2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
The 2018 compilation La Contra Ola: Spanish Synth Wave & Post Punk 1980-1986 offers a glimpse into a relatively recent era of music history that, nonetheless, felt lost to time. With punk rock already embraced as a popular (and lucrative) sound in post-Franco Spain, many rebellious artists turned instead to electronic instruments and dance music. If that collection offered a first step into the Iberian Peninsula’s hidden underground, the new La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990 dives deep into the era’s psychedelic and experimental corners, bringing obscure pioneers and hidden gems up to the surface.
La Ola Interior’s definition of “ambient” music feels refreshingly out of step with its era, designed more to provoke the imagination than to passively fill an environment. Tracks like Finis Africae’s “Hybla” and Suso Saiz’s “Horizonte paseo” fuse electronic and folk music with remarkable fluidity, while Orfeón Gagarin’s “Última instancia” and a trio of stunners by duo Camino al desván conjure alien realms in the spirit of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Other artists feel like worlds unto themselves, such as computer music composer Jabir, who creates jaw-dropping interplay between flute and synth, and Javier Segura, a cult composer and sound engineer from the Canary Islands whose “Malagueñas 2” sounds like nothing else of the time and space it was created. Its dramatic, emotional drones sound like something Jonny Greenwood might have cribbed during Radiohead’s Kid A sessions alongside that famous sample of Paul Lansky’s “Mild Und Leise” in “Idioteque.”
If there’s one quality connecting the pieces, it’s how consistently they make you forget the compilation’s time frame. Track after track sounds like it could have come out today on contemporary labels like Hausu Mountain or Orange Milk. And the greatest surprise is how many of these artists never stopped releasing music, particularly composer Víctor Nubla, an avant-garde hero who passed away last year. Explore one of these songs and, more often than not, you’ll find entire discographies running up to the present day, making La Ola Interior both an essential time capsule and a gateway into contemporary artists still carving their own inner path.