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Various Artists 

Blue

Wednesday, Apr 7 2004
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Having previously released four seasonally themed records, each with a different band, the Dreams by Degrees label has turned its attention to colors. Curated by the S.F. imprint's co-founder Jonathan Lee and Tarentel guitarist Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Blue features 13 artists exploring the titular hue.

Of all the colors of the rainbow, blue would seem to have the most obvious sonic possibilities. There's the actual meaning of the word -- sadness, melancholia -- and the musical genre itself, as well as a wealth of objects that are blue -- the sky, the water, naval uniforms. There are even a bunch of tunes already written about it, perfect to cover. (The next two scheduled shades, orange and white, should be harder to pin down.)

All of which makes Blue a bit unsurprising. As expected, most of the songs are slow and ruminative, with drowsy vocals, pitter-pattering instrumentation, and a sad lyrical torpor. (The main exception, by S.F. quartet the Stratford 4, is a cacophonous reading of Mazzy Star's "Blue Light.")

But this lack of suspense doesn't hamper the collection. Listening to Blue is like taking a warm languid bath, in which folky numbers by locals Corbi Wright and Vetiver slide together with the glitchy, twitchy electronic pop of L'Altra and Park Avenue. Everything seems drenched in the same muted hues, from the arching synthstrumental bliss of Vela's "Lesser Panda" to the ragged fuzz of Film School's "Sick of the Shame, Pt. 2" to the brittle ache of Rivulet's Big Star cover, "Blue Moon." There's not a dud in the bunch, save for John Davis' overlong minimalist loopfest "Ungluck Gebracht." By the time you're finished soaking in the CD's tinted pleasures, you'll agree with Sir's narcotically voiced singer: "I deserve to feel so blue."

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Dan Strachota

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