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Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock Music

Worlds Of Possibility – Domino Records 10th Anniversary Compilation, 2003 [disc two]

Disc two of Worlds Of Possibility brings us a bit closer to the present. Well, 2003. Which in a lot of ways feels very new & recent for me.

We kick off with energetic Bluesy Garage Rock from The Blueskins with User Friendly. Sonically enhanced by liberal use of harmonica, User Friendly has a polished production feel & the “ooh-ohh” melodies make me think it may have been used in a TV advert at the time. I’m going to Google it now… Ah, right band, wrong song. It was a different song, Change My Mind, which was used in a 2006 Lynx advert. I remember seeing them at the now defunct Fibbers venue in York. They were on some kind of MTV2 tour, Futureheads were headlining & Zane Lowe was there as compere/DJ. I went to shake his hand & he grabbed me in a bearhug. Interesting times.

Franz Ferdinand

Ah, another excellent band I’ve seen play at the Fibbers venue. Franz Ferdinand were at the very start of their career here & Worlds Of Possibility includes their original demo recording of their Post-Punk athem, Darts Of Pleasure. It doesn’t sound a million miles away from the final album version, such is the high standard of the demo. Easy to see why Domino were so keen to sign them. Love the lyrics too. Especially the German language outro: “Ich heisse Superfantastisch!
Ich trinke Schampus mit Lachsfisch!” Seriously, the demo’s Franz Ferdinand recorded were so ridiculously good that nearly all of their early hype in the music press was based entirely on them.

Next up we have Us by Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks (yep, Malkmus is back, he appears on 3 songs across both discs of Worlds Of Possibility). Us was my Song of the Day for the letter U in the A-Z series. This isn’t a million miles away from his output with Pavement, sonically speaking, & to be honest, would you want it to be? It’s excellent off kilter Indie Pop.

The Kills drop the excellent Wait, a slowburning, Indie stomper built around lo-fi guitar patterns & masterfully programmed drum machine beats. There’s a distinctly bluesy atmosphere so it’s no surprise that vocalist Alison Mosshart would go on to form The Dead Weather with White Stripes vocalist Jack White.

Clearlake deliver some fairly decent Indie Pop with I Wonder If The Snow Will Settle. Pitched somewhere between The Smiths & the excellent ’90’s band Gene, this is decent stirring stuff.

Hood

Hood’s They Removed All Trace That Anything Had Ever Happened Here is Trip-Hop influenced, Folktronica. Skittering drum machines & reversed samples rub up against clean bass & organic strings to create a pretty soundscape with, and this is important for electronic music, a great title. The Rap-ish vocal that drops in just after the 3 minute mark is perhaps a little ill advised though.

Following this we stick with experimental electronica in the form of genre veterans, the legendary Four Tet. She Moves She is a gloriously hypnotic jam built around glitchy beats, digital noise & organic acoustic sounds.

St. Patrick by James Yorkston is downtempo folk melancholia with traditional vibes added by fiddles & accordions. The composition builds from a minimalist drone at the start to an almost Spectre-esque wall of sound toward the end.

Here She Comes by Archie Bronson outfit is fuzzy, Indie Garage with with harmonica & bluesy vibes. Seems to be a common theme of the early ’00’s. Jason Lowenstein continues this with Codes. More fuzzy Garage with soaring chorus & catchy leads. No harmonica this time though (I almost expected a harmonica solo to begin as soon as I’d finished typing that sentence).

Quasi

We’re in extremely analogue synth territory with Hot Shit by Quasi. An Indie Rock two piece consisting of keyboards & drums. I can’t be sure but the keys on Hot Shit sound like an original Mellotron to me, complete with the warbling tape effect. There’s a psychedelic feel, reminiscent of madcap American Indie oddballs, The Flaming Lips. Vocalist, Sam Coomes, has more than a little Wayne Coyne about his vocal style.

U.N.P.O.C. drops some lo-fi Indie folk with Been A While Since I Went Away. There’s a cinematic, surfer quality which I find it hard to pin down. Maybe some of the chord progressions & vocal melodies seem to have a Beach Boys vibe to them. This is followed by more widescreen cinematic Pop music from, the aptly named, Movietone with the swooning lo-fi of Ocean Song. Sloppy percussion & choppy guitars almost seem to mimic the motion of the ocean waves. No doubt an intentional sonic choice.

Mangled vocals & electronic drum patterns are the order of the day in Max Tundra’s madcap electronica of lights. The pitch shifting on the vocals has a similar disconcerting effect to the ubiquitous autotune effect which permeates modern music. It’s slightly less grating (opinion alert) than modern autotune though.

Adem

Everything You Need by Adem is footstomping singer songwriter folk music with acoustic guitar unusually accompanied by dusty, bleepy synth noises & recorders all embedded in a lo-fi soundscape. It’s there’s a hint of melancholia but overall upbeat vibes carry the day. Reminds me a little of American Folk singer Willy Mason, who was also active around 2003, if memory serves. The Mason comparison is particularly noticeable on the soaring chorus. Perhaps a touch of Neutral Milk Hotel too?

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (the moniker Will Oldham was using in 2003) brings The Way, a hushed folk ballad. It’s pretty, melodic & slightly off-kilter. Slightly unrelated, but I’ve just remembered that Palace Music from disc one is another Will Oldham moniker. I can’t believe I forgot that yesterday.

Rock On, Lovers by To Rococo Rot is more oddball electronica. Solid, Hip-Hop influenced beats, wobbling analogue synth parts & synthetic strings. Another synth string part that I’m fairly sure is a Mellotron. This is minimal & melodic. More about listening than dancing. The strings lend it a cinematic, 1940’s Hollywood feel which is quite jarring with the ultramodern sound of the rest of the track.

To close out disc two, and Worlds Of Possibility , we have Matt Elliot’s The End. Appropriately titled I suppose. It’s dark instrumental Folk Music which begins minimal but builds in sonic intensity throughout. Most components of the soundscape are organic like guitar, accordion & piano, but there is a synthetic element right at the end when the plaintive warble of a theremin rises out of the reverby murk. You can almost picture end credits rolling as you’re listening to it.

There ends my celebration of Worlds Of Possibility. I’m really not sure about the availability of it now, in 2020, but if you can get your hands on it I would completely recommend it. It’s an extremely eclectic mix of genres & would be suitable in anyone’s record collection.

Additionally, since Worlds Of Possibility is a celebration of Domino Records, I cannot recommend their catalogue enough.

Support Indie Labels (even ones who’ve grown quite big these days)

& remember

Ich heisse Superfantastisch!
Ich trinke Schampus mit Lachsfisch!

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Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock Music

Worlds Of Possibility – Domino Records 10th Anniversary Compilation, 2003 [disc one]

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE BEST ASS IN SHOW BUSINESS you’ve come to the wrong place. Or for doors to places for which there is no way back. They’re not here either. No one is making claims about recalibrating the paradigm or uniting the taxonomies of teenage castes under one mighty sound. These are the Foxfire Midlands they are. Near Snowrat Illuminated Church. Specifically we’re beside the Timesicle at Clover 4. Perhaps this is a return to just saying things. That sounds like it’s in the area of right. Good songs build rooms in time. Think of “Tacoma Rain” or “Woodchilde Masquerade”. And no one’s even written them yet, for goodness sake! Yes there are second aspects to all this. Good times will turn lies into the truth, and advantage still pours haltlessly into the hands of the untrue, boring and useless but we’ll keep at this basically moral work, until these garnet palisades are flush with exits and our eyebrows have become like snowy ledges because there is nothing like your love in all this world.

David Berman, Worlds Of Possibility Liner Notes, 2003

Worlds Of Possibility, the 2003 compilation album celebrating the 10th anniversary of, much loved Indie label, Domino Records feels, to me, like an old friend. I’ve recently unearthed it form my box of CD’s which hadn’t been opened since before a house move three years ago. It feels a little like a relic of a bygone age. It’s nicotine yellowed & scuffed at the corners. A time capsule from a time when I didn’t treat physical music media with the respect it deserves. An age of cracked CD cases & coffee stained lyric inserts. I haven’t used a CD player for years. Except the USB one that plugs into my laptop, and which I use solely for burning CD’s into my music library. Most of my music these days is streamed digitally. I still love the physicality of a CD or an LP though. I like the sense of ownership I feel over such things.

The first exciting discovery – or rediscovery – I made when I opened the case was that it had a beautifully poetic liner note written by the late, great & sadly missed David Berman. Early readers of my blog will be aware that I love David Berman. This is typically Bermanesque. Reading it feels like gazing into a magical carnival hall of mirrors which only reflects parallel universes back at you. You marvel & wonder at the unwritten classics “Tacoma Rain” & “Woodchilde Masquerade”. Your brain tries fruitlessly to decode the location of the “Foxfire Midlands” or the “Snowrat Illuminated Church”. You find yourself staring at what you imagine a “Timesicle” to be in your head. A frozen, elongated piece of time which tapers off to a point. Would it be the perfect crime to stab someone with one? What about if you committed the crime at “Clover 4”. These are questions we can only wonder at. But the impression we’re left with from this surreal & pretty piece of writing is one which seems to encapsulate the sound of Domino Records generally, & the collection of songs on Worlds Of Possibility specifically. Even if you can’t say quite how this is so.

Sebadoh fan art by Ian J Dodson

Worlds Of Possibility kicks off with the earthy, warm tones of Sebadoh track, Soul And Fire. It’s a kind of lo-fi update of ’60’s jangle Pop but with oodles of atmospheric melancholia & Lou Barlow’s hurt sounding voice. Similar ground is tread with The Spectre by Royal Trux but with less melancholia & a darker sound palate. There’s a reverential tone to The Spectre. The subtle distortions & the unconventional percussions taking on an almost chant-like quality.

Laidback Indie Pop with a soulful swoon greets us in Palace Music’s More Brother Rides. There’re hints of Beck to this, but it’s hard to draw a comparison to a particular song or album. Things become even more lo-fi with Standard 8 by Quickspace. Mumbled, barely audible vocals embedded deep in a crunchy melody which Mark E Smith wouldn’t feel unwelcome in. Maybe a touch more in the direction of Guided By Voices.

Flying Saucer Attack turn in a thrillingly noisy cover of Wire’s melodic New Wave classic, Outdoor Miner. Layers of shoegazing fuzz & reverse reverbs form a trebly wall of sound which, due to a weaker low end, falls just short of what it could’ve been. This transitions, far better than it should, into the sunny, upbeat Pop of Worlds Of Possibilities by The Pastels. Head nodding is not optional.

Plush

Plush bring some bluesy, fuzzy, downtempo Indie Rock with Three Quarter Blind Eyes. It’s roots lie in ’60’s classic Rock. Neil Young playing guitar solo’s for Lynrd Skynrd maybe? Strong, clear vocals which almost break up as it moves into falsetto ranges. Following track, Held by Smog, actually pairs quite well with the prior track. It’s a melodic, lo-fi slacker ballad from the same parallel universe as David Bermans’ Silver Jews (who we’ll hearing from later).

Neskwik by Woodbine is sweet sounding, home recorded twee pop in the vein of The Vaselines or Beat Happening but with edgier guitar sounds. Elliott Smith Elliot Smiths his way through the Indie Folk standard Speed Trials. Loping rhythms & unusual vocal melodies tie it into the Domino style. There’s a demo quality to every element but the vocals, which sound much more professionally recorded.

Clinic’s Distortions is slow & purposeful Psyche Pop built around atmospheric organ sounds, lazy rhythms & melancholic falsetto vocals. Ghost Ship In A Storm by Jim O’Rourke is pleasant enough Indie Folk with nice foot tapping rhythms & lapsteel guitars giving it some nautical, surf-ish vibes.

Pram in 1994

Sleepy Sweet by Pram starts off with some chirping crickets & swampy background effects before dropping into a bass driven, lazy Pop song. It’s hard to pin down it’s influences exactly but it’s gives an impression organic Trip-Hop, led by thick, warm hammond organs. There’s an almost tropical, Reggae feel to it so I was surprised to see Wikipedia lists Pram as a Post-Rock band. I guess I need to check out more of their material.

Papa M’s Plastic Energy Man seems to belong to a genre which was fairly popular around the turn of the century, but which you never hear mentioned anymore: Folktronica. One of the British music press’s horrible portmanteaus I’ll wager. Used to describe what was essentially acoustic guitar noodling over minimalist electronic percussion, bass & synth layers. I’m actually quite a fan. I remember the legendary Four Tet (later) been described this way too.

Preston School Of Industry

Whale Bones by Preston School Of Industry (side project of Pavement’s Scott Kannberg aka Spiral Stairs) is the perfect balance of sunny Indie Pop melodies, lo-fi production values & off kilter vocals & lyrics which I’d expect from a member of the band who pretty much defined the sound of modern Indie Rock. Personally, as much as I love Stephen Malkmus, I think Spiral Stairs is Pavement’s best kept secret & I really love Whale Bones & pretty much all of his output.

Fresh from his appearance at the start of this compilation (Sebadoh) one of Lou Barlow’s other bands, Folk Implosion, contributes Free To Go. Anthemic bedroom Pop almost too perfect for radio.

Speaking of too perfect. The penultimate track of disc one takes us back to those beautifully written liner notes. David Berman’s Silver Jews classic Random Rules is an absolute gem of a song. Perfect lyrics sung in Berman’s lowkey, underdog drawl & a backing band featuring Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus & Bob Nastanovich (these guys get everywhere on this compilation) playing the lowkey, underdog Indie Rock which made Silver Jews such a touchstone of the Indie Rock canon.

Anyway, before we get to the end of disc one, here’s Pavement again. This time in their own right with the epic The Hexx. The Hexx was recorded twice. Originally for Brighten The Corners but this version is taken form their farewell album Terror Twilight. Produced by Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead fame) The Hexx is an absolute classic Pavement song with obscure lyrics, oddball Indie melodies & oddball guitar jams.

Since we’ve reached the end of disc one & this post has already become longer than I originally imagined, I think I’ll cover disc two in a followup blogpost tomorrow. Sitting and listening to a fantastic compilation album while writing about it is no great chore, after all.