Various Artists (I.F.A.R. Compilation)
Institute For Alien Research, 2012
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
I’m awfully glad that I randomly selected this particular I.F.A.R. compilation to review next. The Beat Sounds From Way Out is, so far, my favorite one.
Institute For Alien Research is a collective that specializes in putting together an assortment of indie bands, most of whom are either DIY or are affiliated with netlabels or really underground indie labels. One of the people with whom I correspond on occasion regarding I.F.A.R. and related matters is Shaun Robert, who is also one of the contributors to some of their releases. He’s the one who’s sent me most of these compilations and there is more to come too.
But I was really blown away by Beat Sounds From Way Out, a 16-track CD of great, unique, eclectic sounds and styles from a variety of artists and bands that form one of my favorite I.F.A.R. compilations, so far. I could say that Beat Sounds… is more..uh, “accessible” than others, but that is usually an adjective that has been used as a sort of code for “radio-friendly” or “not as weird/noise-art-drone-experimental” as previous stuff, etc. and that is not at all what I would mean by that – for one thing, I would cringe if I were to somehow be in a situation/at some place, where a radio was playing (I haven’t listened to any radio stations in about 9-10 years). I have my own music library that is constantly growing and I’ve not needed any radio station to tell me what to listen to, I find out what’s worth hearing from word-of-mouth, from CDs I receive for reviewing – my, how many great finds I’ve come across from receiving CDs by bands I’ve not heard of before but that end up being love at first listen for me.
The CD at hand, The Beat Sounds From Way Out, is a mind-blowing collection of outstanding candy delights for the ear. And the diversity of sounds is also a great way of keeping things constantly fresh and never stultifying.
A few exceptions worth mentioning include the opening cut, “Spheric”, by Mutant Beatniks, an almost 7 minute track that reminds me of Psychic TV, with that pulsing, synthesized metallic accordion breath. Over this is a minimalistic keyboard melody with an undercurrent of a simple drum machine beat. The next cut, (#2) is “Retina” by Australasia. This one is worth mentioning because, unlike most of everything in this genre, in I.F.A.R’s catalogue, is a good, old-fashioned electric guitar jam, with a hard-rock distortion jam and a double-barreled drum barrage that is reminiscent of heavy metal, even though it’s not metal. A really different, but nonetheless brilliant cut is song #6, “Psychedelic Wings of a Broken Destiny” by Membrana Psicodelica. This number starts off with an electronica intro, that soon morphs into an electric guitar (but no distortion). The best thing about this track is the Spanish-flavored guitar which is wickedly good and to make things even spicier, it’s backed by a twangy rhythm guitar that you’d otherwise hear in surf-music. It’s like an Ennio Morricone soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western on Mars. Beautiful. Also – just to give a shout-out – the last track on here is by our friend Stirner, so it is full of good stuff.
But my favorite cut on this disc is “Omia”, by Akhmed al-Qurid Hassan. This one is hard to pin down – it’s electronica, it’s avant-garde and it’s jazz. If Miles Davis were alive today and pretended he didn’t do those disappointing records he made during his “comeback” period in the 80s (Tutu, Amandla, etc.) and had just fast-forwarded from his last great album (1974’s Get Up With It) the one he did before his “retirement” and collaborated with some of these great indie geniuses, this is what you might expect to hear, although it would probably be at least ½ hour longer. And that is one thing I wish about “Omia” – that it was a lot longer – at least 25 or more minutes. As it is, it’s about 6 ½ minutes, but with its jazzy underpinnings, the Hammond-Organ – either synthesized sound or an actual Hammond, was its piece de resistance. Other great things about this include, toward the beginning, especially, is the percussive synth harmonies underneath zooming, flying melodies. As for the peerless production, it was coated with dreamy atmospherics, ethereal, outer-space pathos as well as a blue note that hung over it, in which it was so easy to get lost in.
There are so many other great examples to mention about The Beat Sounds From Way Out that it would take forever to go through them all. Suffice it to say, though, I would highly recommend you get this CD by hook or by crook. Easiest way I know of would be to go to bandcamp.com and search The Beat Sounds From Way Out and/or Institute for Alien Research or just IFAR. One of these will produce some results. Another venue to search is Facebook, where I know there are postings and links as well as write-ups about Shaun Robert, I.F.A.R, etc.
I still have at least a couple more of these compilations to write up and they will appear soon. But I just had to get the word out about The Beat Sounds From Way Out. A great compilation that had just the right mix of songs on it. Happy Listening! – KM.