The Phantom Tollbooth
New Musiq Volume One
Various Artists
Label:  Plastiq Musiq

After hearing a few songs from House of Wires and Goodnight Star, I had pigeonholed Plastiq Musiq as being a label full of Joy Electric soundalikes. This conclusion made logical sense, as JE frontman Ronnie Martin founded the label. However, the label's new compilation, New Musiq Volume One, contains a wide variety of techno/synth-pop styles, and serves to prove how wrong prejudgments are.

The first track, performed by Lunasect, is an ambient masterpiece, with quietly intense female vocals. The song is called "Ghost," and that may well be the best word to describe the sound of the music--ethereal, a little spooky, and definitely supernatural. The next track is probably my personal favourite on the CD - "Love is Everywhere" by Soõl. It's definitely the most danceable track, and features some odd-but-cool falsetto.  Soon it's the Echoing Green's turn. And what a turn it is!  The absolutely gorgeous "Thief," with it's blend of female and male vocals, may well be the most radio-friendly track on the album. Unfortunately, the album's glory is almost spoiled by the cliched, cheesy Goodnight Star song "Blue Skies":

    And He loves you
    And He loves me
    And He loves both you and me
The music is no better, sounding Saturday Morning Cartoon-ish and annoying.

The next track is probably the most inventive of the lot - Warp Factor Nine's "Blast Off." If you can imagine ska with synthesizers instead of guitars,  bass and horns, that's pretty much what it is. It doesn't particularly work, but it is inventive.

Norway offers the most Joy Electric-esque song on the compilation (besides the actual JE track, of course). Unfortunately, "Walk on the Ocean" is nearly ruined by haggard vocals that don't quite fit the polished instrumentation.  The last song on the album, "Come In, Brother," is by Joy Electric, and is reminiscent of their darker albums, Five Stars for Failure  and We Are the Music Makers. It's your typical Joy Electric song--bleeps and blips with fake-English vocals singing ridiculously catchy melodies.

If the forthcoming albums on Plastiq Musiq are as diverse as New Musiq Volume 1, then I'd say the label will have some definite staying power.

Michial Farmer   (9/17/99)

Complete Track Listing:
1) Lunasect, "Ghost"
2) Soõl, "Love is Everywhere"
3) Mothership, "Suffocate"
4) Echoing Green, "Thief"
5) Goodnight Star, "Blue Skies"
6) Warp Factor Nine, "Blast Off"
7) House of Wires, "World of the Future"
8) Britannika, "The Disconnected"
9) Norway, "Walk on the Ocean"
10)   Children of the Inquisition, "God Money"
11)  Situation, "Ever So Sweet"
12)  Joy Electric, "Come In, Brother"