New York DJ Veronica Vasicka's Minimal Wave label has long championed a rare and shadowy sub-subgenre of incredibly obscure early electronic music. The second volume of Minimal Wave Tapes compiles 14 tracks of goth-leaning dark electronic sounds from the pre-MIDI 1980s, a cross section of the raw, rudimentary sounds that the label generally trades in. Unearthing stuff like this is no small feat, as in many cases the original releases were incredibly limited vinyl or cassette runs, moving in tiny circles among the artists and a handful of friends and fans. Vasicka worked with Stones Throw label head Peanut Butter Wolf in both digging up these hidden tracks and working with the original artists to remaster their songs from the original analog sources. The collection is just shy of an hour and features cold, steely sounds from a variety of international artists, mostly from the darker parts of early-'80s European shut-in dance music corners. Highlights are plentiful throughout, especially in the form of android electro tracks like Philippe Laurent's "Distorsion" and the spare bounce of Antonym's economically exquisite "Cinnamon Air." Elsewhere, the lines blur out between industrial dance (Hard Corps' "Dirty," Das Ding's "H.S.T.A.") and post-punk proto-new wave (Ruins' "Fire," Felix Kubin's "Japan Japan"). The sometimes instrumental, entirely electronic sounds here manage to span continental lines as well as jagged shifts in style in large part due to the deft curation of Vasicka and Peanut Butter Wolf. While the vibe of Minimal Wave Tapes, Vol. 2 runs from art-damaged Europop to icy gothic industrial synthesizer worship, the sounds are perfectly arranged and held together in seamless cohesion, and the curators' love of and commitment to these sounds come through louder than anything.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas