The Valerie Collective may not unleash as many releases as it did 10 years ago, but occasionally it’s still at it and the result is always profoundly rewarding. The latest release comes from the French label’s Maethelvin with the excellent EP, Lost Tapes from Hardware Memories.
Although the name suggests cuts that have been sitting around, it’s actually a new body of work — a five-track, modern electronic EP strewn with references to 1990s house and techno, with splashes of the ’80s retro for which Valerie became known beginning in the mid- to late-2000s. In many ways it continues the warmly propulsive sound and spirit of “Dance Through The Night,” the Paris-based musician’s exclusive contribution to Vehlinggo’s 5 Years compilation.
On the EP’s five tracks, the Nantes, France-native used three key synths, according to his Bandcamp page: Elektron’s Octatrack MKII, Emu’s MP7, and Arturia’s Minibrute. And because there are only five tracks, I’m going to go ahead and do something I haven’t done in a long time: review every single one of them.
The EP kicks off with “EgoLand,” an entrancing number that washes over you with an oceanic wave of mesmerization. A steady drum-machine strut guides along laid back and intricately woven synths, kicking off a mood that matches the sun-soaked coastal vibes embodied in the EP’s cover art. The melodies are alluring and the snare hits you with a peaceful intensity. This might be the most classically Maethelvin cut on the release.
“Perm-Psycho,” my favorite cut on Lost Tapes, has a raw, energetic magnetism right at home in a colorfully ramshackle DIY warehouse party. On the track Maethelvin recalls classic tech-house — the good stuff, not the soulless trash that often pervades — but bathes it in a hypnotic mid-tempo pace fueled by a kinetic humidity. This is an easy cut to play several times in a row. I’d love to hear some remixes that interpret the track’s various, delectable qualities.
“Spatial Paradox” is a bit like a spectral, clean-sheened interpretation of a Helena Hauff cut that nevertheless rattles your rib cage with a steady rhythmic blast of gritty kick and scuzzy snare drums and a warm and sticky bass line. The synth lead’s ghostly arpeggiation swirls around the listener’s headspace with entrancing accompaniments stepping into the spotlight to glue it all together.
Next up is “Beaches of Rimini,” a seaside slow-burner with a delightfully gated snare and a tide of confident but trepidatious synths that ebb and flow along a wave of serene energy. One can feel the embers of a bright-orange sunrise sizzling one’s skin ever so slightly.
For the closer, “Artct,” Maethelvin brings along collaborator Paul Valenti Jr. for a filter-tight and enigmatically cinematic number that proceeds slowly but not without building on layers of melodies and harmonies that intently lay on thick a sense of foreboding that ultimately gives way to an embrace of the unknown.
Ultimately, Lost Tapes From Hardware Memories is an intriguing development for an artist whose musical career dates back to the initial blasts of synthwave pioneers in the Aughts. He’s managed to craft a body of work that embraces something new and captivating for his catalogue without losing the key elements of what makes a cut unequivocally Maethelvin: a deft sense of heart blended with killer nostalgia-minded — but not nostalgia-saturated — synthesis.
You can buy the digital album via Maethelvin’s Bandcamp page. It’s also on streaming platforms.