Return of the Permanent Wave

return of the pemanent waveReady to go Back in Time? Silver Plastic Records has something for fans of eighties-style synth-pop with its compilation album Return of the Permanent Wave. The CD features tracks from 10 artists that are creating new music that draws on elements of classic synthpop.

Silver Plastic describes the compilation as “a mature exploration of the new wave.” The tracks on the CD show the influence of groups like Joy Division, Bauhaus, Human League and Gary Numan. The artists throw in modern influences, too, so you may hear a breakbeat against a synthpop bassline.

The CD starts out with PsychoSomatic Breakdown’s Bone Harvest. Bone Harvest is an unusual track. For an album that is largely retro-pop in various 80’s styles, it initially seems a little out of place. On second listening, it sounds a lot like some of the quirky instrumentals from that era that led to more modern downtempo and chill-out music. A sequenced melody bounces from left to right speaker as it repeats a melonchaly sequence. Fans of Moby’s chilled tracks should like this.

Burn Like Nero contributes two tracks that kick the compliation officially into retro-new wave territory. Silver Plastic calls the style “Permanent Wave”, because it is new music that draws on influences from the early days of synth pop. Faded Away and Small Details both have the chord progressions and synth stylings of 80’s synth pop down perfectly. An alternating octave bassline starts off Faded Away in true synthpop style. Unfortunately, Faded Away is let down somewhat by pedestrian lyrics that don’t seem quite right for this style of retrosynth music. “Time’s an abstraction, when you’re with me…If you love somebody, set them free”. Small Details, on the other hand, is just about perfect. Filtered females over a rhythm track carry a hint of darkness that draws you into the song.

Drug of Choice keeps the retro synth groove going with Desperation. The vocals and synth work convey a sense of alienation over a synthpop dance beat.

Egg in Space serves up two tracks, Back in Time and Say Hello. Back in Time is a great cut. It mixes electro beats and vocoded lyrics that keep things moving, and the arrangement seems to match the them of the song. Say Hello has a jumpy euro-beat with an off-beat accent. Both tracks are catchy synth pop.

eH FACTOR contributes Club 33 & This desperation. Club 33 is almost a great track. Massive synth lines in the style of early Gary Numan veer in contrasting directions, setting up a great groove. Unfortunately, the strength of the instrumental introduction isn’t matched by the vocoded verse lyrics. Instead of building in intensity when the vocals come in, it lets off, which make the vocals seem throw-away. eHFactor brings back the dark side of the 80’s with This Desperation. This track work well, they music and lyrics work together and to bring you a slice of retro-angst.

Several instrumental cuts help fill out the album. Janosch Moldau’s track Redeemer is an instrumental dance tune. Lank’s two cuts, stress relief point and 012 (Introvert) are downtempo instrumental tunes. Lank’s music doesn’t have a distinct retro feel, but instead is has more of an ambient chill-out feel. stress relief point features a interlocking sequences that create a hypnotic groove. Under this, Lank adds break-beat drum programming that adds intensity to an otherwise laid-back track. Introvert is another extended track, but has a harder edge to it.

onLoad takes things back to synth-pop with Electrofish. The track is a strange number about electric fish that sing in the sea, “lalalalala”. It sounds a little like Depeche Mode if they got some happy drugs and a female lead singer.

The Signifying Monkey contributes two tunes that are interesting in the way they combine retro guitars and synths and breakbeat drum programming. I should have gone drinking & A lovesong (to impress women). These tracks are some of the best on the compilation, because the songs build to interesting climaxes. The vocals are great, too.

The last two tracks are from Bernie Lucas: No down and Grayscale. They are short instrumental pieces (with the exception of a little vocoding) that are somewhere between ambient and chillout. They are in a similar territory to Aphex Twin’s dark ambient tracks.

While the CD is let down in a couple places by a few weak tracks, there is a lot to like on Return of the Permanent Wave. It’s available directly from the Silver Plastic site, and through CD Baby.


  • PsychoSomatic Breakdown – Bone Harvest
  • Burn Like Nero – Faded Away
  • Burn Like Nero – Small Details
  • Drug of Choice – Desperation
  • Egg in Space – Back in Time
  • Egg in Space – Say Hello
  • eH FACTOR – Club 33
  • eH FACTOR – This Desperation
  • Janosch Moldau – Redeemer
  • Lank – stress relief point
  • Lank – 012(introvert)
  • onLoad – Electrofish
  • The Signifying Monkey – I should have gone drinking
  • The Signifying Monkey – A lovesong (to impress women)
  • Bernie Lucas – No down
  • Bernie Lucas – Grayscale

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