The Cabinet of Curiosities label describes their recently released Numero 95 compilation as “the soundtrack to the screen saver fever dream we’re all trying to climb back into.” Boasting a collection of music from the late ’80s and early ’90s that occupies a liminal space between electronic music, “New Age,” and muzak — or as Bandcamp Daily calls it, “proto-vaporwave” — Numero 95 offers a glimpse into a utopian cyber-future.
I’m old enough to remember when the “information superhighway,” with its promise of unlimited and unfettered access to information from all over the world, was going to help usher in a new golden age. Of course, we all know how it really turned out: for all its many benefits, the internet was also just what our collective id had been waiting for to unleash a tsunami of conspiracy theories, alternative facts, trolling, abuse, and hatred.
But when I listen to Quiet Force’s “Listen to the Music,” I’m transported back to a simpler, gentler time. A time when firing up the ol’ 56K modem truly felt like venturing into an uncharted territory ripe with promise and opportunity.
Originally released in 1988 as a 12″ single by Italy’s Les Folies Art label, “Listen to the Music” is bursting with sounds: clarinet, sax, fretless bass, faux strings, programmed vocal samples, and even some orchestra hits for good measure. But the song never feels over-stuffed. Thanks to smooth production and immaculate arrangements, the disparate elements come together in a serene, contemplative mood with some surprising emotional heft lurking amidst the graceful curves.
“Listen to the Music” feels very much of its time (orchestra hits!) but also sounds incredibly futuristic and even timeless. In that regard, I suppose it’s the musical equivalent of the internet cafes that popped up in the ’90s, i.e., places that, in hindsight, look both ridiculous and over-the-top, and like a window into a sadly unrealized future.