After 600 releases, Glitterhouse Records has finally got around to celebrating itself, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the German label’s founding. The label’s partnership with seminal US label Sub Pop in the late 1980's and early 1990's led to Glitterhouse becoming the first European label to release a Nirvana record – fame-wise, the undoubted high point of the label’s history.

But record labels aren’t (all) about fame, and to concentrate on one band or scene (Glitterhouse went on to release records by Green River, Mudhoney and Tad, among other grunge luminaries) would be to miss out on all the other great pools of music into which the Germans have dipped their fingers over the last 20 years.

Having been told “Gitarre ist tot!” (the guitar is dead) in 1994 by one of their German distributors, after 360 record releases, they branched out into folk, county and Americana, areas in which they have stayed since.

The first CD opens with the Willard Grant Conspiracy’s easy-going country rock, and moves through Lampshade’s echoes of Bjork and a brace of post-rock tracks to Knife In The Water’s haunting '2 Spades'. Carla Togerson’s 'Pelagic' is another slice of laid-back Americana, while Dakota Oak’s miserabilism is somehow endearing. Both Hugo Race and AI Phoenix supply their own versions of Americana in the Mark Lanegan mode. Timesbold, on the other hand, offer up a fairly nondescript cover of Bob Dylan’s 'Masters of War', which is perfectly listenable but feels redundant. Post-punk luminaries Pere Ubu contribute a live version of 'Sad TXT', recorded at the 1998 Transmusicales festival in France. It’s an impressive name to have on the roster, although this song lacks the punch and energy of Pere Ubu’s recorded works. Two more well-known names, 16 Horsepower and Savoy Grand, finish off the first disc – the first with a wailing, dark track that shares influences with Nick Cave, and the second with a lazily breezy post rock piece.

The second disc continues in much the same vein. The first X tracks are very much in the alt-country firmament, with the most interesting contributions being the Creekdippers’ 'Poor GW' and Ricochets’ 'Pick Up the Phone'. They are followed, however, by the uninspired and somewhat tuneless Black Lipstick.

Things get a bit more post-rock oriented after that – Rainer’s 'Love Buys Love' is a highlight of the disc. 'Eveningland (Abendland)' by the Walkabouts, which follows it, is a fun if a little silly spoken-word piece over a thrumming beat. SYPH are probably best left where they are, being a kind of shouty European electronica that sits slightly at odds with the tone of the rest of the disc. Rocket From The Tombs is another fun-if-silly punky bit of blues rock. The third disc, meanwhile, is a look back at ‘classic tunes’, including some great contributions from Hazeldine, the Good Sons, Neal Casal, and another one from Rainer.

What’s missing from the three-disc compilation are the grunge tracks – despite the title of the collection, there is no Nirvana to be found here. That’s probably a conscious decision to avoid staying too much on past glories and instead trying to capture the spirit of the label in its more recent guise. As such, and at the bargain basement price at which it’s on sale, this is an excellent investment for anyone interested in Americana, or modern blues and folk.







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