Various Artists

Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture

Rough Trade want to fuck you. That’s the only possible explanation for a compilation as self-consciously skewed as this. Remember when you thought if you made a mixtape that showed off the quality and depth of your music taste That Special Someone would sleep with you? Judging by this year’s instalment of RT’s long-running series, they’ve had their eye on you for quite some time.

Disc One is a languid Sunday afternoon affair, and with Bon Iver’s (pictured) verdant ‘Flume’, the fireside chants of Crystal Stilts’ ‘Graveyard Orbit’ and the psych head-rub that is ‘Recent Bedroom’ by Atlas Sound, RT have the sofa-bound vibe spot on. In fact, it’s a little too relaxed: no-one on the planet ever needs to hear Fleet Foxes’ ‘White Winter Hymnal’ again and a few more oddball track selections would’ve made all the difference. But flick on Disc Two’s Saturday night clusterbang and the world suddenly detonates in a skyburst of distortion. The electric insanity of Boris’ ‘LaserBeam’! Gun Outfit’s breathless ‘Your Will’! Times New Viking’s shit-smeared noisefest ‘My Head’! Yum.

But it’s not just a case of quiet/heavy; threaded throughout is a playful screwed-upness that slyly loosens our belt buckle and slips a coy hand inside. Brooklynite space invaders Telepathe (‘Chrome’s On It’, natch – again, not the boldest of choices considering it’s been as ever-present on the blogs as Kasabian at a Cretinous Bastards Convention) and the barmy Department Of Eagles’ ‘Classical Records’ add a darkness to Disc One’s light delights, and dropping the paranoiac mumbling of Salem’s ‘Redlights’ smack in the middle of Disc Two is just showing off.

In a brave new world where Spotify playlists can be sent around the globe in a matter of seconds, for the compilers to have obviously spent so long working out the order is just gorgeous – you imagine grey, cowled zombies crawling around the Rough Trade vaults yelling, “YES! I’ve found Alva Noto’s ‘U_08-1’! That’s perfect for that tricky-to-fill gap between Opium Factory and 2562!’ to a chorus of none-more-indie approval. And whose bright idea was it to put The Shitty Limits, HEALTH, Indian Jewelry and Shit & Shine in a row? The nation is in a fragile state as it is, and listening to that lot in one go could be the death knell for society itself. Good thing we’ve got a sonic hug just a disc-swap away in the form of Bon Iver dissolving gracefully into The Low Anthem, which itself thrums into Peter Broderick. So to speak.

So are we seduced? Really, Rough Trade, you had us at Vivian Girls’ ‘Where Do You Run To’…

Ben Patashnik

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