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Various Artists

Personal Space

Electronic Soul 1974-1984

(Chocolate Industries; US: 8 May 2012)

Pop will eat itself, they say, and Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 shows just that. This compilation from the consistently brilliant Chocolate Industries collects the naive efforts of over a dozen outfits and solo outcasts who, during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, took advantage of new programmable drum machines, the decreasing size of synthesizers and increasingly affordable home recording technology. Stowed away in their rumpus rooms, between fake wood paneling and shag carpeting, these mavericks created fully formed compositions without the previously required major label backing. This was the first generation of bedroom producers.

Certainly, these funky synth-pop ditties were not exactly on par with their major label counterparts. Most of the acts on this track listing never received wider recognition than a few hundred cassettes, given to friends and sold at garage sales. Yet, considering the work of Abel Tesfaye (a.k.a the Weeknd), whose lyrics and electronic misdirection of R&B got a ‘Best New Music’ from P4k and a 2011 Polaris Music Prize shortlist nomination before he ever performed live, it’s clear that these bedroom producers are of the very same ilk that now perpetually sends the twitterverse ablaze and, ironically, gets the attention of labels before they’ve recorded anything substantial.

By choice or agoraphobia, the DIY ethic of these pioneers paved the way for Neon Indian to get out of their parent’s basement. Like Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label, this compilation shines a light on a nearly forgotten yet instrumental chapter in music history, the beginning of a revolution that would lead to the future ubiquity of lo-fi electronic music. In looking back at this pre-MIDI era and considering where we are now, staggeringly obvious become the true effects of Dr. Robert Moog’s lifelong efforts to make electronic music more accessible.


Author of blurbs, curator of playlists, and booker of shows, Alan Ranta has been plugging away at that music writing and programming thing since 2004. His brutally honest critical opinion has appeared in such publications as Exclaim!, CBC Music, PopMatters and Tiny Mix Tapes, and has been enlisted to help judge the Polaris Music Prize, Pazz & Jop, and Juno Awards. Based in East Van, he graduated with a BFA in music from Simon Fraser University in 2012. He's also a social media plague, cat whisperer, socio-political haranguer, Canucks fan, and one of the last remaining cowboys.

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