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No Songs Tomorrow Alan Rider contemplates the place of the compilation album in a life

No Songs Tomorrow

Alan Rider contemplates the place of the compilation album in a life

by Alan Rider, Contributing Editor
first published: May, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

What follows takes you on a guided tour through the backstreets of Darkwave (always a broad term, encompassing Electronics, Dark Ambient, Neo-Classical, Gothic Soundscapes, and Cold Wave) and into some unexpected places...

No SongsVARIOUS ARTISTS
No Songs Tomorrow
(Cherry Red)
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There is a part of me that wonders whether there is a place for compilation albums these days? In the same way that in the ‘80s home taping rendered vinyl collections and ‘Best Of’s redundant, the Spotify/Youtube/Amazon etc playlist has placed the choice of what combinations of bands and tracks to listen to firmly back in the hands of the listener (or at least AI’s assessment of what might appeal to you). What you get in a collection like this is a curated collection of themed tracks that someone more expert in this stuff than yourself thinks is relevant and you should check out. 

Cherry Red do a lot of these 4 CD box sets based on loose themes (Industrial Dancefloor, Electronic, Goth, etc), aimed at those with CD players and decent hi-fi set ups rather than the casual downloader/smartphone listener.  They are a typically mixed bag, with this Darkwave themed collection opening with predictable clickbait in the form of a Cure track, before moving rapidly into less commercially charted waters. So, we get: In The Nursery, Black Tape For a Blue Girl, Attrition, Eleven Pond, Psyche, Royal Family and The Poor, Bushido, Beautiful Pea Green Boat, UV Pop, and many others on the underground side of the fence rubbing shoulders with their better known cousins: The Cure, Soft Cell, Cocteau Twins, Tones on Tail, Dead Can Dance, and X-Mal Deutschland. The sleeve notes accompanying each track, and the essay by Frank Deserto in the booklet are excellent and display a deep understanding of the genre which is reflected in the choice of bands and tracks, which mine labels like Third Mind, Projekt and Lively Art as well as the more familiar 4AD, Some Bizarre, and Rough Trade. This lifts the collection well above the average and predictable, and introduced/re-introduced me to a few acts I had either forgotten, or was aware of in name only. It works very well as a mix, and having a human hand at the tiller, rather than an algorithm, means that tracks which an artificial mind would not have sat alongside each other are married up for exactly the right reasons. It's an international mix too, moving well away from the usual US/UK template for these things, which gives it a variety and breadth other compilations often lack.

Four CDs is a bit too much to actively listen through in one go really, so this is definitely one that I’d put on as background when I’m reading, writing, or just pottering about (as you do), absorbing it’s sounds by osmosis.  I am not going to pick out any highlights, as that would go against the very ethos of this release, which is to sample everything. The majority of the acts here are not on Cherry Red or Anagram, so it is not a label sampler either. The point is that you get to taste a number of different Darkwave flavours and maybe, if you really like something, you can explore that avenue further elsewhere. There is lots to choose from too. If anything, the opening Cure track ‘The Funeral Party’ is probably the weakest of the lot, and every Cure fan in the world will already have this, but it sets the tone well. What follows takes you on a guided tour through the backstreets of Darkwave (always a broad term, encompassing Electronics, Dark Ambient, Neo-Classical, Gothic Soundscapes, and Cold Wave) and into some unexpected places, but always heading in the right direction, all the way up to the closing track ‘Clouds’ by Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook.

I set aside my earlier doubts about whether the compilation still has a place in the world.  This collection proves beyond a doubt that it has.


Essential Information
'No Songs Tomorrow’ is released on 31 May on Cherry Red.  Pre-order here→

Alan Rider
Contributing Editor

Alan Rider is a Norfolk based writer and electronic musician from Coventry, who splits his time between excavating his own musical past and feeding his growing band of hedgehogs, usually ending up combining the two. Alan also performs in Dark Electronic act Senestra and manages the indie label Adventures in Reality.


about Alan Rider »»

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