Boomkat Product Review:
‘Trax Test’ is the first ever survey of Italy’s pioneering, visionary and influential label and mail art collective Trax, which ran from 1981 - 1987 as a network for the creation of collaborative projects. The collective included a pre-NWW Colin Potter and some of the earliest work from Masami Akita aka Merzbow, but also had deep connections with the art world; a few trax members went on to become famous designers and artists - Ettore Sottsass of hugely influential Memphis Group even guests on vocals on the last track of the compilation. The whole selection here is rare as heck and sorely in-demand by collectors, much of it now making its vinyl premiere some 30 odd years after the fact.
With credit due to compilers Vittore Baroni of Trax and Ecstatic’s avowed wave fiend, Alessio Natalizia (Not Waving) - who was also behind the ‘Mutazione (Italian Electronic & New Wave Underground 1980-1988)’ compilation - ‘Trax Test’ is a portal to the international scene which laid the grassroots for a proliferation of electronic music over the proceeding decades - a pioneering part of the infrastructure for independent music distribution which could be said to pre-echo the myriad social networks and platforms which exist for sharing music today.
As Frans De Waard astutely points out in the 16-page booklet, there were no ‘templates’ for this thing back then - as opposed to the forms of Soundcloud, Spotify or YouTube nowadays - meaning artists did everything DIY: from cutting, pasting and xeroxing their artwork to experimenting with recording techniques and disseminating their work; all resulting a wonderfully daring and freeform mosaic of ideas which valued the virtues of ostensibly ‘unfinished’ or open-ended work, compared with more expensive, ‘proper’ studio output.
Traces of disco, cosmic krautrock, jazz, electro-pop and industrial noise are all tessellated across the compilation’s 25 tracks, with a number of artists and the same equipment - cheap drum machines, synths, FX and tape - cropping up in various, mutant formations. In terms of obscurity, quality and variation, this set is right up there with the best compilations from Vinyl-on-Demand (an early supporter of this project), Light Sounds Dark (although Ecstatic guys did it legit, lol), or Minimal Wave, and likewise probably saves you the few months wages it would take to track down all the originals.
Fxcking bravo, we say!