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V/A - Urbi et Orbi III

Minimal Rome

I’m not sure it’s easy to approach objectively a compilation that features at least four Bleep43 podcast contributors, on MinimalRome, a label that featured in an in-depth feature last year. Luckily, I spit in the face of objectivity. And also, this album fucking rules, so deal with it.

Whereas the first two Urbi Et Orbi releases were EP length, the third volume is an epic selection, spanning the globe, twenty tracks, almost two hours, and two CDs if you pick up one of the super-limited physical copies. It’s varied too, moving from the electro the label is arguably best known for, through a couple of pummelling workouts to a more restrained and cerebral second half.

Highlights are almost too easy to come by. Mick Wills’ opener “Espace (J Fajerman)” is electro in the time-honoured West Coast style, featuring melodic nods to the eponymous synth explorer. Even if it might be nice not to mention Drexciya for once, TeslaSonic’s “Room 207” and Takeshi’s “Last Chapter” offer a more sub-Atlantic variation. And label boss Valerio Lombardozzi drops a slightly less banging take with “Healthy Migraine” as Composite Profuse.

“Vacuform” from Datasette ends the first third with slo-mo Italo and subtle chiptune influences to the fore, then “The Mission” by Andrea Bennedetti layers a Jesse Jackson rant over a brutal but pretty effective Nineties bosher. Polysick’s “Nightwalk” and Transilmania’s “Pcr 300” add some more depth to successfully close out the first half.

From this point pads and synths begin to gradually dominate over [7-9]0[7-9]s (…drum machine regular expression alert). Off-key cheddar may offend, so “Olimpiadi 3211 6” by Lo-Lo is a slightly dubious start to the second CD, but things pick up dramatically with Black Merlin’s “Gorepheus”, a shape-shifting, throbbing, 12-minute bionic monster. This is followed by “Night Shuttle”, a blinding second cut from Lombardozzi in his more ambient Heinrich Dressel guise, and then a couple of all-too-brief soundtracky tunes from Greek producer Black September (Italian horror) and French producer Day Before Us (er, magical realism?).

Even deeper dives follow, from The Exaltics’ subdued “Between Places” to Ian Martin’s “Onerous”, another classic electronic drone from a man who apparently can do no wrong. The album ends with the complex “Under All” from Grackle, and the simpler but spectral “Process Vision” by Stellar OM Source.

There is really very little to criticise. The programming is up for debate - maybe Alessandro Parisi’s Goblin-esque “La Guerra Di Namtar” would have worked better earlier in the second disc? - but that would be splitting hairs. This is a masterclass in how to do a label compilation: representative, wide-ranging and endlessly listenable.

Sam Stagg

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