Vorderhaus – Minor Activity

Vorderhaus – Minor Activity

As one-half of The Detox Twins, Berlin’s Mark Vorderhaus has already woven his sonic DNA into Polytechnic Youth’s extended family gene-pool across two choice seven-inch singles and an exclusive track on last year’s acclaimed They Make No Say compilation.  Whilst The Detox Twins appear to have sadly separated or gone into hibernation before delivering an album-length set of their supremely addictive scuffed-up Suicide-meets-Kraftwerk minimal-wave, Vorderhaus brings us a strikingly single-minded solo album as some worthy recompense.

Whereas most of his labelmates have steered away from making unadulterated synth-pop, in favour of more conceptual wordless adventures, Vorderhaus goes in the other direction with Minor Activity. Being an album that openly revels in the affectations of late-‘70s/early-‘80s electro-pop with a deadpan-noire delivery, in less skilful hands this could have been a disastrous pastiche piece.  Yet with a genuine affection for vintage British-born synth-led sounds and shadowy songcraft, fed through a Cold War-era Germany filter, Vorderhaus pulls it off remarkably well for the most part.

With his vocal tones pitched somewhere between Berlin-trilogy years David Bowie and David Gahan’s early outings inside Depeche Mode, Vorderhaus adheres his melancholy lyrical musings – full of doomed romanticism and frighteningly-relevant-again apocalyptic allusions – to a suite of compact yet highly-crafted analogue-electronica framings.  Hence, the swooning burbling of “My Situation” and “Could I Run” marry early-Soft Cell pulsing to Computer World precision; “Black Suspicion” and “Catacombs” imagine pre-Dare Human League outtakes scrubbed-up in Hansa Studios; “Fadine Sun” and “Venus In Retrograde” imagines Visage hanging out in dimly-lit U-Bahn stations instead of New Romantics haunts like London’s Blitz Club; and the skittering hypnotic “Palm Trees” could be a lost early-Pet Shop Boys demo as remixed by Polytechnic Youth’s own Listening Center.

Although occasionally the pervading retro-lyrical-gloominess comes close to being a tad overbearing, the melodic hooks and glowering grooves that drive Minor Activity along are impressively infectious throughout.  For those who just can’t get enough discerning new generation synth-pop into their ears this is a must.

Polytechnic Youth