Minimal wave meets mutant techno.
Reissues of obscure '80s acts may be common in 2019, but this certainly wasn't the case 14 years ago, when Veronica Vasicka launched Minimal Wave with a timeless single from Oppenheimer Analysis. The lifelong New Yorker's role in reviving the minimal synth sound came about naturally. She played '80s obscurities she found at record fairs and in cut-out bins on her weekly East Village Radio show. When enough people asked how they could get these records, she tracked down the artists and assembled beautiful vinyl reissues.
Vasicka retains an uncanny ability to unearth and revive little-known gems—last year Minimal Wave put out its most exhaustive reissue yet, a five-LP box from French cold wave band Martin Dupont. But much of her recent work has dealt in the present. Minimal Wave sub-label Cititrax has released inspired new music from the likes of Streetwalker, An-i and Marie Davidson. Fittingly, Vasicka's own lost tapes have also been rescued from obscurity. Last year, she released her excellent solo debut, In Silhouette, on Downwards. The music was sourced from a cache of material Vasicka recorded casually in the early 2000s. Much of it remains unheard, but as she says in the interview below, all in due time.
For her RA podcast, Vasicka brings the elemental minimal wave sound—minimal synth, industrial, EBM, cold and new wave—into easy conversation with club sounds of the present.
What have you been up to recently?
I recently released a five-LP linen-bound box set by French band Martin Dupont on Minimal Wave. It had been in the works for a while as I had first met the lead member back in 2005. It feels amazing to come full circle with this project. Aside from that, I've been working on a bunch of forthcoming releases for Minimal Wave, including records from a Belgian band called The Misz, a one-off obscure UK band called La Scenes De La Bohème and a curated collection of modern L/F/D/M tracks for Cititrax.
As far as DJing, I played a cool festival last night in Geneva called Antigel in a soon to be demolished 1950s office tower and will be playing Paris tonight.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I recorded the mix this past December in our warehouse / studio on Green Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The idea behind the mix was to incorporate older Minimal Wave and synth tracks into a techno set. It's what I've been doing in my DJ sets, and now that I'm transitioning out of using Ableton Live and going back to basics, I'm realising that lots of those old tracks benefitted from Ableton and its beatmapping function. The analog drum machines and old synths of the '80s naturally fall out of sync so being able to beatmap, export and sync them with new music is great. Anyways, through this mix, I aim to bridge the old industrial and wave sounds I love with my other love, underground techno. There are many similarities between the two so weaving them together in a way that informs the other is fresh and exciting to me.
As we've seen with Minimal Wave and labels like Dark Entries, there's a seemingly inexhaustible amount of unheard amazing bands and bedroom producers from the '80s. How do you explain this? And are we anywhere near the bottom of the well?
The advent of all these semi-portable analog synthesisers, drum machines and of course the invention of the Tascam four-track recorder in 1979 changed everything. Musicians and non-musicians alike were making music at home. Many of these artists did it just for fun. As time goes by and the internet brings these small underground pockets from around the world closer together, more people and recordings come out of the woodwork. It feels pretty endless to me. Also, as more and more records are released, artists who would've looked back at what they referred to as the "junk" they recorded in their bedrooms when they were 16 are now seeing that this sort of music is actually celebrated. They finally feel comfortable dusting off and transferring their tapes.
You recorded your solo debut, In Silhouette, back in 2004 as part of a "sonic diary of daily adventures," with no intention of releasing it. As someone who has championed so many lesser-known old and new acts, where does your personal studio process fit into that? Can we expect to hear more?
I always felt like a hobbyist when it came to music, even though I studied and played piano as a child. For me, making music without an end point in mind made the most sense. The process was what interested me. I recorded many tracks over the years, these "sonic diaries," especially over the four-year period leading up to 2005, the year I founded the label. Then I left them there. There's definitely a link between my music and the bands I have released as I can identify with them. They made music from the heart, they weren't in it to be known. As far as another release, yes that will come for sure. It's just a question of time.
What are you up to next?
Next week, I will start work on the plans for my live set which will debut at Primavera Sound in Barcelona on June 1st. I will be incorporating the old analog drum machines and synthesisers as well as bass guitar and my voice. I also plan to use my original recordings as source material. In a way, I will be picking up where I left off in 2005 through the process of producing this live set. I'm very excited to create and explore this new medium for myself in terms of performing and bringing it to the stage.