Original synth - Page 5

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

The party most faithful to the retrograde spirit, however, is the energetically opaque Nachtmusik, put on by DJs Josh Cheon, Justin, and Omar. Chilly green lasers strobe live performers, wave-o-philes gather in corners to trade track knowledge, and open-minded dancers try out new-old moves to alien beats. (Surprisingly, this insular music sounds really good loud in a crowd.)

Josh Cheon of Dark Entries Records. Photo by Jon Rivera

If anyone's the heart of the Bay wave scene, it's Cheon. One of our most important amateur musicologists, he was integral to the disco revival of the '00s, tracking down and conducting in-depth interviews with gay bathhouse-era survivors and then moving on to international wave. For him, the music summons youthful memories of dancing at NYC's the Bank to Clan of Xymox, Q Lazzarus, Cetu Javu, Wolfshiem, Beborn Beton, and VNV Nation. "From the first notes of Ministry's With Sympathy and Depeche Mode's Speak and Spell, I've been a sucker for synths," he told me, laughing.

 

Death Domain by darkentriesrecords

In 2009, Cheon started Dark Entries Records (www.darkentriesrecords.com) to release some of his finds, including Second Decay, Zwischenfall, Those Attractive Magnets, and upstate New York's Eleven Pond, whose "Watching Trees" has become a wave anthem of sorts. (He found Eleven Pond through a comment one of the members posted on SF synth collector Goutroy's A Viable Commercial blog, goutroy.blogspot.com.)

Staying true to the "DIY vinyl retrograde" spirit, Dark Entries releases come in hand-numbered batches of 500, and for the most part the digital rights are kept by the artists themselves. There are no CDs.

He shrugs off the possibility that there's little left to discover. "It's like gold mine after gold mine," Cheon told me. "There's just so much out there — even the artists themselves are surprised to be reminded of this time in their lives that they'd mostly forgotten. It's actually really touching when they find out there's an intense interest in what they did in their youth. They're just amazed."

Later this year he'll be releasing a Bay Area Retrograde (BART) compilation, highlighting our own historical wave purveyors. "What many people forget is San Francisco's rich synthpop and new wave history, with bands like Voice Farm, Tuxedomoon, the Units, and the Club Foot scene for starters. [Factrix, Minimal Man, and Los Microwaves are some others.] But that's just scratching the surface. I mean, who knows what great tracks are waiting to be heard? And what amazing stories behind them."

NACHTMUSIK

Wed/14 and second Wednesdays, 10 p.m., $3

The Knockout

3223 Mission, SF

www.theknockoutsf.com

WARM LEATHERETTE

Fri/16 and third Fridays, 9 p.m., free

Space Gallery

1141 Polk, SF

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