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Seen/Unseen
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Absalom Recordings
Length:15 tracks, 63:24

In a music industry overflowing in mediocrity, Todd Brown's Absalom Recordings is a little slice of heaven.  Based out of Toronto, Absalom exists to give true artists a chance to breathe and get their music in the hands of an appreciative public.  The Seen/Unseen compilation disc consists of fifteen cuts from a wide variety of indie artists, and is a benefit album for The Evergreen Center for Street Youth in Toronto.

The wonderful thing about this disc is that every song fits and every song works, from beginning to end.  The biggest names on the album include 16 Horsepower, Joe Henry, Giant Sand, Frank Black and the Catholics, and Over the Rhine.  Many of the songs have appeared before on the artists' own albums, while some are heard here for the first time, and even others are alternative mixes of previously released recordings. 

Among the lesser known artists appearing here are the Mississippi based band, Kelly Wingate, Denver's The Czars, 16 Horsepower cousin The Denver Gentleman, and drone outfit Charity Empressa.  The music here explores a variety of genres from folk to quirky rock, but there is a flow that rarely exists on compilation CDs.  And there isn't a weak moment on the disc.

If you're the type of person who likes to experiment and experience new music, by all means get a copy of this disc.  You will benefit by hearing some great tunes by some unsung artists, and you'll be helping a great cause.

The full track listing for the disc is as follows:

Kelly Wingate - Stand Apart
Dan Donovan - Holy Bull
Frank Black and the Catholics - I Will Run After You
Shannon Stephens - If You Want Me
Joe Henry - Parade (alternate mix)
Sufjan Stevens - Damascus
The Czars - Caterpillar (live)
The Roman Candles  - Stick It To Your Man
16 Horsepower - Clogger (remix)
Psalters - We're All Lepers here (remix)
Denison Witmer - Stations (demo)
Over the Rhine - If Nothing Else (remix)
Denver Gentleman - Vulture Girl
Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment
Charity Empressa - I Want Peace.
 

Ken Mueller 9/25/2001

It usually doesn't even matter to me what the music sounds like when compilations totally for charity come out like this.  It's an opportunity to give to those in need (which I'd much rather do than give to the fattened cow of a church, anyday).  For the street kids of Vancouver, Absalom Recordings has done something remarkable and unique:  they've gathered Christian and non-Christian musicians together on one CD.  And not just no-name indie musicians, but some serious talents with fans to spare.

I mean...Frank Black (aka Black Francis, The Pixies' frontman), Sixteen Horsepower, Over the Rhine, Denison Witmer, Giant Sand, and many more.  Wow. And almost every song an original in some way, even if it's just live or a remix?  Geez.  Todd Brown, the man behind Absalom Recordings, definitely has a gift for gathering good musicians.

And the lesser known artists are as good as the established ones.  Whether it's the Tom Waits-meets-Beck folk-rock-hop of Dan Donovan, the Doors-as-lounge-band sound of The Czars, the desert nomad Jewish-American Indian worship jam potpourri of psalters, or the cheery indie-pop of The Roman Candles (which makes me think of Damien Jurado if he were happy and decided to rock), there's a gem on this compilation waiting for your discovery.  Probably a handful of them.  Most of the bands are describable only with lots of dashes -- hybrids of folk, ethnic, and alternative musics. The only let-down for me were the remixes, since I'm no fan of the practice. In particular, Sixteen Horsepower's "Clogger" gets some stiff percussion and vocal distortion added, which is strange but not in a fitting way.

Do both yourself and some homeless kids a favor, and head over to http://www.absalomrecordings.com and pick up a copy or two.

Josh Spencer              11/25/01


 

   
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