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Various Cal Cashin , February 19th, 2020 09:14

The latest compilation from London's Slow Dance label features stand out tracks from Lynks Afrikka, Merlin Nova, Aga Ujma and more, finds Cal Cashin

Over the last half a decade, indie label Slow Dance has been a creative powerhouse in London DIY music circles. Slow Dance’s aim has always been to platform musical ‘collages of everything’, be that through their work as a record label or as an entity hosting live shows or live nights of radio. At the start of each year, the label binds its exploits from the previous year (plus contributions from friends and acquaintances) into one diverse compilation.

Last January, I was sent a copy of Slow Dance 18 having previously only heard murmurings and mutterings of the label and its live radio night. ’18 was a sonic charcuterie from London’s musical fringes; from the warped baroque IDM of Hogarth, the glitching techno of Elsa Hewitt, to the fire and brimstone conjured up by Black Country New Road side project Guildhall Military Orchestra; ’18 was a taste of brilliance. For me, it put the London label on the map as one of the capital’s finest arbiters of taste.

Slow Dance 19 is the succulent fruit of the label’s labour over the last twelve months. A thoroughly enthralling listen, ’19 is testament to the label’s commitment to multi-genre excellence. Throughout its 18 tracks, the compilation showcases wacky electronic daydreams, quivering ambience and moments of freak folk weirdness. It truly does gather the freaks and geeks from London’s periphery in one coherent place.

Dulwich drag queen Lynks Afrikka offers perhaps the most instant gratification on the comp with ‘How to Make A Bechamel Sauce in 10 Steps’. Aye, it is lyrically exactly what it says on the tin, but Lynks’ mutant take on school disco pop is delightful with every thump, whimper and moan.

Elsewhere, the vertigo-inducing ‘oooooeeeeeyeah!’ by Merlin Nova squelches and howls through ten moonshine minutes of electronic inertia. Whilst label co-founder Glows offers a hazy slab of digital ambient whimsy, Avice Caro’s whispering take on folk is a fully realised, vivid dream. With every change in song, there’s a change in genre, and this lack of complacency is perhaps what makes Slow Dance 19 the kind of comp you’ll happily listen to from start to finish.

Other highlights come from the delicately textured Aga Ujma song ‘In The Ocean’, the wispy synth rock of Circa 2000, and ‘Blind’ by the excellently named Uncle Tesco, who makes a case for himself as London’s definitive answer to American Football.

The final track, ‘Van Gock’ by James Martin, is perhaps the sweetest summation of the label’s commitment to platforming the wild and weird, and perhaps the record’s most ecstatic moment. A ten minute sprawl, ‘Van Gock’ is a Pagliaccian show stopper in two acts. The first sees the professional choirboy holler through a claustrophobic, dark night of the soul aria, before closing out the track with an escalating motif. Martin’s esoteric chorus of “Jesus is my air conditioning, can I be your central heating?” Is repeated over and over, atop stirring violins to close out the record.

The compilation is not without flaw, or the odd forgettable track, but that’s easy to overlook when all is considered. Its joyful scattergun approach to curation is perhaps its greatest strength, so the odd dud is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Slow Dance’s commitment to showcasing the young and exciting talent on London’s cultural fringes should be applauded, and ’19 is the most comprehensive documentation of everything happening below the ice of London’s music scene.