Compilation albums are a lot like a mixtape. The best ones are built of different artists and vibes, but when set together in one singular time frame form a truly inspiring listening experience. Compilation albums can be as intimate and involved as that homemade mixtape you made back in high school for a friend. You want that friend to keep listening to that mixtape, but you also want to expose them to an artist or two they may not have ever heard before. You want to be their guide into a new musical landscape. The best compilations work that way. They invite you into a world you may not be familiar with, but once you’ve finished that first spin you’re ready to spin it again.
Burning Witches Records have put together one of the coolest mixtapes you’ll hear all year. Communion is their late night, homemade music collection that they’re handing to us in the hallway between classes. It’s a collection of some of the most exciting artists working in the electronic/heavy synth scene now. It works both as some lost soundtrack and as this sampler platter of the best and brightest blowing minds with synthesizers.
If you celebrated Record Store Day in the UK, you may have had a chance to snag Communion. And if you did you are one lucky guy or gal. If you didn’t, don’t spend your rent money for a copy on Ebay. Burning Witches will be selling some copies on their website at some point, so just sit tight and keep up with those guys on Facebook and at their website.
Now, about the music.
The roster on Communion is filled from start to finish with incredible talent. I mean, when you open an album with Deadly Avenger you know things are getting real. The steely and hard-driving “Nightcrawler” works perfectly as the opening salvo to what turns out to be an epic set of tunes. Damon Baxter never disappoints, and on this track he shows why Deadly Avenger is such a sought after musical project. Alone In The Woods’ “I Never Came Up For Air” works on both an eerie vibe and a very dance-y 80s tilt that sounds like both early Depeche Mode and soundtrack work. I’ve been pretty obsessed with Graham Reznick’s Glass Angles album recently, so seeing that he was on this set I was pretty excited. “Faking Point” takes the late night vibe of that album and gives it a more sinister groove. His mastery of sound design comes into play here as you feel all the blips and beeps are swirling around your head in a hallucinatory haze. Another Burning Witches alumni is Isvisible Isinvisible. His debut cassette release earlier this spring was a bubbling cauldron of pure analog bliss and on “The Level Crossing” he continues that vibe to stunning effect. You can practically see blinking lights, wires crossing, and a circuital world forming right before your eyes as the song plays on. Espectrostatic’s “The Locust Accord” is all sinister dark grooves with an almost NIN vibe. Imagine “The Perfect Drug” slowed down to a shadowy crawl with an almost Brothers Grimm twisted fairy tale feel.
Elsewhere, Cory Kilduff’s “LV426” emotes with an almost melancholy feel. It’s lifted from his excellent re-scoring of Ridley Scott’s Alien and it works perfectly as a Goth reinterpretation to Jerry Goldsmith’s more sparse, cold score. Timothy Fife’s “Erotic Rites” is inspired by old school Giallo of the sultry variety and it works incredibly well. Fife can go from moody swirls of Berlin School to Mario Bava-inspired melodrama at the drop of a hat. Here he takes the moody Giallo path to wonderful effect.
New to me, Ian Alex Mac’s “Winona ’88” amps up the hard-driving sound of 80s-inspired film music. He melds perfectly both 80s synth pop radio sounds and the work of Tangerine Dream into a perfect mix of mood and feel. Harglow’s “Candle Wax” crank up the industrial drive, putting me more in mind of early work by Skinny Puppy or Nine Inch Nails than anything on a John Hughes film. Closing out the set is worriedaboutsatan’s “Figures, Data”. These two guys are the kings of subtlety, building an almost ambient world through careful sound design and a slow burn dedication to creating mood. It’s a stunning finish to an overall exhilarating musical journey.
Communion is a stunning music trip. It is both an impressive display of the talent Burning Witches Records has brought together under one roof, as well as masterfully-curated compilation that could be the lost soundtrack to that movie you never knew you wanted to see.
It’ll be the coolest mixtape in your collection, too.