As regular readers of these pages will know (Ha! Always wanted to say that), the Auckland-based label Rattle -- and its imprint Rattle Jazz -- have been Firm Favourites at Elsewhere for delivering music which is often "elsewhere".
If some of the jazz has been straight-ahead, you could not say the same for the albums by Dave Lisik, some of the avant-classical releases or those of taonga puoro.
To celebrate its 21st anniversary (Elsewhere acknowledged the 20th here), Rattle presents this fine compilation of artists from the down the decades which is woven together seamlessly, and which deliberately errs to the ambient.
The 24 track collection comes with a booklet which outlines the source albums for the music and is wrapped up in Rattle's typically elegant and understated manner.
Producer/compiler Steve Garden says: "The intention is to offer a relatively accessible and unobtrusive introduction to Rattle music with a CD that I hope people will be able to use in a variety of ways: listened to closely, played at a dinner party, or to chill-out to. Hopefully it works as an album, albeit one with fairly wide (though hopefully not incompatible) stylistic range."
Although the artists included stretch from classical players (Michael Houstoun, violinist Martin Riseley with pianist Diedre Irons, cellist Inbal Megiddo with pianist Jian Liu, etc) through jazz (saxophonist Roger Manins, pianist Marilyn Crispell) to transcriptions of Jack Body's found music, Jonathan Besser's gamelan influenced ensemble, From Scratch, Gitbox Rebellion and Lisik with Richard Nunns, there is certainly an over-arching stylistic coherence in music which conforms to Brian Eno's definition of ambient music: to paraphrase, music which is as enjoyable as it is ignorable.
This collection can command attention and serious listening, or can float away in the background.
Opening with taonga puoro from Nunns, it drifts into Natalia Man's harp (rather confirming my opinion here that the album pasif.ist was statelessly New Age), then into John Psathas and Donald Nicolson's loops/electronica and piano (from Waiting: Still) on through Justine McCormack (violin), Ashley Brown (cello) and Sarah Watkins (piano) on a piece from their 2008 Bright Tide Moving Between which was finalist in the Best Classical Album category at the music awards, through jazz from Kevin Field's Irony . . .
And so it goes, a tapestry of jazz, ambient, classical and experimental music running to 90 minutes of pure escapism or engagement.
And here's the thing: this album isn't commercially available but you can get a copy free when you log in at Rattle's excellent website (here) which also offers a very good deal if you become a Friend of Rattle.
Very easy to be friendly when they keep producing music of the consistent quality they do, and which gets an understated showcase here.
By Graham Reid, posted