Various Artists, Mondays at 10 PM
A compilation CD can be a blessing or a curse. While such discs provide an opportunity to sample a variety of performers, some are spotty at best. Back in the '90s, local comps were ubiquitous; the trend seemed to peter out in the new millennium. By then, many had grown weary of these clubhouse congeries and their over-zealous executors. Still, a decent Vermont comp is cause for celebration, and Mondays At 10 PM is one such collection.
This particular batch of tunes originally provided the soundtrack to filmmaker David Eaton's cable-access program "Zero Power Hour." Compiled by dark-pop auteur Sean Altrui, Mondays is one of the best multi-artist releases I've heard in some time.
Opener "Upstate in the Woods / Grown Up Out the Doyt" by Oblong Bahl kicks things off in quasi-comical fashion. The tune's lo-fi breakbeats, funky bass figure and raspy vocals come together in a tongue-in-cheek ode to redneck living. "Not much to do on a Saturday night / 'cept go down to the bevvie for to get some Coors Lite / Watch a little NASCAR, go to Denny's for a bite / That's right," the lyrics proudly exclaim.
Mark Knuffke's pulsating electronic composition "Buell St." threads organic instrumentation with computer sequencing in an enjoyably dusky romp. "So Green" is a lovely number by singer-songwriter Jenn Karson. With her maudlin guitar figures and lilting, girlish vocals, she comes across like a goth Suzanne Vega.
Altrui's serpentine "Remission" is nearly perfect, a shadow-pop blend of quavering guitars and tribal percussion. His evocative baritone has a lot in common with that of Doors front man Jim Morrison, a similarity Altrui exploits to stunning effect.
UFO vs. Squirrel's "13_V.S.A._1022" is an experimental groove track, replete with chiming bells and odd ring tones. An instrumental, the song's post-rock vibe and left-field textures are similar to those of Chicago sound-blenders Tortoise. "King Fisher" by Joe Englert and Will Haslett doesn't fare quite as well, however. An over-the-top prog extravaganza, the cut's wanky keyboards would probably make Rick Wakeman blush. Picture This turn in a world-beat-inspired number, while bass whiz Aram Bedrosian drops some low-end theory on closing track "Thumpty Dumpty."
It's great to hear such a strong batch of tunes from lesser-known local artists. And, unlike some collections, Mondays At 10 PM is thematically consistent and well sequenced. Check out the release party on Friday, October 14, at the E1 Studio Collective, 416 Pine St., in Burlington.