Back Up: Mexican Tecno Pop 1980–1989 is the latest compilation from San Francisco label Dark Entries, giving new life (and death) to eerie deep cuts of Mexican goth, post-punk, and new wave. The collection is an impressive glimpse at synth-driven sounds that flourished at a time when rock ‘n’ roll and other youth subcultures were persecuted by government officials, turned bleaker by political turmoil, economic uncertainty, and the 1985 earthquake that devastated Mexico City. “Alfabeto,” by Década 2, is a pitch-black prayer for the words, ideas, and lives stolen from that generation, while El Escuadrón del Ritmo’s “Las Cucarachas” morphs from a surreal tale of roach infestation into a droning, chilling metaphor for citizen paranoia.
For Back Up, the team at Dark Entries cherry-picked a 2005 CD-only compilation of the same name, adding previously unreleased tracks and pressing it on vinyl for the first time. Openers “Pesadillas,” by Avant Garde, and “Cambios en el Tiempo,” by Vandana, layer spectral synths over punchy drum machines, setting the tone for campy dance-offs to come. While many parallels to British goth and German ambient can be drawn, the influential work of Carlos Robledo and his trailblazing projects SIZE and Casino Shanghai is also clear throughout, particularly on the vaporwave-esque “Cou Cou Bazar.”
Perhaps Back Up’s greatest achievement is the tolling of a bell that celebrates these artists as pioneers of a new Mexican sound, unfolding in parallel—if not ahead—of future global pop trends. The brittle percussion of Artefacto’s “Mundo Sin Viento” is a kindred spirit to Information Society’s mid-‘80s classic “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy),” while a sense of premonition threads through the bubblegum whimsy of Volti’s “Corazón,” practically foretelling the advent of Latin Freestyle on the U.S. East Coast.