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Various - Splendour and Misery

  by Paul Raven

published: 24 / 2 / 2007

Various - Splendour and Misery
Label: Tenor Vossa
Format: CD


Diverse, often excellent two CD sampler from London-based label Tenor Vossa, best known for its post rock but which also incorporates on this indie rock and alt country

This is a fairly well-titled two CD set – there are a few bed-sit wrist-slasher songs, but some gems of splendour are lurking in there too. If you were attempting to catalogue it, you'd run into problems; 'post-rock' is probably your safest bet, but that would be a discredit to the diversity of the collected tunes, which range from scuzzy grainy indie rock to droning angst-country anthems. The general lo-fi production vibes are also a binding theme and, to be blunt, it works better for some tracks than others. Some music can really benefit from that 'recorded in a caravan near Aberystwyth by a hungover Steve Albini' sound - 'Behind the Light' by Breathless, for example - but sometimes it just disguises what could have been a more exciting piece, like Coldharbour's 'The Justification Rally'. Goes to show you never can tell, either, as those two songs come from the same slowly-building-to-a-fuzzed-up-wig-out stable of song-writing. It's not all long rambling indie jams, though. Shiny Around The Edges and Salter Cane deliver some mournful alt-country soundtracks that come on like rain on a motorway windscreen after one tequila too many. Then, from Early Day Miners and James Johnston, you have the tunes that sound like someone trying to produce ambient electronica, only without using any samples or keyboards. Of course, it wouldn't be an independent post-rock compilation without some reverb-lashed dirges, ranging in listenability from the sublime (Moly's 'Time on my Own') to the uninspiring (Revenge of Shinobi's 'Dave Courtney OBE' – I title I sincerely hope is meant to be ironic). Standing out on its own, not so much for its quality as its uniqueness, is 'Alienate' by hArtley, which is ... er ... late-New Wave synth-Goth-pop? This tune is utterly 80's in every way, right down to the Tandy drum machine snares and the Psychedelic Furs vocal style. The sound and the song fit well together, but it's more time-warped than retro – it feels like a lost seven-inch from your cousins wardrobe rather than a knowingly kitsch band-of-the-moment, and it doesn't sit with the rest of the album at all. But in doing so, it shines a contemporary light on the other works that they might not have basked in otherwise, and for that its inclusion is no great loss. 'Splendour and Misery' is an interesting collection of highs and lows, emotional and artistic, and a definite insight to Tenor Vossa's roster of acts. Save this one for a cold wet winter day when you feel in need of a bit of introspection.

Track Listing:-
1 Ari- Bitter Tears Will Flow
2 Moly- Time On My Own
3 hArtley- Alienate
4 Shiny Around The Edges- In The Heart
5 Early Day Miners- Lux Perpetua
6 Breathless- Behind The Light
7 Tenebrous- Been Hit
8 Hotel Hotel- All Heroes Are Forever Bold (Part 1)
9 Your Black Star- Rockets
10 Revenge Of Shinobi- Dave Courtney O B E
11 Coldharbor- The Justification Rally
12 Salter Cane- Wicked Boy
13 ...Bender- Laugh With Me
14 James Johnston- Dirty White Caravan
15 Ari- After The Dust Has Settled

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