Yaz Lancaster’s Thoughtful Curation of “comp.01” Unifies Wide-Ranging Aesthetics for a Common Cause

comp.01 accomplishes a lot of things that compilation albums often struggle to do: it is unified by a multitude of electroacoustic textures, ambient soundscapes, and experimental approaches to form – but at the same time, it represents a diverse body of artistic voices. Released Dec. 1, 2023 on people places records, the album includes many of the label’s artists and collaborators, including label co-manager Yaz Lancaster, who also curated the project. With comp.01, their goal was to provide mutual aid for Within Our Lifetime (WOL) Palestine, a NYC-based and Palestinian-led organization that, according to Lancaster, “has organized and participated in near-daily demonstrations demanding for a ceasefire and end to the genocidal violence brought on by the US-funded Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

The album is curated in such a way that it brings out the best of its genre-fluid aesthetic. There is something dreamlike about moving fluidly from indie pop to abstract noise to a disintegrating string quartet. The listening experience is a journey through contemplative spaces, each bringing its own unique approach to ambience, tone, and activity. There are ample references to familiar sounds across the album – such as a phone ringing or people chatting – with an extensive and far-reaching electronic palette to hold it all together.

The album kicks off with Lancaster’s “roses / not for us / echo twice,” an experimental suite that includes the sounds of children celebrating the rain in Gaza. Before long, the suite delves into expansive and celestial soundscapes, culminating in a song saturated in a gently grooving lo-fi aesthetic. At just over six minutes in length, the track primes listeners for the album’s sequence of patchwork narratives by effortlessly moving through disparate styles.

Lancaster’s use of field recordings is echoed in a few other tracks, such as SARIAN’s “please call, please write,” which opens with the fuzzy chime of an old dial tone. There’s an underlying despair that hints at missed connections and conveys a deep longing for someone who is no longer reachable. Later, Connie Li’s “that the shadows cast on your face will never be the same” draws from improvisations made in her family home, interweaving ethereal vocalizations and reversed audio clips to glimpse a meditative vastness.

Several tracks feature synthesizers, particularly Phong Tran’s “Gathering.” The work explores subtle shifts in emotional energy by seamlessly weaving together swirling piano and synth textures. Other electroacoustic offerings include Nick Norton’s “Breakers,” which layers muted breakbeats with sweeping synth pads, and Michelle Hromin’s dissonant and airy solo improvisation, “for me, or one.” In “cold spell,” the electronic duo of Alec Toku Whiting and Isaac Roth Blumfield rides a wave of analog flutters, blips, and screeches that are at once abstract and completely immersive. With its retro-synth palette and machine-like grooves, Matt Evans’ “reef ring” bubbles forth with a cryptic, monolithic beauty, and Matt Magerkurth’s “Long Memory” juxtaposes pointillistic and resonant melodies over bassy drones.

On an album with so much abstract and experimental music, St. John’s Wort’s self-proclaimed indie pop anti-love song “Laurie (demo)” stands out, its playful vocals and soft timbres bobbing along with cozy confidence. A few other works similarly highlight live performances that contrast with the more production-centered compositional practice featured in the majority of the tracks. Friction Quartet delivers a strong performance of Brendon Randall-Myers’ “Intervals to Exhaustion,” which begins with exquisite, shimmering harmonics before devolving into a hard-rocking, heavy-metal jam replete with unexpected rhythmic twists and turns.

With a comparable intensity, Andrew Noseworthy’s performance of Lancaster’s “everything cut down (live)” is chock full of heavily distorted guitar motives that often linger with decaying loops. And the use of distorted guitar continues with Jeremy Rosenstock’s “the stone and the shred (abridged),” with stones placed on the strings of an electric guitar to create the track’s overwhelmingly noisy buzzes and shrill overtones.

The album ends with a much quieter brand of noise music. Perhaps more closely resembling a distended sound sculpture, Zachary Voelbel’s “of the earth” modulates bass frequencies at a glacial pace. With such subtle and gradual changes, the shifting frequency at times resembles a helicopter propeller, an emergency generator, and the hum of distant machinery. Voelbel’s use of minimal material and prolonged transformations calms the mind and invites deep listening. A testament to Lancaster’s excellent curatorial vision, “of the earth” forms the perfect coda to this articulate and deeply-felt compilation.


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