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8.21 A Blue Bunny Compilation
Artists: Various Artists
Label: Blue Bunny Records
21 tracks

Sufjan Stevens - woman at the well

There is an inherent problem with compilation CDs: the artists they represent are often so diverse that they drive you mad as you move from an artist you love to one you find unlistenable.   This CD, from Jai Agnish's indie Blue Bunny Records, is a bit different in that it tends to flow fairly smoothly.  That's not to say that I liked everything on the album, as there are clearly some artists that stand out from the rest, but those I didn't care for are probably more indicative of my personal tastes than a matter of finding stuff I truly abhorred.

As the title implies, this CD features 21 tracks as contributed by eight artists.  The CD leads off with Friends of the Band, a project of former Soul Junk-ie Ron Eastbrooks, with a sound that might be described as Son of Soul Junk.  The sound works well for Eastbrooks who gives the lo-fi treatment to I Corinthians 13 on one song ("Love/Gong"), and John 1 on yet another ("Supersharp").  A third track from the band is a techno-electronic instrumental.  Next up is newcomer JSRockit who provides three songs that feature a laid-back techno-rap.  This is his first time around and he has a sound that works well and will appeal to indie rock fans. 

Another shining moment on the CD is the work of Sufjan Stevens, formerly of Marzuki.  His work is best compared to Pedro the Lion, both musically and vocally, on two of his tracks, with a third track being a more electronic based instrumental.  The band "therefore" weighs in with three avante-garde pieces that would do John Cage proud.  Unfortunately, I'm not a John Cage fan.  They are the kind of songs that make me feel like my parents ("That's not music, that's noise") which is evidently the sound they are going for. This stuff is overly repetitious and just when you think the song has ended, or should have ended, it starts back up again.  Random noise and instrument abuse.

The biggest name on the CD is San Diego's Soul Junk or  who provide three tracks of their typically
wonderful work (Full Disclosure: I'm a huge Soul Junk fan.  They could sneeze on voice mail and I'd buy it).  Two of their offerings are instrumental pieces, with the third ("If you quaff the oblations") being more like the Soul Junk we are used to hearing on their albums, all with that lo-fi funky-punky edge.  Label head Jai Agnish serves up three of his techno-coustic tunes, which sounds like a more modern version of Nick Drake.  This is another one that fans of Pedro the Lion will enjoy.

Modern Synthetic is next with a few songs that are very reminiscent of Joy Electric and some of the other bands normally featured on the Plastiq Music label.  Not a bad sound overall if you are a fan of techno-pop, but it does sound a bit derivative.  The final band is White Trash Inc. (Orchestra) from the Burnt Toast Vinyl label.  This band provides just one track of ambient soundscape that fills up about nine minutes of space at the end of the CD.  Again, not my cup of tea, and a bit too long for my tastes.  Fans of film scores might like this one.

In the end, it's important to remember that the purpose of a "sampler" CD is just that: to sample a variety of bands and see what tickles your fancy. With that in mind, the strongest and most promising bands here are Soul Junk, Friends of the Band, Sufjan Stevens, Jai Agnish, and JSRockit.  They are all bands whose CDs I would consider purchasing, while I would pass on the work of Modern Synthetic, therefore, and White Trash Inc. (Orchestra). The strong stuff outweighs the weak stuff, but there is enough weak stuff on here to make you hit the skip button from time to time.

Ken Mueller 10/7/2000


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