I have been waiting for this week to arrive for a long time. The long awaited box sets by The Smiths have finally arrived. There are a lot of Smiths fans out there who have been counting down the days for these box sets to arrive. We all probably have about 4 or 5 all time favorite bands. Those bands that we love more than anything else. We collect everything we can by them. We have probably owned their albums on cassette, CD and LP. We have listened to their albums over and over again. We have watched the videos over and over again. We have read all we could about them. We have spent hours reading magazines and books about them. We then later spent years looking for articles and blogs on them online. Or spent hours and hours on message boards or chat rooms. We have seen them live in concert as much as we could afford to. Assuming the band actually toured when we could see them. These bands are usually the bands that you were really obsessed with in your late teens and early 20s. At least that is how it was for me. The bands that you discovered in junior high that you then became obsessed with in high school and college. The bands that your older siblings or cousins got you into. The bands that your friends that were cooler than you found out about first. The bands that you can't imagine your life without. They are the soundtrack to our lives. We listened to them in our bedrooms late at night by ourselves. We later listened to them late at night with our best friends and girlfriends and boyfriends. We listened to them in the car with our parents and later with our friends. We listened to them on our first dates. We put their songs on compilations and mix tapes. We danced to their songs in our bedrooms by ourselves and later at clubs and parties and at friends houses. These are the bands that helped to create our favorite moments from our past. The songs that helped us to remember those memories.
In the tradition of the DIY Minimal Wave and Synthpop bands of the 1980's, Xeno & Oaklander make music with strict guidelines: no digital instruments or recording. The New York-based duo of Sean McBride (of the quite excellent synth-project Martial Canterel) and Liz Wendelbo implemented the exclusive use of analogue synthesizers, instruments and equipment to write and record their darkly brilliant debut full-length, Sentinelle (one of our 20 Dark Music albums of 2009,on the always-superb Wierd Records). Recently, I got the chance to have the band expand on these principles as they were preparing for a series of upcoming globe-trotting live dates in New York, Rotterdam and Paris. Please, get to know...Xeno & Oaklander.
Black Light District: First things first. Why is analogue better than digital?
Liz Wedelbo: Analogue is immediate and raw. Sean McBride: It's alive -- a current which can be shaped in infinite ways. It's quite elemental, like fire.
BLD: Sentinelle is available on CD and LP, but being an exclusively analogue band in a digital age, do you prefer vinyl? Your presentation as a band seems pretty complete in sound, concept and artwork – so in the age of downloads and streaming, how important is the physical piece to you?
LW: I'm fond of the weight of objects. SM: The physicality of vinyl has some earthly origin. LW: ...with traces, marks and scratches.
Over the last few years, Amoeba Music Hollywood has stocked a slew of obscure but quite excellent and endlessly exciting limited-edition vinyl reissues of DIY European and North American dark and minimal analog synth-based music from the 1980’s -- all thanks to the stellar underground label Minimal Wave. Originally these recordings were released in ridiculously small quantities either on cassette or vinyl by the bands themselves or by equally-unknown labels local to the band. Albums by the likes of Spanish Industrial pioneers Esplendor Geometrico, the Belgian Linear Movement (featuring Peter Bonne of New Beat progenitors A Split Second), and French New Wavers Martin Dupont have all recently seen the light of day on quality vinyl pressings via the loving care of the Minimal Wave label.
Minimal Wave’s label head/überfan Veronica Vasicka struck a deal late last year with Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw label to issue a series of “best-of” compilations featuring choice cuts from the MW roster and beyond. Recently, the popularity of new minimal synth-based bands like Cold Cave and Xeno & Oaklander has heightened, making this the perfect time to issue the first in the series of Minimal Wave/Stones Throw team-ups, The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One (available on CD and 2LP). It is a wonderful thing to hear these rescued gems and decades-old transmissions mostly recorded in isolated bedrooms miles away from any bustling cityscapes. Volume One very much invokes a familiar nostalgic feeling, like a mixtape would from your way-cooler friend or older sibling did in your formative years. Vasicka functions here as that cooler friend or sister and thankfully, she doesn’t mind spreading her cool around -- making us ear-opening mixes from her even-cooler record collection.