The compilations released by Private Records are a solid deep dive into the early electronic dance music and disco of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s Europe. Many of the cuts on their latest, Computered Love, chart a different course than what the label’s best known for though, which is a sort of space disco.
As one might guess from the title, the tracks spread out over the two LPs are decidedly less interstellar than previous releases. While those space disco cuts had a certain ethereal quality to them, the songs on Computered Love have a metronomic precision to their “4 on the floor” beats. The vocals are less sung than chanted — the declamatory nature of R.E.K.’s “Computer Haben Herzschmerz” is a typical example — but it fits in with an idea that these are just as much love songs written by computers as they are love songs about computers. However, while all the tracks share a similar rhythmic structure, the means by which the artists express the computer theme differ.
Schwarzer Freitag starts out “XX 4” with positively spare electronic drums, and then layers rhythms on top of beats, on top of grooves, on top of synth lines, and it just gets more and more detailed, but never to the point of crowded. It’s probably the highlight of the first LP, simply for the way it builds a song from minimal to climax.
And, obviously, a vocoder has to make an appearance, and it does rather early on. The first cut on the second side of the first LP, Brain’s “D.I.X.O.,” has a funky groove that runs distortion and vocoder hardcore, with a passionate female vocal punctuating the track. It’s the intro to Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “Let’s Groove” taken to a New York discotheque and allowed to run free for seven minutes. Transvolta’s “Disco Computer” uses the vocoder, as well, but as an effect on a cut which sounds like R2D2 sang lead.
If you’re a fan of compilations like Italians Do It Better’s After Dark series or the BIPP collection of Italian synthwave from a few years back, this will introduce you to scads of new artists and songs, and all for a remarkably reasonable price. Tracking down the original vinyl would run you a fortune — most of Carol Rich’s discography, from which the compilation takes its title and first track, runs in the $100 range — and some I’ve not seen anywhere else.
One of the cuts which hasn’t appeared anywhere previously is the album’s highlight: “Aerafo,” by Frederic Mirage, which is the penultimate cut of the collection. While Mirage’s “Der Computer” was unreleased at one point, it did see the light of day when Private put out Mirage’s lost album, Timemachine, in 2014. That cut’s an absolute banger, and gets down and dirty with an unstoppable beat and hard-hitting electronic horn effects, but “Aerafo” — damn.
With “Aerafo,” Mirage demonstrates an approach to dance music which is unfettered by genre distinctions. It might also be the fact that because it veers nearer space disco than the rest of the compilation, I love it so, but it uses computer beats, a slight hint of industrial percussion, and a frankly masterful low-end growl, and does so in such a way that I found myself waiting impatiently for this cut every time the second LP hit the turntable.
Computered Love might be a step from the norm for Private Records, but it’s certainly the most fun compilation they’ve released thus far. It’s a certified party starter, no matter what you’re doing: keep the volume low, and it’s a delightfully weird bit of cocktail music, but crank the knob to the right, and your dancefloor is full in minutes.
It’s absolutely robust and, as stated previously, sounds just as good loud as it does quiet.
The packaging begins in an inventive manner: the LPs come inside a jacket made of an anti-static bag used to protect electronic goods like hard drives, which looks rather striking when pulled out of a record mailer. However, once the side’s been slit open and the records removed, you’re left with a plastic bag and a sticker. It’s a tad low-rent when sitting next to Private’s more clever round sleeves for their Let’s Go Into Space series, of which this is the fifth installment (although you’d be excused from knowing that, as it’s in very small print on the packaging’s obverse).
There’s a download code and a sticker featuring the delightfully-retro vector graphic computer image. It’s a little small, but would look great slapped on the back of your phone case.
“Computered Love” is sold out.