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Thrill Jockey Seven-Inch Box Set – [Album]

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Sunday, 03 February 2008

To celebrate their 15 years in existence, Thrill Jockey has decided to put this celebratory compilation together—which gives them the chance to have artists on the roster cover…you know, other artists on the roster. It's a time-honored tradition usually regulated to one-off singles. So then this set makes even more sense when you consider that this compilation is available as a box of seven-inch singles. But the Dansette isn't available now and we're just taking a look at this as a group of songs. Granted, this isn't intended as a label overview, but that's part of what it is and there's no way around it.

Thrill Jockey made their move several years back to distance themselves from the post-rock milieu and it was a wise one—although they were responsible for putting out some of best records of that era, there was a saturation happening at the time and the indie-rock market was getting flooded with instrumental passages, chin-stroking, unqualified Steve Reich references, and general up-own-ass-ed-ness. But this did give Thrill Jockey a certain cache; you could probably buy a record on Thrill Jockey up until the late 90s and expect there would be a sharpness, an intelligence, and an outré spin on a known formula that would make the record worth investigating. This in the same way that 4AD, Creation, SST and Touch and Go could at one point be associated with a specific sound.

The current day Thrill Jockey has a wide berth of artists whose connections to each other is more tenuous. Which is great for the label. Kudos to these guys for keeping good product out there for 15 years, but it's harder, if just less consistent, on the listener. Here we get things like David Byrne covering the Fiery Furnaces (turn up the quirk-o-meter) and an abundance of Califone and Freakwater. On the plus side of Plum: Sue Garner and Rick Brown get completely unhinged and awesome on the cover of OOIOO's "Umo" and Bundy K. Brown and the band Directions (who made one of the label’s finest efforts with 1996's Directions in Music) come out of hiding to deliver a stuttering cosmic-jazz-funk version of Jeff Parker's "Toy Boat." Fun in small doses, frustratingly inconsistent—Plum will still look pretty sitting on the shelf.

The Plum seven-inch box set is out now on Thrill Jockey.

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