Label Profiling: Minimal Wave
Crate-digging for obscure gems to reissue
If you are anything like me, you relish the opportunity to go record shopping and dig through stacks for hours searching for that elusive jewel to add to your collection. Bonus points when you discover something new that you'd never heard before, something that makes your heart skip a beat when you get it home, hear it for the first time, and get blown away.
Former manager of the web radio station East Village Radio and DJ for its Sunday night Minimal-Electronik Plus program, New York City native Veronica Vasicka has taken crate-digging up a notch and started a record label in 2006 releasing the gems she's unearthed. With a fetish for analog synthesizers and drum machines, the releases on the Minimal Wave record label feature obscure bands from the vast New Wave movement of the early '80s, the majority of which are European (with a few from the states). While some of these bands managed to gain some attention back then, most slipped through the cracks: the music they recorded either was never officially released or had long been discontinued and could only be found on old cassettes in used bins.
So, who are these bands? Well, do the names Absolute Body Control, Ensemble Pittoresque, Oppenheimer Analysis, or Los Iniciados ring a bell? They didn't to me. Fortunately, Vasicka has been writing up a storm on the label's website to teach us n00bs all about them. (It's also rumored she is looking for assistants to help her evolve her online book chronicling these bands, so email if you think you got what it takes.) Taking cues from the motornik bands, early synth-pop bands (Human League, OMD, Depeche Mode), and pioneers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Robert Moog, these bands crafted a synth-driven electro-punk aesthetic that Vasicka has described herself as -- you guessed it -- Minimal Wave.
Unlike their New Wave counterparts, Minimal Wave artists tend to be more stripped-down. Comparable to the moody "dark wave" bands of the post-punk era, these songs would blend in seamlessly between Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Gary Numan at your local '80s night. They're reminiscent of old episodes of Knight Rider and early-'80s sci-fi movies that featured synthesizers in order to provide that “futuristic” ambience that was so en vogue at that time.
The label has just over a dozen releases so far, all vinyl, in formats ranging from 7-inches to EPs to full-length LPs, with a sub-label focusing on current Minimal Wave bands and house music, one of Vasicka's other loves. There is also an amazing stream on the Minimal Wave website that allows you to get a taste of what all this awesomeness is about. Veronica Vasicka, an art school grad with a passion for photography, designed all the album covers herself as well. Is there anything this renaissance wonder woman can't do? She's the type of person you pretty much wish was your best friend, and the releases on her record label are the kind that are pretty much destined for your collection.