steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Various Artists

"Quality Home Recorded Masterworks Vol. 1" CD

Cuban Fan Belt Records

Genres: lo-fi, electronic, indie pop

Oct 25 - 31 2004

Quality Home Recorded Masterworks Vol. 1 is the first in what I hope will be a long line of compilations from upstart DIY label Cuban Fan Belt.  This gathers seventeen songs from the imprint's various projects, including some extremely good stuff by hometaper Zero as the Reference and creative rock band Hierophant.  While lo-fi music isn't for everyone - particularly when it is as eclectic and unconventional as this is - a true DIY artifact like this only comes along every so often.

On Quality Home Recorded Masterworks, there are eight different lo-fi acts contributing.  Bassmental Sound System starts things off with their lone submission, a predictably bass-centred slab of DIY dub; despite its simplicity, it's a surprisingly cohesive and enjoyable piece of music.  Zero as the Reference's two contributions are short, lovingly hometaped pop songs; the band is intriguingly unconventional, but also committed to churning out quality melodic product - I'd love to hear some of their other work.  Tall Tooth and the Rain both work in the electronic medium; the smooth, chilled-out "Neural Floodgates" is a definite highlight.

Unknown act Fuel Wheel accounts for some of this disc's best material.  Their two songs are lo-fi, folk-pop masterpieces that recall Jefferson Airplane, Koester, and Pavement all at once - I can't find any information about the band, but with songs like these I sure hope they're working on some other releases.  Epic rock band Hieroplant, amazing electro-folker Geographic ("Formless Faire" is a revelation), and electro-rock absurdist Field Test Collective round out the disc.

I'll be looking out for Cuban Fan Belt in the future.  A compilation like this is worthy of your attention.


Fun Fact: A "heirophant" (the name of one of this compilation's bands) is defined as "an interpreter of sacred mysteries or arcane knowledge."  It is also a figure that appears on a Tarot card, where it represents education, a strong belief system, groupwork, and conformism.  You can see more here.

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 17 tracks, distributed by CD Baby, released 2004]