on UK artists and reflects the remarkable breadth of the label's first decade.
Younger's musical output works in a feedback loop with Alter. In the '00s, he took part in the Double Leopards / Hotogisu-style drone scene as part of Birds Of Delay, his group with Steven Warwick, AKA Heatsick. These days, he's best known for his highly experimental yet endearing records as Helm. Since 2010, he's put out records by Oneohtrix Point Never, Hieroglyphic Being, the Australian punk band Low Life and Christoph De Babalon, to name a few. With that in mind, ALERT!'s gleeful mix of non-commercial music begins to make sense. It's an attempt to cram all of Younger's formative influences—drone, power electronics, techno, post-punk—into one cohesive package.
Younger spends his time touring the world, digging deep within various scenes. Even the most erudite Bandcamp head will find something fresh on ALERT!. A couple that struck me were TOMAGA, whose track "THE VENGEFUL EYE" recalls Tolouse Low Trax's metallic krautrock riddims, and Anna Peaker, a Leeds artist who shares Helm's fondness for evocative loops. The latter, along with Space Afrika's blissful "Yuly," is one of the only ambient-leaning cuts on ALERT!
In fact, Alter has encouraged many of these artists to submit some of their gnarliest material. Teresa Winter has made two beautiful albums of disembodied techno pop for The Death Of Rave, but "A Free Woman In An Unfree Society Would Be A Monster" skirts gabber. Mumdance's "Path Of The Seer" is low-end savvy power electronics. "The Boxer," by Moin, better known as Raime, sounds like a group trying to make techno with guitars and drums. So does the minimal noise rock band Mosquitoes on "Eraserom," though the two projects are approaching the same problem from opposite directions. These sorts of odd, pleasing threads emerge thanks to Younger's expansive A&Ring.
ALERT! is mostly a compilation of noisy experimental music, so it's a bit of a mixed bag. You aren't really supposed to enjoy every act on a stacked noise bill. The more linear cuts on ALERT!, such as Chain Of Flowers' atmospheric, post-punk mood piece "Oed," or Apostille's noise-addled synth pop track "It's Not Right," don't work for me. But this type of set is meant to delight and confuse in equal measure. ALERT! unites previously far-flung corners of a UK experimental scene that is as healthy and weird as ever.
01. NAAAHHH - Theme 7
02. Chain Of Flowers - Oed
03. Teresa Winter - A Free Woman In An Unfree Society Would Be A Monster
04. Anna Peaker - Helicidae
05. Cru Servers - Glumbooth Nitwit
06. Helena Celle - Realtime
07. Mosquitoes - Eraserom
08. Moin - The Boxer
09. Mumdance - Path Of The Seer
10. Tomaga - The Vengeful Eye
11. Acolytes - Feelings
12. The Modern Institute - Dongle Molt Golden Molt Longed Molt Tongued Molt
13. Apostille - It's Not Right
14. Mark Vernon - The object invoked has disconnected from it's host
15. Space Afrika - Yuly