Various Artists Music for Shut-Ins
Ron Morelli's Long Island Electrical Systems label has become a critical darling over the past couple of years. Essentially the focal point of a certain brand of largely hardware-driven underground house and techno coming out of New York City (although the label includes artists from Paris and Berlin, among other locales, on its roster as well), the imprint's image has been bolstered by Morelli's singular, uncompromising vision—which includes a marked reticence to embrace digital formats and a passion for murky, lo-fi sonics. The label boss is also something of an ideological mouthpiece for the label, which he often defines in opposition to prevailing dance-music trends; it's all there in the title of this latest release, Music for Shut-Ins, which Morelli elaborates is "club music for people who hate going to the club." Continuing what will hopefully be an annual trend of releasing a double-disc compilation of the year's highlights along with previously unreleased material from the label's artists, Music for Shut-Ins follows last year's acclaimed American Noise compilation, and while that release felt like something of a coming of age and a reflection of the label's growing legitimacy, this latest collection digs deeper, highlighting the diversity and experimental tendencies of the L.I.E.S. roster.
Those who have been keeping track of the label's output over the past year will be unsurprised by the high bar Music for Shut-Ins's first disc—which contains previously released material from the year—sets for quality. Recent releases such as the chugging ominousness of Shawn O'Sullivan alias Vaputeen's "Basilisk" easily stack up against some of L.I.E.S.' biggest cuts from earlier in the year, such as Florian Kupfer's "Feelin," which is easily one of this year's most affecting house tunes. Other notable highlights include Legowelt's "Teen Romance," which sees the Dutch producer adopting a far more distressed fidelity level than has been the norm for his recent material, with results that are both minimal and pleasingly starry-eyed, and Brooklyn producer Terekke's faded, underwater vocal house masterstroke "Amaze." It's the tracks that were overlooked upon their initial release that pay the greatest dividends on the first disc though, as is the case with Daywalker + CF's "You Only Live Once." An alias of Willie Burns and Entro Senestre, the track is a slow-burning distillation of L.I.E.S.' hardware-obsessed approach, a sensibility that is by turns primitive and restlessly psychedelic.
For all the highlights to be found on Music For Shut-Ins first disc, it's heartening that a label like L.I.E.S.—which already has a fairly frequent release schedule—is able to find enough great material at the end of the year for an entire disc's worth of previously unheard cuts. The second disc leads with a new track from Marcos Cabral, whose double-LP False Memories was one of the unexpected highlights from the L.I.E.S. catalog this year. Entitled "Dancing on Manhattan," the 12-minute-long tune is an expansive take on analog-synth pleasure zones, featuring one single, repeating melodic motif with layered, moody synths on top and an oscillating, jacking beat below. Beautiful Swimmers' "The Zoo" provides a buoyant dose of upbeat, loopy house, where a prominent vocal sample and swirling synths play off of a scuffed, staccato breakbeat. On the more uncompromising end of the spectrum sits Jahiliyya Fields' "White Lighter," whose ghostly synth missives are here framed by a pulverizing 4/4, fuzz-encrusted synths, and a relentlessly dark vibe. With over 30 releases this year alone, L.I.E.S. isn't always an easy label to keep up with, but the embarrassment of riches contained within Music for Shut-Ins suggests that the effort may well be worth it. Furthermore, as L.I.E.S. grows and develops as a label, it seems that instead of succumbing to a formula, it's instead getting deeper and weirder, something which undoubtedly bodes well for the future.
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