Small Dublin-based record label Elusive aim to bring a breeze of fresh Éire to the rest of the world. To achieve this, Elusive have compiled an album called "Eklectra", featuring a host of mainly unknown talent from the Emerald Isle.
With an album title like "Eklectra" (a hint at both the eclectic nature of the compilation and the predominant use of electronic instruments on most of the tunes) and the slightly confusing cover motif by Japanese psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka, some listeners would certainly expect a gush of experimental avantgarde extravaganza.
Quite contrary so. There is a certain experimental stance behind most of the compositions, but at the end of the day there's a whole lot more harmony on this album than tension. The dramaturgical achievement here is to match the tunes styles-wise rather than simply line them up in no particular order. This is further underlined by the fact that most of the tracks cross-fade into each other, so the whole album seems to represent a unity, which of course makes it difficult to pin down individual tunes.
Stylistic unity is one thing, but the analysis of this album is further complicated by the fact that most of the contributing artists are relatively or completely unknown, at least beyond the Irish fringes. Electronic musician and DJ Jimmy Behan is not one of them, neither is guitar wizard Bill Nelson - but with his Yorkshire roots, a colourful past with his bands Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise and session work with New Wave bands like A Flock Of Seagulls he is the notable exception anyway. Both Jimmy and Bill have contributed a song each, marking the opening and the finale of the album respectively and thus building a framework for the other artists.
Jimmy Behan's "A Normal Situation" kicks off with a very harmonic arrangement of layered sounds and vocoded vocal samples. Townparks Foundry pick up on the laid-back mood with "Theme for Townparks Foundry", but bring in a bit more rhythmical drive. On to Illegal Kids' almost ethereal "It's for you" and Halfset's "Noodles Now", amalgamating a punchy bass line, floating synth melodies and robot voices.
"Nodoing Nodoer" by Stereo Nimrod is almost a body music tune, yet features an interesting arrangement, the same goes for Ebauche's "PBLX". Schtat's tune is called "My Country Blues" and would make a good soundtrack for a beautiful sunset. It's followed by Leonids' "Rose Location" featuring a very simple groove topped by layers of synth sounds. Wait a minute - what's that? Dissonant sounds on "Konichiwa" by Checkerboard - well, soon to be complemented by rich harmonies...
Merlot's "Reclaim Palestine" is an interesting tune with its slow motion beat and dark atmospheric sounds. It's followed by Thalamus' "Alphabet", which is quite a good match, as this tune features quite a bit of unrest, too - a hectic rhythm goes along with twisted melodies. Now, for a break: "Box Enthusiast" by Herv is more on the experimental side, while Psy's "wMw" brings in some almost jazzy elements.
Colourfast deliver a real beat monster with "Rooted Suited", features rap-style vocals and funk guitar samples, too. Not unlike the next tune, "Bloodrush" by Formica v MJX. Roytron get back to experimental fields with "Sport Department Revision", while Murmansk's "Sky-wide and Crooked" brings in some Far Eastern contemplative feeling. Somadrone's "Variable Reluctance" puts House-y chords against a hectic rhythm and a wall of white noise in the background. Finally, "Eklectra" fades out with two guitar-centered pieces by Eddie Rocket (sic!) and Bill Nelson, mixed beyond recognition by a certain Felix Rex.
Of course, these very short descriptions can only give a vague idea of the music featured on "Eklectra". The bandwidth of musical ideas on this compilation is quite remarkable and kudos go to Elusive for putting so much effort in making "Eklectra" a harmonic sound collage. Still, if I had to pick a favourite, it would be "Reclaim Palestine" by Merlot.
A breeze of fresh Éire for the rest of the world