Various Artists

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Next To Last Songs Vol. 2 (SAA1152)

In a pastoral field, Will Donaldson’s Next To Last Fest brought together iconic hip-hop duo Themselves, beat-maestro Daedelus and transcendent singer-songwriter Diane Cluck with psychedelic rock collective Dark Meat, Elephant Six’s Circulatory System and three Asthmatic Kitty artists: Jookabox, Liz Janes and Chris Schlarb.

Nichole and the Dreamcatchers + Various Artists- Krismus Karuls (KK01)

Originally released in 2003 on Konstrictor Productions this fantastically bizzare record features both a 7 song Christmas EP from Nichole & The Dreamcatchers, whose lead singer, Nichole, is in full command of her twelve year old voice shaped at the hands of Gary Gooper. Amazing stuff. Then the full on extravaganza. Two tracks from Half-Handed Cloud, The Mary Hamhocks (Liz Janes and husband- erstwhile Slowly Rotating Fan- Michael Kaufmann) and Mary Krismus. Probably the prettiest thing Create (!) has ever recorded (”Hymn for St. John of Shanghai”- bonus points if you know what he is the patron saint of…), a great lo-fi, fun instrumental from elusive My Marathon and a simply astounding piece of music from Joel Pickell (drummer and musician in the travelling Half-Handed Cloud circus). What is Christmas without kids!?? Childhood tape recordings from 1978 and 87 bookend the tracks and the album tops off with “Red & Green” from themorningcall featuring some sweet baby chatter.

Strata- A Young Person’s Guide To Experimental Music (SAA1125)

An ambitious compilation of noise, electronic, hip-hop, free jazz, prog and experimental music, Strata- A Young Person’s Guide To Experimental Music is a primer for those of any age. Featuring rare, new and unreleased tracks from: Create (!), Bizzart, Melk The G6-49, Lafcadio, Soul-Junk, MakeShift:Shelter, Manners For Husbands, Receptor Sight, Electric iLL and others. Collected from the Sounds Are Active and Joyful Noise record labels, Strata- A Young Person’s Guide To Experimental Music, presents both previously unreleased and downloadable tracks with album cuts.

Sounds Are Active/Asthmatic Kitty Sampler (AS001)

Sounds Are Active and sister label Asthmatic Kitty have pooled their collective talents to put something beautiful into the world: the 2004 Sampler. Over over 74 minutes of music from these two unceasingly original record labels. The Asthmatic Kitty “Side” features songs from Sufjan Stevens’ first three albums, as well as three tracks from the unrelentingly joyous Half-Handed Cloud. Songs by Liz Janes, Castanets and Viva Voce round out the 11 tracks- 3 heretofore unreleased. The Sounds Are Active “Side” teems with spastic new work from Melk The G6-49, Bizzart and Deneir. New and unreleased tracks from Soul-Junk, Vla Hemia and Create (!). Softer pieces contributed by Xn. (featuring a slick remix from hip-hop producer supreme Omid) and the brooding “Two Planes for Elliott Smith” by the Constantine/Levin/Phillips/Schlarb/Shadduck quintet.

Jazz- A Compilation (PS001)

The best music from an invisible scene, Jazz is a vital collection of new and progressive sounds coming out of the Long Beach/Los Angeles area. Five groups contributed 2-4 songs each, from the eccentric and highly melodic pop of Sidecar, produced by Ubiquity recording artist Nobody, leading of the album to the slick and thick fusion/funk of The Slippers. CrankCase (a recent 12” with Ugly Duckling’s Andy Cooper has given them international attention) provides three piece stripped down jamsof pure funk with Ramones aesthetic with the lumbering echoes of the aptly titled Dub Kinetics. Winding up with perhaps the strangest affair of the album, three tracks from the avant-garde free-jazz, world-thrash of Create (!).