Rough Trade Shops. Synth Wave 10 Rough Trade Shops. Synth Wave 10

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Various Artists Various ArtistsRough Trade Shops. Synth Wave 10

7.6 / 10

Rough Trade Shops. Synth Wave 10 ROUGH TRADE

The good thing about thematic compilations is that they give you the opportunity to learn a lot. If the selection is done wisely, no matter how much you already know about the topic, you’ll probably end up with a couple of artists you didn’t know yet but who you’d like to investigate further. In more extreme cases, you could be a newbie and the compilation could open the door to new worlds you didn’t know at all. Both situations are applicable to “Synth Wave 10”, a selection of 20 tunes that masterfully freeze that irregular musical pulse that, in the last couple of years and through the morning fog, has been following a genre as nocturnal as synth-pop (and its multiple varieties). Here one could argue that the compilation only highlights the “cold” and “cool” sides of the genre, of bands that seek synthetic warmth on the rough corners of big, empty and unwelcoming industrial spaces. Is it true that the compilers ignore the fact that Hurts, for example, have great synth moments too? Granted, as wave, only“Silver Lining” really counts and little more, while the rest is festive erotic synth-pop. And do they also choose to ignore the hypnagogia that has a lot of synth in it, although they do include Washed Out, one of the pillars of the genre, alongside Memory Tapes and Neon Indian? Well, yes, but the thing is: 20 songs is not a whole lot and, when time and space are sparse, one has to focus on a certain part of the field in order to have more impact.

There’s something better still in thematic compilations: adding one track per band, it’s relatively easy to force musical epiphanies, thanks to the (right) linking of the best compositions of every featured artist. That’s what happens on “Synth Wave 10”, when Crystal Castles’ “Empathy” is followed by the spine-chilling version of Nick Cave’s “Stranger Than Kindness” by Fever Ray. Or when, with a rumble, Zola Jesus’ “Night” clashes with “New Theory” and the aforementioned Washed Out. Effective but a bit easy, if you compare them to other, less obvious combinations, such as the tandem in which the fumes of eighties uproar of Led Er Est’s “Scissors” are sublimated upon coming in contact with the weird pots and pans lo-fi of Terror Bird and their “Shadows In The Hall”; or the natty stroll on the pier of “Remedy” by Design A Wave followed by the devastating emo-synth of Grimes singing her canticles on “Avi”. With such highlights, one can only applaud the selective work of the people of Rough Trade Shops, who in this case have sought the advice of labels such as Captured Tracks, Weird and Minimal Wave, in a collaborative relationship that has a modest compilation as a result that doesn’t want to lecture nor act as an encyclopaedia, but rather wants to dissect an icy hedonism, like the wire of a good taxidermist.

But there’s also a downside to thematic compilations: if there’s a moment of weakness, the whole thing is most likely to end up in a swamp of misunderstood homogeneity. And, although on “Synth Wave 10” there is no steep descent, it is true that, at times, you end up hearing four tracks without noticing, thinking you have just been listening to a 13-minute song. Not to mention the fact that, when you hear things like Cosmetics (the new alias of Johnny Jewel, founder of Italians Do It Better) and 2vm, you can’t help but think how close it all sounds to devaluated concepts like those of Ladytron and Fischerspooner. Be that as it may, you only have to look at the extensions used in this review to talk about the upside and downsides to thematic compilations with regards to “Synth Wave 10”. It’s mostly good. As good as gush of synths that gets you all worked up on a Saturday night.

Raül De Tena

Washed Out - New Theory{youtube width="100%" height="25"}v00RQms9QiM{/youtube}

Crystal Castles - Empathy{youtube width="100%" height="25"}-v2rzf10pFQ{/youtube}

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