Boomkat Product Review:
I'm very supportive of the idea of 'themed' compilations - asking an artist to do something with a goal in mind almost always brings in interesting submissions and even if they're not entirely satisfying to listen to, it's interesting to see how the artists react differently to the same catalyst. 'Plague Songs' is one such compilation, apparently the artists were commissioned by a British arts organisation to create ten songs to mirror the ten plagues described in Exodus as part of a large public art event which details the Israelites flight from Egypt. So this all must seem a bit arty but whoever was curating this selection managed to rope in some jolly fine musicians to throw their creative vision into the fold. We've got Brian Eno & Robert Wyatt, Laurie Anderson, Scott Walker, Rufus Wainwright, Imogen Heap (of Frou Frou), Stephen Merritt (of the Magnetic Fields) and more... and as you can imagine they have all pulled out the stops to produce something quite extraordinary. The first track you need to skip to is, unsurprisingly, Brian Eno & Robert Wyatt's shockingly deep contribution. Based on the plague of flies, Eno apparently took and processed recordings of Wyatt 'buzzing' which formed the basis for the track. These slightly worrying sounds are draped in the most gorgeous synthesized chords this side of 'An Ending (Ascent)', and when Wyatt adds his distinctive voice to proceedings it becomes clear that neither of these jewels of the British music scene have lost any of their intensity or power. Scott Walker takes on the plague of darkness (how fitting) and fashions a smoky bar-room dirge in his unique style, re-popularised recently thanks to the shockingly good 'The Drift' album. The most striking thing about 'Plague Songs' though is not simply that some of the tracks stand out, rather that the theme is expressed with vibrancy and creativity from a hugely diverse selection of artists, and what more can you ask from a humble compilation than that? Recommended.