Various: But Then Again

~scape, 2004

But Then Again cover

This compilation from late last year celebrates five years of the Berlin-based ~scape label. (Singles from the collection are scheduled for vinyl release this year.) Cappablack from Japan opens with the hip-hoppy “5th Dimension.” Light beats, Casio keyboards, and scratched rap samples make for a bouncy if simple tune. Thomas Fehlmann’s approach is funkier, but “Take 5” comes across as light-weight dance fair (think Ninja Tune). Thankfully Mike Shannon feat. June offers a more interesting contribution, with slow, decaying beats, bizarre synths, and sweet soprano singing. John Tejada’s housy “And Many More” is also infectious, with reverbed bleeps and a precise bassline. Other highlights are Jan Jelinek’s “Western Mimikry” featuring subtly manipulated guitar, Andrew Pekler’s dark, jazzy “Unidentified,” and the even darker and jazzier “Tomorrowtoday (Part 2)” by Triosk who indulges in acoustic bass, drums, and piano. Rechenzentrum vs. Masha Qrella’s “Destination Vertical” is also a treat, mixing electric guitar and a vocal chorus with deep house.

While ~scape began life with Pole and friends’ stark, clicky dubscapes, it’s obviously expanded into a wide range of genres, spanning funk, hip-hop, and even indie rock influences. But Then Again reminds me of a Wire sampler: it’s eclectic to the point of losing cohesion, and a handful of tracks didn’t appeal to me at all. But when it’s good it’s good. As long as the majority of ~scape’s output remains high quality and experimental, I’ll be listening.

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