An anthem of fetishization, asphyxiation and transgressive love set to a glittering italo-chug sprint opens these latest archive finds from Dark Entries. Although synonymous with the brazen retroactivity of late 1990s/early 2000s electroclash – a scene which had an admittedly short but vibrant lifespan – this first volume of ‘lost tracks’ boasts the essential chemistry which made Caroline Hervé and Michel Amato a duo that, despite being steeped in excessive electro-facsimile, turned their derivations to an ersatz futurism that was as ludicrously fun as it was skilfully concocted.
Drawn from their earliest and best period, a time which saw the release of ‘1982’ and ‘Frank Sinatra’, these four missives exude the same stoic poise and frivolous sensuality which became a trademark, but with ‘Leather Forever’ – something of a companion piece to the later, similarly stirring ‘Stock Exchange’ – there’s an ache within all the disco-mechanics, a more melancholic edge perfectly captured by Hervé when she reveals a tender side to a submissive act ("Screaming I love you/with a belt around my neck…") It’s the most vulnerable she’s ever sounded, a rare instance of a chorus sung, not concealed by the heavy lidded sultriness and stiffly vogueish performativity habitually adopted in the material that followed. That's a quality which instead comes into play on ‘Nightlife’, a production which commingles the raw, shorn bleeps of Detroit electro with camp, suggestive lyrical quirks more European in scope and attitude. But even with the raunch, there's still an unexpected delicacy maintained, bringing to mind something elfin rather than formidable; more Cati Tete of Deux than Gina Kikoine (Gina X Performance), a quality which may be attributable to the infancy of the project at this point and the demo status of this material. This rendition of Miss Kittin sounds like a character in the process of being formed, in contrast with the stridency shown in later work.
Yet despite that inference, the rudimentary constitution of these recordings is precisely where their appeal lies, with the sound paralleling Hervé’s tentative prowess. Both ‘Miss Crazy Bullshit’ and ‘Loving The Alien’ could sit convincingly amongst the finer cuts of Drexciya, Cybotron and Dopplereffekt, the way they foreground thin, scuffling signals and taut, concentrated drum machine melees, evoking the wracked sci-fi paranoia that has often coloured this darker strain of electro. However with coarsely engulfed vocal treatments, there’s a presence in the mix which proves degrading; defilements of fidelity which could just as well place this within the confines of DIY noise and industrial. It’s easy to see why this has found a home on Dark Entries, sitting as it does at such a suitable and varied intersection. Such plurality, fluidity between styles, and something desirably prototypical is what defines this as more than a wringing out of former, archival glories. With one rousing S&M love song and three compellingly low-spec, grinding rhythm trax, the only remaining issue is why these tracks were ever lost at all.
Lost Tracks Vol. 1 is out now via Dark Entries.