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  • Filed under: Review
  • 06/29/2012

Various Artists Purple Legacy - A History of Purple WOW

Released on Gemmy's World of Wonders imprint, Purple Legacy - A History Of Purple WOW is a vibrant attempt to canonize the fractal soundscapes that drew our attention to a Bristol-based clique of analog-equipped producers in the late '00s. When these colorful tunes first surfaced on releases from Joker, Gemmy, Ginz, and Guido, "purple wow" fast became a recognized elucidation for the Technicolor strains of a clearly identifiable genome of dubstep. Cast in dazzling color, cut through with skewed, squealing G-funk synths and enormous, bitcrushed basslines, the main proponents of this much-celebrated niche were quickly made distinct from the darker recesses of the 140-bpm movement. Purple Legacy looks to celebrate this colorful caste with 15 tracks that caught our imaginations over the past five years. Many of these releases have been widely celebrated; a few have become outright genre staples. Naturally, this raises the question: what function could a seemingly cursory re-grouping of these micro-genre standards offer to anyone?

Well, maybe it's all the Bristolians have left; releases from this loosest of all collectives have been increasingly thin on the ground (with the notable exception of Joker's particularly lackluster debut LP, The Vision), whilst the mantle of "most pixellated worldview" has surely been passed to Rustie following his expansive Glass Swords. Yet even with this slower output, it still seems particularly premature to be boasting retrospectives of relatively marginal genre microcosms at this point. Opening with the sweeping, stuttering "Stuck In The System," there's a familiar pleasure to be taken in revisiting Joker's earlier cuts, songs taken from a time before hands-in-the-air synths and sub-chart vocals became the norm. The simple fact is Joker's early releases could have filled the tracklisting single-handedly, but instead settle for stealing the show with "Play Doe," "Purple City," "Re-Up," and "Stuck In The System" all surfacing within the first five tracks. The breadth of sound comes when Joker leaves the limelight; Guido's delicately trilling "Korg Back" and "Micro X" show that there's more to the movement than soundtracking the fiery destruction of a space station. The compilation is crammed full of dramatic, evocative hardware workouts and infectious whistling synthesizer lines, but haven't we quite literally heard it all before?

Well, yes, actually and, if anything, the thrill is further diminished by a lack of context. Each cut offers no less heft or inspiration than when it first surfaced, but the songs do lack a simple spark of relevance, a sense of otherness that was so apparent when these glassy sounds were more unfamiliar. Cluttered together, the disparate characters of this shared, luminescent timbre lose their individual identities in a sea of videogame noises and glaring synths. These aren't releases that were meant to sit together, and in one listen, the glaring color can be overwhelming and indistinct. For new initiates, Purple Legacy will make for an indispensable canonization and fascinating introduction to this particular sound. All the bases are covered; be it in the sultry digi-sax of Guido's "Mad Sax," the final boss atmospherics of Ginz's "Chrome," or the utter digital meltdown of Joker and Ginz's "Purple City," the collection offers a suitably broad look at a rather particular niche. For those already acquainted though, it's essentially a pointless endeavor. In the absence of any hearty amount of new material, the whole compilation becomes a perfunctory exercise in reminiscence. Whilst it's unclear whether Purple Legacy was intended as a celebration, an obituary, or just a way of staying on the radar, most moments in the compilation make for essential listening as much as they did at conception. Ultimately though, we're left with the frustrating and confusing sight of such a famously forward-thinking sound—one that was initially so indebted to raw futurism—curiously intent on looking backwards.

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