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Various Artists Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics Vol 1 Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Both an act of preservation and a gateway into the genre’s chilly world.

Charles Ubaghs 2010

Utter the words “cold wave” to most individuals and you’ll end up discussing meteorology. Say it to a select group of normally black-clad individuals, though, and you’ll get an answer that has little to do with the weather.

Cold wave (or minimal wave) was music made by early 1980s, predominantly European, suburban youth who were suddenly able to get their hands on newly affordable synthesisers. In thrall to British post-punk and Germany’s synth pioneers, they formed bands with austere names like End of Data and Ausgang Verboten, creating stark, DIY electronic pop filled with sparse kicks and icy vocals steeped in Robert Smith-style romanticism.

A powerful combination, yet without today’s digital support network, most cold wave groups recorded a few singles at best, gaining little exposure before fading away. 

Introduced to cold wave by a friend a few years ago, Angular co-founder Joe Daniel was struck by the near-forgotten genre’s use of analogue electronics and the “impossible romance” of its obscurity. Inspired, he went in search of more. But it wasn’t until a chance encounter in New York with Pieter Schoolwerth – a collector of cold wave releases and founder of the Wierd club night and record label – that Daniel’s imagined document of the initial era finally started to take shape.

The result is Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics Vol 1. With many of the bands featured on CD for the very first time, the compilation doubles as an act of preservation and a gateway into the genre’s chilly world. Nothing on this collection has lost its dark sparkle, even after long years spent at the back of the shelf. So instead of falling into the trap of historical curiosity, Neon Judgment’s The Fashion Party and Nine Circles’ haunting Twinkling Stars emit a gleaming modernity that also serves as a reminder of a time when electronic music could do nothing but look boldly forward, instead of glancing backwards, a trait that tarnished numerous synth revival acts in the last decade.   

Cold wave’s story is far from over. A new generation of cold wave inspired romantics are now coming of age. And with bands like New York’s Cold Cave and Xeno & Oaklander, and club nights like Schoolwerth’s Wierd, London’s Reeperbahn and Berlin’s Brave Exhibitions continuing the work of their early 80s predecessors, it looks like Days of Sorrow’s cries of “give me more” on Vol.1 closer Travel are finally being answered.

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