(Grand Design Music Company, CD)
Those who say that Vermont needs to encourage diversity may be gratified by Grand Design Music Company's new compilation, Store This in a Cool, Dark Place. The self-described mission of this 2-year-old label and booking and promotion organization is to bring together the best independent music in "the arts and entertainment Mecca of Burlington." Although not all the local artists featured on the disc share the same musical wavelength, the release proves that much can be gained from listening with an open mind. Variations on hip-hop, funk, jazz, soul and rock come together here, which suggests Grand Design is en route to accomplishing its objective.
The snazzy "Witness" from the group Voice is a perfect opener; a long intro of classic jazz gives way to silky, upbeat hip-hop lyrics that set the tone for the rest of the album. The laid-back drums and bass that drive 2nd Agenda's "Social Disease" are a highlight, despite mechanical vocals that induce something like highway hypnosis. "Chernomore Ruchenitza" by Black Sea Quartet is a welcome contribution and, although the disc is heavy on instrumentals, the band's trombone and mandolin add a level of playful sophistication.
Prolific's repetitive and somewhat preachy cut, "The Daily Routine," is best avoided by those who've had their fill of political commentary thinly disguised as entertainment. The motivating rhythm track and chilling background vocals do make the song worth a couple spins, however.
Even though Vermont's music scene is saturated with rock, the genre doesn't have a strong presence on this disc -- perhaps on purpose. The Lestons' "Nosferatu" earns points for confidently representing the genre alongside a batch of stylistically divergent material, but the song's mediocre lyrics and screechy vocals would be better suited for mainstream punk than the band's eclectic musical style.
At worst, Store This in a Cool, Dark Place might be too wide-ranging for listeners with only moderately diverse taste. At best, it's an encapsulation of the passionate energy of Vermont's music community. A solid offering, Store This in a Cool Dark Place will at least give these musicians some well-deserved attention.