Various Artists

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by Ben Varkentine


Most of the groups on this compilation from a label based in France, but with recordings from all over the world, are emulating the dance/techno sound. In this land of Lopez and Kravitz, it’s unlikely any of these artists will be storming the US charts anytime soon, but for those of us who like this sort of thing (unabashedly retro, low-tech hi-tech), this is the sort of thing we like. Here are the stand outs:

Chico Ben, from France, is described as having formerly written songs with a rhythm computer and acoustic guitar, it shows. His “Harmonies electroniques” sounds a bit like what the Beatles might have produced on their more “special effects” oriented albums (Revolver through Magical Mystery Tour) if computers had been in use. But without their sense of songwriting, which is something this compilation is on the whole missing. I would have preferred it if some of the entries were a little more song oriented, but there’s no reason to chastise them for not being what they weren’t trying to be. From Italy to Germany to Sweden, most of the bands here successfully walk the line between maintaining the charm of the bedroom studio recording without sacrificing the professional sheen of the recording studio. “Jessica”, by Remington Super 60, a “Casio pop” band from Norway, is in some ways the embodiment of the whole collection. A little homemade sound, a little hip-hop, and a little techno—but it loses points for hesitant vocals and truly horrifying guitar solo.

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Various Artists

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This is a largely instrumental collection, which keeps individual groups from standing out somewhat, and in one case the lyrics are, of course, in French, meaning I have no idea what they mean (curse my limited education)! On the other hand, sometimes the lack of vocals works to the band’s strengths. Last on the compilation is Milano, another French band whose “simul-sync” is an expressive mix of electro and trip-hop, only without the melancholia (or, it must be said, the sexiness) that often goes along with the latter genre.

A bouncy drum machine program dominates the short “New Mate”, by Figurine, a US synth band. Cinema, from the UK, recall the funky, squishy sound of early Coldcut, without so many samples or weirdness for its own sake, on “Getting Away with It”. Melmac, also from France, play very “let yourself go” music on the short “Kiki”.

Why hell, I like this compilation. It’s a light-on-its feet collection of music that should appeal to fans of synthesized music, of which I am unabashedly one (oh, you noticed).

Note: This album doesn’t seem to be available through most of the bigger online music stores. However, it can be ordered from Darla Records ( or directly from the q-tape records web site ( Non-French readers should be aware that the latter site is in it’s native language. Also, I have ordered from Darla before and been impressed with their prompt service. (This has been an unsolicited testimonial, and of course does not imply endorsement by PopMatters or any of the rest of the music staff, blah, blah, blah…)

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