At the turn of the 80s, a new generation of musicians appeared who saw synthesisers not as dehumanizing machines but as musical instruments that could be coaxed into creating modern, beautiful and decidedly emotional music. It was almost as if the musicians were intentionally creating this music to prove the doubters wrong.
Compiled by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, “The Tears Of Technology” celebrates this brief period when scruffy synth duos from the provinces broke through and took over British pop. Like mellotrons before them, synths could project a strange and deep emotion; listen to OMD’s ‘Sealand’, or the Human League’s ‘WXJL Tonight’, and it was clear that something in the wiring had an inherent melancholy.
In the 60s and 70s, the synthesiser had mostly been regarded as either a novelty or a threat. Tomorrow’s World warned us that the cold, heartless synth would soon make orchestras redundant. But by 1980, Korgs, Moogs and Rolands were becoming affordable for all, and post-punk had created a safe place for new groups to experiment with these new toys.
The influence of Kraftwerk – who had made a landmark appearance on Tomorrow’s World in 1975 – is all over this collection. Big names rub shoulders with obscurities by Turquoise Days, Electronic Circus and Illustration, all highly prized recordings among ‘cold wave’ and ‘minimal synth’ afficionados. There are pioneers like John Foxx and Thomas Leer, alongside unexpected synth sadness from Simple Minds and the Teardrop Explodes.
“The Tears Of Technology” celebrates an era of electronic melancholia, synthesized intimacies and insights – even Tomorrow’s World didn’t see that coming.
Album launch details: The Record Cafe, Bradford