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Various Artists - Defining TECH Print E-mail
Monday, 24 June 2002

Various Artists
Defining TECH
format: CD
label: Orbsonic Records
release year: 2002
performance: 7
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image The compilers of Defining Tech describe it as "retro ‘80s electro and new wave." It’s not repackaged dance music, however. Instead, it’s something old, wearing something new. These tracks from various artists are comprised of modernist-ready dance beats, sprinkled with old school (read early MTV era) references. If you recall Africaa Bambaataa’s "Planet Rock" fondly, or you still get a kick out of hearing Herbie Hancock’s "Rockit" now and again, this collection will blow through your eardrums like a welcome blast from the past.

Speaking of blowing, Fischerspooner’s burping synth workout "Invisible" opens this 14-song compilation with what sounds like extremely labored breathing noises. The artist’s musical sounds are clearly drawn from electro sources, but the male vocal eerily references the coldness of Depeche Mode. Its lyrics also retain a detached quality, and take an almost scientific approach to human interaction. Such frigid feelings are similarly expressed on "Adult’s Contagious" and Memory Boy’s "(There Is No) Electricity." There aren’t a lot of warm and tender moments in these grooves, in case you haven’t deduced this yet.

In some places, such as on "Character Maps," you may feel like the singing is coming from electronic characters out of the original "Star Wars." Whenever women’s voices are heard, however, as on "AAXXX" by Peaches or "Silver Screen Shower Scene" from Felix Da Housecat, the vocalizing is of the porn queen seductress variety. This gives computer sex a whole new meaning.

On "Fat Girls" by Innate, in a voice that sounds like a robotic Shaq O’Neil, our big ‘n’ clunky one delights in the easy ways of equally hefty female ones. This is a simple generalization males often have regarding female stereotypes; one where these chubby girls are said to make for bigger and easier sexual prey. Such clichéd thoughts are repeated over a nervously skittering beat.

Sometimes, as this release seems to suggest, it takes nostalgic contemporary musicians to put older sounds back onto the cutting edge again. Just as Creed has made grunge cool again, and Weezer has rendered skinny tie New Wave newly acceptable, this collection brings cheesy drum pads and click track percussion, computerized vocals and Kraftwerk-like synth melodies back into vogue once more.

There are so many pastel-colored memories packed into this CD, you might feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a "Miami Vice" marathon. But yesterday’s hip or sci-fi becomes tomorrow’s unintentionally funny B movie. There has always been something truly liberating about mixing futuristic kitsch with rock -- from Bowie’s "Space Oddity" phase, on up to Radiohead’s more recent resident alien persona. Once upon a time, remember, electro was new and all the rage. Defining Tech helps to redefine a presumably outdated technology, with a fresh new and fun perspective.

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