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Dig That Treasure
Elevate Aaron Skates , June 18th, 2020 09:17

A compilation album put together by Resonance FM's Dig That Treasure show proves a complex listen that always ends in a smile, finds Aaron Skates

Dig That Treasure’s Resonance FM show delights in the dubious: tape rips, Soundcloud demos and shoddy mp3s arrive in your ear as sonic hoard – still with a trace of just-trowelled mud, smelling of earth. Experimental, ambient, electronic and pop from an always global mix of musicians are delivered with host Will Hall’s sensitive touch and gently open ear – ever apologising for the potential mispronunciation of names. Here genre and location mean nothing and Elevate, DTT’s first comp since 2016’s A Home, will take us to Japan, Russia, Norway and the US.

The album unfurls slowly: Platonica Erotica’s track ‘Safe in Adoration’ is sparse, built from repeated, distant vocals and cinematic strings. A meditation on a changing relationship between songwriters, the lyrics are cryptic and self-referential: “so many women crawled out of your lyrics”. Honest, prosaic impulses (“I look through her Facebook and I don’t want to see it”) jostle with entreaties to God. It’s moody, strange and affecting and the following track, Spectral Park and Kot Kot’s ‘Surok’, pushes the cinematic agenda further. After the emotional immediacy of the comp’s opening, however, things take a more cerebral turn.

An arresting but bemused feeling hits me when I listen to Litter Frog’s ‘The Angel’s Voice’ where a wall of glitching intensity throbs intermittently over manipulated field recordings. The accompanying video shows the Safeen Mountain in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the walnut tree that grows in Litter Frog’s Grandparents’ home in London. Shots are taken on a drone that flies low, hovering just above the ground - an uncanny use of the typically aerial frame. I read that The Litter Frog project offers an exploration of the “miscommunication between the English and Kurdish culture”. Miscommunication and dissonance feel woven into the work at every level - the angel speaking is unknowable and arcane but the piece’s geographical context opens up questions around identity: an emotive human touch emerges. At one point in the video the drone spins and takes a fleeting self portrait of its pilot. And perhaps underneath their occasionally chilling treatment, listeners familiar with the site-specific field recordings may feel a pang of recognition at the sound of home. The piece conceals as it reveals. I realise I am taking part in a miscommunication.

The comp is at its strongest when it's at its most joyful. Tara Clerkin’s contribution takes the melody from her single ‘I Know He Will’ and processes it amongst layers of reverb. The samples of construction work that defined the original track’s topography are absent, as if the building is complete and the listener can admire the Bristol skyline from the roof. We are similarly elevated in the sonic landscapes of Masahiro Takahashi’s Dancers – a sublime glade of Terry Riley flavoured bliss – and the Pink Shabab, where a gliding Theremin-like tone over light drums compliments a voice frankly telling us “I was just a boy.” Elsewhere, ‘Wiwalu Wiwayu Maskat’ is an unexpected delight from DNA? AND?, a Norwegian improvisation project made up of professional musicians and children with Down’s Syndrome. Piano creeps gently amongst a bombastic back and forth of brass and voice. Like so much of this compilation, it’s a complex listen but it ends in a smile.

Elevate has enormous range and emotion and shows us, as so many other online communities can, another dispersed collective of musicians operating outside of excess and polish: any money made from the compilation will be going directly to CALM - the Campaign Against Living Miserably (charity no. 1110621) - a suicide prevention charity doing incredible work.