Review: Before making her mark with 1981 minimal wave single "Cold Cafe", Australian artist Karen Marks enjoyed an eclectic career. This included spells in music journalism and band management. It's for her brief underground synth-pop career that she's best remembered, though. This all too brief career is celebrated on this five-track EP that includes every track she ever completed. Naturally the title track stands out, but there's plenty to enjoy elsewhere, too, most notably the French horn-sporting minimal wave folksiness of "You Bring These Things", a spacey and sludgy demo version of "Cold Cafe" and the bold moodiness of closing cut "Problem Page". Throughout, Marks' Kirsty MacColl style vocals stand out.
Review: Despite being active for just seven years during the 1980s, Dutch new wave band Mekanik Kommando released a wealth of raw, off-kilter and intergalactic material. 1982's "Dancing Elephants" EP, which here gets the reissue treatment from Dark Entries, remains one of their finest moments, largely because it fuses crunchy, electro-influenced beats and Kraftwerk style computer bleeps with sassy new wave vocals, nods to synth-pop and the low-slung basslines and fuzzy guitars of post-punk rock. Our picks include the alien post-punk pop of "Beauty Of Language", the out-there, delay-laden, extra-terrestrial weirdness of "Miss B" and the new wave electro-pop perfection of "Stop & Play".
Review: Mirror Box is the solo analog synth project of Dallas musician Sean Kirkpatrick. With an extensive resume that includes keyboard duties for Kill Rock Stars' 00s noise rock band The Paper Chase as well as his concurrent projects, dark post-punk-synth-rockers Nervous Curtains and darkwave duo Little Beards, Mirror Box is Kirkpatrick's first foray into the purely electronic realm. Blending together elements of Giallo moodiness, dub texture, techno propulsion, a passing nod to your favorite wave music, and a flare for the kosmiche, Mirror Box' debut release, Minimal Compliance EP, is a tour de force of the veteran musician's exploration of a wide range of influences and experience.
Review: It's been some six years since Caroline "Miss Kittin" Herve and Michel "The Hacker" Amato last delivered fresh material together. While we await further news of their long-mooted comeback, there's this tasty EP of previously unheard archive material to enjoy. Made up of tracks recorded between 1997 and '99 - when their production partnership was in its' infancy - The Lost Tracks Volume 1 contains a number of fuzzy, stylish, floor-friendly bangers, from the S&M-themed madness of opener "Leather Forever" and stripped-back electro gem "Nightlife" (a tribute to Berlin clubs of the period, apparently), to the high-tempo acid-loaded freakishness of "Loving The Alien". Top-notch sleaze.
Review: Platform 23 continue to do a great service to all seekers of furtive sounds from the DIY underground, this time shining a light on the wonderful Mode I/Q. Anyone who digs the sound of New York-tinged new wave and danceable post punk will love this record - the limber disco funk of the rhythm section meets with squalling guitar textures and dubby FX, all shot through with a hooky pop sensibility that makes this record so easy to fall in love with. "Confidence" is especially strong, as is the ramshackle party starter "Two Different Things". It seems there's no end to the overlooked gems from this golden era of independent music - it's time to catch up with Mode I/Q and file them next to your favourite disco-not-disco movers and shakers.
Review: Talk to anyone about Stranger Things and it will only be a matter of minutes before the sensational soundtrack is mentioned. The future retro synths of Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have a huge impact on deepening the occult feelings you experience when watching the show and that continued through Series 3. Now you can grab the accompanying tracks on neon pink vinyl, which features the vulnerable "You're A Fighter", celebratory 80s synth pop stomps of "Starcourt" and meditative charms of "The Ceiling Is Beautiful" amongst other nuggets of gold. The producers themselves have said this is less a score and more a series of cues, and it certainly got us thinking.
Review: There's no doubt that this brilliant, synthesizer-heavy soundtrack played a key part in the success of Netflix's deliciously odd thriller, Stranger Things. Written and performed by Survive members Kyle Dixon and Michael Steen, it has the right balance between John Carpenter style creepiness, Vangelis-like melodiousness, and the cinematic feel of classic movie soundtrack material. Happily, the streaming behemoth has decided to release two volumes of musical highlights from the series, beginning with this first volume. It's testament to the quality of the Texas-based duo's work that those who've not seen the series should still enjoy it. This is atmospheric, clandestine electronic music of the highest order. Moody, immersive, and reminiscent of the best material from the 1980s.
Review: El Deux is the Swiss electro-pop trio of Gutze Gautschi (guitar, vocals), Steno Onetz (bass), Martin Kraft (vocals, drum machine). Formed circa 1981 in Aarau by Gutze and Steno who played together in punk/New Wave band Fresh Color aka Frische Farbe featuring a pre-Yello Dieter Meier. Gutze's minimal electronic compositions did not fit the concept of Fresh Color, so they formed a new project with their live mixer, Martin Kraft, on vocals. The group was quite successful with many concerts, mainly in southern Germany and various TV appearances in Germany and abroad. Between April/September 1982 they recorded and mixed their debut album 'Nur Fur Madchen' in 15 days at Powerplay Studios, Zurich. The LP was released later that year on Gold Records. Influences at that time were of course the NDW "Neue Deutsche Welle'' movement and also from Gutze's time as a musician & guitarist since 1965. Their step up for recording was a Moog Prodigy, Korg Rhythm 55 (KR-55), Simmons Drums, Casiotone 202, Guitar and Bass. We've added a bonus track "Video King" that was originally released as a follow up single in 1984 before the group disbanded. All songs have been remastered by George Horn at Fantasy Studios. The record is housed in an exact replica of the original jacket and includes an insert with photos and lyrics.
Review: Roy Garrett born Roy Sambar in Colonia, New Jersey arrived in New York City hungry to explore the sex and porn scenes he'd seen advertised in the Village Voice's classified section. He danced in Times Square theaters The Gaiety, Ramrod, and Big Top before moving into adult film. From 1979 through 1983 Garret starred in ten films, five of them for Joe Gage, including his lead role in 'Heatstroke'. Throughout this period of self-discovery, he wrote the suite of poems that became 'Hot Rod to Hell'. In 1982 he recorded 48 of the poems with haunting, atmospheric score by Man Parrish, who also did several soundtracks for Gage. The project was produced for the stage and for cassette by Manhattan illustrator Robert W. Richards. Richards calls 'Hot Rod', "a searing voyage through the labyrinths of modern male sexuality; it's geography ranging from porn theaters to back room bars to the intimacy of shared beds. Only a man born at exactly the moment in gay history that Garrett was could have lived through and conceived this work." Roy Garrett tells his stories of sex, violence, truth, and illusion, a visceral and personal a record as any of that moment in gay history pre-AIDS. Joe Gage, describes 'Hot Rod' as, "...sweet danger. This is a perceptive look at the underside of love. It is funny, scary, surprisingly moving and best of all, extremely acute in observing the specifics of the human condition." All poems have been carefully remastered for vinyl by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. The records come housed in a jacket designed by Gwenael Rattke and includes an 44-page full color magazine with all 48 'Hot Rod' poems plus 44 previously unpublished poems from Garrett's archive. All proceeds from 'Hot Rod' will be donated to Housing Works, a New York City based non-profit fighting the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness.
Review: Apparently inspired by 1980s computer game soundtracks and the synth-heavy scores to fantasy films, M83's "DSVII" is slated as a sequel to the band's 2007 set "Digital Shades". If so, it's a rather belated one, especially considering the French outfit has released three studio sets and a swathe of soundtracks since then. Regardless, the material here is deliciously evocative, emotion-rich and atmospheric, mirroring the ebb and flow (and peaks and troughs) associated with soundtracks whilst relying entirely on i80s-sounding synthesizers and drum machine hits. It's basically synth-wave, with Symmetry's "Themes From An Imaginary Film" - itself based on music initially intended for the "Drive" soundtrack - being an obvious comparison.
Review: The Finnish Man Duo are back: and far beyond the dance floor. Written and recorded in Helsinki and Berlin during 2016, The Orbit LP plots a serene course through styles close to the duo's hearts. Across eight tracks, Jaakko and Sami zone in on krautrock, funk, electro and spaced-out cyber-ballads. With fine voices throughout, the pair's lyrics (sung in English, Finnish and Italian) draw on the absurdities of life and love in the modern world. The album finds them pushing each other in a bid to attain new levels of harmony and taking in influences as diverse as Italian '80s disco don Pino Donaggio, Simon & Garfunkel or even Detroit electro legends Dopplereffekt.
Review: Tadd Mullinix returns to his more experimental Charles Manier guise and follows up 2015's demonstrative sophomore American Manier with another politically galvanised trip into the darker, starker, fringe-frolicking pastures of electronica. Coated in his own artwork and burning with fusions such as a fuzzy kraut stew of "Lions Of Rojava", the swampy, insistent 99 percenter "Truest Coffer" the experience gradually builds in momentum and shape as we hit the final floor-focused throes where impenetrable weaves of molten machine funk entwine and tangle with uncompromised hypnotica. Another stern statement from the man like Cotton.
Review: Under the Maquina Total guise, Catalonian producer Virgili Jubero has previously delivered a couple of decent releases, most notably last year's debut cassette for Domestica Records. Here, he returns to that label with Estatua, his debut album. It's a quietly impressive set, full of melancholic, emotion-rich downtempo synth-pop that sits somewhere between the Pet Shop Boys most touching moments (see 1990's Behaviour album), Brian Ferry and the Fairlight-driven works of Kate Bush. He sings in both English and Spanish, with a lilting delivery that evokes memories of British art-pop bands of old. Jubero is a fine songwriter and producer, and Estatua is an album that rewards repeat listens.
College - "A Real Hero" (feat Electric Youth) (4:25)
Riz Ortolani - "Oh My Love" (feat Katyna Raneiri) (2:48)
The Chromatics - "Tick Of The Clock" (4:46)
Rubber Head (2:57)
I Drive (2:02)
He Had A Good Time (1:32)
They Broke His Pelvis (1:54)
Kick Your Teeth (2:32)
Where's The Deluxe Version? (5:17)
See You In Four (2:31)
After The Chase (5:21)
Wrong Floor (1:19)
Skull Crushing (5:48)
My Name On A Car (2:09)
On The Beach (6:32)
Bride Of Deluxe (4:02)
Review: Originally out in 2012, Cliff Martinez's soundtrack to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive was a smash hit. While this might not seem out of the ordinary, that is actually no small feat in this day and age; soundtracks have all too often become dispensable and it is rare for people to talk about one with the same sort of praise as this particular thriller. The lead tune is, of course, Kavinsky and Lovefoxx's "Nightcall", a song that is still getting significant playback these days, and one which makes for a strong contender to the best material from electro-pop acts like Daft Punk. "A Real Hero" by College has also made it into the big league since the film's release, along with a number of absolutely timeless, pop-infused r&b ballads like "Tick Of The Clock" by The Chromatics. Cliff Martinez's own material features prominently at the tail-end, of course. A hotly recommended 2 hours of music to accompany any sort of mood.
Review: Minimal Wave's latest must-have release shines a light on the largely forgotten work of early '80s Belgian misfits The Misz, a duo who recorded and released off-kilter new-wave pop on limited edition cassettes via a variety of obscure labels. Their trademark sound - created using cheap and little-known synthesizers, lo-fi drum machines, effects-laden guitars and stylish vocals - remains hugely alluring, with this ten-track collection offering a superb introduction to their work. We're particularly enjoying the effects-laden trip that is "It Ain't All Garbage", the doomy shuffle of "A La Recherche De BL" and the alien synths and weirdo vocals of "Zastava Home", but there are plenty of other tracks across the LP worthy of lavish praise.
Review: Ontario, Canada based Seance Centre returns with a collection of songs by Californian voice artist and poet MJ Lallo. The works on this double LP compilation were all recorded in her home studio between 1982 and 1997, where she used digital processing techniques to create harmonising mantras layered with drum machine rhythms. Although Lallo's flight path is distinctly her own, her journey converges with other travellers as diverse as Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Stereolab, William Aura, Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk, Gertrude Stein and even Terry Gilliam - whose film Brazil was a big influence on her.
Review: Belgian label Stroom return with an LP by Annelies Monsere. She has been playing music solo since 2000, initially piano-based and mostly instrumental, but once she discovered her voice - vocals became a main focus. Musically, she has experimented with different instruments such as cello, guitar, xylophone and melodica. Happiness Is Within Sight is her seventh album and traverses many moods and variations: from classical to shoegaze to ambient and even organ-led church influenced music. It is an emotional and introspective album from start to finish which allows us a window into the talented artist's soul.
Marco Bernardi - "The Light Beside The Hall" (6:01)
Object Blue - "Even In You" (5:23)
NY House'n Authroity - "APT 2B" (4:00)
Computer Says No - "Grab & Reform" (2:57)
Mount Kimbie - "Southgate" (2:47)
Aleksi Perala - "UK74R1512110" (4:55)
Via App - "Chatter" (1:37)
Taz & Meeks - "Obviously" (3:49)
Review: When they were asked to put together the latest volume in the "DJ Kicks" series, Mount Kimbie boys Dominic Maker and Kai Campos drew influence from their recent gigs DJing in support of Actress. As a result, their hugely enjoyable 9-track mix tends towards the experimental and off-kilter. The pair touches on a myriad of styles, including ambient, industrial-era experimentalism, South American influenced tropical drum jams, spacey modular techno, raw-edged peak-time jams, mind-altering acid weirdness and intergalactic electro. Highlights are plentiful, from the hypnotic intensity of Object Blue, to the skewed warmth of Severed Heads and the dream-like weirdness of their own exclusive contribution, "Southgate".
Review: Eyes Down takes its name from the period in 1991 where subway riders in New York City were told to keep their eyes down for fear of upsetting someone and provoking them into a stabbing or similar. It was the mostly deadly time in the city for murders per capita and there is certainly an unsettling, paranoid air to the gritty synth sounds of Mr Eff's latest album. The automation of the trains, the darkness of the tunnels and the daydreaming mindstate of riding late at night also feature across its 10 cinematic and evocative tracks
Review: Wolf Muller and Niklas Wandt's first official collaboration is a hot one, indeed, and by the time we've finished writing this message, we hope for everyone involved that there'll still be some copies on our shelves! The duo land on Hamburg's Growing Bin Records with Instrumentalmusik Von Der Mitte Der World, a punchy blend of danceable non-music that is prone to causing mass levels of hysteria - both off and on the piste. Through catchy, wild-eyed blends of funky tribalism, house-tinged 4/4, and wayward electronica, these two have created a world of their own, and one which will undoubtedly appeal across fans and across genre fanatics. If you're into the whole Finnish/Norwegian connection, then this is for you.