Released in March of 2003, Friendly People Making Noise is a cleverly titled compilation disc by the up and coming Swedish label Friendly Noise. This being Friendly Noise’s first official release, the label, which, in it’s manifesto, aims to "incite a specific context: the marriage of new pop and light experimentalism", decided to put on display their full roster, with eleven Swedish artists each contributing a song. All of the songs on the compilation are exclusive to Friendly People Making Noise, with the exception of "E6" by The Embassy, which originally appeared on their 7-inch debut in 2001, and the contribution by Differnet, who covered a Throbbing Gristle song.
Coming upon this compilation, and Friendly Noise in general happened somewhat by chance. Originally being completely unfamiliar with all the artists on Friendly People Making Noise, excluding Hans Appelqvist, the image of Friendly Noise drew me in far before I heard the music. Thinking that image has nothing to do with music is a relatively naïve thought. In an idealistic world this may not be such a naïve thought, but unfortunately here on good old Mother Earth image does play a part in what music we will find aesthetically pleasing, and I am sucker to it.
The very first thing to catch my eye, while surfing around an online distribution site, was the label’s name in general: Friendly Noise. Personally I quite enjoy both of those words, so I gave the simple text a little clicky-click and was transported to their designated page of the website. It was there that I received the first glimpse of the cover art, which sold me right away. The background picture is that of melting, glacial stalactites and stalagmites with a purple hue and grainy quality, and tossed on top of it was the picture, probably cut out of a children’s picture book, of an angel holding a candle.
After doing a quick internet search and coming upon Friendly Noise’s official website I got a taste of two more of my favorite image oriented aspects of music. First off Friendly Noise is based in Sweden, and I am a total sucker for Scandinavian music; not only has the Icelandic music scene produced some pretty cool stuff in the recent times, but Norway and Sweden have also been right on with music as of late.
And the last thing to draw me in is simply the fact that Friendly Noise is a small label. Small labels have always represented the truest form of music, harboring DIY ethics that lead to pure ideology, which is not tainted by the desire to make money, but the desire to have music that they believe is good put out into a venue where it can be heard by many people. If it weren’t for small labels keeping these traditions going the four major record labels may have taken over completely and turned us all into mindless music zombies!
That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m sure you’d like to know what the music sounds like on Friendly People Making Noise, because the plan of merging pop sensibilities and light experimentalism is pretty vague, but really that vagueness is the only way to describe the album, as it is all over the musical map. Stefan Zachrisson and Mattias Holmberg have compiled a truly original and unique compilation that works as equally as an introduction to many of their favorite artists as it does as a coherent album, as even the songs that populate the miss section of this hit or miss comp are still near the bull’s-eye.
1) Friendly Noise Theme 1 (4:32)
Friendly People Making Noise has an introduction and a conclusion, under the titles Friendly Noise Theme 1, and Friendly Noise Theme 2. This song, Theme 1, consists primarily of a deep groove that is established through the sampled exhaling man, a shaker of some sort, and a consistent pluck of an acoustic guitar. The bass melody is held up by a phasing saw tooth/triangle wave hybrid and another synthy keyboard that roams around a Zelda-esque melody. All in all it’s a pretty good introduction to the compilation.
2) "Train to ?" by Speedwax (3:07)
Unfortuntely the next song is one of those miss songs I was talking about earlier. Speedwax presents a nearly slowed down drum and bass track with atmospheric swells and glitched out guitar samples. The only thing that saves this song from being a totally waste of time is the very catchy bass melody that hits every once in a while right when things become overly boring. But fortunately this song is only about three minutes long, so it isn’t too much of a problem.
3) "Little Variations" by Paddington DC (7:47)
Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, and making it the longest song on the compilation, Little Variations has the potential to be too boring and too long to hold any attention. But don’t let that length get you down, because Paddington Distortion Combo gives us the best song on Friendly People Making Noise with this song. Little Variations is an extremely distorted pop gem that only comes around once in a blue moon, and is the prime example of what Friendly Noise wants to do with their label. Through simple electronic drums and crunching, distorted bass guitar, with little keyboard melodies in between, lyrics about making the same song over and over again in the simple key of C breakthrough in a singsong voice, where DC means "destructive chord", and "fucking bored". Getting this compilation just for this song would have been worth it.
4) "Slottet" by The Radio Dept. (2:58)
Sadly Friend People Making Noise has gotten into an early groove of having one good song and then one bad one, as the excellent Little Variations if followed up by another stop-go drum and bass song by The Radio Dept. Comprised mostly of a windy, swelling, atmospheric synth this song stop and starts at random intervals, which is less jarring and more annoying. It’s almost as if The Radio Dept. realized this and decided to spice things up, because halfway through random voices soaked in reverb seep into the mix for no particular reason. Nice effort, guys.
5) "Tristess" by Lars Blek (2:55)
Lars Blek serves up an enigmatic and sophomoric song with Tristess. For nearly two minutes the only thing going on is a bass guitar plucking out a 2/2 rhythm, sometimes accompanied by an electric guitar and a chik-chik-chik drum beat. Thankfully this is the last iffy song on the compilation, because if there were just one more of these types of throw-a-ways I’d have to put my foot down and question the system.
6) "Nuclear Romantics" by Robotboy (1:44)
Finally another little pop gem shows up in an 80’s inspired experiment by Robotboy. This song, about the end of the world via missile, sounds like it was recorded by on a simple 8-Track with a bunch of fuzz and that sort of thing mixing with the simple keyboard melodies and vocals. The absences of a nice, danceable drum beat, as well as a longer length, are missed, but, in a way, it’s non existence makes the song that much more enjoyable. Oh yeah, and the song is called Nuclear Romantics, which is just too cool not to enjoy.
7) "Dempf" by Dr Higgins (4:13)
Second only to Little Variations, Dempf is another highlight on the Friendly People Making Noise compilations. Backed by cool break beating live drums, the song features one of those synth sounds that just stick in your head like a bee sticking to a flower in spring. The melody is similar to that of Friendly Noise Theme 1, with an 8-bit feeling to it that will also stick in your head, and in fact the song could have been composed on one of those 8-bit machines, perhaps a Little Sound DJ, because there is only drums and then three keyboard voices.
8) "Glänsande Blod" by Testbild! (5:33)
The experimental side of the album really kicks in with this song. Testbild! open this song with a weird melody sung by a few vocoders, which then randomly cut out and are replaced for the next four minutes by wandering and random electronics and guitars. This song is more tolerable than the other songs on this comp of a similar nature simply because it has no desire to win you over, and is content with just meandering around while you focus on other things. Testbild!’s strengths can be seen on the Themes of this album instead of on their title song.
9) "Simtag Och Goda Råd" by Petter Eklund (3:30)
This song sticks out on this album because it is nothing like any of the other songs on Friendly People Making Noise. It opens seeming like it could just be another random drum and bass song, with the voice of a young, Swedish child saying something or another while dying music from Mega Man 2 plays in the background. But then out of no where a pseudo-lounge electronic song kicks in with a Swedish man’s voice singing in that lounge kind of way. The only thing that takes away from this song is that I am unable to understand what he is saying, because I don’t speak Swedish yet. But none-the-less, it goes without saying that this is probably the third best song on the comp.
10) "E6" by The Embassy (4:03)
Where Speedwax, The Radio Dept., and Testbild! May have failed The Embassy comes in and totally cleans house. This poppy, and drum and bassy song is addictive for some unknown reason. A deep, steady groove and random drum samples carry it along, while a sliding electric guitar melody keeps it the same. It has a verse/chorus/bridge song structure, and would probably do well with some vocals, but it survives all on it’s own with out anyway. It’s so simple, and yet complex that it’s very difficult for me to describe, so I’m just gonna leave it at that.
11) "... Tredje Utlösningen." by Hans Appelqvist (4:32)
Hans Appelqvist is the only artist on Friendly People Making Noise who I thought I knew something about before hearing it. But with this song, that opens with the sounds of a dying horse and screaming people, totally took me by surprise, as the work of his that I had heard was nothing like this. After a while that all fades out and an accordion and piano take over, which makes me feel a little more at home, but then real fast drums sneak in and once again I am at a loss. The random screaming comes back every once in a while, along with other distorted things, but all together it isn’t so distracting. This is a pretty excellent song, just not what I expected from Hans Appelqvist.
12) "Something Came Over Me" by Differnet (4:44)
Differnet is the only artist as to this date to release a full-length release on Friendly Noise, with Come on and Bring Back the Brjokén Sounds of Yore!. However, this song, a cover of Throbbing Gristle, has mostly all of the typical Differnet styles within it, including the vocoder vocals, and slow to arrive drumbeats. Having heard the Differnet release it’s hard for me to get into this song knowing that they have done much better things, but it still holds up as a good song. The lyrics are pretty funny, but I guess that’s what’s to be expected from Throbbing Gristle.
13) Friendly Noise Theme 2 (7:00)
Friendly Noise Theme 2 is similar to Friendly Noise Theme 1, but instead of domination from various synths like the first it is instead dominated by acoustic guitars. Theme 2 also has a similar rhythm style to Theme 1, with a clicking and shaking backbone. This song is also kind of like an extended goodbye, as it sticks around for long enough to be enduring, yet not annoying. See ya Friendly Noise.