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Various Artists | un17 [a seventeen track unlabel compilation] (Unlabel)
Like all compilations, 'un17' suffers from an acute condition of hit-and-miss-itis. Misses here come in the shape of Joeyfat - whose I can't wait to see them blast those dogs into outer space is only slightly less irritating than its title - and some questionable electronica from The Monochromat Fixation and Moth, the latter of whom seems to have spent thirty minutes tinkering with a basic Logic program before having the gall to call the result a song. Ye Wiles' dodgy ska is also awfully misplaced alongside so many post-rock and indie bands. Hits, however, are plentiful. Unlabel's mission with this release - which is not only cheaply priced, but beautifully packaged in hand-finished artwork (resembling a rustic Constellation release) - is to champion the best in experimental music originating from the south-east of England, and with the likes of Planquez (think Don Caballero), Cove (Fugazi) and The Ape Choir (Ooberman if they weren't so happy all the time), they've certainly succeeded. Other highlights come from 100 Pets, whose Adam will appeal to anyone taken by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Smog or even Elliott Smith, and Noon's breathtakingly beautiful Paint a Picture, a simple piano-led number that will have all but the possessor of the coldest of hearts swooning with delight. Have I mentioned the excellent Unhome, Charlottefield or Songs Of My Lap yet? No? Well, they're great too. The occasional glitch aside, the whole record in general is great, which is something I never thought I'd say about any compilation record. Chances are that many of these bands will, at some point, become the new saviours of whatever scene the UK is in the throws of, so get your hands on this and tell your friends you told them so from the outset. For a mere fiver, the quality of this release is staggering.

Mike Diver
March-April 2003