To me, the best compilations are those that are centered around a central theme or idea. I've always enjoyed seeing or hearing different artists take on a single idea, and if the idea is open enough, then it can be a very enlightening experience. The theme for "Molten Strings, Train Wrecks, and Birdsong" is a very loose one: the sounds made by stringed instruments. It might not seem that intriguing at first, but one glance at the included artists shows enough variety to take this theme and twist it in a multitude of directions.
There is a wide variety of approaches and sounds here, and this is a strength and a weakness for this release. The moods range from the nostalgic folk strumming of The North Sea, to the almost scientific like approach of Fred Lonberg-Holm, who sounds like he's playing with electricity itself. While I appreciate the amount of variety on this disc, I've found that after my initial listening, I haven't really wanted to listen to the whole thing from start to finish. I could almost see this as a two disc set, with one disc covering the more emotionally tinged material, and one disc covering the more exploratory sound pieces. There is some middle ground here too, so it's not a big complaint really. I would have also liked to have seen some sort of liner notes explaining the theme of the release a little more, and some writing or imagery from the bands (more paintings from the cover artist?) would have been nice too. Overall though, this is a satisfying compilation with a theme that is compelling in its seeming simplicity. 8/10 -- Charles Franklin (2 October, 2006)