Notes From thee Real Underground: Volume 2 is the second in a series of compilations(**) released by Invisible Records, which showcase music from underground bands from across the US. This particular volume is a 2 CD set, with each CD featuring a song from each of the 18 bands featured in this collection. This amounts to quite a bit of music. So, here's a quick band-by-band breakdown:
Grim Faeries present some supercharged TKK-esque industrial stomping action with Fairie Raide. The requisite elements are all here: Stompy drums, heavy bass, distorted and angry vocals and guitar. Their second track, Off with her Head, features more of the same. This is definitely one of the stronger acts on this compilation. Coup D'etat contribute Conversions and Umbilical; more aggressive industrial rock. Unfortunately, the former track isn't particularly interesting (it isn't a 'bad' song, but it doesn't really go anywhere), and the latter, while more interesting, is plagued by poor production.
King Rhythm's style is a twisted hybrid of experimental electronic music and hip-hop influences. Return of the Dope Noise is strangely catchy and very (somewhat tribally) rhythmic, but in a non-conventional way. Neccessary is more straightforward in the rhythm department, but features some nice noise manipulation. Blue Eyed Christ are the pissed-off spawn created in an alternate universe where the Rolling Stones raped The Cars. They perform gritty rock with heavily distorted guitars and quirky synth melodies thrown in (particularly noticeable in Suicide Beauty Queen).
Moth provides two ambient pieces which are both slow and ominous. Depending upon your tastes, you will either eat this up like candy or you will be lulled to sleep by it. Espion break out with All the Dirty Girls and Damage. This is pretty straightforward (but catchy) heavy distorted rock, dirty and raw, as the titles of their songs suggest.
Hypoid's Deprogramming Deposits of Fat is guitar-free but aggressive electro-industrial. Also missing are the cookie-monster vocal distortion all too common to EBM. This is certainly one of the more original tracks, but is not particularly dance-floor friendly due to its heavily syncopated beat. The other track, Resistance is Fertile fires in the completely different direction of heavily distorted rock music, with a prominant Cult-esque guitar riff.
Flutter is one of the few female-fronted acts featured on this comp. My Nocturne has minimalistic electronic melodies to provide the backdrop for the operatic and effects-laden female vocals, which are equal shares dissonant and harmonic. Dead Body is a little catchier, while staying within the same basic framework. Dexter D.V.S. presented a groovy instrumental with Losing, which features some nicely programmed (and funky) electronics and plenty of samples and surprises to keep things interesting. State of Emergency features distorted/reverbed vocals and complex drum patterns, but isn't particularly catchy.
Hale provides some music to beat the shit out of your fellow man to. Shifter and Tortion Girl are both chock-full of deep and crunchy guitars, angry vocals, and all around heaviness. Boxcar Satan meld distorted heavy rock with some jazz influences in Best Be Gone, and shift to slower, more blues-rockish vibes in Hellbound Express. Unfortunately, the dissonant horn melodies on the former make the track a little difficult on my ears and the latter track, though catchy, is a bit too repetitive for my tastes.
The Dying Infinite are one of the more atmospheric acts with the slow and morose A Rain of Roses, which plods along at a deathmarch pace carried by deep and chorused vocals. And the ambient soundscape, Omnisonous. NoizFaction present two wildly different tracks, Reconciliation and Vertigo. The former one is quite firmly in the industrial rock category, with the emphasis on industrial placed there by copious use of noise (the band certainly earns their name in this category) and layered percussion. The song could have probably stood to be about 1-2 minutes shorter, as it is a tad on the repetitive side. Vertigo sounds very similar to something out of Skinny Puppy's Last Rights era, with heavily distorted vocals, atmospheric keyboards and oddly-timed rhythm.
Lo Fi Scorpio spew forth some heavy and sludgy distorted music with a catchy beat in Horns Up. The sludge and darkness continues with Ground Whispers. They are certainly competent, but the music is nothing new. Sunshine Blind is one of my favorite female-fronted gothic rock acts, and their new track Land's End show a slight move in a more electronic direction for the band, with some rather funky loops and effects. However, SB still manage to retain their rock edge. To any Sunshine Blind fan, this album is worthwhile for this track alone. The second contribution, Down on Acid, is a remix of Coming Down (from the band's debut album). It's a radical departure, with assorted loops, distortions and other effects. I still prefer the original.
Found Objects specialize in ambient instrumental tracks. Unfortunately, I find them to be a bit on the boring side. Granted, dark-ambient(*) generally isn't exactly my cup o' tea. I hope that their live show provides more of interest than just the music, as the tracks Das Booty and Mio Portamento (both listed as live tracks) fail to impress me. Acclimate's Hour Hours Ago manages to do a little better in the ambient instrumental department, however. Those seeking more ambience and noise can find them again on the second disc with Can't Fuck on Nitrous. Defragmentation, however, get my award for best instrumentals on this compilation. Heretic is noisy and experimental, with tempo shifts and stompy percussion. The Tempest (bible music mix) provides more of the same.
All in all, NFTRU2 presents a wide variety of underground acts, though there is an obvious slant in the direction of noisy, experimental, and/or industrial rock acts. Though that is certainly the sort of thing that anyone familiar with Invisible Records would probably expect. Amidst the variety, there are bound to be some lackluster tracks here and there, but there are also quite a few very worthy ones; more than enough to make up for the compilation's weakness. If you want to tap into the music underground of the US, this (and the other NFTRU comps) is a good place to start.
(*) aka "dambient"
(**) The first volume was reviewed in Legends #120.