Review: Various Artists – Die Pfalz

Reviews / November 4, 2012

‘Die Pfalz’ features the best of burgeoning New Paltz music scene

Team Love Records

Nestled between Kingston and Poughkeepsie, in Upstate New York, lies the small but increasingly burgeoning music community of New Paltz. The city serves as the backdrop to Die Pfalz – a compilation of projects occupying the town’s extremely diverse and esoteric microcosm of a scene. The artists on this compilation — Shana Falana, Breakfast In Fur, Cycad and Bloodletters (pictured) — put together a fine collection of tracks best used as a sampler of what the city has to offer.

Side-A begins with Shana Falana and the orchestral minimalism of “Heaven.” It’s a gentle start to an exciting compilation, but an apt one as this is a collection of recordings best ruminated and enjoyed in the context of a whole. “In The Light” continues in a fashion that is more involved than the prior song, thanks to her drummer’s sparse timekeeping and her own whimsical vocal melodies, eerily redolent of Vedera’s Kristen May. While slow moving, it’s Falana’s effortless delivery that makes her space on this four-way split so unique and right off the bat, the compilation’s most memorable set of songs.

Following in a manner that is beautiful and unassuming for a band that is mostly instrumental, comes Breakfast In Fur. Save for the sparse and distant vocals of “Setting Stone” and the Sigur Rós-like whispers of “Aurora Falls,” Breakfast In Fur spend the majority of their time rolling together sonically challenging and ethereal compositions of post-rock reverence into truly grandiose and resilient tracks.

On the flip side, Cycad signals the start of Side-B with the deep and resonating textures of a modulated bass drum. Lead by a choir of similarly paired electronic dance beats, “Resonance Frowning When Circling” is a song that weaves in and out of atmospheric chords and loops for upwards of six minutes, making it more suitable for a rave than casual listening on a record player. Cycad’s succeeding track, “May 12th,” transitions and very subtly spills over, but continues in the same pattern of seemingly endless repetition without resolution but that of continual loop. Cycad’s two tracks are by no means meandering or subpar compositions, just the odd man out on a compilation of artists with more organic tendencies.

Once the whirr of Cycad wears off, the straight-laced garage rock of Bloodletters begins. More likely found in the dive bars of New Paltz than among the artists that preceded, the two tracks on Bloodletters side of this split are pure, no bullshit rock and roll. “Fine Line” leads with a crunchy guitar riff that would fit well amongst Jack White’s finest; a simple track with solid structure. “Take Me Home Or Shoot Me Dead” is a slower jam that finds that band coming into their own in the mid-tempo groove of Keir Zemaitis’ moody bass harmonies and David Chernis’ slide guitar.

Presented by Team Love, a label based in the community, Die Pfalz serves as an excellent and natural introduction to New Paltz’s thriving scene.

Sound Quality: The vinyl format is a medium that caters to most genres, but undoubtedly favors some more than others. Shana Falana and Breakfast In Fur are perfect examples, as the lush and grand sounds of both artists come off richer and deeper, while the mainly digitized Cycad falters in an organic environment. Bloodletters on the other hand sounds more or less the same on both vinyl and digital, seemingly unaffected by the formats.

Packaging: Team Love has always been a record label with a special place for vinyl. And rightfully so, as most of their discography has been available on the format. Although the packaging on Die Faltz  is fairly simple — a single pocket jacket and printed inner sleeve — it’s absolutely elegant and leaves the listener with a nice view of the town, presented in the form of various photographs. Credits and the tracklisting are also included on the inner sleeve.

Extras: A CD including all the tracks present on the vinyl version of the album and one additional song per artist is also included.

Summary: By the end of the Die Pfalz, it’s easy to feel a sense of community. Four artists — Shana Falana, Breakfast In Fur, Cycad and Bloodletters — from completely different areas of the musical spectrum, are joined together by the pride of their town; a bond that more often than not leads to points of commonality. Team Love took the contributions of each artist and presented them in a standard, yet elegant vinyl package.

Make Sure To Spin: “In The Light,” “Take Me Home Or Shoot Me Dead” and “Aurora Falls.”

You can still pick up the record over at Team Love.

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Julio Anta

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