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Various Artists: Living Bridge

Various Artists: Living Bridge

Label:Rare Book Room
Release Date:2008

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 2/20/2008

Talk about the middleman cutting out the middleman. Nicolas Vernhes has been producing indie-rock albums since the mid-1990s--many of them at his Rare Book Room studio--and eventually he must've figured that launching his own label made sense. The two-disc Living Bridge compilation is Rare Book Room's inaugural offering, collecting two decades' worth of odds and ends; the set's 25 songs are cannily sequenced so each bleeds seamlessly into the next, rap mixtape style. Invariably hothouse warm and intimate, Vernhes' recordings never fail to invite; in his gentle hands, even Black Dice's spliced-sample hyperventilating noise registers as therapeutic ("Pigpen"). The usual suspects bring pleasant nonsurprises to the party: Animal Collective's Avey Tare--not backward this time, thankfully--chimes in with the drunken-piano, sidewinding childhood remembrance "I'm Your Eagle Kisser"; on "Self Ignition," the Silver Jews make with their trademark minced, mumbled metaphors, befitting their beatific alt-country strum; Deerhunter heads down flickering sonic hallways in a sleepwalking OxyContin trance ("After Class").

Bridge's all-stars, though, are its unknown new Jacks and Janes. Brooklyn, N.Y., duo the Jewish fuses prog rock and Neil Diamond together on the satiric epic "Fantasy Stalker." The brash, trashy femme-rawk of Brooklyn group Tomorrow's Friend demands much more than a second or third airing; amid the comp's generally low-key fare, its "Hats vs. Headbands" is a gasping breath of Lucky Strike-polluted air. Lia Ices--who is slated to release a full-length via Rare Book Room--transcends Fiona Apple ivory confessionals with aching, adult-contemporary slow-burner "Reason in Remain." Bridge has a few duds--Guv'ner's Charles Gansa pulling a total Microphones/Ben Folds boner, for example--but, overall, Vernhes' new venture is off to a fine start.

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