Borghesia - “Surveillance and Punishment” (1989)

Oddly enough, this is the second time in less than a week that Yugoslavia will be referenced on Life in the Vinyl Lane…

I think the four-song Surveillance and Punishment (1989) came out right before the mega-meltdown that fractured Yugoslavia and introduced us all to the term “ethnic cleansing.”  Borghesia’s music sort of fits the unease and tension of the time, with it’s abrasive style of quasi industrial electronica.

My copy came to me via the fantastic Guestroom Records in Oklahoma City, and since I’d heard Borghesia before, buying this record was a no-brainer.  While somewhat similar to 1987s No Hope No Fear, the other Borghesia record I own, there’s one major stylistic departure, the Middle East influenced “Raga,” a song that sounds like a weird dystopian Persian dream.  Contrast that to “Am I?”, with it’s trippy electro-vocals and sampling of James Brown, and you’ve got a record that covers a lot of musical ground in under 19 minutes.

Borghesia - “No Hope No Fear” (1987)

Often having enough time to dig is the key.

Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane is studying for an exam, so on Sunday I headed over to West Seattle’s Easy Street Records with tons of time on my hands.  And I went through just about everything in the upstairs vinyl room.  Which was great, because that’s how I found Borghesia.

Now to be completely honest, I’m not a connoisseur of late 1980s Yugoslavian electronica.  Because, you know… I mean, c’mon.  You get it.  The cover caught my attention, and even on the insanely crappy listening station at Easy Street this record sounded cool, like a mix between Cabaret Voltaire and Tackhead.  I was a bit quizzical about the odd structure of this album - a 12″ with six songs at about 27 minutes.  Somewhere between an EP and an LP.  But for eight bucks, what the hell.

And I’m glad I picked up No Hope No Fear, because it’s exactly the kind of electro that I like - slightly industrial and heavily sampled.  Side A is freaking awesome, perhaps nowhere more so than on “Sentenced to Death,” which strikes the perfect blend of all the stuff I like about this genre.  The side grows more industrial as it goes, concluding with the pounding, crushing “133” and its heavy beats.

Side B keeps the heavy train rolling with “Mud,” the first song that seems to have more standard vocals/lyrics instead of relying on samples.  By “Hunters” we’ve started to take a dark and ominous turn, like sic-fi fascism, like a city made of all metal without even so much as a square inch of natural space.  The album closes out with the still trippy but less intensely oppressive “We Are Everywhere.”  This side is less danceable than the first, but not of any lesser quality - just different.

No Hope No Fear is a fantastic example of 1980s electro-industrial and a great starting point for anyone looking to explore the heavier side of electronica.  And after hearing it, I strongly suspect I’ll be keeping my eyes open for some of their other releases.