VARIOUS ARTISTS: Touch 25 (Touch)
25 Tracks. 79mins43secs
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Touch 25 (Touch)
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With a solid twenty-five years at the forefront of contemporary music, releasing music by artists as diverse as The Hafler Trio, Sweet Exorcist, Sandoz, Oren Ambarchi, Chris Watson, Scala, Philip Jeck, Mika Vainio, Biosphere, Christian Fennesz, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ryoji Ikeda or BJ Nilsen to name but a fraction, Touch have collected one of the most impressive and inspired catalogues around, encompassing a wide array of genres, from noise to post-modern classical, ambient and electronic.
To celebrate this massive slab of work, the label, founded in 1982 by Jon Wozencroft Mike Harding, Nevelle Brody and Andrew McKenzie, of Hafler Trio fame, have put together a collection of twenty-five exclusive tracks from the likes of Biosphere, Fennesz, Pan Sonic, Chris Watson, Mark Van Hoen, Rafael Toral, Mother Tongue, BJ Nilsen, Philip Jeck and many more. Touch 25 doesn't intend to document the label's history, and only seems to give a vague and short insight into the various musical grounds covered by these artists, yet it is true to the label's ethic in every way, from the instantly recognisable cover artwork, by Wozencroft to the depth and reach of each one of the tracks featured. Acting as inserts are seven short pieces, scattered all across the album, none of them attributed to a particular artist. Set against fully developed compositions, these short intervals regularly bring in some fresh air and occasionally provide some welcome light relief.
Right from the outset of Gotland, contributed by BJ Nilsen, which opens the album, the tone is set. In this short piece (1'47), the Swedish composer works found sounds into an ebbing and flowing structure which eventually morphs into a vague white noise blob before merging into the first interlude. The mood here is somewhat introvert, with Nilsen taking the ambient scope which he has been developing in one way or another since his Morthond days to its environmental noise extreme. Orem Ambarchi’s Moving Violation is a stern and mournful drone-based composition. Here, he processes electric guitar sounds into an ever-changing drone where traces of statics and feedback provide the clearest signs of life. Fennesz’s Tree is, in comparison, a far more approachable affair. Built on the sonic shards of an acoustic guitar, the man constructs a delicate and peaceful composition. While Chris Watson’s double contributions rely heavily on found sounds, the next couple of tracks steer this compilation towards a more urban tone, first with Mother Tongue’s tribal Rewording, a track recorded back in 1988, then with Peter Rehberg’s minimal TT1205. Yet, while Pan Sonic juggle for a moment between post-industrial and desolate ambiences, it is back to more introvert pieces with contributions from Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ryoji Ikeda, Philip Jeck and Bruce Gilbert. Only Mark Van Hoen’s dreamy Put My Trust In You appears somewhat connected to reality. The album concludes with the bucolic Spring Fever, from Biosphere, and Rosy Parlane’s haunting Atlantis.
While Touch 25 doesn’t represent a comprehensive review of the label’s outputs over it’s twenty-five year history and is only a fraction of what the Touch team have put together to celebrate this major milestone, it still represents an important release and proves to be a truly essential collection. Although there is an undeniable consistency all throughout, each track reveals one of the facets of this most stimulating of labels.