Melodic - 2004 - 55 minutes

I know almost nothing about Manchester label Melodic, but judging by this retrospective collection of five years in business, they are one of the more interesting small labels around.

There was a time when labels like Melodic tried to create a distinctive identity by releasing a load of records that sounded the same. The trend is now towards the eclectic, as the wide-ranging genre excursions on 'Tracks For Horses' show. After an auspicious beginning of rippling ambience from Baikanour and jazzy hip-hop from Notes, it's clear that this is not a plodding collection of predictable pop.

In fact The Earlies are the only ones flying true indie colours, their 'Bring It Back Again' is a decent enough effort in the Mercury Rev vein, especially as it builds to its whirling crescendo.

The finest songs on 'Tracks For Horses' are the slightly retro efforts that patch together 80s sound styles into funky cut-ups. No Talent Kid's 'Mrs H', Minotaur Shock's 'Big Light', and Psapp's 'Difficult Key' all fall into this category, which is somewhere between Scott Herren and Jacques Lu Cont.

Audiowhore's 'It's Good But It's Not Right' is on the same wavelength. A tribute to classic TV show Catchphrase, as hosted by permagrinning Nordie cheesemeister Roy Walker, it's abrasive, bizarre and entertainingly stupid, but it is still a novelty track, and novelty tracks quickly lose their novelty.

'Tracks For Horses' might occasionally be handicapped by its studied obscurity, but it's clear that the Melodic stable are anything but blinkered. Shows thoroughbred quality over the distance.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Baikonour: Lick Lokoum - Notes: It's a Good Thing - Gavouna: Three - The Memory Band: Catch As Catch Can - Pedro: Folded Arms - No Talent Kid: Mrs H - The Earlies: Bring It Back Again - Topo Gigio: Lezard - Psapp: Difficult Key - Audiowhore: It's Good But It's Not Right - Minotaur Shock: Big Light - Noos: Softer, Dream, Safe - Lucky Pierre: Fan-Dance - Micah P Hinson: The Cranes