Bummed by the Empyrean’s seven-block move? Fret not: They’ve made us a mix tape to ease the transition. The Friends of the Empyrean 2009 compilation disc features selections from the bands that performed at November’s showcase.
There’s a little of everything here. Bodhi Drip serves a sloppy slice of garage funk dripping with Zappa. Henry Nordstrom and Vaughn Wood thrust us into introspective melancholia. Imperial Sparks’ diverse instrumentation pick us up. Jedidiah the Pilot throws us against the wall. Joel Howard pours us a glass of milk over light guitar fuzz
and organ. Joel Smith plays a song deep-fried in Zydeco. John Blakesley pulls out his guitar and sings a story. Kevin Long and Kimberly Wescott offer up folk-pop. Le Train Train Quotidien plays intricate indie-pop, and Portrait of a Gentleman leads a lively discussion about birds. The poetry slammers close it out with a fight.
While this collection of snapshots from one of the Empyrean’s last suppers at the South Madison location works well as a document of local music history, it falls short as a balanced musical compilation. The framers of this compilation were diplomatic by arranging the tracks alphabetically. But it hurts the overall product, which lacks any smooth progression of tone and pacing. It’s a mellow record overall. And while that’s nice, the pace of it is stunted by the raucous Jedediah the Pilot track and the verbose poetry slammers.
Structural squabbles aside, this musical smorgasbord samples some of the most promising local acts around and fulfills its purpose as an enjoyable mix tape. It leaves us to revel in flavorful nostalgia of what was, and what’s yet to come at Empyrean’s new home.