Classic Album Review: 

Front 242

Geography (1982) Wax Trax!

An undisputed classic that defined the burgeoning EBM scene of Belgium during the early 80s. That’s not a typo by the way, EBM or electronic body music is a style that takes industrial elements and puts them together with electronic dance and a fresh-from-bootcamp militant punk attitude. 

Geography displays some of the most creative synthesizer work to come out of that era. While most fledgling musicians struggled to afford all the expensive, new fangled electronic music gear of the time, Front 242 founding member Patrick Codenys had a stroke of luck. His father received a winning lottery ticket and gave Condonys money to buy himself a car. In an act of defiance we can all be thankful for, he bought synthesizers instead. 

This set the stage for the band to have a sound creation playground worthy of their vision. What resulted on Geography was an all-out assault to the senses that people had not heard before. Persistent, infectious electronic percussion along with dark, pulsating analog synthesizers support the ominous, baritone croonings of main vocalist, Jean-Luc De Meyer.

What remains intriguing about the production quality is how the record simultaneously manages to sound perfectly of its time, yet fresh and modern with a polish that sets it apart from the era. At many points it sounds as though modern samplers are being used, when in fact, modern digital samplers were largely unavailable, save for the Fairlight CMI which was vanishingly rare and unobtainable. Instead these sounds were achieved through the highly creative direct manipulation of magnetic tape – perhaps a technique inspired by the sound art installation “Poème électronique” by Edgard Varèse for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, which left a deep impression on the people of Belgium and fans of sound art around the world. 

For those uninitiated to the dark/cool world of EBM and early industrial, Geography represents the perfect starting point. Enjoy.