After more than four years as a label, Cincinnati-based Datawaslost is starting to get a handle on its area’s independent music scene. With Datawaslost: One.Two.Three the collective provides its third sampler, this time focusing only on acts from Cincinnati. The 18 artists presented here play a variety of pop, but most of them remain grounded in an indie rock style with low production values. The music quality covers a wide range, but the disc’s best tracks make a listen worthwhile.
The Spectacular Fantastic starts off the compilation with “Popular Sound”, which merges lo-fi production aesthetics with classic rock hooks. The guitar tone could have come from the mid-‘70s, but the vocal effects owe more to the style of the last decade. While “Popular Sound” isn’t the best song on the album, it’s a good choice as an opener because it’s emblematic of the collection: while it has an indie/underground sound, it remains very accessible.
With muddied guitars and straight-ahead drumming, “Host of a Chance” by Hilltop Distillery maintains the atmosphere established by the Spectacular Fantastic. The act has a nice sound, but this instrumental piece never goes anywhere. Too long to work as a segue, it’s hard to understand its selection for this compilation. It seems to be post-rock for people without the attention span for slow-builders. Like most samplers, One.Two.Three has its ups and downs that, as with the start of the album, alternate throughout.
Gossett provides the disc’s first truly noteworthy tracks. “Gulf of Tonkin” opens with steady electronics and percussion centered on the high hat. The occasional guitar parts have a psychedelic blues sound. With its atmospherics and buried vocals, Gossett reveals a shoegazer sensibility, but the group keeps its sound sparser. “Gulf of Tonkin” provides a good example of how various influences can be synthesized without betraying or overindulging those roots.
Forty-one Ninety-Two uses various effects and electronic sounds to tinker around with the melody on “Little Miss 1565”. While the band uses enough misdirection to keep the song unpredictable, the group never makes its sonic changes jarring. “Little Miss 1565” isn’t a song that will get stuck in your head, but it is one that you can pick new things out of each time.
The hardest—and possibly best—song on the compilation comes at the end. The Decisions’ “Moderation” sounds like it should have been recorded a few states to the west, as it’s clearly influenced by Detroit garage rock. However, the song doesn’t stick to garage conventions. The track starts off like a Vines song (your pick), but after seven or eight strums it quickly devolves into a mess of feedback and squelches with a guitar in the distance; when it takes off again, it sounds as if the singer’s got a $5 microphone and the guitarist has plenty of $5 distortion pedals. “Moderation” must describe the point where garage and noise rock meet, and the Decisions sound nice and dirty right on that point.
Most of the other performances on One.Two.Three are solid without being memorable. Several of them fit into the post-punk tradition comfortably, but not inventively. Unfortunately, some of these tracks are too derivative to be enjoyed. The Socials have a fun snotty attitude on “Tunnels Under the City”, but their chord progressions and melodies rely on clichés, and owe far too much to “Cherry Bomb”. Likewise, Post-Haste struggles to find its niche. Its “Sound Steelers” make me wonder if they listened to lots of Beatles and then tried to write television theme songs. While not actively displeasing, the group just doesn’t do anything well enough or creatively enough to warrant repeat playings of this song.
One.Two.Three serves its purpose by providing a listenable introduction to the label’s (and Cincinnati’s) bands. It’s a take on a scene, but it’s also the equivalent of a 2003 Datawaslost catalog, complete with ads, specials, and items that you can instantly see why they’re on sale. It’s a rewarding listen that hopefully will give some quality bands exposure, and with only a few bum tracks, One.Two.Three manages to be a sampler that won’t keep you running for the skip button.