Various Artists

By Tom Giles

Switches is the fourth release on Audiobulb, a new Sheffield-based electronica label. David Newman, Audiobulb's proprietor, met the artists whose work is included on this compilation through internet newsgroups. The three previous releases on his label are available free to download as mp3s from the label website.

From the opening phft-clong to the closing cler-er-rk-chong, there are few surprises in this compilation. It's just another CD of winsome, glitchy electronica, hardly straying from the current IDM idiom. As is often the case with such stuff, almost solipsistic pathos stands in for genuine soul or emotion wistful, cinematic soundscapes are juxtaposed with rhythmically arranged noise. However, if you are attentive enough, there are and handful of captivating, even beautiful, moments. Composed largely of dazzling field recordings, Oti's Large Open Spaces is a breath of fresh air, worth the price of the CD alone. Effacer's Fire At Sea swells and ebbs with complex rhythms composed of rhodes and clicking switches all fed through an echo unit.

The concept behind this compilation is that each track is a switch that modifies the listener's experience by introducing new sonic elements. In practice this idea is completely undermined by the surprising homogeneity of the music. Stylistically speaking, despite all the talk about being exploratory, little new territory has been mapped by any of the artists. If this were an expedition then it would be one of easily distracted toddlers, more interested in playing in the grass than reaching their destination.

In the final analysis, despite underlying flaws with this compilation it is still worthy of your attention. In purely sonic terms the CD is impressive, and the artists are all highly accomplished, and to that extent they should be commended. In keeping with its obscurity, I'll give it ? out of 5.
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