Various Artists

The Forgotten Sounds of Tomorrow

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Beginning in 1995, the esoteric Detroit-based label Ersatz Audio released a small catalog of highbrow electro that looked back to the city's illustrious techno past for inspiration. Of course, early Detroit techno anthems such as Cybotron's "Clear" serve merely as influences for the forward-looking camp of artists comprising Ersatz Audio; The Forgotten Sounds of Tomorrow illustrates exactly how these artists reconfigured the dusty nostalgia of early techno into a charismatic electro revival in the late '90s, characterized by a strong highbrow approach with a hint of lowbrow novelty to make it more interesting. This compilation captures everything from Ersatz Audio's inaugural release (Artificial Material's "Logico-Mathematical (Part III)") to its late '90s material (Adult's "Human Wreck"). Nearly all of the 16 songs contain some noteworthy qualities in addition to dynamic song structures and original sounds. For example, Kitbuilders' "Everything Is" pieces together Nintendo-like sounds into a funky rhythmic foundation onto which it adds some well-placed female vocals -- quite different from the way Bolzbolz includes a strange dialogue track to "32nd Lesson" and the way G.D. Luxxe's "Red" brings to mind classic New Order songs. The most beautiful melody belongs to Perspects' "Desire & Efficiency" with its synth hook floating above its robotic funk; the synth hook of Adult's "Silent Property" comes in at a close second place. The electro-revival sounds of Ersatz Audio and their closest companion, Interdimensional Transmissions, has given the once-retired genre new life. The label's artists retain the slow tempo, big funk sounds of electro while at the same time bring dynamism to the songwriting, a sense of creativity to the sounds, and a knack for catchy hooks to the melodies. The label's esoteric characteristics, such as the artist's tendency toward anonymity and their inclusion of contemplative artwork, instill a strong sense of highbrow art into a genre that has long been considered dead.

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