Various Artists - Woolly Jumpers

Chris Tapley 07/02/2011

Rating: 4.5/5

In today's digital age it always strikes me that compilations have become far less important than they used to be, not redundant exactly but certainly on the verge of being so. That being the case I do tend to skim past any that find their way in to my pile of promo cds, yet there was something about this collection of tracks from French independent label Wool Recordings which piqued my interest. Perhaps it's arrival amidst the flurry of snow in December and it's evocatively warm title prompted me to take a chance and see if it was as cosy as suggested, not to mention contributions from personally favoured artists such as Peter Broderick and Laetitia Sadier as well as a host of others whose output I had been meaning to investigate for some time.

I am really rather glad I decided to give it a chance as well, as it's every bit as comforting as the title suggests. A collection of mainly low-key psychedelic folk that hangs together with a wonderful sense of coherence for almost the whole of its eighteen tracks, it certainly doesn't feel like it's been hastily cobbled together as is often the case. In fact the first quarter of the disc could practically be culled from the same artist's catalogue, opening with the spectral ballad 'Drug Song' by Dave Bixby, a fractured reflection of his struggle with substance abuse, the pain is palpable in his wavering voice backed up solely by his electric guitar. In a very similar albeit more digitally adorned manner is a track from Connan Mockasin whose album Please Turn Me Into The Snat, from which this track is lifted, was one of the most under appreciated left-field releases of last year.

One of the more unknown gems here is the lush brass led track 'Present' from Junkboy, whose name is not at all reflective of the sound created, the summery horns entwined with delicate string arrangements and whispered French vocals to create a totally arresting atmosphere which sums up the compilations vibe as a whole. It is brought down a little bit by Luther Russell's poor man's Elliott Smith routine which just seems too middle of the road to justify its inclusion. Peter Broderick's layered echoing vocals backed up with sparse acoustic guitar on 'Man On The Bridge' on the other hand is another high point and Sarabeth's haunting Americana then manages to notch things up a few tempos without knocking things to far off their stride. Label boss Frank Rabeyrolles also appears under both his Franklin and The Double U monikers, both providing excellent contributions.

Towards the end of the compilation there is a bit of a shift in tone with the use of far more upbeat and electronic influenced tracks by Carpark artists Light Pollution and Montag, although both great tracks do feel slightly at odds with the overall atmosphere set up in the preceding fifty minutes. Luckily the closing track by The Big Eyes Family Players, an instrumental campfire type acoustic song which slowly eases the disc out of earshot, restores the atmosphere. A stunning collection of tracks overall, which proves there's certainly still a place for the compilation disc in this modern age, if it's bringing to attention such criminally unrecognised artists operating on the fringes of independent music.

Release Date: 15th Feb