The World Of 80’S Irish Synthwave… On Cassette
Discogs has easily gathered together the largest data set of recorded music known to man. Sometimes when we’re caught up moaning about any number of Discogs issues, from the dodgy sellers, to the removal of bootlegs, to the site’s rising fees, it’s easy to lose sight of what an incredible resource it actually offers; an unimaginably vast index of recorded music filed by genre, country, format and year.
To this end we’re starting a new column dedicated to interrogating the ‘Cogs. There’s a world of obscure music that can be found by feeding in the right search terms and playing with the parameters. What disco records were released in Yugoslavia in the 80s? What tracks filed as grime came out prior to 2003? Dub from Russia! Punk from Kenya! 90s Australian hip hop! You can get stupidly niche with it, and deep in those weird little avenues are twisting wormholes of forgotten micro scenes – filter through them and you’ll found gold dust. That’s the plan anyway.
So here’s the format – we set a bunch of filters – ie year / genre / location / format, see how many releases we get, then boil them down to the best of the bunch and do your digging for you. Got it? Then let’s go – first up is cassette only electronica released in Ireland in the 80s. Blimey.
This column’s filters:
Genre : Electronic
Year : 1980s
Country : Ireland
Despite my hopes of discovering a wildly prolific 80s Irish synthwave scene, the filters produced a pretty scant 20 results. Once I’d kicked out the Kim Wilde, Soft Cell and Jean Michel Jarre I was left with a mixed bag of caustic coldwave, bonkers avant garde experimentation, hissy bed room synth pop, West Coast melodic pop played over cheap drum machines and Clannad. Not bad all in all.
Here’s the winners…
This Eternal Waiting – In This Morbid Ecstasy A Release Is Needed
This Eternal Waiting got off to a flying start by delivering the gothy-est album title I’ve read for years; the utterly over-the-top In This Morbid Ecstasy a Release Is Needed. As you might expect from such a mouthful, this lot are pushing out frowny coldwave augmented by some welcome beefed up EBM drums. Released on the perkily named I Live in Hell Records, ITMEARIN is far better produced than an obscure cassette released album has any right to be – stand out track Darkness has full bodied bass hits that drive home with a genuine gut punch. There’s a pleasing combination of space and tightness in their production – the vocals are drenched in reverb whilst the drums are rock solid – the goths are miserable but they still want to dance dammit. Combined with a cover that looks like Trevor Jackson designed it last week, and this is a serious release. God knows how much one of these would cost you though, the cassette has never been listed and there are only 50 of the vinyl ever pressed. .
A bit of digging around has revealed that Donagh O'Leary from This Eternal Waiting later put in the hours with Dublin punk band Drunken Jury who put together a truly great rattle of post punk on another cassette only release, It’s Not Just All Leprechauns – I’m starting to think this guy is something of an underground hero, check that fuzz, that shouty vocal and those relentless drums, lovely stuff.
Fomt – War Muzak / Rant
Coming in with the kind of weirdo vibes I was expecting a trawl through 80s cassette life would turn up, we’ve got two albums of avant garde freak out featuring all sorts of crazy shit – War Muzak proves to be an apt name for the first of these – it combines spazzing techno lift muzak with a chaotic grab bag of war themed vocal samples. Breaking up the bleak TV news snippets are occasional features – most memorable of these is when the nutty, declamatory performance poet Her Majesty’s Stationary Office starts barking shrill apocalyptic verse over bargain basement Underground Resistance style electronica. Before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that War Muzak is firmly in the world of 80s experimentation that is both sonically fascinating and fundamentally insane. Yes, it prefigures lot of ideas that ended up in mainstream techno, but it’s also almost totally guaranteed to clear a dancefloor.
The other Fomt tape Rant has some truly great fragments of drone – the first track on the side B is near perfect – slow motion menace layered with vague monkish choral chants and twinkling droplets of melody. The more I listen the better it gets.. A quick look at the Youtube description gives the following tantalising info –
RANT (©FOMT etc. 1986ev) is the 25th FOMT AUDIO TAPE featuring mostly dj@fomt & FOMT Crew, with contributions from Keith McVeigh, Nunzio Mifune, Graf Haufen, Howard Parker, Trevor Wray, Harry Montgomery & a variety of dj@fomt Mail Art correspondents. FOMT audio tapes were distributed in conjunction with Circular Letters and other visual material. Audio Quality is LO-FI, recorded and distributed via circular mail on C60 cassette tape.
And a bit of further digging reveals that Fomt colective member Graf Haufen was a real fixture on the European synth tape underground, getting involved in countless projects from his base in Berlin – take a look at his credits here for a treasure trove of 80s outsider synth work.
Le Cliché – Your Poison
It was pretty hard to track down the actual music on this little devil, but a bit of digging turned up an active bandcamp account where Le Cliché s still putting stuff out, alongside an archive of his 80s bedroom experiments. Your Poison is bedroom synthpop at its hissy, shakily naïve best. What’s Your Poison is heart breaking, plaintive vocals and shiny-eyed keyboards battling through shitty recording technology, the end results carrying all of the emotion and none of the fidelity. Lead track I Dreamt I Was Dead opens with a beat nicked from Ann Peebles I Can’t Stand the Rain before turning into a teen angst epic that sounds like a long lost Molly Nillson demo – which can only be a good thing, right?
Factor One – Mirrored Walls
And now for something completely different. Factor One have managed to sneak into the electronic category by virtue of using a shit drum machine and a couple of dusty keyboards. Really the electronic title is a bit of a red herring, as they’re essentially a band singing breezy West Coast pop with psyche-y harmonies. As with Le Cliché they’re too obscure to have any music on Youtube, but a search around found a still active website linking back to a soundcloud account that had years of works – including this great number Mirrored Walls from debut album Gen Songs. It could easily be a fairly standard 80s radio rock song, were it not for the tape hiss and the drum machine tick lending the track a real sense of strangeness to such a traditional pop form. When the keyboard solo kicks in round 1.30 it elevates into the truly great – this sounds like it has potential to be an undiscovered Balearic great…