This has become my favourite compilation since I bought it last year! Chosen by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs (from the band St Etienne), released on Ace Records, these are 20 tracks from the electronic post-punk / synth pop / New Romantics / whatever you like to call the synthesiser-based music of the late 70s to early 80s. It’s a great alternative to those ‘big hits of the 80s’ kind of compilations which always have the same over-played songs.
The aim of this collection is to demonstrate that music made with machines could be just as emotionally affecting as that made with so-called ‘real’ instruments. The excellent booklet with the CD discusses how the improvements and access to technology allowed more people to create electronic music, sometimes from home. It also includes biographies of the featured artists. Some of the artists are famous, others a little more obscure. The songs are a mixture of album tracks and rare singles, so unless you have an extensive vinyl and cassette collection from 1978 – 1984, you’re unlikely to have most of these.
My highlights of the compilation are ‘Real to Real’ by Simple Minds, ‘Youth’ by Soft Cell, ‘Europe After the Rain’ by John Foxx, ‘Private Plane’ by Thomas Leer, ‘A Map of You’ by New Musik and ‘WXJL Tonight’ by The Human League. I like all of the tracks, however. Some of them I wasn’t sure about at first but they’ve grown on me. I think it’s a very well-thought out curation, as everything seems to fit together harmoniously. Even the beginning and end are ideal, as ‘Jean Walks in Fresh Fields’ by China Crisis sounds like sunrise to me while ‘Feather Bed’ by Trevor Bastow is, well, time for bed. The general tone of the whole album is more contemplative and soulful than dancefloor energy, which again refers back to the aim of the track selection – those synths stirring your emotions.