Sump Pump records is releasing THE NATIONAL 4 TRACK COMPILATION as a tip of the hat to DIY 4 track recording. They teamed up with some of the unsung heroes of 4 track recording as well as musicians yearning for the nostalgia of how they started. As some names are more recognizable as others I suggest you listen to the songs before googling them. The songwriters here front bands or are hired guns for Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis, M Ward, Broken Bells -wait that’s just Nik Freitas. There’s two artists affiliated in one of my favorite bands Calexico along with members of Minutemen/Firehose, Neva Dinova, The Hollowmen, Pernice Brothers/ New Radiant Storm King, Dead Milkmen, Flat Duo Jets, Silkworm/Bottomless Pit, Nothing Painted Blue/The Human Hearts, Black Heart Procession/Three Mile Pilot and more.The songs function as reminders of the past but with fresh songs. Some of these are lo-fi recordings and the album acts as a compilation of lost demos and b-sides. Reminiscent of the days when tape trading or mix cd’s had rarities that fit together and you prayed they would see life at a live show. Each track is separately equal and for that I simply explained what you have to look forward to as a track by track. I listened to the album multiple times over a period of days and had trouble forming new syntax as I later found out I was listening to the digital version out of order (alphabetical by artist) and in the vein of 4-track recording on tape (and Jack Kerouac) I decided on keeping it unedited. Its 3AM and maybe I can inspire a new listening order as the vinyl comes with a download card! The National 4 Track Compilation comprises of honest recordings by honest songwriters. In the sense of honesty I was let down the first time listening through. I was excited about a few artists who I didn’t feel delivered but made a soft attempt. I wasn’t even gonna give it another chance or question if it’d grow on me. I was reminded of girlfriends past who were into the scene of indie music and pretty much every band on the compilation. But I couldn’t hold that against the album and committed to a second listening with fresh ears and saw it as it was, a compilation of 4 track recordings delivering us songs inspired by the concept. Rarities unearthed thanks to the idea of recording before endless edits and multiple tracks polished lifeless robotic….you get the point, these songs are honest, intimate, and human. Grab this 12 inch of 12 tracks by 12 amazingly talented songwriters (LIMITED TO 200 COPIES) and thank Sump Pump for spending a couple years putting it together.
As a compilation the song order flows incredibly well and is perfect for vinyl. There is a certain level of dynamics here that sets the stage and closes the curtains. Starting the album out with a strong air and hiss recording teases your level of expectations as the operatic cabaret noir of Dexter Romweber flows into Franklin Bruno’s clear recording of avant-garde indie folk pop harmonies. Jake Bellow’s tune could easily fit in any modern soundtrack or commercial, its brilliance fixed at just over two minutes. From here it bounces back into the lo-fi home recordings expected of Joe Jack Talcum with bass notes purposely clipping distortion tinged with synth-pop melodies. John Convertino lays down an instrumental waltz of exactly two minutes with vibraphone, accordion, and drums. Mike Watt & The Secondmen raised a track I’d hope to see live as it flirts with the organ, bass, and drums in short jam bursts. Tim Midyett recorded as Mint Mile with his baritone guitar, is well pronounced and evident he spent caring time on this track. Another song that was heartfelt and thought out is Nik Freitas’ song with soothing melodies and piano ripples over reflective lyrics. The longest track here is Pall Jenkins’ industrial sounding drone noise building tension which impudently resolves without climax. This song serves witness to all the capabilities of a multiple layers within a 4 track recording. The next tune is Peyton Pinkerton’s expressive powerpop fuzz perfectly placed after the instrumental rearing emotional unfeathering and awareness. A flamenco splashed country blues ballad is crooned by Tom Armstrong and sounding as a traditional folk song familiarity stating rubrics for the collection. William Elliott Whitmore closes the album with an electric strummed blues groove.
You want this in your collection and you should probably pre-order an extra copy as a gift because I see the limited run won’t be last around Christmas.