Unheralded, dependable, comforting and occasionally in vogue: the job requirements for a good, independent record label aren’t a million miles away from that of a woolen garment. Until someone fashionable is discovered to be attached to one, they while away their existence in the background, providing a vital service for aspiring musicians. Wool Recordings, on the face of it, tick all of those boxes. Some will have no doubt encountered some of the artists they’ve worked with, yet they operate out of a Parisian office, unseen. Few of us will have ever heard the name.
Their attractively monikered anthology Woolly Jumpers collects recordings they’ve published along the line: some of the acts are known, some unknown. And whilst alerting the public to tracks that would’ve otherwise gone unheard is a worthwhile endeavour, the overall product has less the feel of a woolen number knitted by your granny at Christmas, more of a generic Top Man sweatshirt. It’s patchy, monotonous and forgettable: destined to play out the rest of the seasons stashed at the back of a very deep closet.
The root of the problem is a lack of hooks, memorable moments or pace changes. The eighteen tracks congeal like a primordial soup: thick, dense and sludgy. The result is an album that sounds a lot longer than it is, or should be. Stylistically, moments of twee sprout irregularly from the lacklustre murk (‘Love is Beautiful’ by Franklin attempts to lift the mood before being swiftly beaten back into place), but this is mostly a narcotized, drowsy affair. There are nods to sixties experimentation (Wolf People’s ‘Love Strands)’ and helium powered psychedlia (Connan Mockasin’s ‘It’s Choade My Dear’). Peter Broderick’s ‘Man On The Bridge’ injects some acoustic ambience, but by the Danish virtuoso’s high standards, it’s unexceptional at best.
I have berated compilation albums in the past for being too patchwork; lacking any theme or correlation and as such, being unlistenable as a piece. Woolly Jumpers qualifies for the same overall criticism, but has completely reversed the formula. The artists on display are eclectic enough, but the sound and consistency of the album varies little. Subsequently, listening to this from start to finish is an arduous experience. Part of the duty of a reviewer is to step inside the mind of the casual listener: to imagine when or where a piece of music may be suitable or enjoyable to play. Alas, on this one occasion the challenge has proven too great. Woolly Jumpers will find itself consigned to the bargain bins and scrapheaps, in the company of many of its unfortunate namesakes. There seems to be neither the time, nor the place.