Frank Deserto, aka Frankie Teardrop, has been a champion of obscure music, focusing heavily on the 80s post-punk, minimal synth, and coldwave scenes. He has been running music blog Systems of Romance for nearly nine years, ripping and sharing obscurities from his collection and exposing a new generation of music fans to long, forgotten classics. Also a DJ in the NYC scene, his passion for the obscure knows no boundaries. He also is active in The Harrow, who released their debut LP on aufnahme+wiedergabe in November 2015.
We’re excited to feature this excellent podcast from Frankie’s favorite archives, the second in a regular series (click here to listen to the first installment). As before, this podcast focuses entirely on female-fronted projects, running the gamut from experimental industrial dirges to minimal post-punk, jumping between countries and continents with only the feminine mystique to string these songs together. Without any further ado, click above to listen, with tracklisting and descriptions to follow below.
1. “Don’t You Go”- Pinkie Maclure & David Harrow (UK, 1985, Bite the Hand That Feeds You 12”, Ink Records)
One-off collaboration between Scottish experimental musician Pinkie Maclure (known for both her 4-octave range as well as her synth and programming work on a series of field-recording and avant jazz releases) and David Harrow, a frequent collaborator of Anne Clark.
2. “Mary Chinese”- Baroque Bordello (France, 1985, Via LP, Garage Records/Contorsion)
Classic French coldwave with chirpy, playful energy. Though he was absent from these sessions, The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst produced this band’s first 12” from 1984. Contorsion’s roster is otherwise incredibly strong, featuring releases by Opéra De Nuit, Movement, and the similarly Tolhurst-produced Bonaparte’s.
3. “Morgenstern”- Stimmen Der Stille (Germany, 1988, Morgenstern LP, Sneaky Pete Records)
I generally loathe when people compare female-fronted bands to Siouxsie & the Banshees but this German band (whose name translates to “Voices of Silence”) edges close, especially with a killer tom breakdown reminiscent of “Spellbound.” This track is the highlight of their lone LP, a perfect slice of obscure post-punk well worth re-discovering.
4. “The Triangle Man”- Sally Patience (UK, 1984, The Triangle Man 7”, Disc International Records)
Truly the epitome of “death disco”- taking otherwise cliche disco strings and adding an almost Penderecki-esque sense of dread for a unique twist on an old standard. This track is the a-side of an obscure 7” that flirts with dystopian science fiction across two very different, but excellent tracks.
5. “Delirium Tremens”- Leda Atomica (France, 1982, Docteur Jekyll Et Mister Hyde 7”, RCA)
The flip-side of an otherwise forgettable campy horror-themed new wave track, this gem explores the darker and more bombastic side of the spectrum.
6. “Pretty Day”- Marie Möör (France, 1982, Pretty Day 7”, AAAA)
A French wave classic, featuring a classic Casio VL-Tone beat and detached spoken word vocals. Marie has since enjoyed a long career in French pop music. She’s been especially active in the 2000s, with several LPs under her belt.
7. “Down My Spine”- Lelu/Lu’s (UK, 1987, VA- Insane Music For Insane People Vol. 13, Insane Music)
Equal parts experimental and sensually catchy, this electronic outfit was a darling of the Insane People series, which primarily featured industrial and experimental acts across several cassette compilations. This track hails from the label’s lone vinyl release. Lelu/Lu’s would release a handful of singles and one cassette, but resurfaced in 2014 with a compilation of demos and outtakes.
8. “Odlazak”- Paraf (Yugoslavia, 1984, Zastave LP, Helidone Records)
A legendary staple in the Yugoslavian punk scene, this band’s first record featured a male vocalist and an otherwise streamlined sound. Immediately after their debut, Pavica Mijatović took over on vocal duties and the band incorporated a more new wave/goth-tinged style to amazing results.
9. “Lonely Girl”- Sys of Choi (Germany, 1986, Get Wet LP, Ja! Music)
German punk band who issued one LP and two singles, including a raw version of the Moody Blues’ “Nights In White Satin.” This same track appeared as a single as well under the title “(He Was A) Lonely Girl.”
10. “Cat’s Cradle”- Laughing Mothers (UK, 1985, Tunnel/Cat’s Cradle 7”, Motherkare Records)
The flip of an otherwise strong DIY post-punk/deathrock single, featuring razor sharp guitars and driving melodies. Laughing Mothers would release one additional song on The Timebox compilation in 1987.
11. “When We Two Parted”- Unlimited Systems (Germany, 1985, Half Broken Hearted LP, Schnick-Schnack-Tonträger)
Four-piece darkwave band complete with saxophones and tape loops in the mix. This track is a rare moment of dream-like haze on an otherwise intensely cacophonous and extremely underrated record.
12. “Today The Disco”- Geneviève Pasquier (Germany, 2003, Virgin Thoughts LP, UMB/Adore)
Powerful and hard-hitting minimal electronic track by this German chanteuse, also a member of The Musick Wreckers, Jägerblut, UMB-Kollektive, and Thorofon. This track hails from her first of three LPs.
13. “Princess Poison”- The Vanishing (USA, 2003, Songs For Psychotic Children LP, Gold Standard Laboratories)
Another “latter-day” favorite, The Vanishing operated in a time when dark-flavored indie rock took the world by storm (more on this soon!), additionally kicking off a fruitful deathrock revival. This track is a re-recorded version, the original which appears on the band’s debut 10” EP. Vocalist Jessie Evans also makes up 1/2 of the duo Autonervous, alongside Malaria’s Bettina Köster.
14. “Marked Man”- The Limp (Australia, 1981, Marked Man 7”, Primate Records)
This otherwise obscure band shared ties with Pel Mel and Scattered Order, two additional bands in the underground Aussie scene. Pel Mel and The Limp performed together in 2012, though no additional material has yet to surface.
15. “We Are the Sub-Machines”- Toccata (UK, 1987, We Are the Sub-Machines 7”, Self-Released)
Equal parts Eurythmics, torch ballad, and militaristic neo-folk, very little is known about this project, the pairing of Pete Ward and Jan Sinclair.
16. “Make Up”- Walk the Walk (Denmark, 1986, Walk the Walk LP, Generation Record)
This Danish punk band’s roots date back to the early ’80s, when they were known as Johnny Og De Kolde Dæmone (Johnny and the Demons). Nico’s manager discovered the band and passed their demo to Martin Hannett of Factory Records fame, who produced the newly dubbed band’s debut LP.
17. “Grow”- Inrain (UK, 1991, Grow 7”, Rough Trade)
A curious collaboration of two dreampop titans, this track features Rudy Tambala of A.R. Kane and the incredible Alison Shaw of Cranes on vocals.
18. “Waiting For Tomorrow”- Shadowboys (UK, 1983, Waiting For Tomorrow 7”, Pete-Nik Records)
Fantastic DIY synth-heavy post-punk from London. This is the band’s lone release, though you can track each member’s previous and future projects via late guitarist Steve Maidens’ tribute page.
19. “Lamina Christus”- Isolation Ward (France, 1982, Lamina Christus 7”, Radical Records/Crépuscule Section Française
Classic coldwave from Belgium (though this single was released in France). Arguably their best known track, this song was also featured on the B9 Bis complilation, which showcased several prominent Belgian new wave and post-punk artists.
20. “Watching You Dance”- The Passage (UK, 1981, Devils and Angels 7”, Night & Day)
A more forcefully percussive re-recording of this bleak new wave classic, originally featured on their debut LP Pindrop. The original version was sung by founding member Dick Witts, while this version appears as the B-side of a 1981 7” and features Lizzy Johnson on vocals, her only recorded appearance with the band.
21. “Singing to French”- Indians in Moscow (UK, 1984, Indians In Moscow LP, Kennick Records)
A superb album cut from this cult new wave/synthpop act from Hull. The band achieved cult success in the UK with their singles “Naughty Miranda” and “Big Wheel” before splitting acrimoniously. Vocalist Adele Nozedar would briefly resurface in 1985 with The Fever Tree, featuring members of Japan and Stiff Little Fingers. Founding members Pete Riches and Stuart Walton reformed Indians In Moscow in 1998, featuring a male vocalist and a more techno-inspired sound.
22. “There Is No One”- Primary Colours (USA, 1985, Paint Love Blue 12”, After Hours Records)
This two-piece synthpop project released just one single, the infectious “Paint Love Blue.” This track offers a much moodier counterpoint to an otherwise club-centric single.
23. “Boring Sunday”- San Vito Dance (Italy, 1983, VA- St. Anthony’s Fire LP, Grillo Rekords)
Plucked from an extremely rare (and stellar) compilation of Italian post-punk and indie bands, this is the band’s only known release, fading further into obscurity. What’s left is a track featuring the perfect blend of gloomy string synths, rickety bass, and moody female vocals, not to mention an incredible sax solo!
24. “Words Never Said”- 17 Pygmies (USA, 1984, Jedda By the Sea LP, Resistance Records)
17 Pygmies existed as a vehicle for Philip Drucker (aka Jackson Del Rey) of Savage Republic, who have gone through several stylistic shifts and lineup changes over the years. The LA band proved to be incredibly prolific and influential, and their best-known track “Chameleon” was listed as one of the 100 greatest unknown techno songs, despite sharing more sonic similarity with Savage Republic and other Independent Project Records artists. Debbie Spinelli, who provides vocals on several 17 Pygmies records, was also active in Food and Shelter.
25. “Still, Forever”- Cry Of The Innocent (UK, 1982, The Haunting/Still, Forever 7”, Pagan Records)
The flip of this UK band’s debut single, sharing sonic territory with Situation Two artists from the era. It’s been noted that the band turned down an offer to release on Beggar’s Banquet, deciding to self-release this single on their own imprint instead. The band (minus vocalist Lee Jones) would release a second, more U2-esque single on a French label.
26. “She Likes Me”- Vita Noctis (Belgium, 1986, VA- Climax Production Presents, Climax Productions)
Stellar Belgian minimal synth, haunting DIY tape vibes from an otherwise prolific band. While the majority of their recordings feature early electronic instruments and childlike melodies to add an experimentally artistic and unsettling edge, this track was featured on a more club-centric release from Climax Productions, known primarily for early, edgier EBM and New Beat recordings. An all-inclusive Vita Noctis compilation was released in 2013 by Dark Entries records, and is well worth picking up.
27. “Party Mood” – Out On Blue Six (UK, 1981, Party Mood 7”, Hungry Rooms)
Fast-paced post-punk with an anarcho edge and sonic similarities to both Wire and Kleenex. Like many from the era, this band, who were favorites of John Peel, released one single and a handful of compilation tracks before fading into pseudo-obscurity.
28. “Som En Tiger” – Zon 6 (Sweden, 1983, Som En Tiger 7”, MNW)
A chaotic, yet incredibly infectious track featuring avant-garde sax, churning synths and arpeggiators that almost flirt with prog-rock excess, and driving NDW-inspired percussion. This band rose from the ashes of the equally obscure Elegi.
29. “Paper House”- Beautiful Pea Green Boat (UK, 1987, Obsessions LP, Mr. Slaughterback’s Records/Third Mind Records)
Third Mind duo, featuring powerful percussion and haunting ethereal vocals. The band would often re-record their material, aiming to create a more dancefloor-friendly sound out of their nervous, grinding durmstrang, but this particular track is a rare barn-burner, opening their debut record and closing this mix with a heavy dose of doom and gloom.