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Various Artists: Contemporary Formation Invisible Hands Music

This indie label sampler suggests that Invisible Hands have a small but diverse set of artists of mostly high quality (including Hugh Cornwell of Stranglers fame and ELP) signed to them if the couple of tracks presented by each contributor are indicative of their collective output. This sampler certainly has more going for it than a number of prog label samplers I've had in recent times.

The artist-owned and managed label was set up in 1987 by Chris Kennedy (who appears here on the Aries Project) and this sampler features 9 of the current stable.

Brit synth-pop artists Silver Sun, whose album Dad's Weird Dream charted in the UK last year, open with "Fallen" a vibrant teen-rocker very similar to something from the eponymous debut by Yarmouth's Busted. The rather gentler but still bouncy "Immediate" follows with slightly less impact.

Stevie Salas, George Clinton's guitarist, dishes up a heavy dose of high-energy funk in "Pumpin it up" and follows it with the hip hop and r&b influenced "Free up". Silas, who has toured with stars such as Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart has just released a career retrospective album The Sun and the Earth.

The Strangler's former frontman Hugh Cornwell contributes "Hanging Around", recorded live, and "Cadiz". In the former, Hugh's narrative proto-rap style is the dominant feature, embedded in a pacey rock frame. By contrast, Cadiz is a wistful acoustic ballad highlighting Hugh's lyric writing better than its rather over-repetitive predecessor.

Singer-songwriter Rob Reynolds, one of the finest voices on this compilation, continues the downward gear-shift with two excellent songs; firstly a soulful, brass-drenched number, "Sweet Mother". In "Change my World" sweet strings and piano are the background for a moving lament, a good last number for that wedding reception dance.

The other fine voice on here is that of former model Miranda Lee Richards, formerly with Brain Jonestown Massacre, whose simple but plaintive country-spiced ballad "Olive Tree" is elegantly presented. "Early November" is less country and western influenced with an insistent bass and rolling guitar surrounding a quite beautiful lyric to make you shiver.

Daniel O'Neill, the label's Head of Production, donates the title track from his album in "Contemplative Way", as well as "Let me down easy". Both are jazz-tinged slices of cool laid back hip hop.

The band Lo-Freq features the label's head of sales, Rita Loi and their first contribution is a cover of Radiohead's wrist-slashing "Blowout" (from their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey). "Coming up to eight" is a lonely and eerie arrangement featuring synth, drums and desolate vocals.

Depression is dissolved with the arrival of Birds of Wales, the atmospheric Canadian four piece whose debut CD is now out. "Cinderella" is a delightful bit of British whimsy with its banjo accompaniment and runonsong style arrangement. The other song "Life" is a good, reflective, Coldplay-like ballad.

The Aries Project bring up the rear with a very danceable "Ten years before the flood" and "Winterpeg", a more sophisticated but less radio-friendly ballad with a nostalgic lyric. Two of the strongest examples of the first class songwriting to be found on this sampler.

IHM are a label run by artists, for artists. More power to their invisible elbow I say.

Added: May 31st 2007
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: More Information
Hits: 1477
Language: english

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