The Minimal Wave Tapes, Vol. 1

Various Artists

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The Minimal Wave Tapes, Vol. 1 Review

by Andy Kellman

Dedicated to unearthing obscure wallflower synth pop, Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label began in 2005 and left an instant impression. Its first release was a 12" featuring four songs pulled from a cassette-only (200 copies) 1982 release by an English duo called Oppenheimer Analysis. By 2008, OA had not only re-formed and performed in a handful of countries, but had one of their reissued tracks, the gorgeous “Devil’s Dancers,” licensed for Clone’s Classic Cuts series. Another thing that happened in 2008: Peanut Butter Wolf fell for the label and subsequently went about compiling this disc, issued on his Stones Throw label, with Vasicka. It follows over 20 Minimal Wave releases and is, for the most part, a sampler. Virtually all of these songs would have been at home on Mute, the spring board of kindred spirits and inspirations like Robert Rental, Depeche Mode, and Fad Gadget. They are just as varied as Mute’s early catalog, ranging from the odd and experimental -- like the scraping and buzzing “Moscú Está Helado,” from Spain’s Esplendor Geométrico, the most-known group here -- to straightforward synth pop, like Oppenheimer Analysis’ “Radiance,” as immediate and fully realized as anything OMD were producing at the time. Belgian trio Linear Movement’s “Way Out of Living,” one of the rawest tracks here, could have been shaped by Arthur Baker into a freestyle classic, while French co-ed duo Deux’s “Game and Performance” snaps and bounces with “The Model”-era Kraftwerk-like precision. In some cases, these artists were not just current but somewhat advanced, most evident in Californian Mark Lane’s “Who’s Really Listening?,” which -- like Section 25’s “Looking from a Hilltop," also released in 1984 -- discreetly packs the acid squiggle that later revolutionized house music. Also check: New Deutsch (International Deejay Gigolo, 2003), Young But So Cold: Underground French Music 1977-1983 (Tigersushi, 2004), BIPPP: French Synth Wave 1979-85 (Born Bad, 2008), Clone Classic Cuts (Clone, 2008), and Typhoon: Portrait of the Electronic Years (Synthonic, 2009).

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