11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Defines "ahead of its time",
This review is from: Silver Apples / Contact (Audio CD)
Silver Apples were the first synth-pop band by a considerable distance - about 6 years in fact until Kraftwerk had a hit with Autobahn. However, comparisons with Kraftwerk probably stop there. For starters, despite being the world's first synth-pop band and years ahead of their time, Silver Apples were also OF their time, and that time was the late 1960s. So instead of deadpan, ironic Germanic motorik, you get lyrics that have a strong whiff of 60s hippie. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but you need to know that because it's a major part of what this duo are about, so if you're checking this out because it's the very beginning of all things synth-pop and you can't stand anything vaguely hippy-ish, you won't like this.
Now, this being 1968, there was no such thing as a drum machine, so one half of Silver Apples was a drummer, and a very good one at that. The other half, and the half that made them one of the most unique acts in popular music history, was the surname-free Simeon and his "instrument", named after himself. The Simeon (the instrument, that is) consisted of a whole bunch of tone generators set to different notes and triggered by various parts of Simeon's anatomy (his hands and feet mostly, the latter triggering the bass notes). This made it a very primitive polyphonic synthesizer (a decade before such a thing was commercially available), with not much variation of timbre being possible.
Now all this innovation would be worthless without some talent, and Simeon had clearly put the hours in learning how to make good music out of this strange contraption. The result, on the best tracks (especially the opening Oscillations), is a unique pulsating, propulsive sound combined with lyrics and vocals that would have sounded quite at home with any number of the psychedelic rock bands of the time. These, as suggested above, are a matter of taste, but Simeon is a perfectly decent singer and there have certainly been far worse hippie lyricists. Oscillations is really quite wonderful (you can dance to it, among other things) and Program, starting with a collage of voices and music, is a very fine piece of electro-psychedelia. Several other tracks on the first half of this CD (i.e. their untitled debut album) are also pretty good; the second half of the CD features their 2nd album, "Contact", which I've never been particularly impressed by - it sounds to me like they'd bored of their own novelty, though it's fair to say that "Contact" does have its devotees who think it's the better album. But this CD is absolutely worth getting for the best tracks on their debut if you are either interested in the more exploratory music of the late 60s or the history of synth-pop - they're not just unique, they're very good music.