Any band with longevity and an expansive repertoire of music at some point must consider releasing a retrospective compilation. Hidden Place, who have had over a decade of activity, have now reached such a point in their career. Retrospettiva: 2004-2014 is one of two Hidden Place retrospective collections released by Peripheral Minimal in 2014, the other being Retrospettiva: Volume Two. This review will focus on Retrospettiva: 2004-2014, which is a true retrospective spanning the four albums in the Hidden Place canon while Volume Two focuses on updated and reworked versions of older songs.
The selection of songs from each of Hidden Place’s four albums is balanced: three tracks from Weather Station, Punto Luce, and Novecento, four tracks from Fantasia Meccanica, and one bonus remix of “Emotional Frequencies” that is exclusive to this release. The hopes are that Hidden Place is going to cull the best of the best from each of their albums to guarantee listeners are going to experience the band in their finest moments. There certainly are amazing tracks from Hidden Place present here, but there are also some questionable choices. Commenting about the genesis of this compilation, working with Peripheral Minimal, and the task of selecting tracks for inclusion, Sara Lux has been quoted as saying. “’Retrospettiva’ came about for the 10 years of Hidden Place and Peripheral Minimal proposed [to] us a release for it and we accepted, selecting together with [the] label the tracks.”
Fans of electronic pioneers Kraftwerk will enjoy tracks such as “Acrobazie Elettriche,” “Alexander Strasse,” and “Teknicolor,” which mixes vocoder-inspired vocals with club-friendly pop-beats. The real treats are the songs that stray from robotic vocals and instead embrace the uniquely ethereal vocals of Sara Lux, which can be found represented on tracks “Emotional Frequencies” and Hidden Place’s magnum opus so far, “Window Sill.”
On the other hand, there were some missteps in making track choices for this collection. For example, the compilation opens with “Operazione PM10,” which at first glance would seem extremely fitting as this is the first track from Hidden Place’s debut album, Weather Station. The issue is for a “best-of,” this is simply not a strong track to lead off on such a compilation as “Operazione PM10” sounds like an inferior Advance and Follow-era VNV Nation track. When the track was originally released, it already sounded dated by a decade. It sounds even more dated now and does not spotlight Hidden Place by their normal standards.
There are some logistical problems with the compilation album as well. While the physical release of Retrospettiva: 2004-2014, which is limited to only 200 copies, has all fourteen tracks, the digital Bandcamp version only features eleven, omitting all the tracks from Novecento. While Novecento is the most recent release from Hidden Place, it also contains some of their best work, showcased on the physical version with “Off and On” and “Stunning Art” (though it is disappointing that “Between the Devil and the Blue Sea” is not present on this release at all). Having Novecento omitted from the unlimited version seems counterproductive to their goal of showcasing Hidden Place’s best work.
The other issue that arises is the question that, who exactly is the intended audience for this compilation? Fans of Hidden Place would have already procured the main four albums already, two of which have already seen reissues. These albums are all still fairly accessible and easy to obtain, therefore only the most hardcore or completionist fans would need this release for the one exclusive track, the remix of “Emotional Frequencies.” This leaves this album’s true target demographic as first-time listeners, but even those folks who miss out on procuring a physical version of Retrospettiva: 2004-2014 and instead have to rely on the Bandcamp digital release are going to be missing tracks that represent not only one-fourth of the band’s catalog, but also the reflection of their most current sound.
Ending on a positive note, the artwork for Retrospettiva: 2004-2014 is quite excellent, looking to take inspirations from early twentieth century avant-garde artists such as Hans Richter or the Russian Sternberg Brothers who designed the poster of The Man with a Movie Camera.
Retrospettiva: 2004-2014 may perhaps be an unnecessary release, but the vast majority of the tracks in the compilation do showcase the band at their best in various stages of their career. If viewed as a time capsule of sorts, the release (the physical version at least) is quite successful and should be used to entice synthpop and electro fans on the fence about Hidden Place.
01) Operazione PM10
02) Pure Ice
03) Emotional Frequencies
04) Picture Hall
06) Window Sill
08) Acrobazie Elettriche
09) Alexander Strasse
11) Off And On
12) Stunning Art
13) Fuochi Fatui (Ambient Mix)
14) Emotional Frequencies (Club Mix)