various artists,
Slow Music for Fast Times
(Hearts of Space, 2001)

Some genre music compilations introduce audiences to types of music they've never heard before, while some collect rarities and curiosities for listeners already well schooled in a genre. Other compilations are aimed toward the middle, toward those who already know that they like this type of music, but don't yet know the specific musicians who play it. These latter collections present a range of artists in the field, artists the listener can then pursue individually.

The two-disc compilation Slow Music for Fast Times, released in 2001 on the Hearts of Space (HoS) label, exists primarily in this last mode, although it's limited to music from the HoS catalogue and thus also acts as a promotional device for the label. The collection is also a precise reproduction of the HoS syndicated radio program, heard on over 250 NPR stations and focused on the slowly developing and spacious sounds of new age, ambient and related genres. Slow Music for Fast Times is a typically well-produced example of "a seamless Hearts of Space experience," just as its back cover proclaims, little more than that but also little less.

Among the 27 tracks and 130-plus minutes here, a few pieces particularly stand out. The melancholy "Flame and Circle" from Tim Story makes a strong early impression, as an excellent track quite representative of its source CD. Rasa's luxurious "Gopinatha" has an intriguing Middle Eastern flair, featuring prominent female vocals and sounding like it would be just as comfortable on a world music compilation as it is here. Robert Rich is featured here with several fine tracks, and his layered closing collaboration with Steve Roach, "La Luna," should justly impel listeners to rush out and buy their CD Strata. (While you're there, pick up their second collaboration, Soma, as well. You will not be sorry.)

Indeed, there's little that's prominent here because of basic ineptitude. Along with the steady editing and sequencing touch of the HoS programmers, the removal of anything that might disturb the mellow flow of the HoS style (in ways either bad or good) tends to render the weaker material here simply forgettable, more than actually bad. Into this category might fall John Boswell's inconsequential "4 AM," or "String Chorale, December 1994," David Darling's pleasant but utterly inconclusive string arrangement.

Overall, if you're familiar with the HoS radio program, then Slow Music for Fast Times will hold few surprises for you. (Among the idiosyncrasies, the HoS tendency to downplay the overly experimental or darker aspects of these genres extends to this collection as well. Also, some tracks here are edited for length.) If your local NPR station doesn't carry HoS, or if you've heard the program but want a better chance to absorb the music, then this is the ideal compilation for you, especially at its low price. If, on the other hand, you've heard a HoS broadcast before and weren't intrigued, or feel that you've already had sufficient exposure to the HoS editorial style, then you can safely bypass this release.

[ by Ken Fasimpaur ]
Rambles: 7 June 2002

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