List: Favorite Multi-Artist Compilations of 2022

A new round of fresh picks. Variously.

Fertile Grounds (ODMOWA, November)

Released alongside the self-titled Humectant Interruption tape mentioned in the last list, Fertile Grounds rounds out a hearty 2022 for the soon-to-be-Miami-based ODMOWA imprint—call 917-456-9133 for catalog. Scattered self-help audio extracts escort ears through a packed tracklist featuring newly established label staples HI and Smell & Quim (whose Spermathlon got the reissue treatment earlier this year) alongside names both familiar and unfamiliar: John Duncan, Knurl, Anal Character, Kapotte Muziek. Ridiculously eclectic and thoroughly bizarre at every turn.

Music from Saharan WhatsApp (Sahel Sounds, Jul 6)

Already renowned for curating digital-age approaches to African traditional and pop music with releases from the Wau Wau Collectif and Tidiane Thiame, Sahel Sounds has put out what might be their best material yet with Music from Saharan WhatsApp, a sublime compilation cobbled together from cellphone-recorded jams and performances initially exchanged via the titular network and released in individual volumes. Every track is fantastic, but few pieces of music have affected me as deeply as Andal Sukabe’s intimate “Hay Malale.”

Singing in the Summer Sky (Small Mercies, October)

Much like last year’s Year of the Rat, Small Mercies’ most recent compilation gathers the lion’s share of the label’s usual suspects for a diverse yet consistent collection of abstract sound pieces. The project I know the least about, Movers, kicks things off with a well-chosen sample leading into a seething slab of analog harsh. From there the extremity ranges from Plague Mother’s trademark incendiary blasts to subdued, droning dark ambience from Scant and No Dreams. Though I haven’t been able to get into their work in the past, it’s Mistletoe that contributes what is probably my favorite track.

Morning Sketches Vol. II (Hamilton Tapes, Jun 23)

Nathan Ivanco’s aptly named Hamilton Tapes has an established aesthetic that pretty much every release embodies, but I don’t think I’ve heard one that does it as comprehensively as Morning Sketches Vol. II. 16 artists, projects, and aliases of nebulous identity fill both sides of a C80 with dust-smothered tape music that tends toward the humbly sublime. The names I do know represent a patchy who’s who of Canadian DIY lo-fi sound art, so needless to say, Korean Undok Group fans will find lots to love here.

PP-01 (Party Perfect!!!, Dec 2)

We may have lost the great Peter Rehberg last year, but radical computer music is nonetheless alive and well, evidenced by exciting new collectives and labels like Party Perfect!!!. Their first release presents four albums in a single connected unit, but despite the lengthy runtime each volume tends to lead in to the next, and before you know it you’ve listened to the whole thing. Stefan Maier’s 2018 performance work The Arranger, powered by a machine learning algorithm, is some of the best glitch music I’ve heard in a long time, but everything here has plenty to offer. Original review

River of Revenge: Brazilian Country Music 1929–1961 (Death Is Not the End, Nov 25)

An initiative that has quickly established itself as a leading source for quality archival material, Death Is Not the End is notable not just for the quality of the curation itself but also for the wide variety of styles and traditions they highlight. River of Revenge documents the earliest origins of Brazil’s sertaneja genre, a counterpoint of sorts to American country music, and anyone interested in the former will find plenty to love here too. At first swathed in dust and marred by crackle, the recordings progress chronologically toward more contemporary formations, making the full experience—as with many DINtE releases—not just a musical experience, but an educational one as well.

Pool Position (Second Sleep, Nov 30)

Loosely guided by the spectro-visceral aesthetics of sound artists Alice Kemp and Rudolf (who both contribute a solo track as well as a collaboration), the more diverse of the two new V/A releases from Italy’s Second Sleep offers a skeletal potpourri of drone, collage, field recording, conceptual art, and more. Renato Grieco hangs a bit of a left turn with “The Most Intense Light Experience This Voice Has Ever Had,” an unusual spoken word tract that reminds me of Hardworking Families’ “Hindered Soul”; Charmaine Lee pitches in with her virtuosic vocal improvisation technique for “小心肉,” perhaps the noisiest cut of the bunch; and Canti Magnetici alum Aniello wraps up with a ponderous pool of tape ambient.

Irida Records: Hybrid Musics from Texas and Beyond, 1979–1986 (Blank Forms, Oct 7)

Another collection whose premise and purview are concerned with the history of the music in addition to the music itself, Blank Forms’ massive seven-volume anthology of forgotten material from the fleeting Canton-based imprint Irida covers a staggering amount of ground. The work of owner-operator Jerry Hunt features prominently, joining several other composers for an array of avant-garde classical and electronic music that feels just as exciting now as it must have been four decades ago. For fans of Dockstader, Stockhausen, Oliveros, etc.

The Blorp Esette Gazette Vols. 3 & 4 (Gilgongo, Nov 11)

Few vestiges of the early American avant-garde have survived and thrived more than the Los Angeles Free Music Society, a once location-based collective that has expanded both geographically and stylistically over the past few decades. Across two discs, eminent founding figure Ace Farren Ford and new-generation voice John Wiese stand shoulder to shoulder with a vast quantity of names old and new, known and unknown (to me at least): {An EeL}, Million Brazilians, Control Unit, etc. The sprawling set is the first issuing in the Gazette series since 2013, and it hopefully won’t be the last.

Mensajes del agua: Nuevos sonidos desde Perú Vol. 1 (Buh, Feb 2)

Compiled by Buh Records honcho Luis Alvarado, Mensajes del agua is accompanied by a lived-in account of the state of the contemporary experimental music scene in Peru, the vibrancy of which Alvarado states is “most apparent in the emergence of collectives to promote new music made by young people, such as Dehumanización or Retama, as well as in the development of a new strand of electroacoustic composition connected with circuits of the musical underground.” Unsurprisingly, the tracks run the gamut of subversive approaches, from field recording assemblage to formal modern classical arrangements.

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