Sometimes CD stickers are just glorified versions of the price tag. And like a price tag, the cover blurb on Documenta.II deserves to adorn the insides of a garbage bag for self-importantly claiming its recording to be "a documentation of movement and innovation in modern acoustics." Sniffy pretentious album sticker aside, though, this is an admirable and wonderfully cohesive compilation of mellowed strums and intricacy-rich sounds.
The patented Kranky guitar drone, contrarily dark and shimmering, fuels Windy and Carl's "You" as whispers mesh around the song. Their labelmates, Labradford, contribute with a lonesome and meandering-at-a-distance guitar drone, waylaid by the helical tension of morose, anxiety-evoking strings. Over lone repetitive guitar strums, Mùm add sparse tinkles and gold-streaked echoes on "Spilar La La La." Their introspective and singular rhythms are reflective of this acoustically focused compilation, with many of the other artists opting for solitary but potently-driven sounds, faintly and delicately embellished with a spare and sporadic hand.
Mice Parade's frazzling repetition is rounded out by haphazard violin creaks, offbeat cries and harmonica surges. The glassy chimes and woody echoes of State River Widening's "Desertesque" are perceptibly (just) complemented with remote percussion and sharp string plucks. Other artists on Documenta.II traffic in a busier interplay of acoustic sounds: Tied + Tickled Trio's approach has all the low bass writhing of a deep-in-the-gutter math rock song, while The Notwist take a more bright-eyed route, dappled with synth gleeps, smooth horns and the odd skittery beat.
Overall, Documenta.II can be pinned with a few ribbons: one, for pulling together an eclectic and strong lineup of artists (from Tarwater to the American Analog Set; Savath & Savalas to Calexico); two, for fashioning together a cohesive yet inventive collection of thematically successful songs; three, for offering some very worthwhile and not-available-elsewhere tunes. It sorta makes up for their very poor sticker pitch.