Fragments is an ambitious compilation from the Hivern label, offering up 28 new and unreleased tracks, some from artists who’ve been with the label since it started in 2008, and others who are new arrivals. Available for a couple of months as a box set of six 12”s, and as staggered individual 12”s, it’s now available to download as well. It’s a generous bundle of over three hours of diverse electronica-and-sometimes-beyond for which the word ‘epic’, a word I would normally try to avoid, does seem really quite applicable.
Much of it skirts on the very edge of dancefloor work, with tracks like Cleveland’s “Via Sole” a gentle bit of low-key techno that skirts closely around labels like ‘progressive’ or ‘minimal’ and ploughs its own furrow instead. Simon Haydo’s “Bending Frameworks” is more purist in its techno structure, bending and squelching light industrial sounds into twisty ever-changing loops, and pairs nicely with the similar approach in C.P.I.’s “Miasma” (despite them being on adjacent 12”s). Inga Mauer’s “It’s Gone”, despite the two-word spoken refrain sounding like the word ‘disco’ instead of ‘it’s gone’, certainly isn’t disco, with a deep techno form that’s nicely executed.
There’s diversity, for sure. Tracks like Walden’s “Guerreros Del Lago” head in the direction of trip-hop, with rich acoustic bass sounds and a tentative, cautious feel that paints complex pictures and puts you on edge in the gentlest of ways. Steve Pepe’s “Tribalone” fuses intriguingly cross-continental percussion with a steel guitar-ish lazy melody for something that’s got a distinctive and inventive character, without ever pushing it too much in your face. Beesmunt Soundsystem’s “Hypno” rolls a more purposeful but still downtempo groove with a journeyman feel, and Velmondo’s “Transubstitution” also takes things slow, pulling a gentle crisp walking beat against glitchy urgent-sounding synths and sirens so your mood doesn’t know which way to turn. Nadia D'Alò’s “Ten-High Straight” stands out thanks to its slightly husky vocal work.
There are quite a few tracks here that throw up fond memories of early 90’s trance and the early days of IDM or whatever you want to call it. It’s a form of synthwave, if you like, but pointed fondly at the memories of Trance Europe Express compilations and dubby albums from System 7 and Global Communication. Benedikt Frey’s “Cali Stroll”, a simple groove taking ‘that PM Dawn beat’ and rolling it into a three minute groove that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first Woob album, and the same could also be said for the gentle acid stroll of John Talbot’s “Hivernoid”. Marc Piñol’s “Vil de Not” is old-school acid electro and proud of it, while Samo DJ’s “Waterfall” tackles the more balearic and tropical side of the sound.
Parple’s “El Día Oscuro” stands out a little for being more overtly synthwave-ish, a collection of synth arps that brings early Vince Clarke noises into a long, subdued progressive format, feeling like it’s retro finger is pointing a few years earlier than the tracks around it- although the synths in Cooper Saver’s “Tell” and the synth slapbass in Mioclono’s “Center Of Things” do give it some support in that regard.
The trancey sonic throwbacks are very welcome with me, leaving me quite smitten with details like the soft and simple four-chord pattern in Shame On Us’s “Fingers Crossed”. Overall it’s a mostly relaxed and somewhat heartwarming set of predominantly instrumental tunes that feel like they’ve been dropped in from simpler times. An exceptionally high-quality and well-presented package.