Artist Mat Jarvis in the studio. Yes, his gear collection is enviable – but more importantly, so, too, is his sound. Courtesy the artist.

Musical tastes are fickle and diverse – it’s actually the disagreement that makes musical freedom such fun. So I can only ever speak for myself. But ever pick up a compilation, hear a couple of previews, and think to yourself – yup, this one’s going to be on heavy rotation for the coming months.

In an outpouring of love for one of our neighbors, everyone seems to have some sort of benefit for Japan. But Mat Jarvis and Microscopics have put together something really special, a multi-faceted, multi-course feast of electronic sound. The favorites and exclusives on this compilation represent what I feel is some of the best-crafted production technique around. As they describe it, it’s “a supercooled album fractured with exclusives, classics and the new.” Curator Mat Jarvis (Microscopics) writes:

It’s quite a chilled electronic album with tracks and some exclusives from Roedelius ([collaborator of Brian] Eno, Cluster), Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree), Charles Webster (Furry Phreaks etc), Gas, High Skies, Woob and others;
There’s also a bonus DJ mix version, mixed by Charles Webster for anyone who donates above the average.

I also like their donation model. This isn’t Japan’s sorrow being used for promotion (heck, I’ll promote the music, as it gives me real pleasure). The album is simply a gesture that you get back in exchange for donation.

Donation links directly to the Red Cross – any Red Cross and Red Crescent organization. (So, I’ll give to the American Red Cross and choose “where the need is greatest” both for disaster relief in Japan and anywhere it needs to go.)

And this is an appropriate time, I think, to recall that disaster and humanitarian crisis faces other people on Earth all over the world, right now spanning from Japan to Libya. Need can arise literally down the street, or a place that’s completely foreign to your experience. People can find themselves in need in the “developed” world or in the resource-poorest corners of the globe. At least in the new musical community, we get to share work, limited only by our own languages and the (increasingly-expansive) reach of the Internet. Artists are uniquely able to reframe those connections, and help express in ways words can’t how we feel about our own humanity.

Just giving arbitrarily isn’t meaningful, but you can do your homework on an organization like the Red Cross and find that your donation really does go to places where it’s needed, with minimal administrative overhead. (This is, at least, my own opinion and based on volunteering with other NGOs.)

But since we’re musicians, I hope, too, that our musical expressions have some meaning independent of news headlines. I believe pretty strongly that they can be a place to go and reflect and share experience, now across those same geographies, and say something that the news alone can’t. On my darkest days, I find music I love can really make me feel hopeful. I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way, or you wouldn’t be here.

So, enjoy the work of:

January Tuesday
Richard Barbieri
High Skies
Charles Webster
Anne Garner
Richard Barbieri
High Skies

Richard Barbieri live, as captured by Tom Oldham. Photo courtesy Microscopics.

“Supercooled,” indeed – each track is chilled-out, but as dynamic and dense as dry ice.

Anyway, I’ll stop drooling over this particular album and give you time to listen to it. Anyone who claims we don’t have an abundance of great music at our fingertips, from a stunning variety of artists of different backgrounds, probably isn’t looking very hard.