The first half of Music For Shut-Ins basks in the label's abrasive sonics. Though it lacks some of the stylistic schizophrenia that made American Noise so interesting (there are no kraut-y detours here), it shows how much variety is possible even within this unforgiving sound palette, opening with Vapauteen's caustic house, traveling through Marcos Cabral's gurgling slow-motion techno and eventually Svenghalisghost's wee-hours strut. Greg Beato's rudimentary "Gimme A Light" (a bellwether for the label's sound if there ever was one) and the twisty labyrinth of "Samantha's Vacation" are worth the price of admission alone. If you don't think L.I.E.S. had a brilliant year in 2013, these 11 tracks should change your mind.
The crop of new material begins with Marcos Cabral's "Dancing On Manhattan," which riffs on a single idea for almost 12 minutes. Beautiful Swimmers offer up deep house with "The Zoo," but just when you're settling in, they let the jungle breaks rip. Xosar's "Mind Mantra" is a psychedelic pop track buried in layers of the trademark L.I.E.S. fuzz. One of the label's most exciting newcomers, Florian Kupfer, steals the show entirely. His "Unreal (CA Faith Mixx)" is an uncharacteristically heavy track full of grandiose horns, rambunctious percussion and vocals that sound like a prayer call. Though L.I.E.S. certainly hasn't lost its element of surprise, the second disc hints at a less esoteric streak.
There are still left turns—Beau Wanzer's "Crush Of Lust" is face-melting, Shadowlust's minimal wave is hardly techno and Gunnar Haslam ends the compilation with the ambient "Alepsos." But where American Noise suggested any number of possible directions for the label, Music For Shut-Ins shows it bearing down on dance music harder than before. The L.I.E.S. style of house and techno is more concrete than it was last year, yet every bit of the punky and irreverent spirit that made the label so irresistible to begin with remains. The title might tell you they're not too concerned with dance floors, but the music itself suggests otherwise.