Various Artists

Musik Music Musique 2.0: The Rise of Synth Pop 1981

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Musik Music Musique 2.0: The Rise of Synth Pop 1981 Review

by Paul Simpson

Cherry Red's Electrical Language and the Close to the Noise Floor compilations explored early synth pop and experimental electronic music by region, mixing breakthrough chart hits with cult favorites and private press obscurities. The Musik Music Musique series charts the development of electronic pop throughout the 1980s, with the second volume, subtitled 1981: The Rise of Synth Pop, following a set focusing on the first year of the decade. Like the other compilations, this one is vast and sprawling yet nowhere near definitive, merely hinting at the abundance of creativity during the era. The set includes a few recognizable hits, such as Heaven 17's rousing "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" and Aneka's chart-topping "Japanese Boy," as well as enduring club classics like Gina X Performance's saucy "No G.D.M." (a re-released single that originally appeared on their 1978 debut) and Yello's heavily sampled/remixed "Bostich." Larger-than-life acts like Duran Duran and Tears for Fears are represented by early singles and deep cuts (Duran Duran's "Khanada" was actually the B-side to their second single), and other iconic groups such as A Flock of Seagulls and Spandau Ballet are presented in rougher form than the era-defining hits they'd have just a year or two later, demonstrating post-punk's influence on popular music. The non-geographical focus means that in addition to numerous U.K. acts, there's also room for important figures like Devo (the perky "Through Being Cool"), Yellow Magic Orchestra (the slick, streamlined "Cue"), and former Tangerine Dream member Peter Baumann (the chipper "Repeat, Repeat"). Of course, the set also includes dozens of tracks that were nowhere close to mainstream, from art pop, minimal wave, and post-industrial acts like Voice Farm, Drinking Electricity, and Portion Control. As expected, the liner notes are extensive and informative, and the whole package paints a picture of a rapidly changing era that drastically reshaped the sound and look of popular culture.

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