“Abstracte”: Various Artists Compilation

(Barcelona Avantgarde & Industrial 1981-1986)
Somebody got to do it!

Domèstica did it. The Barcelona-based label quotes: “It’s been four years of hard work, with lots of surprises, drawbacks, hours of research and people involved. We can say now that this record is one of the most complex and ambitious projects we have released so far.”

Yes, it is an encapsulated piece of time. “Barcelona Avantgarde & Industrial 1981-1986” is a sound document that recalls for almost forgotten musical efforts in the cultural history of the city. The research offers hints of what the West Capital of Mediterranean did for jumping into musical movements that flourished in Europe and the USA in the previous years. It bounds to visit an apprehensive place and fulfill the interregnum between what was the late 70’s, a hard time for creativeness, and the promising future lead by so-called “La Movida” in the early 80s, six hundred kilometers away, in the Capital of Spain, Madrid.

For Barcelona was the period that lost its hegemony in the musical forefront. Those years were going from what was the epitome of local progressive rock wave (Rock Laietà), concentrated at Zeleste, the historic venue at Argenteria St. (then called Plateria, located in Barri Gòtic), to an almost deserted punk-rock scene. That’s how history explained it. But it’s not the truth, not all the truth. Or better to say there’s a layered one that is about to reveal in this Domèstica release (at least, in part of). By the way, it pays recognition to a few ones connected abroad.

There were people in Barcelona at that time aware of innovative sounds tagged as industrial, synth-pop, experimental, new wave, avant-garde, and minimal. Some came back to the city with a copy of Suicide’s debut album in the suitcase. After playing it in a party, friends went to buy it at Gay & Co next day, where they left from with more records that nobody knew in the bag. Like these were artists impressed about what was going on elsewhere but here, listening cassette tapes, long wave German radio stations and saving for a trip to London. Any of them could be in the credits of this album, belonging as an abstract impersonation to it. All were stubborn kind of fellows, facing the hostile. Some almost made it out, most of them didn’t.

“Abstracte” includes from Pascal Comelade‘s charming, intoxicating miniatures on minimal synth lines to Victor Nubla’s experimentalism, all through a cross-section of an underground scene. Metakrilato® and Ultratruita are forgotten names being suddenly brought back to memory. New Buildings wear the flag of cold-wave representatives. Anton Ignorant, Scherzo, Autoplex, and Terminal took their names as synth-pop warriors. An electro-funk by Klamm, released 35 years ago, shares a track list of mostly unreleased material to discover.

It all takes back to late 70’s early 80’s, to what was so-called Spanish Transition, the political reforms that formally finished with forty years of Franco’s dictatorship to become a democratic country. “Abstract (translation of the original word in Catalan)” is an appropriate noun to title this compilation, even more from nowaday’s perspective. Back then (still now?), everything was gestures, isolated light traces of freedom struggling to remain vivid out of a darkly textured framework of conveniences.

More than a regular compilation or retrospective, it belongs to the idea of fulfilling a lapse of memory, in which music was a glimpse of a disperse but a groundbreaking movement. It grew misplaced, at the right moment but under unfavorable circumstances. Sure it got fueled by the aspirations of freedom, but it was moving on impulsive steps, with a total lack of cohesiveness. There was not enough response from a long time accommodative society, having lost curiosity and the power of being critical many years ago. Young generation was merely waking up to conscience, but some pioneers were showing it up on the warm streets of indolence. The new was found rambling down to record stores and warehouses. A counter-culture was growing up away from mainstream circuits, cartooned by firms of now local icons, soundtracked in rock’n’roll, aired in fan waves, and danced both in rumba and salsa. A few plugged it on other devices.

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