In the late 1970s and 1980s, a genre of underground electronic music from North America and Europe emerged called "minimal wave".
It was characterised by a DIY, lo-fi aesthetic, with musicians using basic analogue synths and drum machines, recording on tape in home studios and making their own artwork (sounds quite like the music scene now). Most releases were on rare vinyl pressings or tapes. In 2005, a New Yorker called Veronica Vasicka set up the Minimal Wave record label (Minimal-wave.org) to collect, remaster and re-release many of these recordings. Later this month, the Stones Throw label will release 'The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume 1', a 14-track survey of the genre. Hearing it now offers a neat insight into where some recent electro and hip-hop producers picked up inspiration. At Independent.co.uk/lryan, I'll post two tracks from the LP, including "My Time" by Ohama (left), which is nicely emblematic of the style. Meanwhile, Stonesthrow.com hosts streams from the rest of the record, as well as an essay about the genre by the hip-hop producer Peanut Butter Wolf.
'IRM', the new album by the French singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, is due in late January. Already there have been two tasters of the eagerly awaited new record, made in collaboration with Beck; "IRM", which muses darkly on the singer's encounters with MRI scans, and the kaleidoscopic "Heaven Can Wait". You can hear both at myspace.com/charlotte gainsbourg. There has also been a Nosaj Thing remix for the latter song (tinyurl.com/y8g5bmb) and a stunning video for it by Keith Schofield (vimeo.com/7703592). There are more snapshots of the LP available at Charlottegainsbourg.com, where snippets of each track are being streamed.
A treat for teddy bears
In June, the south London techno producer Boy 8-Bit (Myspace.com/boy8bit) released his 'Baltic Pine' EP. Recently, a lovely video emerged for the title track (right), featuring small teddy bears and hand-puppets enjoying the best toy dance party you're ever likely to see – Vimeo.com/7897034. Throw in some computer graphics and soap bubbles on top, and it resembles a dream you might have after taking a few of those "natural high" drugs the Government has just banned.
Noughties classics on a collision course
The mash-up was one of the defining sounds of the Noughties, and as we enter a new decade it will be interesting to see where new music markers are set. In the meantime, we can still look back. Stereogum and Team9 have created mash-ups of their "favourite tracks of 2009 with familiar oldies". So you can hear YACHT mixed with Lykke Li, Animal Collective in a stew with Missy Elliot and Chairlift, and Taylor Swift vs U2 – tinyurl.com/yaz7mtj.
Tuned into Rdio
For many, Spotify was the star of 2009 (and the final months of 2008), offering unlimited access to streamed online music – for a small fee, you could get it without advertising interruptions, and on your iPhone. The site is gearing up to launch in the US this year, which will offer a good indication of its long-term viability. Before this, though, there is likely to be big-name competition from Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, the pioneers behind Skype and the Kazaa file-sharing site, who are set to enter the music market with their Rdio site. It's not available to the public yet but is expected to follow along similar lines to Spotify's premium subscription service. The pair have had big hits before – could they steal Spotify's thunder?