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harpsichord 2000
Various Artists
Harpsichord 2000
S.H.A.D.O.

(CD)

click for Real Audio Sound Clip

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Hey kids, Harpsichord 2000 "celebrates" the musical contributions of a particular instrument. Can you guess which instrument we're talking about?

Those of you without fresh head injuries will have quickly realized that Harpsichord 2000 is a compilation of tunes that feature (wait for it) the harpsichord -- or, at the very least, latter-day imitators like the clavichord and spinetta. If your first thought was "Ooh, boy, Momus!", you're dead-on: Momus' analogue baroque tune "Jeff Koons", which is included here (and which is one of his better efforts), apparently inspired the compilation.

Don't panic, though -- this isn't an hour of second-string artists aping Momus. I don't think even Momus could take that. No, the artists here have employed the harpsichord in a variety of potentially intriguing ways. Typically, there's a lot of analogue instrumentation involved: Die Moulinettes' "Flipper Queen -- Du Kannst's Am Besten" sounds like a more Germanic take on Stereolab. There's also a strong retro vibe, as Tricatel mainstay Count Indigo proves with his "Call Yourself a Man", a Bondish effort that cops a riff from the "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" theme. Nor should you miss "Dial 'S' for Siren", a dead-on piece of late-sixties choral pop from the Barry Gemso Experience, featuring the Randall Zanelli Singers. In general, Harpsichord 2000's mood favors lounge-style film soundtracks, warped easy-listening fare, burbling video game effects and throbbing, solid-state short-wave experiments...combined, of course, with harpsichords.

The song selection is heavy on European artists, but Americans will recognize a few names and faces. David Gedge's new project, Cinerama, makes an appearance with "Ears", though the harpsichord elements seem to have been added at the remix stage. Stereo Total and Micromars, both of whom should be familiar to regular Splendid readers, put in appearances of middling quality, while the Make Up give things an indie-rock slant on "Love Calls Yr Name", giving their tune blaxploitation-style funkiness with a clavinet.

Brief, harpsichord-intensive vignettes appear every few tracks, possibly to keep you thinking "Oh, right, this is a harpsichord-oriented sampler." But beyond its linking theme, Harpsichord 2000 is a pretty uneven listening experience; there are a number of pop gems here -- particularly "Dial 'S' for Siren" -- but they're separated by undistinguished expanses of gratuitous harpsichord wankery. Some of these tunes will, by the very nature of their gimmicky concatenation, become unlistenable in short order -- but you can expect to discover several tracks that endure beyond Harpsichord 2000's overall threshold of tolerability. And really, three to five new "leads" is as much as you can reasonably expect from a compilation, however clever its theme.

-- George Zahora

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