Thursday, August 23, 2007

Open the glitterbox

Elisha Grey invented the synthesizer in 1876. Robert Moog made the first one that wasn't as big as a house in 1964. The Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 introduced us to polyphony in 1978. Casio started pumping out cheesy keyboards in 1985.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Some musical purists frown at the idea of these instruments and say that electronic music has no soul. Some manly men insist that guitars are an absolute requirement and must always have the lead. If there's no axe on stage, it's not worth listening to. Some say that modern music in general has nothing to offer the human race.

Me? I loves me some synthesizer.

True, I'm a devotee of pretty much everything from extreme metal (where the guitar is king) to acoustic music (bring me some of that jazz, folk and blues, baby), but I do loves me some synthesizer. There is an innate beauty in a gorgeous synth line. Programmed drums? Shonuff! Thunderous dnb bass drops? Yummy! Clicky robot pop freakin' rules! I worship at the altar of Kraftwerk and YMO.

And Switched-On Bach.

I bring this up because I've been listening to purely electronic music today. Drum machines, synths, all that. Even the vocals are vocoded; nary an organic sound to be heard. My primary focus has been two albums by Solvent. Both were released on the nearly peerless Ghostly International label and they're prime examples of synthetic confection. The first, Apples & Synthesizers, contains 13 lovely Solvent tracks, while the second, Elevators And Oscillators, features several remixes of stuff from Apples & Synthesizers as well as more original tracks by Solvent.

This is great music. Sometimes delicate, sometimes distant, the tunes on these two CDs are premium ear candy. Here's a sampling:

"My Radio (The Mitgang Audio Remix)"
"For You (Isan Remix)"

How can you not love this stuff? From the Yaz-like opening of "Wish" through its Visco Space Drum beats and orbiting synths and vox, it's just a gorgeous tune. The remix of "My Radio" again brings the float. Sure, it's grounded by a beautifully burbly arpeggiated synth line, but the soaring vocoded chorus takes me right out of my head; amazing to dance to, especially at double time. Isan's remix of "For You" is straight from outer space. Listen to the fireflies in this tune! The vocals sit right in the middle, but everything around it drifts about like helium. So sweet.

So, no, it ain't ZZ Top, the Stones, or Aerosmith.

This is me not caring.

Helping robots devour the earth:

Solvent - Apples & Synthesizers
(have a bite. it's tasty.)

Solvent - Elevators And Oscillators
(it's tasty. have a bite.)

Strategy - Drumsolo's Delight
(on the electronic dub tip)

Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity
(making 1975 sound like 1995)

Various - Thinner Volume 01
(dubtech madness)


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