Original synth - Page 4

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

"On one hand, I am surprised that minimal wave has been so easily welcomed in this day and age. But on the other, and when looking at things from an economic standpoint, there's a distinct parallel between what was happening during the late 1970s and early '80s and now. The weak economy that led to the recession peak in 1983 is similar to what has been happening during the past several years. And it seems that cultural and artistic output tend to be affected by economic and social struggle. So perhaps this context has provided the openness necessary to embrace minimal, DIY synthesizer music."

PASSING FIRES, STRANGE DESIRES

I've just entered Sub Mission Gallery for underground queer punk party Sissy Fit. The energy is edgy. Clouds of smoke drift in from outside. Patrons in black sway on the dance floor and eye each other from the benches lining the bare walls. DJ Pickle Surprise, whose style ranges from hardcore blasts to camp classics, puts on a throbbing track by early '80s Marseille synthers Martin Dupont and I'm instantly transported back to my shadowy youth, spent skulking around the checkerboard dance floors of downtown Detroit clubs Bookie's, Todd's, and Liedernacht. I whip an imaginary cigarette holder to my pursed lips, checking to make sure my phantom pillbox hat is properly tilted. He follows that up with a selection of wave tracks old and new, including Storüng, Oppenheimer Analysis, and 2VM, that transforms the joint into an electro-sepulchral time portal. The added twist to this nostalgia trip is mystery -- the music ventures beyond the "'remember the 80s party" canon and into some uncanny partial-recall state.

DJ Pickle Surprise

"I find I'm playing this sound more and more," Pickle Surprise, a.k.a. Joe Krebs, told me. He got into wave after attending one of the parties Wierd has been throwing in Brooklyn since 2003. "It can call up visions of lasers and line-dancing robots, but after getting to know it more, there's something less cold or android about it, more of a human touch. It's analog. There's something supernatural as well. Like Videodrome, where you're up in the middle of the night and get pulled into something on television. Something haunting that recalibrates you."

"Did the passions of the artists shape the way the technology was used, or did the technology shape the people using it? NERD!" DJ Nary Guman, a.k.a. Joe Polastri, teased over e-mail. Along with DJ Inquilab, a.k.a. Nihar Bhatt, he puts on the monthly wave-friendly Warm Leatherette. They started their own party early last year because they found their tastes didn't quite fit in anywhere. "Once I started digging I found out just how vast the field was," Bhatt added. "It's exciting to have something that can be danceable, experimental, popular, and punk at the same time."

Other San Francisco parties that have embraced the sound include the monthly Shutter (www.myspace.com/clubshutter) at Elbo Room, which packs in the kohled and the beautiful with hits from Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim among rarer tracks. Local band Jonas Reinhardt's Synth City, every last Thursday of the month at the Attic (www.jonasreinhardt.com) mixes a wave feel into atmospheric krautrock and new age rambles. And the Radioactivity happy hour at 222 Hyde (www.222hyde.com) celebrates "low-budget synths and Cold War dance parties."

LE DECADENCE ELECTRONIQUE

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