Eighteenth St. Lounge
It’s a common enough tale: London DJ can’t explain why he’s always tired and suffering painfully, is diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, buys a sampler, and withdraws to the seaside for a few years to emerge with only one of the most challenging, exciting albums of the year. This is exactly what happened to Dan Berridge (a.k.a. Broadway Project), and one is torn between deep empathy and deep gratitude for the man’s horrible experience.
Compassion is a downbeat elixir of the dark depths of postindustrial society. Dark, lonely streets, oil and water potholes, piss-stained mattresses, dumpster hotels, broken needles, and discarded condoms: this is not your ordinary head-nod session — and most definitely not Julie Andrews frolicking through the Alps. This album is a Burroughsian nightmare that challenges and terrifies.
With otherworldly soul-blues vocals, ethereal arias and strings, snatches of prog rock and early-’70s Miles free jazz, and blunted beats, Berridge creates a chaotic mix that is seamlessly woven into a very menacing soundscape. Never approaching the cacophony that those disparate influences would connote, the album drones with an uneasiness, “the sound of having too much time to think.” And Compassion effectively lays that burden on your brain. An exorcism of sorts, this album haunts you with a peculiar nausea, reaching in with its aural spatula to soulfully scramble the cerebellum with its quixotic vision of apocalypse and gentle plea for redemption.