Sonic Reducer: Micro Reviews Of Splinter, School Daze And Age

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New wave/electro pioneer Gary Numan is a few years into his AARP eligibility, but his forward-thinking sense of composition remains intact. And those vocals … No one else sounds like him. On his latest full-length, Splinter, Numan melds confessional poetry—referencing depression and mid-life struggle—with rumbling riffs, industrial dissonance and propulsive dance floor-ready rhythms. From growling album opener “I Am Dust” to Eastern-influenced eponymous midpoint “Splinter” to slow-burning outro “My Last Day,” these 12 tracks don’t eclipse Numan’s early-to-mid-career work, but this work will undoubtedly win the electro-god new acolytes. Eventually Numan will have to retire to the Elysian Fields, but even then, I’ll strain to hear his effulgent hiss upon the wind.

Patrick Cowley School Daze (Dark Entries)

Electro innovator Patrick Cowley’s strobe light burned all too briefly. After studying music—with a synth focus—Cowley’s style came to define the late ’70s, early ’80s San Francisco sound. Best known for his disco and Hi-NRG dance music and collaboration with flamboyant, androgynous queen Sylvester, this posthumous double LP is comprised of college-era Cowley. Previously unreleased—save on the early ’80s soundtracks of gay hardcore erotica producer John Coletti’s films—School Daze was unearthed from a vault and showcases a softer, but equally revolutionary, side of his compositional style. Cowley died of AIDS—then known only as GRID—in 1982. Dark Entries releases School Daze on Cowley-mas, Oct. 19, and all proceeds from its sale benefit AIDS research.

Monuments Age (Mannequin Records)

If—like yours truly—you’re a minimal synth fiend, familiarizing yourself with Mannequin Records comes highly recommended. One of the label’s freshest releases actually hails from early ’80s Italy. Composed of Andrea Costa (keyboards, vox) and Mauro Tavella (keyboards, programming), minimal synth duo Monuments only made one official mini-LP, Age. Originally released by Discordie in 1985, Mannequin’s reissue features two bonus tracks, “The Seals” and “Veiled Lady,” and it’s available on limited-edition vinyl or as a digital download. Standout tracks include opener “Oblivious,” clockwork cold wave number “S.A.L.T.” and peppy, post-punk-inflected synthpop banger “Herz Von Samt.” Even if you never purchase another minimal wave record, this blast from the past will add interest and brilliance to your electro collection.

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