Various Artists: Immediate Action

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By Stephanie Dickison

Skin Deep

The swirl of echoey guitar and electronica capsulate you. A loop of remixed voices sneaks in and out of your listening bubble. It is 2028 and the world of music has become all about tactile emotion via computer created sounds. Or, at least this is what it feels like upon hearing Telefon Tel Aviv’s remix of John Hughes “Got Me Lost/Driving in LA”, the first of 22 songs on this double CD released by the irreverent label, Hefty Records.

Here’s a background check on how Immediate Action came to be:

“The Immediate Action 12” series was released in the summer/fall of 2000. The concept behind the series was simple: get the music out quick, in limited quantities, without promotion. Graphic Havoc incorporated a similar feeling of immediacy to the design by using a spray painted stencil as the basis for the artwork. About 5000 jackets were screen printed in black and yellow with a space reserved for stickers that contained the relevant information for each album. Different colour stickers were then printed as soon as the information for each release was finalized in order to speed up the production process. The design for the CD follows the same philosophy—quick and striking with no fuss. Graphic Havoc sprayed the information for each release onto various surfaces and photographed them for the layout, adding bonus information and miscellaneous photographs to enhance the overall design”.

Because this method got a lot of people excited about the music in a short amount of time and requests for earlier, out-of-print singles were rampant, Hefty put out this collection with tracks from the original Immediate Action series.

John Hughes, founder of Hefty, has said the label was created to release his own music, but he found such inspirations in other’s work that he decided to make it into an “artists label”.

Started in Chicago, John’s label releases a mixed bag of artist and genre. Immediate Action is no exception. From the funky reverberating sounds of the Sagittarian Burners with “Role Reversal Interlude” to the deep and moody Twine that appear three times here, you will be hard pressed to find something that is definable in today’s music terms.

Not only does the cover give off an industrial feel, so does the music. Melancholic for the most part, this is for the serious connoisseurs of ambient/instrumental music that is all about being electronic to the power of 10. Sublime while giving off some serious phat breaks and beats that will leave your headphones vibrating, this collection feels like walking through water with your clothes on. Not uncomfortable, but a foreign feeling that leaves parts of your body feeling grounded while floating.

Process’s track “Define” is slow moving and very industrial. Lots of programmed sound with not much happening along the way, but like Blade Runner, it is heartbreaking for reasons beyond mere words. Tribal beats persuade their way into a jazz set that is reminiscent of 1960s sitcoms in Samadha Trio’s “Loki”, leaving the listener to decide whether it’s innovative or simply strange.

“Bluestreams” by Beneath Autumn Sky feels like early Depeche Mode and suddenly, all is right with the world.

The most unique and alluring track on CD One has to be Savath+Savalas’ “Two Blues for Marion Brown”. Scott Herren, the man that is Savath+Savalas, is also known as Delarosa and Asora. A man with more pennames than Cornell Woolrich, this track can be found with the same ingredients as Maxwell, uber-ladies man extraordinaire, to name just one artist, where the simple act of breathing is put under the microscope (or, in this case, a mixer) and brought to life with simple repetition and a feel that can only be experienced by a lover’s touch.

CD Two was more accessible and flavoured by jazz and its contemporaries throughout. The feeling of suntan lotion sinking into your skin is how some music can be experienced. This two-CD collection feels like a cold summer’s day. That torn feeling of having the warm sun beating on your face while the wind ripples against your back. There are incredible moments here. Twine’s remix of John Hughes’ “Set Me on the Couch” is filled with toad-like sounds and a quality that feels like trying to listen to your own voice while talking into a heavy wine glass. “Next Time” by Slicker Meets the Aluminum Group is the only track that has a singer and it is the best track in the collection. A Bryan Ferry “Don’t Stop the Dance” for the Millennium, this is by far the most accessible song and could be easily featured as a crossover track into pop or anywhere else that would have these guys.

And this is the reason for getting collections such as this. You will be exposed to artists you may not have heard of or listened to previously. And these few moments of listening heaven make the collection worthy of heading onto the road with this in hand.

Don’t forget your space helmet.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/various-immediateaction/