Various Artists Dublab Presents... Light From Los Angeles
Tuning into Dublab can be a bit of a crapshoot; the breadth of music transmitted from the Los Angeles-based internet radio station leaves listeners with an equal chance of finding forward-thinking beats, tender techno, meandering new age, or most any genre of creative music—usually with a bit of an electronic slant—delivered to their streaming devices. Similarly, the station's ventures into record-label territory (most notably with its In the Loop series of vinyl releases) often evade distinct classification, exploring vastly separate pockets of electronic and indie music on the same 12" while showcasing the outfit's ever-growing association with notable artists—past contributors have included names like Caribou, Teengirl Fantasy, Matthewdavid, Prefuse 73, and Daedalus, to name a few. Incredibly, Dublab was founded back in 1999, and the organization's continued ability to avoid landing on one particular sound has kept it on the leading edge of LA's music scene, and with its new Light From Los Angeles compilation, that same restless artistic spirit has been properly documented once again.
The first three songs on the album make the best case for the rewards this sort of diversity can yield. Carlos Niño and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson open the record with "Mezame," a gorgeous piece featuring an enchanting string arrangement paired with the light twinkling of bells, guitars, and electronics run through elongated delay trails. From there, the jump to Teebs' and .yuk's "Estara" is not a hard one to make, the pair's collaborative effort making for a dreamy beat ripe with alluring textures and melodies. It's followed by a slice of new-age-tinged disco-pop courtesy of Suzanne Kraft and Brogan Bentley. These three opening offerings, although vastly different from one another in terms of style, complement each other extremely well and land on a cohesiveness the rest of the record struggles to find again.
To be fair, putting together a fluid narrative—musically speaking—was most likely not the top priority for those curating Light From Los Angeles, but rather, the chance to showcase as wide a range of LA-based talent as possible was likely the more important focus of the collection. (This effort is is further illuminated by the fact that each song comes with an accompanying video put together, in part, by the musicians themselves.) In a way, this forces an expansion of the listener's musical palette, presenting some artists and styles that may be a bit outside of their usual repertoire. In the case of ESP's spiralling synth-pop and Languis' warmly inviting ambient compostion "In Search of Summer (So Swesey Mix)," it is a welcome expansion to file alongside more familiar names like Dntel, Butchy Fuego, Sweatson Klank (formerly Take), and Lucky Dragons, all of which deliver strong contributions here. Still, there are certainly moments where this lack of relation between tracks falls flat, in particular the unnecessarily "far out" production from Farmer Dave Schwer and an incredibly ill-fitted acoustic-folk song from The Long Lost (a.k.a. Daedalus' Alfred Darlington and his wife Laura), which unfortunately closes the album on its most head-scratch-worthy moment.
Admittedly, it seems a bit counterintuitive to praise Dublab's keen ability to rally against musical homogeneity only to find faults in it later on, but while piecing together a compilation from such diverse ends of Los Angeles' creative musical spectrum, a balance between the myriad of styles seems necessary. And while Dublab's efforts are valiant here, this collection does not gel together perfectly. However, what does make Light From Los Angeles a worthwhile listen is its role in continuing the Dublab legacy—one that eschews the more obvious ways of framing Los Angeles' underground music scene and instead presents a group of producers inspired to make unique music within a refreshingly DIY community.
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