Cold wave (music)

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Cold wave is a music genre that emerged in Europe the late 1970s, characterized by its detached lyrical tone, use of early electronic music instruments and a minimalist approach and style. It emerged from punk rock bands who, influenced by early electronic groups such as Kraftwerk, made use of affordable portable synthesizers such as the Korg MS-20.[2] The term is an early synonym for what would later be termed "dark wave", "goth", and "deathrock".[4] In later years, "cold wave" has become subsumed under the retrospective labels "minimal wave" or "minimal synth".[5]


The front cover of Sounds with the caption "New musick: The cold wave", issue 26 November 1977: it is a picture of Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk.

The term "cold wave" first appeared in the 26 November 1977 issue of UK weekly music paper Sounds:[6] The caption of its cover picture, showing Kraftwerk's Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider was "New musick: The cold wave". That year, Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express.[7] The term was repeated the following week in Sounds by journalist Vivien Goldman, in an article about Siouxsie and the Banshees.[8] In 1977, Siouxsie and the Banshees described their music as "cold, machine-like and passionate at the same time" and Sounds magazine prophecised about the band: "Listen to the cold wave roar from the '70s into the '80s".[8] Another scene of French and Belgian bands musicians, dubbed "cold wave", emerged in the early 1980s. According to Vice, the most notable acts were Marquis de Sade, Asylum Party, and Twilight Ritual.[9] In The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (2019), Eric S. Strother identified Ruth, Charles de Goal, Marquis De Sade, KaS Product, Asylum Party, and Resistance as "significant early cold wave groups".[6]

Wierd Records is credited with establishing interest in the style in the United States, while The Liberty Snake Club did a great deal to popularize it within the United Kingdom.[10] The Tigersushi Records compilation So Young but So Cold, compiled by Ivan Smagghe, is one document of the scene.[11]


  1. ^ Watson, Tom (18 August 2017). "20 Definitive Cold Wave Artists". Crack.
  2. ^ a b Nixon, Dan (20 January 2010). "The Dummy Guide To Cold Wave". Dummy Mag.
  3. ^ Watson, Tom (August 18, 2019). "20 Definitive Cold Wave Artists". Crack. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  4. ^ Bennett, Andy; Waksman, Steve, eds. (2015). The SAGE Handbook of Popular Music. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4739-1099-7.
  5. ^ Terich, Jeff (1 February 2012). "Hold On to Your Genre: Coldwave/Minimal Wave". Treblezine.
  6. ^ a b Sturman, Janet, ed. (2019). The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture. SAGE Publications. p. 1617. ISBN 978-1-5063-5337-1.
  7. ^ "New Muzick The Cold Wave". Sounds. 26 November 1977.
  8. ^ a b Goldman, Vivien (3 December 1977). "New Music – Siouxsie Sioux Who R U?". Sounds. Seeing Siouxsie & the Banshees at the Music Machine supporting Richard Hell. Teenage Rampage circa 1980. Heavy metal circa 1984. Music for those quiet evenings at home, getting it on with the house android. The cold, cold wave breaking over your head, and for one second you don't know whether you're going to see daylight again... Siouxsie and Steve Banshee are in perfect accord when it comes to describing their music. Cold, machine-like and passionate at the same time... Siouxsie & the Banshees sound like a 21st century industrial plant; people that find it dreary or oppressive are romantics reacting against the machine age. Listen to the cold wave roar from the 70's into the 80's.
  9. ^ "New York – Beyond Goth". Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  10. ^ Garrett, Jonathan (27 May 2009). "The Wierd Records Social Club – Page 1 – Music – New York – Village Voice". Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  11. ^ Theakston, Rob. "So Young But So Cold: Underground French Music 1977–1983". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 October 2012.


  • Mercer, Mick (1993). Gothic Rock. Los Angeles: Cleopatra Records.
  • Mercer, Mick (1996). "France", "Belgium". Hex Files: The Goth Bible. Woodstock: The Overlook Press. pp. 20–23, 25–34.