V/A Test Pressing III (Muscut XX, 12" vinyl)
Catalogue number: Muscut XX
Release date: December 11, 2020
Limited to 300 copies, numbered, stamped
In 2012 Muscut records debuted with a compilation called “Test Pressing”. The idea behind the title was to “test” audience with a new label. To test and analyse the reaction and then decide what to do next - either continue releasing records or not.
So this is the year 2020 and Muscut celebrates its twentieth release in a row with it’s third “Test Pressing” compilation which includes label’s residents, guests and beloved "similar artists" such as G.E.S. (aka Jan Jelinek, Faitiche), Andrew Pekler (Faitiche, Kranky), Hanno Leichtmann (Dekorder, Entr'acte), S A D (Udacha, 12th Isle), Nikolaienko (Muscut), Koyil (DIG), Mårble (Natural Selections, Not Not Fun), KWJAZ (Not Not Fun), uon duh (Muscut) and Ahnnu (Leaving Records)
A1. G.E.S. - hipinterval 1&2
A2. Andrew Pekler - Early Bird (Loose)
A3. Hanno Leichtmann - offest 23
A4. S A D - Akpai Song
A5. Nikolaienko - Jazz Tape
B1. Koyil - Vāɡ
B2. Mårble - LESBEE (Shaggy Bumblebee)
B3. KWJAZ - Passing Saints
B4. uon duh - Under
B5. Ahnnu - Wandering
Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi
Currently headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia, Muscut (Ukrainian sound artist Dmytro Nikolaienko’s label) has drawn a wobbly line through lo-fi synth studies, lysergic dub, and the occasional ambient techno masterpiece. The third release in their occasional compilation series doubles as a solid primer of the Eastern European electronic underground: St. Petersburg’s Mårble unspools dissonant jazz samples over a hazy reggae backing; Moscow’s S A D conjure a woozy vision of neo-noir, part BBC Radiophonic Workshop and part Blade Runner. Like-minded offerings from Berlin-based Andrew Pekler and Hanno Leichtmann both prove that true musical kinship knows no borders, but the best of the bunch comes from Moscow’s Koyil, who reimagines dub techno as the soundtrack for a humid rainforest. In a year when clubbing remains purely imaginary, it’s a fine opportunity to practice astral projection instead.
Inhabiting a zone where experimentation doesn’t have to mean sterilisation, Muscut has spent eight years amassing a modest but significant catalogue of fringe sonics that deal in themes such as minimalism and repetition. Dmytro Nikolaienko founded the Ukraine-based label with Test Pressing, a self-explanatory safety check to see if there was interest from the record buying public. Fortunately, Nikolaienko’s keen curatorial ear has prevailed and now at release 20 we’re able to slide into the strange amalgam of errant pitches, organic found sounds and pinprick rhythms that make up Test Pressing III.
There’s a prevailing wooze to the melodic dimension of this collection – a warped tape of warm, jazzy chords at times, a stuttering concrete sequence of sharp stabs at others, but always friendly and approachable. For all the serious sound processing and gallery-like ambience that lingers around this music, there’s also a playful glee and child-like curiosity guiding the creative decisions. That manifests in fuzzy layers of disorienting tone and sample on Nikolaienko’s own ‘Jazz Tape’ and chirruping modal rain drops on Jan Jelinek’s turn as G.E.S. on ‘hipinterval 1&2’.
There are some standout moments where more formalised track structures emerge, such as the dub-speckled rhythmic incantations of Koyil’s ‘Vag’ and the coolly off-key, flute-dressed funk of Marble’s ‘LESBEE (Shaggy Bumblebee)’. Andrew Pekler’s ‘Early Bird (Loose)’ is immediately satisfying thanks to the cosy chords underpinning a cascade of modulating percussive blips. It’s a simple approach executed perfectly, much like the foggy delay reverie of Ahnnu’s spiritual closer, ‘Wandering’.
Ultimately, every track has its own unique slant, and it would be hard to imagine this specific configuration repeated anywhere else. Therein lies the beauty of such a collection, where an ineffable commonality draws together disparate threads to create a whole that makes sense only through the Muscut lens.
"Test Pressing III" is the Muscut imprint's third compilation since its birth in 2012, with a four track 7" simply entitled "Test Pressing". Now the label is on its 20th release and celebrates lavishly with a seriously high quality selection of tracks from label regulars like Andrew Pekler, S A D and uon duh and high quality guests such as Jan Jelinek, Leaving Records' Ahnnu and Not Not Fun's KWJAZ.
There are no low points here, the whole compilation wisps through the darkness with a vaporous intensity, touching the deepest depths of jazz-flecked ambient, doom dub and thick, textured ambient. Highlights come from Hanno Leichtmann, whose 'offset 23' is a masterclass in discipline, with a filtered 4/4 barely making it thru the murk and fog, accompanied by degraded drones that sound as if they're being beamed from Philip Jeck's decaying record collection. Elsewhere, Jan Jelinek fuses with vintage electronix recalling Ursula Bogner and reviving his Gesellschaft Zur Emanzipation Des Samples moniker, and Andrew Pekler impresses once more with the oddly groovy 'Early Bird (loose)'.
"Test Pressing III" joins the dots between Miasmah's surrealist moonlit grimbient, the Lynchian, frozen doom of Bohren & der Club of Gore and Pole's sorely-missed ~Scape imprint. Winter blues begone.