The world of electronic music is an endlessly fascinating one. The inherent experimentalism of the form made it a favorite tool of avant-garde composers for decades. But since the '70s and (especially) the ‘80s, electronic music has found great success on the charts. The new various-artists collection Electrospective is a celebration of electronic music through the eyes of EMI Music and associated labels Mute and Virgin. It is a wonderful 15-track trip through the circuitry.
Electrospective opens with the iconic "Doctor Who Theme," by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is finally being recognized for just how brilliant it was. While I know that every Doctor Who fan has this theme indelibly stamped in their DNA, it is just one example of the incredible creativity that the Workshop was known for. For those who are interested in more of this groundbreaking early electronic music, check out both The BBC Radiophonic Workshop - A Retrospective, and The Oram Tapes Volume One by Daphne Oram.
The title track of Brian Eno’s first solo album Here Come the Warm Jets is next, and provides a wonderful glimpse into what a person with such a great deal to say could do with such a “cold” instrument as a synthesizer. The myth of electronic music being a sterile and unemotional format is proven completely false with this 1974 song.
Dare was the breakout album for The Human League, with the worldwide smash “Don’t You Want Me?” Thankfully, the powers that be chose a lesser known track off that album to represent the League here though, and give us “The Thing That Dreams Are Made Of.” Dare was released in 1981, and kicked off the biggest decade for electronic music yet. Also released that year was the self-titled debut of Duran Duran, represented here by “Planet Earth.”
Picking just 15 songs to represent over 50 years of music had to have been a thankless task, and we must remember that this is a commercial project, meant to sell a few copies out there in the marketplace. The fact that any of us could probably name another 100 tunes we would have liked to have seen on here is kind of a moot point. But one song that I think everyone could agree on is “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys. It is an insanely memorable piece of music, and kicked off one of the longest careers of anyone in the field.