Some of the best dance music of the last few years took innovative approaches with technology to pay homage with the sounds of the 1970s and (especially) the 1980s. During the era of Reagan and Thatcher, clubs pounded out songs that sported mile-wide bass, slippery synths, robo-drum machines, and slapping percussion. For its collection Cold Wave #1 (the first in a series), Soul Jazz Records compiles a roster of innovative and inventive artists who look to tech and studio tools to create ultra-modern sounds that look to club music of the 1980s to highlight the kind of fruitful talent that’s out there right now.
The title refers to the movement in dance music from the late 1970s, marked by the affected, stylized synth sound. A large part of cold wave is its blue moodiness, atmospheric and melancholic. The artists on Cold Wave #1 create a soundscape of cool, distant music that marries the iciness of cold wave with the buzzy sullenness of ’80s synthpop. The artists represented on this record cite a wide range of influential dance and club artists that emerged from the stylish, fertile grounds of European dance clubs. Soul Jazz Records – a London institute of indie music, book publishing, and DJ’ing – does a fantastic job curating a definitive set of contemporary cold wave-influenced dance artists.
The thumping Stranger Things-style synthesizers create a dark, moody experience, with each artist contributing a gorgeous track that brings a fresh sheen to the ’80s-flecked sounds. The opening track, the driving, throbbing “Capture” by French-based Dissemblance (Mathilde Mallen), creates a powering sound that captures the sound of a Giorgio Moroder film score, hitting a creepy, paranoid note. Fit Siegel’s “Wayne Count Stomp” finds a similar note, sporting a pulsing synth bass hook that recalls the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” And listening to Krikor Kouchian’s Prince-like tight-funk of “Niños Matadores” reflects the artist’s musical rearing on hip-hop, funk, and Philadelphia soul.
Though cold wave originally was defined by its austere, remote sound, the songs on the compilation can be complex, multi-textured, sometimes lush, even. Carcass Identity’s “Reflexion Ocean” stacks the different ingredients of its sound, a bouncing, nagging beat that is joined by a thrumming synth, which find themselves crowded with a persistent percussion, before studio effects including a yawning synthesizer that hovers in and out of the song, dominating the disparate sounds, before melting away, allowing for the different elements to move forward; and Wang Inc’s “Approdo” slinky beat makes its way to a symphony of gurgling synths that sound like the soundtrack of a dark, gothic Atari game.
The collective talent on Cold Wave is breathtaking – the artists comprise a stunning collection of music that is smart, thoughtful, and ingenious. The album is a fabulous tribute to the kinds of sounds born out of ’70s club culture that found their way to these creative tracks. It’s exciting to imagine what the other volumes in this series will contain – so much of dance music today is a canny pastiche of European synthpop, and the artists on Cold Wave #1 are brilliant creatives who prove to be the future of dance music.