Have you ever looked at an old Korg analog synthesizer, all knobs and dangling patch cables, and felt like, if given the chance, it would start composing music on its own? No? Well, in any case, that might give you a picture of the dug-up treasures found on NYC DJ Veronica Vasicka and Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf‘s latest compilation, The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume 2.
Running at a ripe 50 minutes, the album is an expertly curated collection of dark and industrial-leaning electronic music, primarily European and pre-MIDI (early ’80s). The songs, which loom at the intersections of post-punk, goth and new wave, represent a genre retroactively coined by Vasicka as “minimal wave.” It has familial resemblances to French coldwave, sharing spacious production and a paradoxically passionate detachment. But unlike coldwave, non-electronic instruments are nowhere to be heard on the record, lending it cerebral precision and a metallic sheen.
Whether or not we accept Vasicka’s crate-digging revisionism, it’s hard not to see that these songs comprise a congruous set. From shiny electro-funk (Antonym’s “Cinnamon Air”) to (distantly) raucous industrial anthems (Hard Corps’s “Dirty”), the album spans an array of moods while keeping some qualities constant: computerized tones, innovative structures and existential sangfroid. The tracks are truly hidden gems, kept from mass appraisal via DIY distribution methods in the ’80s, home-recorded cassettes and vinyl. Vasicka and Peanut Butter Wolf’s efforts here revive and catalog some truly infectious would-be synth classics.