Recommended by us on 11th September 2008.
Even in the world of music, few sounds elicit happiness in quite the same way as the announcement of a boiled kettle. Even though there are more than 3000 different varieties of tea, it’s an oddly reassuring beverage, and one which has had a far-reaching influence on art and culture, as well as some significant chapters of history. Teaism (VAN154) is a compilation featuring a diverse range of artists, who each created a unique song based around the theme of music inspired by the art and culture of tea. An idea conceived and curated by Stefan Panczak (aka Inch-time), Teaism binds together 15 disparate tracks by a hand-picked selection of artists.
From the opening gambit of Max de Wardener’s Kettle Song, which chimes and charms, through to Cibelle’s sashaying Mr & Ms Grey, the pivotal theme evokes a sense of reverie; a kaleidoscopic gamut of ideas brewed to concoct a heady mix of electronica, jazz, musique concrete-style cut-ups, cinematic tones and avant-garde composition. These all contribute towards what is a glistening patchwork of sounds and atmospheres; each of them different, yet with thematic and sonic undercurrents which unite them.
Contained within are stately melodies from the likes of Lord Jim, spooky sound collages from Serafina Steer, the fresh-faced ambience of Inch-time and the shadowy electronic sounds of the Break-ups. There’s also a digital folk-pop nugget from Tunng, nestling comfortably in the middle of the tracklisting, which embodies their lust for samples and found sounds, forged into absorbingly twisted shapes. This is immediately contrasted with root70’s freewheeling jazz, while the likes of Carlos y Gaby and Oblong provide elegant and slow-building melodies, with AM/PM and Qua throwing glitches, clicks and whirs into the mix. Tying all of these strands together, Teaism takes the differing outlooks and arrangements and coaxes them into a cohesive whole, where a multitude of patterns and textures rub shoulders with each other and never sound out of place. Tea is capable of doing so many things: you can drink it to relax or inject much-needed impetus at the start of the day; it can accompany deep thought or fervent chat. It’s this array of contradictions, or multiple purposes, which offers so many appealing possibilities. Likewise, the myriad sounds collected on Teaism represent their fair share of contrasts as well. At times warm and delicate, followed by moments of brooding intensity, this electronica-led compilation flits between different nuances, all the while remaining deft and magical. Teaism is available as a limited edition CD and features original artwork by Roy Ananda.
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