07 10

The Nightcrawlers The Biophonic Boombox Recordings Anthology

It’s strangely reassuring to learn that in a Philadelphian micro-scene nearly 40 years ago, experimental synth ensemble The Nightcrawlers were cooking up soft, subtle, menacing kosmiche thousands of miles away from their sonic contemporaries in Germany. Archivist label Anthology Recordings worked with an expert (D. Strauss) on this period of dreamy, futuristic and vastly influential electronic music, to excavate a series of more than 40 cassette recordings released over a decade-long career of hypnotic, avant-garde, musical star-gazing. With a backstory like that, the collection has a lot to live up to. Happily it does, via seven ethereal tracks that capture the sound of cinematic electronica circa 1979.

You don’t have to look far to see the swirling influences of Tangerine Dream liberally sprinkled through the contemporary electronic landscape. So while The Nightcrawlers’ material sounds resolutely retro, it echoes much closer to home. The collection doesn’t really rev-up to anything resembling a metronomic rhythm, but it wallows in the same murky waters as Pye Corner Audio’s magnificent synth-driven, ambient techno. Elsewhere, you can hear the playful, melodic repetition that sits at the heart of the space-disco served up by artists like Prins Thomas. At a point in time where ambient revivalism is rife, it’s intriguing to check in on a set of recordings like this: the tracks merge fluidly into one another, stopping points defined more by the improvised basis of the material than any obvious need to distinguish the compositions. In fact, clocking in at 24 minutes, the sprawling Zeitgeber doesn’t appear to need stopping points at all. ‘Timeless’ is an over-used term, but in this case applies: the aesthetics crafted during this period of music have literally stood the test of time. And when committed (you could even say obsessive) people take the time to dig out a long-lost time capsule containing music as compelling as this, we should be very happy to see a light shone into a dusty corner of an era of electronic music that continues to shape adventurous artists nearly half a century late.