Pitchfork “Best New Reissue”: The Minimal Wave Tapes

  • February 17, 2010

Reviewed by Zack Kelly for Pitchfork.com, published Feb. 17, 2010.

The Minimal Wave Tapes "Best New Reissue"
8.0/10


New Yorker Veronica Vasicka has spent the past five years painstakingly and lovingly building Minimal Wave, a label that specializes in digging up and reissuing electronic DIY music from the late 1970s and 80s. From taking full control of the mastering process to creating packagings that border on the fetishistic, Vasicka has uncovered forgotten forays into independent new wave and synth-pop. Aptly dubbed "minimal wave", the genre's stock characteristics-- ticky-tacky drum machines, analog synthesizers, amateur vocal experimentation, lo-fi production-- seem more relevant than ever now, as a recent rash of DIYers have been toying with unpolished variations of everything from disco to IDM, using little more than a MIDI synth and a microphone. Thankfully, Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf-- who has devoted a great deal of time spotlighting leftfield niche records himself-- had the good sense to see the "obsessed freak" (his words) in Vasicka. "I always wanted to do an album of this kind of stuff, but I don't want to try and compete with someone like Veronica who does it better than I ever could."

For those seeking a substantial once-over, Minimal Wave Tapes, Vol. 1 serves as a great introduction. Most of the releases on the imprint are vinyl only, so PB Wolf combed through Vasicka's vast collection (the two co-produced the project) and hand-picked the group of tracks that show up here. Though Vasicka has released compilations in the past, Tapes is the kind of primer that makes the overwhelming (and for the listener, rather expensive) process of weeding through these acts (hailing from Belgium to Spain to the States and beyond) a little easier. And though there is a commonality at work with the music featured, the genre variations that arise throughout the compilation-- ranging from punk-funk to early techno rumblings to chilly goth textures-- help orient the listener with what they might like to delve deeper into. Almost every track shares an exploratory, homemade feel in either production or the varying degrees of musicianship at work, and though it makes things sound a little lop-sided at times, it's an exciting peek into the experimental, underfunded aspect of a burgeoning trend.

Read the rest of this review at Pitchfork.com


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