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As Built PR SXSW & Beyond (Summer 2011) Sampler – Review

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This sampler contains 25(!) tracks of new and unreleased music from the current Boston scene. By anyone standards, that’s a lot of tracks and gives credence to the blurb that came with this release stating that “this sampler really showcases the range and diversity of both the up-and-coming and veteran sounds being created within Boston”.

Bands on this sampler include Guillermo Sexo, QUILT, Soccer Mom, Get Help, The Hogstompers, Static of the Gods, Girlfriends etc.

I’ll admit upfront that I’m not aware of the current Boston Scene, but the Sampler opens promisingly with the power-pop of Mount Peru. Lord Jeff come on like a drunken Marc Bolan with better drumming and far better guitar soloing. The Maine Coons throw an organ into their mix and keep it short and sweet, whilst Doomstar adopt a slightly more-FX laden guitar colouring to their driven pop.

Soccer Moms “(A) Natural History” is a strong, fuzzy track whilst Soft Pyramids recall Orange Juice in their “Prisoner’s Tune” and that’s not a criticism.  Get Help display a good grasp of GuidedByVoices dynamics, but is no mere homage. The Beatings add a touch of drama and a hint of goth which is then followed by Broken River Prophet‘s engaging “Persephone” – a personal favourite.

Heavy Water Experiment’s Dinosaur Jr’s-style harmonies are elevated by a strong arrangement. Ghost Box Orchestra‘s  MBV/ Mono-influenced “Oh, the Moon” has a grandeur, drive and power that impresses considerably.  Guillermo Sexo are pained, but not painful. Quilty are over far too quickly. I’d like to hear more of their stuff. You and Your pointy Ears sound like the White Stripes, but with better drumming. Earthquake Party swagger, but are slightly undone by the (lack of) production of their track. Future Carnivores’ harmonies and delicate guitar-work enhance a wonderfully slight tune, whilst Quilt‘s Psych-folk is a genuinely engaging gear shift. That is followed by the whimsical, but respectful, country trappings of The Hogstompers.

Chris North and the Dream Parade‘s track is almost a pastiche of every junkie’s hymn to their beautiful addiction. Almost. Main Fader ‘s and Medallion‘s slightly glitchy electronica both recall Seefeel, but both tracks lack the rhythmic drive to lift them above merely pretty. However, it does show that there are artists working outside the strictures of guitar, bass and drums within the Boston scene.

Static of the Gods go back to the guitars with an enchanting female-fronted dream-pop tune, whilst Young Adults are fuzz, drums and shoutiness. Exuberant, is the word.

The compilation closes with Limb‘s “Old Bricks” and Girlfriend’s “Eat around the Bad Parts”. The former wends its way over six minutes in a more muscular Red House Painters way, the latter another power-pop delight.

All-in-all, I enjoyed this compilation far more than I expected to. There’s a lot of talent, confidence and ability on display that makes for an enjoyable and interesting listen. Inevitably, perhaps, there’s also an emphasis upon music made by pale white boys and girls largely in thrall to their (very white) influences. That’s fine in itself as  I wasn’t expecting an explosion of grime or dubstep out of Boston, but a wider stylistic variety might have given a bit more insight into the nature of Boston’s current musical life. That’s assuming, rightly or wrongly, that there is more?

If I lived in Boston, I’d be very proud of what was going on musically in the city,as this sampler testifies. However, I would  also be wondering where the funk and soul was. A scene needs a bit more cultural diversity if it’s really going to bring something new to the table.

Note – you can download the sampler here.



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