Review: Various Artists – Spheres

Research 01 - Spheres

Take a listen or purchase a copy on Bandcamp here.

Unveiled as a gatefold vinyl set on November 24th, Spheres is the first release from new UK-based record label Research. The label is a component of a larger organization called Split Music, which seeks to help artists, such as the ones featured on the compilation, get song placements in films and TV media (in other words, they help full-time musicians make a living outside of touring). Based on this first release, it appears the label will primarily represent their roster of artists, but I’m sure that will become more clear over time.

Given this context, “Radon” by These Hidden Hands is suitably cinematic. Grinding noise builds from subdued atmospheres into brooding contemporary industrial techno. It’s not hard to imagine the track playing over a Sci-Fi movie trailer, and its energy makes it a suitable selection as the A1 for the release. “The Runaway” by Mondkopf is a bit more subdued, but still very interesting. It has a piercing kick drum pulsing at a slow tempo, adorned with melancholic distorted strings. It encourages a “watch the sun rise over the wasteland” type of feeling.

SNTS’ “Dunkelheit” begins with industry standard drone atmospheres and moves into an urgent-sounding, ever-crescendoing movie theme, complete with what sounds like Taiko drums. This is the most overtly cinematic track on the release, sounding much like a typical Hollywood trailer piece. “Blemmyae” by OAKE stands out from the rest of the release as a sort of decaying synth-and-drums experiment. Outside of a film like “Beyond the Black Rainbow,” it’s hard to imagine an easy placement for this one, which is kind of refreshing.

“Follower” by Headless Horseman is an intriguing half-time march that patiently escalates over the course of its four minutes. It’s an excellent example of how an artist can create a cinematic piece within the realm of their artistic vision rather than as a deviation from it. Grebenstein ends the LP with “Meet My Needs,” an intimate and well-paced work that evolves from a minimalistic point of origin into something more aggressive.

For a various artists release curated by a publishing company, Spheres is a surprisingly coherent compilation that does a good job of showcasing its roster while not coming across as an advertisement itself. It will be interesting to see if Research continues as a showcase for Split Music, or if it develops into a standalone project that is engaged with audiences outside of the media industry.