The compilation album “How to Stay Conscious While You Drown” proves to be a rewarding plunge into the diverse realm of electronic music. Its 18 tracks, each by a different artist, encapsulate a broad spectrum of electronic music, creating a unique sonic adventure that remains engaging from start to finish.
The album opens with HollowEarth’s “Man Creates Art,” a track that swiftly establishes the vibe. I want to say its carefully crafted textures combine with a rhythmic underpinning that formed the captivating listening experience, but really it’s was just good old fashioned meat and potatoes electronica for start to finish – an absolute banger. This is the perfect way to open a compilation album.
Caudroped’s “kelpie” hits deep and once it’s in you, it cuts deep. The cave dwelling melody is haunting and the drum and bass is about as satisfying as you can get. It’s at this moment you realize, “Oh shit, it’s going to be one of these albums.” And then you’re all in.
Dylan Cameron’s “Suitcase Spatial” hits a little different – it sounds like a fax from another dimension. Lots of great breakbeats and deep bass hits. It’s when you get about half way through you look at your bass dial and contemplate turning it down and then you don’t because why would you?
Tiago Barreto da Silva’s “14 Yogi Berra” infuses the compilation with an unexpected rhythm that matches the previous tracks but makes you feel off kilter. The time stretched elements mesh beautifully with the largely hypnotic vocal samples.
Star Fighter Dreams’ “Corrosive Markets” starts with a weird sample from the film “The Big Short” and it keeps going … and going. Once you get past Ryan Gosling’s stupid sales rants in that movie, you can appreciate the bit crushed and crisp 8-bit inspired melody. Man, I fucking hate Ryan Gosling in my electronic music.
John Nap’s “vom” brings us back to reality without Ryan Gosling. Nap’s synth drums give me a Casio RZ-1 vibe until your realize he’s just messing with you and it turns into a robotic heartbeat of electricity the surges through your sound system. Lots of metallurgic electro gore – love it.
Then “Insane” by Midi Fister experiments with an off-kilter rhythm and syncopation (I’ve always wanted to use that word), simultaneously creating a sense of discomfort and intrigue. Lots of vaporwave vibes but in the all the best ways. A lot of work went into this and I wish it was about five minutes longer.
Raindro’s “tides to LU” seems to start with the chorus and I couldn’t be happier. A recurring theme of this album is that I wish the tracks were longer, but honestly it’s worth it. This track, to me, takes the best part of the mid-90s and makes it a worthwhile memory. Deep bass and satisfying melodies all around.
BRAINWAVVE’s “HEAT-CHEM-2” brings it hard. It’s only 1:43 but get your head ready for the bass. Anything with deep reverbed looped melodies arpeggiating and bass that almost wakes up my neighborhood is good with me. Because who needs to sleep anyway?
Following this is FITNEZ’s “Typhoon.” It’s audacious. Ready to dance? Because this electro track tempts listeners into its swirling vortex of intricate synths and relentless beats. This showcases the compilation’s skillful modulation of energy levels. Stand out track.
How do you follow that up? You do it with “Halloween in the Ditches” by The Viewer + Black Magic Cyborg. This track excels at fusing experimental elements with eerie, structured atmospheric static, resulting in a soundscape reminiscent of an otherworldly, spectral carnival.
Lost Cat Magnet’s “The Traveler” tries to continue this atmospheric trend, presenting a blend of spacey arpeggiating sounds but it kind of falls apart and then fall back into itself again. By the end you hear undulating echoes of bit crushed madness. Then it hits me – Mega Man boss music.
Heavy Stars’ “Lefthanded” sounds like someone knocking on your head and then it feels great to hear those plucks – probably the most satisfying sounds on the album until it descends into controlled chaos that feels really unsettling. High frequency vocal samples scratch you in places that feel great for a minute or so, but like a cat, after a while you need to get away. The track pulls its hand away just in time.
Daze of Heaven’s “Ode to Ray” has fun elements of light heartened ambient music with a downtempo soul. It strikes a nice balance between calmness and intensity – it’s just so fun. Also, wait for the ending. Remember when I said Mega Man boss music? No, THIS is the real Mega Man boss music.
I’m guessing that Cyclop Toad’s “Black Jet” is providing a final blast of energy before the compilation begins to wind down. Its driving beats and throbbing synths create a pulsating sonic fabric – the vocal sample is really off-putting but I absolutely love it because it matches the vibe of the track.
In episodic memory‘s “Fidanzata” once you hear that gated pan flute (or maybe it’s a sax) you’re good to go. It’s one of those tracks where you hear the first few progressions and know where the track is going, but you’re wrong – and you’re glad to be wrong. This groove is way too catchy for its own good.
Crystal Voyager’s “ENteriNg PoRtaL 1” doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel, it’s reminding you to calm down and remember that life is just a dream. This is the kind of music you listen to while painting or writing poetry. A nice float down back to whatever each of us believes is our reality.
The album concludes with The Viewer’s “The End of Breathing Room,” a poignant, contemplative piece that seems to encapsulate the album’s title, leaving listeners in a state of emotional resonance as the final note fades.
“How to Stay Conscious While You Drown” is a masterclass in the diversity of electronic music. The compilation thrives in its variety, offering an engaging journey through different styles and moods. It’s a solid recommendation for both avid fans of electronic music and those looking to dive deeper into the ever growing discography of Heterodox Records.