Various Artists – “Chimhyangmoo 침향무” [OSC005] (Oslated) [October 18th, 2021]

South Korean based label, Oslated’s latest various artists’ compilation is an innovative blend of techno, dub, experimental and ambient.

Prior to its release, Oslated’s latest various artists compilation, titled “Chimhyangmoo 침향무,” offered only a single preview of one of its sixteen tracks on the release’s Bandcamp page. Just a quick tease, a short glimpse into an unfamiliar sonic landscape. That said, the track “Plant Community” by artist Kimtaeyeon, immediately caught my attention and ran away with it. Its dark and foreboding take on dub techno is striking, soothing, yet frightening, and I immediately felt burdened with great anticipation for the release of the other fifteen tracks. After my first listen to that single track, it became clear that this compilation was going to be something special. A week or so later, I could finally give it a listen. Hearing the compilation in its entirety certainly didn’t disappoint. “Chimhyangmoo 침향무” is an inspired journey from the outer edges of the underground electronic music scenes in parts of both Asia and Europe, and it feels fresh, tasteful, and delightfully unfamiliar.

While the first track “Field of Resonance,” by Abismal makes for an uplifting and serene introduction, the second track on the album encapsulates and explores a much darker pallet, more in line with the track that had initially peaked my interest. Dycide’s cut “Dusk,” like much of the compilation, sounds tropical in the most menacing, sultry way imaginable. Psychedelic wobble bass lines are thoroughly rinsed in dub delays, while an array of tribal drum taps echo in the distance. A soft and airy pad drifts by like an airy breeze in the woods, and suddenly the listener is transported somewhere desolate and unfamiliar. The introduction of bright and funky fills from a more recognizable, traditional drum kit is a pleasant surprise and promises more danceable grooves yet to come. These combining elements make for an unusual, attention-grabbing concoction.

Many, if not most of the tracks on the compilation are thoughtful, well-constructed and imaginative mixtures of various subgenres of electronic music, but Pseudobaul’s “Pattern of Wounds,” in my opinion, checks all the right boxes. A plethora of varying reverbs and delays, color and animate a smattering of percussive layers and one-shots. As you listen to the intricate, free-flowing rhythmical pattern develop, a domineering cinematic melody in the distance devours any and all empty space. A sudden breakdown at two minutes and fifteen seconds in allows for a brief moment for the listener to bask in the unearthly mystique radiating out of this tune. While it is unlikely that you would describe “Pattern of Wounds” as a dance track, it certainly builds anticipation for more to come.

Just as one door closes, another opens. Such is the case with the ninth track “DMZ Korea (Remastered Version)” by Sean Rooney, as it quite literally opens with an eerie and abrasive loop of a door slamming shut. This track maintains a hefty, bouncy bass groove that will have you bursting with anticipation. Menacing mechanical sound effects coalesce into a catchy and creative pattern that will quickly have you starving for the dj to mix in a nice booming kick or hi hat. Deep breaths, a gasp, and a vocal sample of a pilot stating, “I’m in position,” bring some humanity to this otherwise purely mechanical monstrosity of a track. A deadly war machine has been awakened, and you might not be prepared for whatever track comes next.

Waiting to hear this compilation in its entirety was well worth the wait, but I never anticipated the second to last track by Healing Noises, “Our Fantasy.” Differing from the other tracks on the compilation, this track is “lush” in a completely different way. Unlike the other tracks, many of which incorporate natural sounding ambience, field recordings, etc., this track is much more of a warehouse inspired techno lullaby with a classic rave flavor and dreamy vocal samples. Bright, yet cool and calming, the booming kick and distant hats gently pulse, while pumping you up with waves of nostalgia and ecstatic bliss. This track resides somewhere on the outer edges of what we typically refer to as house and techno, as it is strikingly gentle and serene for those genres. No single sound even comes close to reaching the levels of loudness one would deem sounding harsh or too intense, making it ideal for closing your eyes and loosing yourself to, either at home or on the dance floor. For me, one of the highlights on the entire compilation is when the vocals, and most other elements of this track are stripped away at around two minutes and forty seconds in, providing a brief moment to stop and appreciate the heavenly chord stabs and shakers in isolation. This track exemplifies a relatively fresh sound that I believe has a ton of cross-genre appeal and has the potential to grow very popular among diverse audiences in years to come. “Our Fantasy” is uplifting, serene, and becomes more impactful the louder you play it.

While I didn’t get around to highlighting every track on this compilation, each of them are forward thinking, and deserve to be heard. “Chimhyangmoo 침향무” is a collection of tracks that offers a path forward into the vast, less explored side of the electronic music landscape we find ourselves in. Producers, DJs, and fans of modern dance music, who may be searching for something innovative, original, and inspiring, will likely take something away from this exceptional release, and may even see their tastes broadened as a result. Support the artists and label with a digital download, available on the Bandcamp page linked above.

-Jeronimo Watson

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