Various Artists ~ Home

The word home has multiple associations, as highlighted by this cozy compilation.  Home connotes safety, warmth, and love.  Home is where we lay our hats.  Home can be a location or a state of mind.  Now that December has arrived, many of us are dreaming of being home for the holidays.

Ali Tillett of the Warm Agency compiled this collection of mostly exclusive tracks to honor how our definition of home evolved during the pandemic.  While a home can be a haven, it can also seem like a prison.  Only by expanding the parameters of home to include yard, park and community might one regain that feeling of warmth and comfort.  And so Tillett also asked field recordist Gary Moore to capture the sounds of Dorset, which are interspersed with the musical tracks.  We feel this sort of thing should always be encouraged; in fact, we’d have loved even more of the field recording aspect, or a continuous mix in which field recordings and music became inextricable.

The album starts with the sound of “Sea Lapping,” implying not only the ocean but thoughts of the ocean.  If one desires, one may re-sequence the album to journey across the region.  “Ship’s Horn” becomes a natural outgrowth of “Sea Lapping.”  “Avocet” has a conversation with “Cormorants.”  The “Great Spotted Woodpecker” works close to the “Tawny Owls,” while the puffins labor to survive the wind.  Home is not just our home.

Coyote samples William Wordworth’s “It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free,” a poem I once used to begin a mixtape.  It’s nice to know someone across the pond owns the same record, while the patient electronic vibes honor the vibe of the scribe.  Natural Calamity‘s “Have You Seen the Sun Today” offers bucolic guitar, more comforting than the artist’s name, with soaring wordless vocals in the center.  Most of the set remains in the instrumental mode, with only a couple kind exceptions.

A pleasant retro feeling is also prevalent, with hints of disco and balearic music.  Greymatter & GOLDSLANG‘s “Black Turns to Blue” is reminiscent of an earlier age, and serves as a reminder that during the pandemic, people around the world turned to the past for comfort: old songs, old TV shows, board games around crackling fires.  As if cognizant of this desire, two veteran artists return, Fug for the first time in a decade and World of Apples for the first time in two.  Both are in prime form, the first with pristine voice, the second with all-enveloping ambience and (yes!) field recordings folded into the mix. Welcome back, we’ve missed you ~ you’ve returned just when we needed you most, and it is wonderful to hear you again, like pajamas on the first night of winter.

Ironically, despite the title “Doldrums,” Âme‘s closing piece is the album’s most percussive and upbeat, a hopeful sign of things to come.  This winter arrives with a different tone from last ~ with some good fortune, a time to count one’s blessings and commemorate our progress.  When all is said and done, as this compilation celebrates, there’s no place like home.  (Richard Allen)

Various Artists ~ Home