As you’ll already have guessed from the title, the Youngbloods label is celebrating five years of activity with a compilation, with tracks from 15 out of the no fewer than 70 artists they’ve worked with over that time. Each track fits broadly with the “grow fast age slow” catchphrase of the label, offering up generally chilled out electronica with above-average dosages of acoustic instrumentation. The artists are generally all on the same page and the result is a little over an hour of smooth, laidback, downtempo melody work, sometimes bordering on ambient.
Highlights include “Alex The Spacecat” from Stu Pender (not the Lancashire Hotpots one), with Natalia Ice’s supremely languid and measured vocal work (which is also highlighted on Dan Krakaur’s quirky slow jam “Ur Way”). Time Wharp’s nicely understated gated warm keys in “Rhodes Noel” is nicely mesmerising, while Foamek’s perky and optimistic plucky synths on “Marvelous Persona” are just the right kind of sweet. The always reliable Kratos Himself’s “Clappers” is a lovely fusion of pseudo-ethnic sounds into a slightly Matthew Herbert-style bit of independent instrumental alt-pop.
Other notable pieces include Yoh’s “Old Leopard Paws”, with its almost folky instrumentation that feels like it harks back to the softer side of 60’s and 70’s prog rock but fused with electronic ambience. Lucy Roleff’s “In The Doorway” goes a step further and offers up a pure acoustic guitar-and-vocal ballad, the simplistic beauty of which compliments well denser and more modern-sounding pieces like The Josh Craig’s “All Dogs Don’t Go To Heaven”.
Notable for a less positive reason is Suplington’s final track “Guiding Hand”, which centres around a male vocal about going back to sleep that is set in a soporific setting, but which is so gently twisted and off-key that it ends up being reminiscent of the songs in the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sitting in that uncanny position where gentle and malign rub against each other.
Although some of it does border ever so gently on being twee- Sontag Shogun’s piano work “Unfinished Idea 004” feels ripped straight from the separation scene of some moody 90’s romantic movie, with railway field recordings rather prosaically layered on top- generally it’s an extremely beautiful collection of tracks which really showcases the lush velvety tone and very high quality threshold that the Youngbloods label has established. This is absolutely worth grabbing, and listening to at the end of any long day.