Whatcom Weird Vol. 1 is a small sampling of adventurous music from artists in Whatcom County (Washington, USA). Improvisation, both free and structured, plays a heavy part in this collection, from the mournful drones of Bula/Zinn, to the twangy musings of Chris Stainback, and the subtle interplay of the B'ham Improvisatory Ensemble. Mindmeld pits a metallic improvisation against the room in which it was recorded, with both forces processed into a sonic ritual. Electronica is also well represented: heatsink's glitchy “SETI” is a single-tracked live recording with circuit bending; Skiks' “pate” is a microtonally-informed exploration of a chord progression over a scurrying beat; and Brendan LaBotz' “Gazzam Lake” is a funky, spacey romp with a bucket of ear candy. Well-respected live band Falling Up Stairs provides a quietly menacing noisescape that gives way to pulsing tones and eventually an energetic rock-infused 'murder jazz' track. Shawn Collins delves playfully into found sound (and there's a video, see the link below); while Alex Wolf brings a cinematic touch to the noise art for which he is known. Composer Todd Smith crafts improvisations with Western Washington University's vintage analog synthesizers into a compelling piece that evokes early video games. Face Police displays an endearing experimental pop aesthetic, and with “New Frontiers” composer and experimental folk artist Spencer Thun presents a kind of electronic-classical-country soundtrack music. Pan Pan's Sarah Jerns closes the album with a soaring and contemplative keyboard-centered piece. Somehow these diverse tracks fit together comfortably, much like the rich music scene in Bellingham, where experimental, outsider art rubs shoulders with mainstream forms every day. Given the abundance of talent hinted at here, Whatcom Weird Vol. 2 can't be too far away.
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