[SUBV002] VA: Subvaritrax

[SUBV002, 2005]

SUBVARITRAX™ is a new form of treatment for Sonic Mediocrity Overexposure (SMO). SUBVARITRAX™ works by providing a mix between emotionally-poignant-yet-sonically-dense IDM, and scientifically formulated, provocatively glitchy minimal techno.

With contributions from Quench (Funckarma), Ochre, Tim Koch, edIT, Kero, Matthew Mercer and others, SUBVARITRAX™ is a new type of neurostimulant proven to help people with SMO as well as being an enjoyable listen in its own right. Ask your abstract electronic music specialist if SUBVARITRAX™ is right for you.

TRACKLIST:
1. PHYLUM SINTER: “Monastic Phase” (4:19)
2. MARSHALL WATSON: “Fall without Change” (5:13)
3. QUANTAZELLE: “Late Blazing Kinch Theme” (2:56)
4. R_GARCIA: “Honkeywrench” (4:39)
5. FREDERIQUE GARVIN: “Not So Hot” (4:43)
6. MATTHEW MERCER: “Sucker Punch” (6:33)
7. POPKAN: “Broken Lighter” (5:45)
8. KERO: “Shuf1” (5:29)
9. DEREK MICHAEL: “Similak Jiggles” (4:08)
10. QUANTAZELLE: “Braking (Hushed)” (2:53)
11. ZAINETICA: “Bytesize” (5:49)
12. SENSE: “Gift” (4:04)
13. TIM KOCH: “Minor Rendered” (2:15)
14. SET IN SAND: “A Echo of An Mistake” (3:13)
15. EDIT: “Spare Spork” (4:54)
16. QUENCH: “Vegeta” (6:05)
17. OCHRE: “Copacetia” (6:42)

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REVIEWS:
The woefully underrated and extremely creative Chicago based Subvariant assembles some of the top up and coming IDM talent for Subvaritrax. Label head Liz McLean Knight has an impressive ear for not only sequencing a fun, glitch happy compilation, but for assembling an impressive roster of talent from around the world (London, Detroit, Berlin, Melbourne just for starters). It’s hard to pinpoint where the highlight of this compilation lies: Is it the amazing conceptual packaging? The frantic skittering of IDM beats or the minimal house that could easily find a home on some of minimal techno’s finest imprints? The attention to detail and care each artist shows in their craft? It’s all here in one nice package, and it’s a great sign that not only IDM and minimal techno can co-exist on the same electronic plane, but the future of each subgenre is alive and thriving.”
– Rob Theakston, All Music Guide
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“Though one is struck initially by Subvaritrax™’s distinctive pharmaceutical packaging, the comp’s presentation is trumped by the potency of the medication itself. Virtually a primer for current electronic music trends, the release collects what could be the best bits from imaginary comps by Merck, Neo Ouija, Spectral Sound, and M-Nus into an 80-minute, 17-track set. Such largesse is often wearying but [it] maintains interest by extending the stylistic range beyond a single genre…

Sparkling streams of glistening melodies unfurl throughout Phylum Sinter’s (Detroit-based Christopher Todd) “Monastic Phase,” Sense’s (Melbourne musician Adam Raisbeck) “Gift,” and Ochre’s (Chris Leary) buoyant epilogue “Copacetia” while boisterous breaks splatter and flail in tracks by Marshall Watson and Quench (aka Funckarma, Netherlands-based Don and Roel Funcken). edIT’s (Ed Ma, Planet-Mu) fabulous stutter-crunk oasis “Spare Spork” is an album highlight, as is … [the] Quantazelle cut “Late Blazing Kinch Theme,” an entrancing intertwine of scurrying percolations and harp melodies. On the techno front, Frederique Garvin drops twitchy, bass-throbbing machine-funk in “Not So Hot,” Derek Michael coaxes whirrs and groans from his gear in “Similak Jiggles,” and Matthew Mercer and Detroit Underground label head Kero (Sohail Azad) take schaffel strolls in their respective outings. While R_Garcia’s gleefully stomping, arcade-flavoured “Honkeywrench” impresses too, the album’s peak arrives with Popkan’s (Tom Erdmann) “Broken Lighter,” a tasty sampling of funky, M-Nus-styled minimal house. While Erdmann’s micro-sampled field of blips, smears, and croaks sounds incredible, it’s the little kick he adds to the tail end of the warping bass line that’s pure genius.

A terrific outing by the Chicago-based subVariant imprint, the ‘instrumental neuro-stimulant’ Subvaritrax™ more than makes good on its promise to treat Sonic Mediocrity Overexposure (SMO) with a therapeutically forward-thinking mix of melodic IDM and glitchy minimal techno.” -Ron Schepper, TEXTURA.

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“Phylum Sinter’s “Monastic Phase” starts the gentle release into your bloodstream with tender melodies drifting in a free-form solution of squishy beats and rain-kissed tones. Marshall Watson recommends a “Fall Without Change,” a gravity-free undulation of synthesizer and frayed beats that moves like a heat wave across still landscapes. Label-owner Liz McLean Knight who records as Quantazelle (as well as being the creative force behind the jewelry line Zelle and attendant online shop, Fractalspin.com) slips us a dose of “Late Blazing Kinch Theme,” a vaguely Aphex Twin rhythm scattered across harp melodies and subdermal beat dappling. It’ll hitch in your throat and leave a resonating hum that will percolate through your brain for days. She also offers “Braking (Hushed),” a gurgling lurching tune that sounds like electric wind chimes being shaken by a low magnitude earthquake. Nothing traumatic, just chaotic movement given sound.

Randy Garcia’s “Honkeywrench” keeps catching my ear as it dances and jabbers about. Anchored by the spitting sound of speaker feedback from local RF signals (and I get it enough at the day job that I keep thinking that this track is just fucked up and not cleverly recycling modern noise detritus), R_Garcia throws up squiggling pong melodies that flit about with joyous abandon. There’s a middle of the Subvaritrax dose that goes all woozy on you with house rhythms skewed with jittery noises and squelchy bursts of liquid funk as Matthew Mercer, Popkan, Kero and Derek Michael ooze into your system. Tim Koch’s “Minor Rendered” puddles with aquatic dub while ringing with minor chords that are flung up like fireworks to hang in the sky. A sinuous funk beat slithers into the room and coils around our ankles, lending a lurching stagger to our dance steps. While Zainetica delivers a swooping aerial ride filled with the guttering echoes of synthesized voices in “Bytesize,” Sense’s “Gift” is a orchestral wash of electronic tones and fluffy melodies.

As Set in Sand’s “A Echo of An Mistake” (sic) warbles and threatens to lose track of its rhythmic center (yet retains it in the end as the effort is to shift you slightly and not yank the chair out from beneath you), edIT’s “Spare Spork” shares no such illusions. The beats in “Spare Spork” stab at you with their guttering intensity, echoing in the background like ping pong balls ricocheting off concrete walls. The lonesome guitar melody in the foreground is dragged in the wake of the beats, its melancholy secondary to the gutter-jerk of the affected beats. Quench keeps some of the manic energy afforded by edIT (this is the end of the dosage after all, somnambulant effects must be wiped away) but channels it as BPMs. Shivering beats collapse and percolate like hot water in a coffee maker while digital melodies churn and curl around one another like snakes, like Mobius patterns.

SubVariant takes a very serious approach to presentation and the limited release of Subvaritrax comes as a Rx package, a personalized prescription written just for your mental state. “Play entire CD twice daily or as needed” read the instructions on the plastic casing. Would that all medicines that make you feel better go down so easily (and the final glistening water electronica of Ochre eases you back from your SubVariant-induced slumber). This is a heartily recommended panacea for the beat-broke blues.” – Mark Teppo, IGLOO

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“A label sampler of amazing proportions for those who like melodic to mid tempo electronic or IDM music, Chicago’s Subvariant Label sets out with Subvaritrax to position itself as a premier label for the inventive and the daring.

The compilation largely succeeds; the artists on this disc, including Quantazelle, Popkan, Kero, Tim Koch, Quench and Matthew Mercer among others, have a knack for marrying the ideas of experimentation and melody. Each track features an abundance of blips, beeps, glitches and squiggles courtesy of various computers, but there’s always a dominant and often playful melody to prevent these songs from becoming pure experimental dissonance. While more prominent groups in the IDM world like Autechre concentrate more on experimental freak-outs, Subvariant’s roster understands the plain fact that melody and hooks are what bring people back.

Even without the presence of vocals, as a whole, the disc comes off as emotional and moody. There are many cuts here worthy of pivotal movie soundtrack moments: a cut like Marshal Watson’s “Fall without Change” seems ripe for the plucking as background music to an introspective scene. And fuck “Eye of the Tiger,” Tim Koch’s “Minor Rendered” could be a new, more suave and hip soundtrack to training, prevailing and kicking some ass. On the other side, there are occasional tracks that oppose the soothing sounds to come off cold and metallic. Derek Michael’s “Similak Jiggles” sounds like an automated factory, and Quench’s “Vegeta” sounds like it came from a future super-computer age.

By balancing the experimental and the accessible, the artists on this comp all come with a similar aesthetic; their cohesion makes for an enjoyable but somewhat overwhelming experience. Each artist is able to craft a layered and dense sound collage that you can easily get lost in – from the warm and soothing to the steely and distant – and for the most part, these groups can stand alongside similar melodic compatriots like Plaid, Boards of Canada and Four Tet. On the shoulders of those innovators, Subvaritrax introduces some exceptional and inventive rising stars. “LOST AT SEA

Design by Scott Arciniegas. Mastering by Twerk.

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