History is Bunk is a collection of hip-hop, electronica and ambient music celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Chicago based record label Hefty Records. If Hefty Records means nothing to you then maybe a few of the artists it has farmed over the last decade such as Telefon Tel Aviv, Savath + Savalas (Guillermo Scott Herren) and Eliot Lipp, might. The double-disc collection comes in the form of collaborations, re-interpretations and a few new compositions and rather than pushing forward groundbreaking material offers a round up what Hefty is and has been about. Both parts of the compilation offer ‘off the shoulder’ style takes on hip hop and electronica that are unhinged through IDM bleeps and glitches and the odd disco beat. The tracks here are all pretty sharply cut and technically precise — the sort of craft you’d expert from a niche indie label like Hefty.
The presence of Scott Herren, if not always in form but in sentiment is heavy on Disc 1. L’Altra’s “The Last” could drop straight in on One Word Extinguisher with its clipped synths and ratchet bleeps all staggering along to a stunted melody. Chris Case changes the tone on “Deluge” undercutting the electronica vibe for some smoky piano refrains and bobbing xylophone. Not quite jazz, but this down tempo version of “Deluge” breathes easily amongst the IDM feel of most of other tracks here. Savath and Savalas remix/mash up of Daedelus “Wishes You The Best” takes a happy middle ground between the in-organic and organic, delicately placing the vocal sample between a set of horns whilst the bleeps sporadically intermingle. This ability to collect different sonic textures some obtuse others lackadaisical and then to maintain a flow that is reflexive but also fluid between the different textures is Herren’s genius and again he succeeds here.
Both parts of the compilation offer ‘off the shoulder’ style takes on hip hop and electronica that are unhinged through IDM bleeps and glitches and the odd disco beat.
There is something about the History is Bunk collection that sees its subtle variety and snippets of reverie creep up on you. Victor Bermon’s “The Lonely Tired Dance” is a good example. The mood perfectly encapsulated by its title, Bermon’s muzak veneer gives the body of the song a gauzy anachronistic feel simultaneously making it sound even lonelier. On Disc 2 Plus Device’s “Compose The Beat” pulls in some IDM disco flavour but fails to captivate. Slicker’s remix of Haroumi Hosono, is an interesting mix embodying tribal, trip-hop and jazz elements without sounding too clunky. You get the impression that this unwillingness to conform to specific genres and equal desire to pull from musical tropes all over the past century is why Hefty called this collection History Is Bunk. On “Anticamera Dei Dubbi” Retina It. again mirrors this ethos taking an electronic drum beat, giving it an ethnic live feel (even though it isn’t) and then transposing it against a minute scratchy guitar sound.
Between the two discs there are a few numbers that perhaps don’t do enough and suffer from a stunted IDM feel. However, the majority of History Is Bunk is interesting and rewarding. There is a real sense of group ideas being played out here and that resonates into some strangely soulful moments. Labels like this keep the music industry fresh, so big up Heftly and a happy 10 year old birthday even if it is a little bit late.