Review Summary: A true train-spotters companion comprised of forgotten bedroom-beat heroes.
Electronic music is a dense and far reaching genre; rife with so many narrowly-definable offshoots and obscure sub-genres that it becomes a virtually impossible task to absorb all its delights. This is where the realm of compilation albums really begins to shine – where genre nerds trawl through hours of tapes from obscure labels in order to compile a train-spotter worthy collection of otherwise missed material.
The nerds this time are the people at Angular Records, who with this 2010 compilation have released a lovingly compiled and endlessly educational CD, capturing a mid-length snapshot of the obscure genre of cold-wave/minimal electronic music in a polished and thrilling form. Much of the material makes its compact disc debut; previously only available on dusty old tapes that only the most hardcore devotee of this narrowly-known offshoot of New-Wave would’ve possessed in his isolated hands.
The sounds are made by several, mostly mainland European artists from the very-late 70s, early 80s – forgotten and overlooked names who made chilling electro music on new-fangled analogue synthesisers – machines which were, at the time, only just becoming affordable for the everyday man to purchase from the local music store after saving his factory wages, only to take it home and find a world of eerie, robotic sounds at his excitable fingertips.
Cold Waves & Minimal Electronics, Vol. 1
captures that excitement better than most compilations. The music is raw and DIY, but made listenable by the remastering work Angular Records underwent, allowing these icy analogue warbles and pulsing robo-beats to come to life. There’s an energy and freshness that manages to shine through the darkness of the material and captures attention still today - testament to the carefully picked and carefully constructed songs on offer.
The vibe is dark, dehumanising and robotic, yet feels so human and listenable through its purity and genuine construction. When artists paint themselves in as bleak a shade as the titles of groups like Ausgang Verboten, End of Data and Linear Movement, coupled with the uncompromisingly uncommercial and niche sound they opted for, one doesn’t have to go to great lengths to understand and appreciate the artistry and integrity of these sadly overlooked outfits.
This album gives anyone with even a vague interest in the genre a chance to rectify this, and to gain an education and respect for the first-wavers of cold-wave (a sound that so frequently touched into proto-industrial/EBM ground without recognition) in the process. But more than that they’ll find well over an hours’ worth of entertainment, with outstanding offerings such as the gurgling electronics and mega-phone vocals on Absolute Body Control’s ‘Figures’; the sprightly synth flutters of Eleven Pond’s ‘Watching Trees’; the scared-out-of-its-wits, German-accented squeals of ‘Babylon’; and the eerie Ausgang Verboten produced ‘Consumer’, to name but a mere few of the gems available. Consistent, perfectly compiled, exciting and educational to boot; Cold Waves & Minimal Electronics, Vol. 1
is an exercise in how to do a stellar genre compilation that ensures indispensable status for those concerned.