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 ten 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 Buried Things, a new collaborative project which has released a handful of tracks on Soundcloud thus far. He is also a member of The Harrow.
We’re excited to feature this excellent podcast from Frankie’s favorite archives, the third in a regular series (click here to listen to the first installment and here for the second). 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. “Ite Missa Est”- A Modest Proposal (Netherlands, 1986, A Modest Proposal LP, Rosebud Records)
Four piece cold post-punk from Northern Europe, complete with ominous bells and incisive guitar. The band recorded their debut as a 4-piece, losing one member for their follow up in 1991. Hint: there may just be some copies of this still available on the band’s site, though it likely hasn’t been updated in years.
2. “Sugar Pink Go Go Baby”- Trash Groove Girls (Germany, 1986, Vol. 1 Arbeit, Sport & Spiel LP, What’s So Funny About..)
One of my favorite all-female acts, hailing from Germany. Dark, bleak, repetitive, yet incredibly catchy for all of your NDW dancefloor needs.
3. “Som Vatten”- Aptit (Sweden, 1982, Han Vågar Inte 7”, Nacksving)
The B-side of this band’s only 7”… Not much can be said about this group, sadly.
4. “Wall Of Convention”- Send No Flowers (UK, 1982, Send No Flowers 7”, Praxis)
Indie-tinged post-punk from the UK, another incisive three piece. All three tracks from this 7” are fantastic and very much worth tracking down. This particular track was also featured on a cassette compilation alongside Attrition.
5. “Hast Du Angst Vor Dieser Nacht”- Angela Werner (Germany, 1981, Angela Werner LP, RCA)
Incredible mutant disco/NDW track from Angela’s debut LP, released on a major label and beloved by all synth loving outsiders since its release. Not only was Angela a prolific artist in her own right, she also contributed vocals and lyrics to the legendary Jyl LP (which may be featured on the next installment, come to think of it).
6. “Swan Song”- Sleeping Dogs Wake (Germany, 1993, Sugar Kisses CD, Hyperium Records)
Ethereal vibes from an otherwise moody and tense post-punk band, who flirted with similar sonic territory as bands like Cranes and Beautiful Pea Green Boat. While the band lived mostly on One Little Indian records (alongside tourmates The Sugarcubes) for most of their career, this track hails from their underrated fourth LP.
7. “Sea Anguish”- Ceilings Below (US, 1986, Ceilings Below LP, After Hours Records)
One of many standouts from this virtually unknown post-punk band. The quartet hailed from Ohio and only released this one record, though label After Hours Records were responsible for a string of similarly obscure post-punk gems (The Terrible Parade and Primary Colours, the latter who was featured on the second installment of this series).
8. “Famous”- W.A.T. (Netherlands, 1983, Defreeze Mini-LP, Plurex Records)
Otherwise known as World According To, this band released three records before disbanding. This track is plucked from their first LP, released on the classic Plurex Records (Minny Pops, Nasmak, A Blaze Colour, and the killer Hours compilation, not to be missed).
9. “Art Nègre”- Cha Cha Guitri (France, 1981?, French Synth Wave – St Etienne – 1981 compilation, Born Bad Records)
Art-damaged minimal electro, absolutely killer and a staple of my more synth-centric DJ sets. Legend has it that this band only performed twice and released two tracks on compilations before disappearing. Fortunately, Born Bad Records has collected these tracks as well as a slew of unreleased material for a reissue in 2014.
10. “Clouds Sail By”- Electric Circus (UK, 1988, Hello LP, Venture)
Fans of Kate Bush should love this otherwise lush, moody synth-driven track from this band’s lone LP. Vocalist Shauna would release a handful of solo tracks before disappearing into the ether that this track was birthed from.
11. “Sweet Warm Rain”- Still (Japan, 1985, Pale Face, Strawberry Records)
Five piece Japanese new wave band with some dark flourishes, this track kicks off their gorgeous debut LP, well-worth seeking out! Rumor has it that most LP copies of this album were severely water damaged, though fortunately there was a CD issue in 1992 featuring extra tracks.
12. “Pour Ne Pas Me Toucher”- Vienna (France, 1988, Pour Ne Pas Me Toucher 7”, Mute Sonet France)
New Order-inspired French synthpop smash from their second single. Both of these 7”s are infectious little gems that sadly never became the club smashes they deserve to be. Most notably, all three members of Vienna also contributed vocals to Martin Dupont’s classic Hot Paradox album. You can hear their vocal contributions on “He Saw the Light.“
13. “Faraway”- The Pollen (France, 1988, Contrasts LP Danceteria)
Perhaps the best (only?) hybrid of C86 style indie-pop and the French touching pop/coldwave sound, The Pollen are one of my absolute favorite obscure bands, and it’s a shame that they’re still so under-appreciated. Their debut LP was produced by Adrian Borland of The Sound.
14. “赤色人形館”- Satoe Nanaki (Japan, 1986, Das Rote Buppenhaus = 赤色人形館, Captain Records)
A very recent obsession, this is a solo recording from the drummer of Japanese band Nurse, a successful all-girl hardcore/punk band. Curiously enough, the rest of this LP sounds nothing like this track- a truly obscure post-punk nugget lost amidst a J-pop record.
15. “The Realm of Existence”- Pretty Poison (US, 1983, Expiration 7”, Svengali Records)
I’d wager that everyone is familiar with Pretty Poison by way of their huge freestyle hits “Catch Me I’m Falling” and “Nighttime,” but very few freestyle fans traced this Philadelphia band’s origins back to a series of darker goth and post-punk inspired releases. Definitely a very different and equally incredible string of recordings, including a rather rare and blistering cover of Tuxedomoon’s “No Tears.” This track, a b-side, sits much more comfortably beside other Philadelphia post-punk bands such as Bunnydrums and Executive Slacks.
16. “Dream Dance”- Anabas (UK, 1983, Barricades 7”, Flame On Records)
Another incredible b-side from this UK post-punk/goth band. This Leeds band would release one other single under the name Annabas, though no one knows why they added the extra “N.”
17. “Nieskazitelna Twarz”- Made In Poland (Poland, 1986, “Nieskazitelna Twarz” 7”, Tonpress)
Incisive cold post-punk, very much in the vein of of labelmates Siekiera. Definitely recommended for fans of Xmal Deutschland, Stimmen Der Stille, and the like. The band reunited a few years ago and have released a handful of records since.
18. “Let Everyone Down”- An April March (Canada, 1996, Adagio EP, Bedazzled)
An April March have been one of my favorite bands since I was a wee one, and this track never fails to floor me. For those unfamiliar, this Canadian band formed in 1989 and recorded a string of incredible goth-tinged dreampop/shoegaze releases over the course of a decade. Bedazzled also released material by The Curtain Society and Monica Richard’s earlier project Strange Boutique.
19. “Siamese Sister”- Jo Lemaire and Flouze (Belgium, 1981, Pigmy World LP, Vertigo)
Belgian project featuring Jo Lemaire and her husband Philippe Depireux, mostly known for their cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s classic “Je Suis Venue Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais.” While this song was a smash throughout the European underground, the rest of the LP remains a bit underrated, with a sound a bit more akin to bands like The Passions. The success of “Je Suis Venue Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais” helped to launch Lemaire’s prominent solo career.
20. “Radio Silence”- The Primary (UK, 1983, Radio Silence 7”, Goldfish Records)
One-off single by this UK band, who were pals with Tears For Fears and recorded this single in their studio. A few similar flourishes from The Hurting trickle in here, as is expected. The band’s roots date back to Gestalt (not to be confused with the French coldwave band of the same name). Goldfish records morphed into Peeved Records, who released material by President Reagan Is Clever and Perfect Vision.
21. “Lär I Tid”- Kizza Ping (Sweden, 1981, Männen 7”, Dåvhjort Records)
Dark post-punk/new wave hybrid, this is the B-side from their lone 7” release.
22. “Nobody Knows”- Hi-I (Netherlands, 1986, Mind Your Head 12”, Square Music)
This band features two vocalists and a series of dark melodies with prominently driving bass. Definite tribal influences, though catchier than many bands who explore similar sonic territory.
23. “The Wall”- Bikini Atoll (UK, 1981, The Wall 7”, Ready! Go! Records)
Quirky post-punk, one of three releases from this band, who take their name from a nuclear testing site in the Marshall Islands.
24. “Survie”- Thérèse Racket (France, 1986, Survie LP, Scalen’Disc)
The title track from this incredibly underrated coldwave LP, a gem among gems. I pretty much never leave home without this LP in my bag.
25. “幻夜”- Manekineko Kagekidan (Japan, 1989, 第一歌曲集 10”, Telegraph Records)
Another Japanese anomaly, the rest of this 10” is more folky and quirky, complete with toy instruments and woodwind instruments. The same general template is applied here to more devastating results. Otherwise, this project was a side project of Zelda, a girl-group who released a handful of excellent new wave records and similarly flirted with several different styles over the course of their career.
26. “L.C.B.A.P. (Love Can Be A Pain)”- Ti-Tho (Germany, 1985, L.C.B.A.P. (Love Can Be A Pain) 12”, Polydor)
Synthpop smash and a recent DJ favorite of mine, this is the most commercial of this Hamburg-based duo’s releases. Huge beats, hooks, and let’s not forget the orchestra hits…
27. “Special”- Plus Instruments (Netherlands, 1981, Nasmak + Instruments Split 12”, Zickzack)
Taking cues from bands such as This Heat and Camberwell Now, Plus Instruments were a rather prolific band, releasing dozens of tracks across LPs and split singles. Essentially conceived as a solo project and eventually main outlet for Truss de Groot (also involved in Nasmak), the band features rather prominent contributions from Lee Renaldo (Sonic Youth) and more recently Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & the Badseeds, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, etc.). I’ve always loved how this track sounds like it’s about to fall off the rails at any moment, yet keeps pushing forward with precision.
28. “Wake Up”- Unit (Italy, 1985, VM Tre, Produzioni VM)
The VM series is all but legendary, featuring a handful of Italy’s most underground post-punk and synth bands. Released primarily on cassettes attached to fanzines until the final LP installment, each edition is absolutely crucial to the Italian underground story. Unfortunately, after enjoying their time in the fanzine spotlight, Unit were never heard from again…
29. “Mr. X”- Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls (UK, 1980, Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls LP, Illusive)
This track never fails to give me chills. Where to begin? Pauline Murray was originally the singer for Penetration, a semial ’77 punk band. Once the band split, Murray embarked on a crucial, yet underrated solo career, choosing her collaborators for each release. Her most famous (and rewarding) collaborative project was the Invisible Girls, a Manchester supergroup featuring Martin Hannett (producer, Factory Records), John Maher (Buzzcocks), and David Rowbotham + Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column.
30. “Tunnel Vision”- Ana Hausen (UK, 1981, Professionals 7”, Human Records)
I just did a spit-take when reading the credentials of this record. Apparently, this was one of CBS late-night talk show host Craig Fergusen’s early bands, one of several he drummed on before changing careers. As for this single, this is the flip, a gloomy, icy affair that begins with May Matisse’s distant, floating vocals, building to a powerfully driving Seventeen Seconds-esque track.
31. “I Feel the Cold”- Unknown Artist (Australia, 1984, A Girl’s Own Story film, Unreleased)
This track has haunted me for years. I recall watching a documentary about Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady in high school with my best friend, before skipping through the rest of the disc to see what else was on it. What we found was Campion’s early short film, the harrowing A Girl’s Own Story, staring Paul Chubb, Katharine Cullen, and a series of unknown Australian actors. Nicole Kidman, age 14 at the time (and star of the original film in discussion), was originally cast in the lead role, but turned it down due to reluctance to kiss a girl and wear a shower cap. Anyway, the whole film is an unsettling tale of teenage misadventure and pregnancy culminating in this ice-cold track that captures the same doom and gloom of the Shangri-las, utilizing drum machines and synths. I ripped this straight from the DVD, and can’t really credit it to any artist or band, since this appears to be a studio creation by Alex Proyas, vocalist Kath Westlake, and Campion herself.
Thanks as always for listening!