12.03.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics Vol. 1

It’s taken the best part of a decade but it seems that Electroclash is finally dim enough in the memory that critics feel able to give the nod to bands like Silk Flowers, Factory Floor and Cold Cave and begin the fun process of lumping them together to create a new scene. Of course as with any flowering scene the fun part always lies in digging back into the past to find it’s evolutionary forebears and in this case you can have no finer sherpa on your journey than Angular Records’ ‘Cold Waves And Minimal Electronics Vol. 1’.

A labour of love, compiled over the course of more than two years, Angular’s Joe Daniel and Wierd Records’ Pieter Schoolworth have lovingly catalogued that fertile period after punk had swept away the rules and the first generation of affordable synthesisers were produced.

Sitting neatly next to Soul Jazz’s ‘In The Beginning There Was Rhythm’, Gigolo’s ‘New Deutsch’ compilations and the more recent ‘The Minimal Wave Tapes Vol 1’, Cold Waves is another essential chapter in the post-punk story this time told far away from the metropolises of the UK and Germany in the unspectacular suburbs of France and Benelux.

Following in the footsteps of industrial acts like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire’s and futurists such as The Human League, the bands on this compilation, embraced the cheap new synths from the East, added skeletal drums, portentous deadpan vocals and marinaded all the above in Cold War paranoia.

The surprising thing is that like its fellow Post-punk sibling goth, three decades on, what should be the perfect soundtrack to a warm bath and a razor blade is surprisingly grin inducing and more importantly also incredibly danceable and a key step from the angular contortions of punk, through to the mechanised moves of new beat and EBM and finally onto the freaky dancing of acid house.

Some tracks like Neon Judgements ‘The Fashion Party’ are fairly well-known club staples, but there’s plenty of tracks here that will be fresh on the ears of even dedicated crate diggers with many of these tracks only ever appearing on small self financed 7” on cassette runs.

Still, despite the obscurity of much of this music, you’ll recognise its DNA, either in the music that came before or immediately after and it’s a fairly accessible and club friendly selection. Absolute Body Control’s Figures perfectly channels the angst and throbbing self-importance of The Human League’s ‘Being Boiled, Days of Sorrow’s’ Travel is a dead ringer for The Cure’s Primary, whilst Stereo’s Somewhere In The Night could be the missing link between Roxy Music and Aeroplane.

Whether you come to this music completely fresh or like myself listening to it creates a strange nostalgia for a time when days at a time could be spent sparing at the horizon waiting for the first mushroom clouds to appear, ‘Cold Waves And Minimal Electronics Vol. 1’ is a timely reminder of an often forgotten yet increasingly influential scene.

*Want to know more about Cold Wave? Read The Dummy Guide*

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