V/A :: The Underground Wave 7″s (Walhalla)

A varied beast. Tracks slide from style to style with little fixity of genre, but that’s what those early innovators were all about. There was no formula and it’s this diversity and independence of expression that is being celebrated.

V/A :: The Underground Wave 7"s (Walhalla)

I remember back in the day listening to a show from Minimal Wave. It was Veronica Vasika, Josh Cheon and Lieven De Ridder. The first two names have enjoyed a huge amount of attention for their revivalist labels, Minimal Wave and Dark Entries, and DJ’d around the world. I’ve lavished praise on them too, and still do.

The last name, Mr De Ridder, has perhaps received less notice. I’ve mentioned this a few times. True, the New York and San Fran imprints of Vasika and Cheon have managed to release a staggering amount of music; but Walhalla Records has been chipping away for five years and clocked up some top notch material of its own. What I’m getting at, if you’ve managed to miss the Antwerp platform until now it’s time to get on board. Compilation of obscure 7” only music? From the heyday of synth, wave and EBM? Yup!

Fourteen tracks make up the LP. Anyone with vinyl knowledge will realize that means short pieces, short but packed. Tracks duck, dodge and dive from style to style. A set genre is pretty hard to get a hold of. There’s not much to hang on to in general, artists waltzing and spinning as BPM’s bob and weave to evade pigeonholing.

But as ever, there are definite stand out moments. Tipical Me’s entire 7” career is here, as it recently was on Medical Records’ Electroconvulsive Therapy Vol 3 – Obscure Singles Circa 83-86. Sitting pride of place, the first encounters of A and B, Lieven Nicasy’s opener is the wonderfully quirky and downtrodden “Claustrophobian” with “Pope No Hope” adopting a woebegone warble. Solid State deliver “Recalling You,” a piece of pop but of different parameters. Vocals dip and dive as a steady drum and guitars keep pace. At times there is an overly hyperactive feel to pieces, a jittery uncertainty of youth and exuberance. Artists like Vitor Hublot or Ton Lebbink pour out their passion in a difficult to interpret deluge. Others balance experimentation, Van Lukas with “The Riot” somehow manages to take a piece of wave and contort it into a disco tune whilst old favorites like Bene Gesserit show their prowess. An unknown entity for me, Karman, hammer the nail on the head with “Poker.” Innocent, burgeoning and brilliant.

The latter part of the compilation begins to slip. There’s a charm to the likes of Marina Swinger;s “I’m A Swinger” but it feels more kitsch quality than real quality. Yet it’s unfair to generalize, with pieces like Kaa Antilope’s “The Break of Day” brimming with torn emotion.

The Underground Wave 7”s is a varied beast. Tracks slide from style to style with little fixity of genre, but that’s what those early innovators were all about. There was no formula and it’s this diversity and independence of expression that is being celebrated.

The Underground Wave 7”s is available on Walhalla.

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