Various Artists: We Are the Works in Progress

The uninitiated into this musical genre might find this boring, and those who are into the sound may find it gloomy, but that does not mean the music is not worth hearing.

Various Artists
Label: Asa Wa Kuru
Title: We Are the Works in Progress
US Release Date: 2012-02-07
UK Release Date: 2012-02-07

The human costs of the earthquake, tsunami and partial nuclear meltdown in Japan have been tremendous. The people’s suffering and the high radiation levels continue, but news about what is going on in the Land of the Rising Sun has largely disappeared in the American press. That was so last year, which is one reason why the fundraising compilation disc, We Are the Works in Progress, is such a good idea. The album brings attention to the fact that serious problems still exist. The disc’s proceeds go to the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund and Architecture for Humanity. The only question is whether one should just donate to the cause or buy the record. That answer is not so clear-cut

The 14 unreleased tracks here belong to that experimental electronic ambient genre of mostly serial repitition by such notables in the field as Four Tet, Terry Riley and Deerhunter. The effort was spearheaded by Japanese musician Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, who also perform on the record. There is a sameness to the material that the uninitiated will confuse for cohesiveness, in the way someone unfamiliar with the works of the National, Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket might mistake one of these band’s versions of alternative rock for each other. But the differences are substantial and important, even if the techno creations of We Are the Works in Progress share a surface similarity.

While many of the tracks come off as the incomplete demos that they in actuality probably are, this fits in with the album’s theme of rebuilding Japan. However, none of the songs really have a positive vibe. They drone more than uplift. Even the album's lightest tunes, such as David Sylvain and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Bamboo House”, never really brighten the mood. As a whole the disc comes across as somber. No surprise, really. Guess what? A magnitude 9.0 seismic eruption devastated the country and everyone gets solemn in relation to the events and its consequences. The songs were not created with this is mind, but they seem subliminally chosen in this respect.

No wonder the cuts have dark titles such as “Castles in the Grave” (John Maus), “No Face” (Karin Dreijer Andersson) and “Nightcrawler” (Nosaj Thing), and that even ones with optimistic titles such as Broadcast’s “In Here the World Begins” come off as negative. Yes, the world begins in chaos but even the birds' chirping sounds of “In Here the World Begins” can’t escape the general murkiness of the track.

The uninitiated into this musical genre might find this boring, and those who are into the sound may find it gloomy, but that does not mean the music is not worth hearing. Sometimes, glum is good, like a rainy days with coffee and smokes. It depends on your mood. So if you want to feel better about yourself, make a donation to help the people in Japan recover from their recent disaster. They still needs lots of assistance. And if you are feeling low and like it, buy this without reflecting on the help your purchase brings and listen to the soundtrack to your life.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.