What kind of sound characterizes a body of water? The Mediterranean boasts its sunset session bongo-flavored Balearic beats. The Caribbean births hard-edged dance-hall polyrhythms and sweet steel-drum serenades. As for our perpetually cold waters, local electronic and experimental imprint Peloton Musique thinks it has an answer with Pacific Waves. Its 18 tracks feature producers up and down the coast from San Francisco to Vancouver, though, with more than half the compositions by Seattle artists, the label’s hometown takes the lion’s share.
Most contributors take the premise at its word, yielding a bevy of blissful meanderings that eschew propulsive dance-floor beats in favor of subtler repetitions suitable for a barefoot walk along Shi Shi Beach. Big Phone sets the tone with the release’s longest entry at nearly 11 minutes: “Aphrodite” imagines the Greek goddess emerging from seafoam as fat, tuba-like notes give way to delicate dulcet tones and a soaring—if unintelligible (and gender-ambiguous)—modulated human voice.
Several other standouts ably conjure the briny deep. Hanssen’s “Subduction (Oceanic Version)” shimmers with fluttery synths, like the sonic equivalent of being underwater as light filters through from above. Pezzner dabbles with delicate keyboard and string arrangements on “Delphia Antarctica,” undergirded by a heart-monitor pulse that seems to ask if the ocean is on life support. Robert Gingko’s “Dulcinea” skitters along digital plunks before dropping into deeper, more ominous waters. Rennie Foster’s “Coastin’ ” resuscitates the album’s energy with more drive, tempered by a billowing flute—perfect for a hot day when even Northwest beaches are all bikinis and board shorts.
But like mushy waves on the Oregon coast that just don’t hang together long enough for good surfing, the compilation’s concept doesn’t always cohere. A few tracks adopt a nautical motif without the chops to back it up. Leave Trace’s “Submariner Neue” is a fine piece of springy, slowly coiled techno, but as the title’s choice of language suggests, it sounds better suited to a Berlin after-hours. Fovus Loîr may be holed up on Galiano Island, just across the border from the San Juans, but his soulful paean to UK garage, “Moments for a Day (Frivy’s Dirty Radio),” is downright Atlantic.
By no means are these unpleasant listens, but they don’t fit the Pacific premise. While it’s tempting to take advantage of a digital-only release’s expandability, a slimmed-down selection might better fit the proverbial wetsuit. On the other hand, Peloton’s dilemma is our boon: too much quality electronic music washing up on our hard drives at the hands of Northwest producers.
What’s more, any purchase is a win/win. Lest future ocean-inspired techno CDs get mired in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, proceeds from Pacific Waves will be donated to the Ocean Conservancy. Pacific Waves Showcase featuring Butane, Frivolous, Big Phone, Bleie. Re-Bar, 1114 Howell St., chanceofrainfestival.com. Free with festival pass/ $20 adv./$25 DOS. 21 and over. 9:30 p.m.–3 a.m. Thurs., Sept. 29.