Life’s unpredictability is a plus for Hot Releases. The experimental label’s ninth- anniversary compilation is an unprecedented exploration in both idea and execution, from the people who make it to what they makeand how they make it, too. Analog-digital lines are so blurred on Hot Comp that, outside of the context of a live performance, it’s difficult to discern what’s being done to make any given sound. “Marginal musics and peripheral visions” is the only official description the label gives to Hot Comp, leaving the task of discovery to the listener.
The set opens with Patrick Gallagher, who offers visceral noise via guitar manipulation. For the full-body experience, listen to it through headphones. It takes advantage of surround sound in a way that messes with your depth perception and makes you feel bombarded: explosions, rampages, chaos, and carnage all surround you, and it feels as if you’ve entered a new 3-D space in the middle of an alien invasion.
After a fast-tempo rocker by Cube, Providence, Rhode Island, electronic artist Virusse steps in with an airy guitar track that showcases the artist’s and the album’s versatility. Like the fog off a mountain first clearing, “Rosemary” is so wispy that you have to strain to grasp the words before they disappear. Her vocal range lends well to this folky song and mountain tale, rife with verdant outdoors imagery.
i_like_dog_face, who’s a Nightlight frequent flyer, gives us some time to reflect with the modular “Enigmatic Smile,” which brings to mind flutes, clarinets, and gentle drums. On “Celadon,” Naga’s choir-like vocals alongside simple keys take you to church in your Sunday bestbut no sooner than it starts does the melody end. The song suddenly becomes spooky, as if the singer has died and returned as a ghost. With percussion-like clinking chains and intermittent electronic pitches, this one goes in the horror category, which fits much of the rest of Hot Comp. No wonder its release is so close to Halloween.
Further along, Chucha’s “When Its Time” is a slow-moving tidal wave of auditory calm, delivering daydreams for wandering minds. But Hot Comp soon takes a hard turn with Housefire’s “lifeisbutadream,” where it pivots toward a nightmare. It’s Frankensteinian noise, an overexposed feedback disaster. In addition to conveying a whirlwind of moods, these jolting shifts in sound structure between each song are done with intentionality and precision. Smooth transitions through rough waters make the compilation complete. Hot Releases has something for every moment and mood in your life, and Hot Comp takes a romp through almost all of them.