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Crossing Lines – NX Records Compilation (Review)

Title

The South East of London is coming for you! In a very relaxed, musical sort of way.

Independent label NX Records have compiled a compilation of some of the most promising musicians to come out of the New Cross/Deptford area of the Capital. What is clear from the Crossing Lines album is that it is a labour of love for those involved, not merely some mixtape that can be spat out.  Created as a joint venture between Accidental Records founder Matthew Herbert and Goldsmiths University of London, each artist has been picked specifically from University students and alumni. Given that alumni include James Blake and Katy B, there is a pedigree for success. To coincide with the release there were pop-up record store events with performances from the artists, which is just lovely.

The album opens with 4-piece Holy Milk, with their groove-bass led ‘Born And Die’. Reminiscent of Anna Calvi’s quieter moments. It’s both funky and dread-inducing thanks to its ethereal electronics in the background. It’s a low-key opener which it turns out represents the collection well.

The next track is the more Indie-rock inflected ‘The Great Unknown’ by These Ghosts. On a plane somewhere between Radiohead and Coldplay, it is driven by tribal drums and a driving piano backing. Buffalo Ink’s ‘Hungover’ starts like a b-side to early Soundgarden before a beat kicks in that throws everything to the wind. There’s too much sound going on to have been created by just two people but duo Caragh Campbell and Nick Powell bring it all. Drums, guitar, vocals and electronics collide in a beautifully haphazard collage.

Things chill out again with Jamie Coe’s wonderful ‘My Ocean’. An Asian scented guitar riff and flutes give way to Coe’s echoey vocals. The music is polished, whilst the vocal is left raw as if done in one take on the fly. It gives the song an in-balance and imperfection that makes it stand out. It’s a track that transports you somewhere far away. I don’t where I ended up but I enjoyed being there.

Machines come next with ‘On This Spot’. With a beat that again manages to be playful and menacing, the song manages a whole range of styles in a short space of time. A little bit of Bjork mixed with Burial, it’s fantastically dark pop track.

There’s an instrumental double bill as Thefft brings the chilled dub sound with ‘Ethos and Scopic Frames  the sprawling ‘Paradigm Paralysis’. Haunted by a sax that sounds like it’s played by a dying cow down an alleyway somewhere round New Cross, it’s not something you’d want to play in the dark. But it perfectly brings the area’s night time feel to life. A fascinating song, they are definitely an out-fit to keep an eye and ear out for.

The sax returns in a much less threatening manner on James Marples ‘Best Behaviour’ which, musically, sounds like Mark Lanegan at his mournful best. Again a host of different sounds, a twinkling piano, prominent shakers, strings and guitars meld into an epically sorrowful track. Niomi Eve brings the ambient chill back with her sparse ‘Sounds You Made’. Carried by a simple electronic beat her voice floats above the electronics. It feels like excellently crafted DIY production.  King of Hearts follows up with the playful ‘No One’s Watching’ then the Tom Morley brings the collection it’s most classically rock influenced song ‘Figure Skating’. Jacob Aria’s ‘Secret Hands’ sees us off with the opening words “Goodbye, goodbye”. With it’s Prince & The Revolution style drums and other-worldly keyboards it’s not a million miles away from The Blue Nile, which I mean as the highest of compliments. It’s the best 80s pop track made this year that you’ll hear all year.

An eclectic mix of a lot of great and promising talent, there’s ambient electronics a-go-go and guitars to keep your head nodding. This project will hopefully bring these artists attention from a wider audience. Every track on this compilation is worth your time which is not something you can often say about an album of collected music.

Writer: Michael Dickinson

Michael is the Vulture Hound Film Editor.