Military Grade New Beat

This month’s guest selector is as cult and as underground as they come. Infact if it wasn’t for Dark Entires Records, we might never have heard of him at all – unless you were part of the Belgian New Beat in the late 1980s. He goes by the artist name of Lhasa, although he was born Alain Raes in Siegen, Germany.

As a teenager Alain was inspired by Tubeway Army's “Are Friends Electric” and Art Of Noise’s “Beatbox”. In 1985 he began collecting analog equipment (Prophet-5; Oberheim OB-X; Linn LM-1) as digital synthesizers had started to become more popular. In 1986, New Beat was born in Belgium. Dancers tapped into the darker side of synth pop, and DJs would play 45 rpm records at 33 with the pitch control set to +8. Alain was playing in New Wave bands and had started production work and synth programming for other acts.

In 1988 he self-released the debut Lhasa single ‘Acetabularia’ / ‘Acetatechno’, while serving the military. The record combined the icy melodies of Gary Numan and John Foxx with with the mechanical rhythms of Detroit techno and EBM. Thematically, both tracks revolve around the end of life on Earth, and include samples from ‘Dr. Strangelove’.

Earlier this year Josh over at Dark Entires reissued this seminal lost piece of electronic music for the very first time with an added 4 bonus tracks rescued from a 1990 recording session DAT tape. The demos show further development of the Lhasa sound with updated instruments (Roland D-20, Yamaha TX16W, Korg 707), faster tempos, and menacing proto-rave energy.

In the liner notes for the reissue of The Attic from 1990 Raes said that he was "part of a scene without really taking part in it." His lack of interest meant that Lhasa petered out after 1991.

So as you can imagine I was taken aback when he agreed to do a Synth Hero mix for me – and what a mix it is. I had never heard of most of these tracks, so there’s a good chance you won’t have either. With a heavy emphasis on New Beat, it also dips into avant techno, good Euro electro pop and industrial music as well.