Review: “Minimal Wave Tapes Vol. 2” (Stones Throw Records)

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We all have guilty pleasures; it’s a universal quirk of humanity. There are people out there however who harbour pleasures more intensely guilt ridden than others, so much so that they keep it solely to themselves. Luckily I fall into the “slightly reluctant to talk about” category in terms of my musical pet peeve.

When I initially heard the first Minimal Waves Tapes compilation, I didn’t know what to make of it. It sounded very raw, unprofessional, cheesy and camp at parts, qualities that are not usually associated with me, or my aural preference. But soon I found out that my shoulders had a very different idea, spontaneously bumping to the undeniable groove of this peculiar ‘80s D.I.Y sound, leaving me in a conflicted and confused state. Why do I like this shit? Was the main question floating around my mind, until the day I decided to give in to my repressed preference for minimal wave and Italo disco.

Since that momentous occasion, I have since fully embraced my love for that rough and corny electronic sound, replete with full fluid body movements this time—not just the odd shoulder pop. So it was a great surprise when I found they were releasing a Volume 2 and I would soon be reunited with the moreish sounds of artists like Das Ding and Ohama among a plethora of other lesser-known innovators. I’m really happy with the final result too, the first thing that came to me upon hearing it through the first time, is that it surpasses the original in terms of consistent groove and flavor, where the first compilation had a fair amount of danceable electro bridged by some truly oddball postmodern pop. Not saying that there’s no oddball stuff in this compilation, it wouldn’t be the Minimal Waves Tapes without it, there’s just less of it. You get the feeling that every track was scrutinised by a team of critics before being put on to the compilation compared to the hit and miss choices of the first release. And it shows, Vol.2 is the definitive showcase of the relatively unknown but seminally pioneering works of the early home studio based avant garde producers scattered across Europe from the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s essentially historical recovery; an entire subgenre has been exhumed from the bowls of yesteryear, for a new generation to hear what dubstep and drum & bass started out as.

Highlights include the infectiously smooth and definitively ‘80s feel of “‪Presidente‬” by In Trance 95, Das Ding’s hard hitting and deliciously linear “H.S.T.A,” Felix Kubin's eccentric yet addictive “Japan Japan” and the coked out disco fest, “Fire” by Ruins. Not to mention more gems from the likes of Ohama, Antonym and Geneva Jacuzzi. Apart from the fact that Deux and Mark Lane fail to make an appearance, I feel there is very little wrong with this volume. It does what it’s meant to do, no more, no less. If you don’t appreciate the history of electronica then you probably won’t dig it. If you swear by electronic music then this is a must have for any connoisseur of the genre, because you know what they say: to know where something’s going you need to know where it came from. Or something like that.

You can pick up Minimal Wave Tapes Vol.2 via Stones Throw Records.

[And just cuz here's a track off the first compilation that I'm really fond of. -ED]