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"Songs For Nao"  V/A  Release date: 2005  Label: Chapter Music

It's taken me a long time to come round to writing about this CD because it's taken me a long time to come round to deciding exactly what I think of it. Most of this music isn't really the kind of stuff that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and screams "Submit And Love Me You Bitch!!!". Most of this music is more the kind of stuff that wistfully kicks the dust at its feet whilst parping semi-tunefully on a trumpet, and there are a lot of people out there who find this kind of thing annoying.

This sort of music is often called "indie-pop", which perhaps translates as "pop music that doesn't want to be popular", or maybe "pop music that fails in its fundamental function as pop music", I don't know. It's a nauseating term because it is patronising and insulting to both the music that it describes, and to real, "mainstream" pop music. Whatever; the compiler of this album, Guy Blackman of Australia's Chapter Music label, didn't select these tracks because he thought they were indie pop; he selected them because he thought they were good music. And they are good music.

"Blue Wave" by Nagoya's G-Spot Hunter was one of the most immediately beloved tracks round these parts on account of it reminding us very much indeed of The Raincoats, and the wonderful Eepil Eepil's "Kilimanjaro" does its Beefheart/Can thing both memorably and cacophonously. Elsewhere, Maher Shalal Hash Baz come on like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci with the melodic and catchy "Book Of Life", the Place Called Space track, "Stars And Dinosaurs", is sublime, and could someone tell Pervenche to please hurry the fuck up and release their new album?

Elsewhere there's something in that abundance of amateurishly played trumpets that rubs me up the wrong way, although there is no denying the quality of the songwriting in My Pal Foot Foot's "Here Is Very". Repeat listens gradually uncovered such gems as Puka Puka Brians' slowly unwinding psychedelic monster "Goodbye From India", and there's no escaping the fun to be had with the way Nikaidoh Kazumi ricochets from Bjork, through something that sounds dangerously like The Cranberries, before climaxing with what sounds like... I don't know. If you can imagine an Apache war chant performed by an army of Japanese Kate Bushes you might be close, but not very.

"Songs For Nao" is a tired sounding album, and that, bizarrely, is its strength. The wearines that underlies the sometimes wilfully naive vocals and arrangements provides an acknowledgement of the gaudy, fast-paced, stressful real world from which these songs seem to be trying to escape. -Ian Martin, Apr.04.05.

V/A [Songs For Nao] 2004 Songs For Nao

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