You needn't look far to find Pentagon Black's mission statement; on the Montreal label's first compilation, co-founder and Famines singer/guitarist Raymond Biesinger asked listeners, "How much did we have to pay you to listen to this?" In songs and interviews alike, the band have been forthcoming about the difficulties facing emerging and DIY artists, from disappearing distribution methods to a publicist-driven music press and more.
The latest Pentagon Black collection, Pentagon Black Compilation No. 2, addresses these issues directly. Physical releases consist of posters and download cards, which reduce production costs. Bands from across Canada are represented, and compilations are only sold at shows to promote inclusivity and community engagement. The garage and punk-oriented undertaking offers a sweeping scope, but that doesn't always benefit the music.
The project's protracted tracklist is a selling point, but its 80-minute runtime makes for a cumbersome listening experience when taken in one sitting. Veteran bands carve out their niches, as Century Palm prove on their brightly dismissive "Dead Soon," but others aren't distinct enough to stand out.
Pentagon Black No. 2 is most memorable when it takes tonal detours. Bonnie Doon and Not You are still guitar bands, but the former presents an inspired blend of the Cramps' camp creepiness with Contortions-style sax splatters on "Panty Twister," and the latter lends "twofour" a doomy air with Stevie Nicks-ian vocals and gentle guitars. Usse's "Ayler Zung" channels kosmische resignation, while Motherhood stokes Construction + Destruction's "The Oracle" into an apocalyptic frenzy befitting its subject matter.
The Pentagon Black Compilation No. 2 can be scattershot, but it more than justifies its existence when taken on a track-by-track basis. Here's hoping these collections become an annual tradition. (Pentagon Black)