This mixtape might seem painfully obvious and superflous to some of our readers, but we’re hoping it might point some folks towards some awesome music they’d otherwise never have checked out. We’re speaking of the hodgepodge of late 70s/early 80s sub-genres connoted by the tenuous umbrella term minimal wave: minimal synth, minimal electronics, etc. As if that conflation of terms wasn’t confusing enough, the exact points at which minimal wave blurs into coldwave or Neue Deutsche Welle (let alone broader terms like new wave, synth punk, or the like) are nigh impossible to discern (yes, we know that a few of the songs we’ve picked for this tape might not be minimal wave in the strictest sense of the term, but we’re trying to orient folks, and providing some outliers in order to triangulate commonalities can’t hurt).
Regardless of the exact dimensions of its borders, minimal wave’s been experiencing a renaissance for several years now. There have been at least two high-profile compilations which have been featured in the likes of the BBC and Pitchfork, and at least one new revivalist act, Xeno & Oaklander, have probably received more critical acclaim and exposure in the past two or three years than the entirety of the minimal wave world did over the course of its original lifespan.
So why are we doing a podcast about minimal wave this late in the game when it’s doing just fine coasting on its own merits? Well, for one thing, it’s been an influence on all manner of the dark electronic stuff we cover here at ID:UD. While that influence might have been understated in the past, it’s certainly waxing right now: recent favourites of ours like Gatekeeper, The Soft Moon, //TENSE// and The Present Moment all owe some form of fealty to the genre. Beyond that, the resurgence in interest in minimal wave has prompted a host of reissues of original minimal wave releases above and beyond newly curated compilations. There are a host of labels doing a great job of unearthing some incredible music, and we wanted to draw attention to their work. So, without any further ado, grab yr Roland 808 and yr favourite JG Ballard novel, and let’s get minimal! Stream or download at the bottom of the post.
Chrisma – Thank You
Italian husband-and-wife duo Chrisma (later recording as Krisma) moved all over the musical map in their career. Hell, Chinese Restaurant, the 1977 album from which “Thank You” is taken, manages to work in at least one disco-funk number and a straight-up motorik krautrock one, though we’re opting for the nightmarish intro track which has a certain giallo flair to it. The album, along with follow-up Hibernation, were recently reissued by Medical Records, the former on very tasty orange vinyl.
Martin Dupont – Just Because
A French outfit commonly associated with coldwave, Martin Dupont’s lush catalog has recently received the deluxe reissue treatment from Infrastition. This simpler but still effective tune recently featured on the The Minimal Wave Tapes Volume One compilation.
Bene Gesserit – Mickey, Please…
This downright unsettling Belgian duo has released a slew of experimental electronic material, all of it (or at least everything I’ve gotten my mitts on) relentlessly anti-commercial and difficult. “Mickey, Please…” is about as accessible as they get, slowly establishing a danceable groove out of clamor, only to have it fall away almost instantly, though Nadine Bal’s eerie vocals stick with you. Also found on the Minimal Wave Tapes comp.
Q4U – Böring
A synth-punkish band from Reykjavík, Q4U have always struck me as a neat hybrid of Kas Product and X-Mal Deutschland’s earlier high points. A best-of has recently been released by Wave Records.
Stratis – Herzlos
Cuts like this should really bring into focus just how much DNA genres like Neue Deutsche Welle, electro and EBM share: any one of them could claim “Herzlos” as an ancestor. Featured on the mind-bending SNX compilation twenty five years ago, and the excellent New Deutsch comp more recently.
Iron Curtain – The Condos
A US minimal wave act who draped their work in gauzy atmosphere (one of their songs is downright proto-shoegaze), Iron Curtain’s work has come back into circulation thanks to Pylon Records. Simply fantastic stuff – we can’t recommend Iron Curtain’s Desertion compilation highly enough.
Chrisma – Black Silk Stocking
Yeah, we’re cheating by having two tracks from the same artist (and same album, no less!) on a mixtape, but “Black Silk Stocking” is just a flat out killer track, and we wanted to highlight Chrisma’s reach in sound, even while sticking to cold synths.
Parade Ground – Such is the Bow
These Belgian brothers palled around with the likes of Front 242 and Wire’s Colin Newman (who produced their Cut Up LP and lent backup vocals to the breath-taking “Moans“). While typically tagged as coldwave or synthpop, they also had their sparser moments, like this gem. A compilation album was recently pressed by the always awesome Dark Entries label.
Want more of this stuff? In addition to the two (deservedly) high profile compilations Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics and The Minimal Wave Tapes Volume One, there’s also Skulline’s Minimal Baby compilations and Wave Records’ Wave Klassix comps. The fantastic Systems Of Romance blog is also a wonderful resource.