Electrical Language

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Following on from their brilliant Close to the Noise Floor series of early electronica, my favourite reissuer, Cherry Red Records, returns with an all-encompassing collection of formative synthpop.

At some point in every music fan’s childhood they start to develop their own taste in music, moving away from the influences of parents, older siblings or novelty records. Often you can even pinpoint this moment down to a specific song.

When I was 11 years old Ultravox got to number 2 in the charts with "Vienna". This opened up a whole new world of richly swirling futuristic sounding synthpop to me and nothing would never be the same again. Although it wasn’t the first record I ever bought (that dubious distinction belongs to Meco’s disco arrangement of the Star Wars theme), it was the first time that a piece of music enveloped me so completely in its world. And the Vienna album became the first full length LP I ever bought.

Although “Vienna” (or even Ultravox in either of their incarnations) doesn’t feature on Electrical Language, the collection does provide a wonderfully eclectic mix of electronic sounds. From the post-punk-with-synths minimalism of “Warm Leatherette” by The Normal to the angular funk of Blue Zoo’sI’m Your Man”, and the sample heavy dub influenced density of “Technical Miracle” by Voice of Authority (a largely forgotten Adrian Sherwood project).

Alongside the old favourites like “Red Frame/White Light” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Circus of Death” by The Human League, and “Drowning in Berlin” by The Mobiles, there are new (to me at least) treats like “The Distance From Köln” by Native Europe, “The Planet Doesn’t Mind” by New Musik and “Crowds” by A Popular History Of Signs.

In a collection as eclectic as this there will always be a few misfires, and some of the songs here are very much of the “listen once” variety. Unnecessary covers of "Children of the Revolution" by The Fast Set and "My Coo Ca Choo" by Beasts In Cages are eminently regrettable, while Hybrid Kids’ version of "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" is a novelty record of almost unforgivable triteness. But these misfires are few and far between, and even some of the cover versions are revelatory, like Techno Pop’s "Paint It Black", hyped to a hysterical pitch.

For the listener of a certain age, this album provides a huge nostalgia kick, whilst other listeners will find an insight into an unusually creative period of electronic music.

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