“There once was a plentiful land. Or perhaps it is yet to be.”
A near-human voice tells us an elliptical story; a myth in progress. So begins the new compilation from Czech label BCAA, No~one Is an Island. This cryptic set of tracks is the label’s second compilation, following their equally intriguing 2018 release “intra-ontic”.
The album brings together many of the artists previously featured on intra-ontic for an experience that feels somewhere between a traditional label comp. and an exercise in collaborative storytelling. BCAA uses an interesting set of narrative tools to frame the compilation’s material; uncredited bits of enigmatic narration, SFX clips, as well as track titles which sound like chapters in a fantasy novel or stages in some mythic history: “The Seed of the Landscape”, “The Great Drought”, “The Distant Observer”.
Fortunately, it doesn’t feel like the comp’s conceptual framing is simply a gimmick to artificially elevate the content. The sequencing and arrangement of the comp feels very consciously directed and the musical content is dynamic and interesting enough on its own terms; the project’s narrative ambition successfully adds a layer of intrigue to the affair. It’s more fun to try to piece together the narrative at play than it is to simply approach the album as another comp of stylistically linked tracks (although it is that as well).
As for the music itself, No~one Is an Island brings together a dynamic array of musical approaches and styles while managing to feel (mostly) cohesive and genuinely linked. While the compilation works with many of the contemporary tropes in avant-electronics (deconstructed ASMR & field recordings, crudely auto-tuned vocals, mutating waves of granular synthesis, club weirdness), it avoids becoming derivative or too on-trend.
This is largely because of the comp’s inclusion of some truly imaginative and genre-resistant cuts from Czech experimentalists like Wim Dehaen, Enchanted Lands, eva01 and Obelisk of Light. The album also showcases BCAA’s fondness for warped and wildly poetic songwriting through tracks from Bilej Kluk, axonbody, and 93echoesandisrens.
Mediated voices embedded in fragmented pop landscapes; cinematic music for an as-yet unimagined cinema. No~one Is an Island is a further testament to the Czech underground’s wealth of forward-thinking artists and producers.