Various Artists – They Make No Say: A Polytechnic Youth Records Compilation

Various Artists - They Make No Say | 45s on 33

Various Artists – They Make No Say: A Polytechnic Youth Records Compilation

Although Polytechnic Youth has become a more expansive enterprise of late – catching-up with label founder Dominic Martin’s already adored sibling-imprints The Great Pop Supplement and Deep Distance – there’s still something indefinably special about the first few ultra-limited lathe-cut vinyl singles that initiated the venture in 2014 and 2015.  Celebrating the primitivism, playfulness and plaintiveness of minimalist electronica that felt like it had dropped out of a wormhole from somewhere between 1978 and 1983, these hideously-rare audio artefacts warranted an anthology of sorts – which the oddly-titled They Make No Say diligently delivers.

This could so easily have been a double-length collection. But ever mindful of not alienating his most devout followers, Martin instead goes for a one-disc highlights round-up with a smattering of likeminded fresh extras tucked inside for added value.  Although this will still leave late-comers to be preyed-upon by vulture-like Discogs vendors it makes artistic sense in respect of following Polytechnic Youth’s shared minimalist ethos and in terms of sustaining a cohesive listening experience.

Despite most of the tracks relying on the same basic ingredients – arcane analogue synths, bone-dry drum machines, uncluttered DIY production values and varying degrees of utopian/dystopian moods – the spread of material still has smorgasbord-like qualities.  Hence, there are gorgeous burbling micro-dreamscapes from Volume Groop (with both sides reprised from the very first 20-copy PY 7”), Mass Defect (Martin’s own retro-futuristic musical project with PY co-conspirator Alan Outram), The Home Current (AKA Martin Jensen, erstwhile Second Language co-director and DJ), TheFreqDesign (who warmly recall the underrated ISAN) and the anonymous authors of the previously unheard two-part “Polytechnic Youth Intro Theme”.  Elsewhere, things dig deeper into the darker side of vintage embryonic industrial-town electronics; with the early-Human League homage-making of XYZips and the deadpan Throbbing Gristle-meets-The Normal mordancy of Middex.

Stood slightly apart from such otherworldly and inner-space channelling sounds are two terrifically transcendent tracks apiece from the more outward-looking Groupuscule and Detox Twins.  The former mysterious Anglo-French outfit delivers two sublime slices of infectiously insurrectionist left-leaning agit-synth-prop that feel strangely ripe for soundtracking some of our current European political turmoil.  The latter Berlin-based duo latch on to scuzzed-up Teutonic techno-pop grooves with the exhilarating Ralf Hütter-meets-Martin Rev-meets-Deutschland ‘83 delights of “Einhorn Suicide” and the previously unreleased profanity-strewn “Paradox”.

Like the best boutique label compendiums, They Make No Say functions brilliantly at contextualising a series of eccentric one-offs as well as cementing a robust collectivist stance.  Already awaiting its second vinyl pressing at time of writing and with a CD version soon-to-follow on Emotional Response, this seems justifiably destined to become one of 2016’s most essential cult-building compilations.

Polytechnic Youth (vinyl) / Emotional Response (CD)