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Cold Spring’s “Pyre” Sampler Suffers from Excessive Diversity and Disorganization

It’s an odd title, right? As someone with an innate dread of musical homogeneity, I was really surprised by my reaction to this record, but let’s get this on the table right away: Compilations are tricky business. Many of them sound like a collection of tracks simply cobbled together with very little forethought. That said, if theme and pacing are given proper attention, they can be thoroughly effective and a great way to discover new artists.

Samplers are even trickier as they are meant to serve as advertisements for the label and, as such, can result in dissimilar artists or genres appearing on the same release. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if handled right, but it must be especially challenging for an outfit like Cold Spring, who have championed dark musical diversity for over twenty-five years. It’s that very diversity that causes this record to stumble a bit.

At first glance, this looks like a hands-down favorite. The track list is bursting with well-known artists, but also some lesser-known acts that sound promising; after all, this is Cold Spring we’re talking about. And things sound great from the get-go, as Troum’s opener blossoms into beautiful choral drone. The transition to Khost’s contribution (remixed by Godflesh, no less) is a bit jarring, but not a deal breaker. But then we’re on to some ritual neofolk from La Breiche and then back to grinding guitar noise from Skullflower. This is followed by tracks with Crass-like punkiness; angry, noise-driven pieces; haunting dark ambient soundscapes; etc.

It’s all over the place.

Don’t get me wrong—I have rightly worshipped this label for years. Their roster is simply astounding, their parade of vital releases seemingly unending, and their support of “ragged edge” music unflagging. The majority of these tracks are winners, but the topsy-turvy presentation ends up detracting from the whole. Simply put, my issue here is organizational, not compositional. I can’t help but feel this record would have benefited from better planning. Track for track, it’s great, but it just doesn’t hang together coherently.

Then again, compilations are tricky business.

Track List:

01) Troum – Outer Brain Outsourcing (Excerpt)
02) Khost – Inversion (Deconstructed and Reconstructed)
03) La Breiche – Le Mal des Ardents
04) Skullflower – Furfur
05) Penny Rimbaud’s Lacamemie des Vanitês – What Did You Know, What Did You Care?
06) Tunnels of Ah – Purging Process
07) Sutcliffe Jügend – Howl (Edit)
08) TenHornedBeast – All Fled (Excerpt)
09) Sun Ra | Merzbow – Granular Jazz Pt. 4
10) She Spread Sorrow – Crushed on the Pillow
11) Coil – Fire of the Mind
12) Common Eider, King Eider – A Wisp of Smoke, and Salem Burns (Excerpt)
13) Trepaneringsritualen – All Hail the Black Flame
14) Henrik Nordvargr Bjorkk / Margaux Renaudin – Sunyata
15) Dave Ball + Jon Savage – Dead Neon

Written by: Ben Hudgins
Label: Cold Spring (United Kingdom) / CSR207CD / CD
Industrial / Dark Ambient / Noise / Experimental