School of mixology

“I’ve heard a lot of crap from different towns and record labels …,” says Aaron Price.

The failure of these places to offer up solid compilation CDs is what he’s lamenting. It’s a test the local multi-instrumentalist thinks he’s aced with Peaks & Curves: Music from Asheville, produced by Price and Bill Reynolds at Price’s Collapseable Studios in West Asheville.

That mix-tape phenomenon

You hear one somewhere, like in your friend’s car, and you think, Yeah, but I could make a much better mix. This revelation for some leads to careers as DJs. For others, it has a John Cusack a la High Fidelity ending — you become obsessed with records and are forever foisting your brilliant-though-misunderstood mixes on unwitting victims.

Or, maybe the musical fixation comes first, and the compilation is the natural byproduct. Whatever. The important thing is that, however the assemblage comes about, sooner or later a good mix-master realizes that in order to work, the compilation needs a theme.

“It represents this town,” Price says of his CD. “It’s musicians who either got their start here or live here now.” Twelve of the 17 tracks were in some way created at Collapseable Studios. In some cases, like Alison King’s “Spell” (track 7), the song was recorded, produced and mixed at Collapseable, and Price lent a hand on instrumentation as well. Others, like GFE’s standout offering “Asheville Smoke” (track 5), got their start at Collapseable, but went on to higher-end studios for mixing.

“[Some] tracks weren’t recorded at all at my studio,” Price admits. “So, this is essentially a compilation that doesn’t recognize a particular studio.”

A somewhat uneven production quality is the result — but what’s foremost about Peaks & Curves is how Asheville’s diverse collection of singer/songwriters, rockers, rappers, ukulele strummers and world instrumentalists all fit together on one disc.

The placement of songs is almost as intriguing as the selections themselves — GFE’s driving hip-hop number is sandwiched between Ramsey’s dreamy, nostalgic “Time Machine” and Stephanie’s Id’s pop-savvy “Lazy Use of My Mind,” a languid, keyboard-rich tune.

Newcomer Alison King (not to be confused with the Alison King Band out of Raleigh) moved to Asheville a year-and-a-half ago and has just joined novelty trio Menage. Price points to King’s number as “one of my favorite ways to work at the studio: with a singer/songwriter who plays guitar and wants to dress up the tracks.” Price played triton on the recording and beat boxer Chris Marquand provided his interpretation of a drum track.

The local scene made portable

This isn’t Price’s first attempt at piecing together folk crooning with rock snarling — he’s created two previous compilations. But Peaks is his first mass-produced effort.

City compilations, when they’re successful, are best-of samplers that also lay bare the quirks of the local scene. Price’s new CD takes that idea to the extreme, snuggling Mad Tea Party’s super-tinkly, ukulele- and kazoo-infused “Make it So” dangerously close to Malcolm Holcombe’s dirty growler “Going Home.”

Home, indeed.

The Peaks & Curves CD-release party kicks off at 9 p.m. at The Orange Peel (101 Biltmore Ave.) on Friday, March 11. Artists to play include Malcolm Holcombe, Stephanie’s Id, The Choosy Beggars, Tyler Ramsey, Hollywood Red and more. Tickets are $8; CDs will be available for sale. 225-5851.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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