In the three years Gang of Ducks have been around, they’ve created something truly niche in electronic dance music’s landscape. Today it extends beyond the small Italian collective it’s founded on and includes such esteemed names as, Traag, Ital and My Panda Shall Fly, while continuing to offer a platform for Italian artists like Sabla and XIII on the label. There’s never really been much of a singular sonic aesthetic that the label was worked around but rather an attitude that they perpetuate through the artists, the artwork, and most definitely the music. For their third birthday, they’ve called on all these artists for a compilation showcasing the label’s approach with new music from each artist. With past releases going from expressive modular improvisations to uncompromising dance floor Techno workouts, this compilation does well to put it all into perspective. They rely on the very same approach mentioned in the previous sentence, but hearing all these very different artists in the same context does emphasise the thread running through the Gang of Ducks discography. What I discerned in the past to be a focus on the darker corners of the dance floor, upholding a certain mystery in the music – getting clouded in oppressive layers and obscure musical personalities – is something far more diverse according to this collection of music.
As a collection of tracks that still refuse to confirm, and push the envelope of electronic music they uphold the essential G.O.D formula for avant garde experimentalism, but as tracks that like to thrive in darker, shadowy aesthetics, this compilation throws up a few surprises. XIII’s Eocity, which falls into an uplifting-trance reverent synth after the wayward percussive bass-line retires itself, is refined and approachable for the most part and offers a fair share of introspective calm for the listener. It’s the same for S.Olbricht’s melodically serene Female Motivations VII (which we hope is not some sexist pun) and Saabla’s 90’s inclining Vibrations, fully equipped with a murky reserved kick and the twittering digital birds. It doesn’t necessarily mark much of a departure for the label, since these artists have always been capable of this sonic aesthetic and listening to XIII’s Eurovision from last year’s NO album there’s a definitive common denominator there, but putting as much focus on these style of tracks as they’ve done on this compilation, it suggests the label is going through a development of some maturity – one that has even seen them negating the ubiquitous G.O.D acronym and remix for this release. From the Datashock’s Tinder Maxi King to Space Worship’s Line 3 it suggests that Gang of Ducks are perhaps not as boisterous as they might have been three years prior, preferring the grassy meadows of contrapuntal melodies, over the cavernous industrial echoes of determined kick. Those you seek it, will still however be able to find it, in the work of Ital, Traag or Oddgrad on this compilation, but unlike the last release on the label – Ital’s Toxic Work Environment – this compilation offers a more diverse tapestry of music, where dance music lives outside of the realm of a steady percussive beat; avant garde experimentalism edges closer to the dance floor; and the dance floor is the domain of the intellectual, a cognitive individual whose always looking for something more than mere repetition. The tracks on the compilation very rarely exceed 4:30 and very rarely fall into a recognisable pattern of phrasing making the tracks seem much longer than they are and surprising the listener through uncertainty, which makes the music much more interesting and intriguing on the whole.
It’s certainly been an interesting and entertaining three years from Gang of Ducks, and this hiatus they’ve been observing for most of 2016 did raise some questions about the future of the label, questions that have now firmly been put to rest with the release of this compilation and certainly makes this a label to watch out for more than ever.