Karen Marks Cold Café 12″

KAREN MARKS’s one-and-done 7″ from 1981 is a mysterious minimal wave dream, and it’s been a highly sought-after (and very expensive) artifact of the Australian ’80s underground for quite some time nowthe A-side’s lost love lament “Cold Café” has popped up on a number of compilations in the last few years focused on outsider synth-pop and small-press post-punk obscurities, although the new Cold Café anthology 12″ on the Melbourne-based Efficient Space label is the first proper reissue of MARKS’s slim recorded output. In addition to both songs from the original 7″, the expanded EP also includes two recently discovered and otherwise unreleased demo recordings, plus the studio track “You Bring These Things,” previously only available on a scare promo-only compilation LP. “Cold Café” is obviously the centerpiece here, though, hitting a raw, emotional nerve with yearning vocals backed by a sparse rhythm machine pulse and percolating synth, all cloaked in otherworldly space echo like one of JOE MEEK’s off-kilter 60s girl-group productions translated into an ’80s art-wave context. “Won’t Wear It for Long” and “Problem Page” both take things in a slightly less ethereal direction, almost verging on traditional synthed-out new wave, but still indelibly colored by the haunting sense of longing in MARKS’s delivery. An absolutely crucial archival rescue!