Electronic music has taken a turn for the stern lately, in the no-compromise techno of Factory Floor and Cold Cave, and the creeping industrial aesthetics of Perc, Vatican Shadow and Silent Servant. There has also been a wealth of compilations highlighting the best leather-and-steel sounds of the original post-punk, EBM and industrial groups, from the late ’70s to early ’80s. Some, like Angular’s Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics Vol One, focus on one scene or sound; others, like Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance, cherry-pick the classics and rarities that helped define a movement that still looms large over dancefloors today.
This is the second Metal Dance compilation of bangers and obscurities from 1979-88, compiled by the London-based DJ and founder of the legendary Output Recordings. It took a year to put together, but Jackson’s labor of love has paid off — the collection of pioneers, familiar groups and lesser-known artists impresses through sheer breadth alone.
Posterity hasn’t been kind to late-period industrial groups like Skinny Puppy and Ministry, whose machismo was at odds with a sound that was androgynous and almost defiantly polysexual. Jackson refuses to rewrite history and includes both groups here, with the snarling “Deadlines” and “Over the Shoulder” respectively. Other leaders of the pack include Front 242′s, whose “Body 2 Body” is all menace in murmur, and Chris & Cosey, whose sensual “Driving Blind” is another reminder that after the demise of Throbbing Gristle, they were among Britain’s finest synth-pop architects.
These are the choice cuts, but it’s the lesser known selections that make this compilation essential. A track from Crash Course in Science, “Jump Over Barrels,” is proto-LCD Soundsystem, while the sax-flicked “Etre Assis Au Danset,” from EBM pioneers Liasions Dangereuses, has an uptight urgency that suggests it needs to get somewhere very quickly for some complicated sex.
It’s not all dungeon electronics. “Tanki Tanki” by the Lebanese group Rene Bandaly Family provides one of the more fascinating moments here, proving that this sort of music isn’t just the preserve of dour Belgians, or Americans pretending to be dour Belgians. Smooth synth duo Godley and Cream even turn up for the pensive “Babies,” which features the ridiculous lyric: “I’m not a building but you erect me/ Let’s lock the door and fool around.” Like much of this excellent compilation, it’s priapic and slightly daft, in the best possible way.