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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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Folky: Acoustic Music in Digital Times
Spectrum Works

Compilations generally play one of several roles. Their most obvious function, especially in the world of independent music, is as label sampler, particularly in electronic music, where the label is often a stronger "brand" than a given artist. Indeed, it's arguable that Mille Plateaux, Compost and even Warp all owe much of their success to various showcase comps they've released over the years. On the other hand, the label-agnostic collection serves a more curatorial role, bringing together disparate artists and tracks to highlight a shared tendency or trend. That's precisely the role of Folky, a fine new compilation from Germany's Spectrum Works label. Compiled by Lars Vegas (of German downtempo duo Karma), Folky brings together Les Gammas, Victor Davies, King Britt's Scuba project, Zero 7 and other electronic artists who flirt with acoustic textures.

It's arguable that French duo Air made Folky possible; their debut LP, Moon Safari, utilized brushed drums, strummed guitars and downy synth pads in downtempo tracks feathery enough for Clairol ads. (Zero 7, who turn in one of the most captivating songs on the compilation, have been compared relentlessly to Air.) Interestingly, the duo forswore almost all their patently "electronic" touches on their brooding soundtrack The Virgin Suicides, and Folky follows suit: there's very little here to announce it as an "electronic music" album as such. Zero 7's "Monday Night" employs a treated drum track that's likely programmed, but tracks like Victor Davies' "Lady Luck" and Leif's "Der Gute Weg," wrapped up in shimmering acoustic guitars and little else, wouldn't sound out of place on a Nick Drake tribute.

"Der Gute Weg," written and performed by an intern from the offices of the nu-jazz Sonar Kollektiv label, stands out as the album's unexpected highlight, a three-minute haze of echoing arpeggio and ambient noise, the kind of light-but-moody interlude Drake had perfected by the time of Pink Moon. Most of the tracks here hover around the three-minute mark, lending them all the same sweetly dissolving quality. San Francisco's Ray Barbee contradicts his reputation — like his colleague Tommy Guerrero, he's a former pro skater — with a nimbly woven web of guitar plucking and bossa-nova beats; no matter how tough the skin on his elbows and knees must be by now, his song's about as rough as a kiss behind the ear. Les Gammas turn in one of the record's darker tracks, teasing a sultry tension out of a few choice oppositions: gossamer guitar rubs up against heavy, spongy organ stabs, and Nina Miranda's wispy verse brushes against a male chorus' husky refrain. "Acoustic" and "funk" are not mutually exclusive terms, as it turns out.

And if you need something to keep you company on lonely days, Victor Davies' "Lady Luck" ought to do the trick. Sure, it's a cliché, sitting behind a rain-spattered pane and gazing gloomily onto the puddled street outside while a scratchy ol' record spins tinnily away in the corner, but the song evokes the feeling so perfectly that you're willing to forgive the sentimental trespass. Indeed, Folky is so successful precisely because it's not afraid to indulge in a little guilty pleasure. Loath as I am to admit it, I'm not above it either. I probably won't bust this out for my trainspotter pals, but you can bet that behind my stacks of Kompakt and Mego my copy of Folky will patiently await just the right rainy day.

by Philip Sherburne

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