Various Artists - Manchester Music For Kosovo Album Review
There's no disputing the musical brilliance that Manchester has born unto the world; The Smiths, Oasis, Joy Division, the list of its' icons could go on and on. This compilation showcases some of the damn finest of Manchester's current musical greatness in attempt to raise money for Manchester's Music Aid to Kosovo appeal; a compilation released ten years on from Cohesion, the first fundraising compilation released by said organisation.
'Heavier Than Water' screams a distorted charging entrance to the compilation with Nine Black Alps' characteristic guitar-driven, scuzzy rock blend, complete with swaggering rock and roll chorus geared by a fuzzy charging riff. The track occasionally sounds a passage of relative calm but a psychotic leap into fuelled riffery is never far away. Keith's 'Don't Want To Be Apart' then contrasts entirely with the relative calm of a gently moving piano line moving over a simple electronic beat to develop with the inclusion of Keith's gentle vocals into a sensitive melancholic track. Of Manchester's finest, any compilation from the city would be frankly incomplete without the kings of brooding melodic indie-rock brilliance, Doves. Jimi Goodwin's vocals sound clear in an anxious blend above gentle drums, piano, guitar and a distinctive melodic bass part; a blend that builds and builds geared by crescendoing charging snare into a riff-driven rock blend and out into a trademark oozing climax.
Three tracks in, Ten leaves the listener satisfied, but the compilation then continues to deliver more and more, showcasing both a gender and genre variety and balance across the whole record. Josephine Oniyama's cool and fresh, soulful 'Fun In The Dark' is contrasted by the heart-wrenching bluesy Stephen Fretwell Track 'Tamarind', which is in turn contrasted by Liz Green's 'Midnight Blues' which has a toe tapping soulful country blues feel to it. The tracklisting then takes a sharp turn in a completely different direction with Sam And The Plants' 'Story' which is a strange experimental track sounding a synth based, electronic beat-flanked blend then a guitar interjection before giving way to more computer produced pops and squeaks. Around the half-way point lies another treat in Jim Noir's 'I Hope Tomorrow Comes Today', a spacey and dreamy track with wonderful smooth multi-tracked vocals drenched in lush harmonies over a sensitive accompanying blend of subtle electric piano, bass and drums, dying out to a beautiful a capella before the instrumental fades to close. Noir is a sensitive singer songwriter of the finest quality.
There's a real bare English-ness to the barely sung folk vocals of Gideon Conn in his contribution 'Londonderry'; the track is rough around the edges with one, man one guitar type singer-songwriter honesty accompanied by very subtle drums bass and synths, maintaining the focus on Conn. Nancy Elizabeth's smooth delicate high-pitched effortless vocals then contrast sounding over delicately plucked nylon strung guitar and gentle string tremolos which build into smooth lush bowed string harmonies beneath the melodic line, complete with occasional gestures of warming rich cello solo. Following Liam Frost's 'Shipwrecks' comes Ten's piSce de r'sistance; Elbow's 'Some Riot'. Much like Doves, Elbow are undoubtedly of Manchester's greatest gifts to the world; the live at Abbey Road version of 'Some Riot', string drenched and utterly beautiful, is the definite highlight of this compilation showcasing Elbow's simultaneous expression and precision together with the fantastic emotional power ridden within their strong melodies. Curator Jo Dudderidge's The Travelling Band's track 'Hindsight' then grows out of the beauty that Elbow established with a similarly powerful, expressive and melodic blend fusing folk, indie and flavours of epic post-rock.
Rarely is a compilation both varied and solid; Ten is a fantastic selection with the added bonus of its charity benefit. Superb.