Original synth - Page 3

A strange new wave of retro washes over music and nightlife

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Alex and Brendan at the retrograde Nachtmusik party, which features lost "wave" music
PHOTO BY SADIE MELLERIO


FOREVER EXHUMED, FOREVER ORANGE EYES

Wierd Records' contemporary roster of disquieted simulators, including the almost paranormally attuned Xeno and Oaklander and Led er Est, has been gaining global club-play traction — something many of the original artists, who drifted off into other, often fascinatingly mundane lives, could only have hoped for. (One example: Lidia the Rose, one half of Dutch act Nine Circles, abandoned musicmaking in the early '80s to raise "a half dozen" children in a commune-like setting. It was only after one of her sons Googled her name that she realized there were fans of her extremely limited, cassette-only output. She has since started making music again.) And wave affectations have garnered larger attention from the breakthrough of experimental synthpop band Cold Cave, which draws on the sound's pallid idiosyncrasies. "Hear sounds about yesterday's pain today," the band's MySpace deadpans.

Notable contemporary Bay Area wave acts include the excellently jerky Muscle Drum, founded by long-term wave-proponent Rob Spector of the group Bronze, fog-shrouded darkwave duo Sleeping Desiress, cinematic dirgers After Dark, and exquisitely anguished quintet Veil Veil Vanish. The East Bay's Katabatik Sound System has been producing lurching experimental-industrial music and events for a while, and V. Vale's Re/Search crew has been exhuming rare tunes forever. A particular favorite around the Bay Guardian office lately is the Soft Moon, a melancholic, pitch-perfectly crepuscular project of punk veteran and graphic designer Luis Vasquez.

The Soft Moon

"Honestly, being associated with the wave phenomenon was a little surprising to me at first," Vasquez told me, balking, like many retro-contemporizers I talked to, at being associated with any kind of scene. "But I think I understand why. My instrumental formula is similar because of the use of drum machines, synthesizers, rhythmic bass lines, and somber melodies. It could also just be the overall feeling my music has. I'm still not quite sure."

On the classic side of things, two just-released, high profile compilations — The Minimal Wave Tapes (Minimal Wave/Stones Throw) and Wierd-curated Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics Volume 1 (Angular) — along with recent German comp Genotypes (Genetic Records) have made underground synth rarities more accessible to potential wavers.

"I was exposed to new wave at a young age via my older brother's small collection of cassettes," NYC's Veronica Vasicka of the Minimal Wave label wrote in an e-mail. "Later I'd sneak out of my parents' apartment at night to go dancing in the East Village. I really associate those teenage days of first discovering record shops and old VHS tapes of bands like Throbbing Gristle with the inspiration that led me to launch the Minimal Wave label."

Vasicka coined the term minimal wave to encompass her fascination with both cold wave and minimal synth sounds. Her long-running Sunday night East Village Radio show has served as a beacon for American synth fans, and the incredible response to her extensive Web site (www.minimal-wave.org) has established her as the point-person for the movement. She has her own theory about why the sound seems right:

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