SubVariant is a Chicago-based electronica label run by general busybody Liz McClean Knight, who also records under the name Quantazelle. This is the first sampler for the up and coming label, and it is something that fans of current electronica will want to hear.
There are 17 tracks here, including two from Quantazelle herself. Both tunes were also on her debut album Coaster, which is somewhat disappointing as i had hoped for some new material. However, they are both pretty strong tunes, and show her work her to fine effect.
It is the artists that Ms. Knight has gathered to her label that impress me. There are 16 other artists here, and they come from all around the world. I want to discuss a few of the highlights on this sampler, but before i do let me remark that no song on here is terrible. Some songs might be a little weaker than others, but on the whole this flows very nicely.
The standout track for me is Minor Rendered by Tim Koch. This tune starts with a lush ambient interlude a la Pub, Loscil, or Biosphere, and then a funky loop is layered over it, all scattered drums and deep bass samples (the bass sounds great, like a sample of a talented jazz musician thwapping away at an upright bass with nice echo). It's a really cool tune that sounds like Loscil collaborating with DJ
Gift by Sense is another interesting tune. This Australian artist has a great sense of melody, and on this tune he plays with layers of keyboard sounds. The sounds are old too, like something from the early work of Tangerine Dream, or Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack. I wonder if he sampled those kinds of sounds, played them himself on really old keyboards, or used a computer to synthesize the sounds? Either way, it makes for good listening. Fans of the latest M83 disc will want to hear this song in particular...
Another standout tune is Honkeywrench by R_Garcia. This is a spacey funk song, and as such right in keeping with my perception of the Miami, FLA music scene (of which Mr. Garcia is a part). The song consists of a keyboard chiming away in the foreground, while beats dance to a happy little rhythm under a slight weight of fuzz in the background. There's a nice contrast between sounds, and in general this is a happy little tune.
Those three are the real standouts, but there are some other interesting tidbits
here and there. Marshall Watson turns in a tune that reminds me of early Boards
of Canada, and Set In Sand make a frenetic beat-heavy tune that out does Four
his own game. I would also like to point out the song Not So Hot by
Frederique Garvin. This is an okay song, but it features an amazing bass
riff. I have no idea where he got that bass bit from, but it is very, very
In general i say that this disc proves that SubVariant is a label to watch out for. Let's hope that they continue releasing music of this caliber.