A couple of weeks ago, one of my longest ever music-related searches finally came to a close. Tracking down the precursor compilation to one of my favourite albums of 2000 was far tougher than I ever would have expected. Volume II occassionally floats around used CD shops and the internet, but I've never seen Volume I anywhere. It's perpetually sold out on sites like Insound, never surfaces in stores -- it had seemingly vanished without a trace. Enter slsk, where at long last I found two users sharing a copy. Cop out, you say? What's that, it doesn't count if you find an album through file sharing? Ordinarily I'd agree. You think this album isn't rare? Most CDs can be found in more than two stores worldwide.
After initially snagging five or six tracks from these two (at glacially slow d/l rates), we didn't cross paths for over a month (and/or I was relegated to the bottom of their massive queues). Then my hard drive died. I lost those tracks, along with my userlist, and had to track down SBG1 from the beginning. Finally, I lucked upon a fast connection -- a few hours before I was to board a plane! I kept downloading almost literally until it was time to walk out the door and leave for the airport (forgetting my sound card in Canada as a result of the rush), with about 2/3rds of the album in my possession. Two months and one internet connection later, I began another waiting game. From this point forward, one of the two users wasn't seen online at all, but eventually, at the average rate of one track every two weeks or so (the time it took for me to reach the front of the queue + be simultaneously online with this person), I completed the album. After SIX MONTHS OF DOWNLOADING I can finally say thank you very much to hinomiyagura2 and youyouryours, whoever you guys are.
Stupidly, I previously decided I would wait until getting the entire album before listening to any of it. One dead hard drive later, I was back to square one and armed with a new strategy: listen as things progress but wait until I have the entire album before writing anything about it. So finally, after this ridiculously extended intro (written mainly to amuse myself -- note to myself, if you (meaning me) are reading this in five years, this is how the entire mess went down, ffs) I can tell you this. What an AWESOME, amazing compilation this is. Easily better than the first.
From the opening snare cracks of Pantone's "Away" (clearly meant to kick off this comp just like "Only Shallow" did on "Loveless"), it's clear that the music will stick closer to MBV's noise-pop blueprint than the more schizophrenic SBGII. Heavy on fuzzy, sugary pop, the spirit of "Isn't Anything" is all over this album. The two Pantone tracks encapsulate this feeling perfectly -- good luck finding two-minute singalong ear-bleeders that are as good as these. SBGII had a few too many lapses into mildly distorted indie rock, but on SBGI there are a lot more hardcore MBV fetishes on display. It's more consistently dazzling in comparison to its successor, more bouncy, more hummable, and more fun.
Death drones are well represented by the likes Sideband's "Sensory Deprivation" and the creaking husk of Lemur's Earth/Sunn0)))-esque "Glacial Shift". It winds up with a slight diversion into twee pop (Psychic Hearts), goth (Myth Mechanic, whose track fits perfectly with the general style of this album, never mind rock and roll, maybe all good music really does turn into goth in the end), and a final, roaring ambient drone climax with Lukewarm's "Licorice" (which sounds like a lost between-song interlude from the "Loveless" sessions -- a far stronger effort their track that opened SBGII, "Mogwai Fear Lukewarm").
Whatever happened to Several Bands Galore Volume 3-382, anyway?