Minimal wave

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Minimal wave is a contentiously named[1] genre of electronic music which focuses on electronic, pre-MIDI (1982, but not pre-sequencer) instrumentation and themes of sincere, rather than ironic, detachment.[1] It comprises obscure, atypical examples of genres such as new wave, so-called "minimal" electronic or synthesizer music, electropunk, synthpop, post-punk, coldwave, electroclash and electropop.[1][2] Although much Minimal Wave music was created in the late 1970s and early 1980s and subsequently appeared on bootleg and one-off compilations, the genre didn't have a name until a record label of the same name began releasing compilations and reissues in the mid-2000s.[1]


The Punk phenomenon of the 1970s created a challenge to the monopoly of the established recording studios, giving young performers the confidence to go live with relatively unpolished acts. In the post-punk era new technologies, especially cheaper synthesisers, in particular the Roland 303 and the Wasp, led to a popular expansion of electronic music styles. The music, especially in the original releases, generally has a D.I.Y. aesthetic; in the genre's original production era. Many of the emerging artists composed in their bedrooms and garages then exchanged works through cassette exchanges, bypassing the major vinyl producers and giving rise to the cassette culture of the 1980s.


Musicians in the genre were often influenced by avant-garde movements such as futurism and constructivism, and by the literature of science fiction and existentialism.[2]

The genre's hallmarks include minimal musical structures,[2] relatively unpolished production,[2] and the use of analog synthesizers and drum machines manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s.[2] The instrumental arrangements featured "mechanical beats" and "short repetitive patterns", plus "noticeably synthesized drum programming and trebly, thin melodies" which emphasized the artificiality of synthesized sound.[2] Vocal arrangements "acted as a counterpoint to that artificiality."[2]

Geographic reach[edit]

In its heyday, the genre had subcultures all over the world, but was most notable in Europe (particularly the UK) and the US, where the machines used to create this type of music were readily available.[2]

The fanzine CLEM (Contact List Of Electronic Musicians) helped create a worldwide community of musicians in the genre, prior to the use of the Internet.[2] Many of the musicians in the genre collaborated via mail.[2]


Veronica Vasicka, founder of the Minimal Wave record label, claims to have coined the genre name. She said in a 2009 interview, "I had this collection of Dutch magazines from the early ’80s, and they kept using the terms "minimal electronics", "new wave", "coldwave" and a bunch of others. I kind of thought there should be a term that covers all this music, and I thought "minimal wave" could be it. When I registered the website, I was able to register the name.".[3]

One author, reviewing one of the label's compilations, wrote "Minimal Wave as a synecdoche of a broader scene has been a term of contention for many. The phrase stems from Veronica Vasicka’s restoration project/record label of the same name, but has become something of a stand-in for the entire spectrum of music Vasicka championed."[1]

Vasicka acknowledges the music is also included in other genres; in a 2009 publicity piece for the same compilation, she wrote "The Minimal Wave genre actually formed only several years ago, as a result of a resurgence of interest in the roots of pre-MIDI electronic new wave (1978-1985), mainly from North America, Europe and Japan. This music is sometimes referred to as minimal electronic, minimal synth, coldwave, new wave, technopop, or synthpop, depending on the particular style, year, and location of the band."[2]

Notable artists[edit]

New scene artists from 2000[edit]

Noteworthy Examples of the Genre[edit]

Most of the entries in this have been drawn from an article published by Veronica Vasicka in 2010, many of them pre-date her first use of the term [2]

  • Oppenheimer Analysis Oppenheimer Analysis (Minimal Wave 12″, 2005)
  • Solid Space "Space Museum" (In Phaze MC, 1982)
  • Linear Movement "On The Screen" (Minimal Wave LP, 2008)
  • Unovidual + Tara Cross ‘Like I Am, Comme Je Suise’ (from Entropies, Micrart MC, 1986)
  • Borghesia "Ljubav Je Hladnija Od Smrti" (Fv Zalozba, Toto Alle Prese Coi Disci LP, 1985)
  • 1000 Ohm ‘A.G.N.E.S.’ (Ace Records 7″, 1979)
  • IKO "83" (Manhattan-Formula LP, 1982)
  • Ceramic Hello "The Absence of a Canary" (Mannequin Records LP, 1981)
  • Guyer’s Connection "Portrait" (Self-released LP, 1983)
  • Kym Amps ‘You Don’t Know My Name (But I Know You)’ (Diversion 7″)
  • Night Moves ‘Transdance’ (GC Recordings 12″, 1981)
  • Psychic Youth ‘Step In Time’ (Self-released 7″, 1982)
  • Snowy Red "The Right To Die" (Dirty Dancing LP, 1982)
  • Futurisk "Player Piano EP" (Clark Humphrey Records 7″, 1982)
  • Stephan Eicher "Stephan Eicher Spielt Noise Boys" (Off Course Records 7″, 1980)
  • Ruins "Fire" (CGD 12″, 1984)
  • Experimental Products "Prototype" (Short Circuit LP, 1982)
  • Circuit 7 ‘Video Boys’ (Rapp/Micro Records 7″, 1984)
  • A Blaze Colour ‘Against The Dark Trees Beyond’ (Self-released MC, 1981)
  • Stereo "Somewhere In The Night" (Minimal Wave LP, 1982/2008)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gabriele, Timothy (11 June 2010). "Various Artists: The Minimal Wave Tapes Volume One [review]". Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Vasicka, Veronica (26 January 2010), "20 best: Minimal Wave", FACT magazine, retrieved 18 June 2010 
  3. ^ Tantum, Bruce (1 December 2009). "A synth-obsessed label turns four". Time Out. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 

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