Review Summary: Hippy love turned on it's side, plugged into an oscillator, and bashed with a spanner.
Without the discovery and harnessing of electricity it is wholly conceivable that the world we live in today would be but a shadow of the place we know it to be. Gas lamps would provide the backdrop to a seedier, more subtle and definitely more empty world, there would likely be more crime, and of course, we wouldn't have synthesizers. Well, contrived as this introduction may seem, it is true of all of those things, and especially the lack of synthesizers.
Silver Apples released a fully formed entity in 1968, in the shape of their debut album. It was one that harnessed the bizarre and scary aspects of cold mechanical synthesizers, robotic drumming, silly but effective sound effects and creepy chanting vocals. In effect they created the genre of electronic music, one that few bands (White Noise aside) managed to add anything to up until Suicide released their debut album in 1977.
With their legacy firmly rooted in place, Silver Apples decided to take to the studio a year later, and also take a lot of drugs with them. With a roster of just two constant members in main man, Simeon, and human-battering ram Danny Taylor, they wrote nine otherworldly experimental tracks, that still stand up to anything that is self consciously avant-garde today. To list the number of bands that owe their entire careers directly to Silver Apples would be pointless, boring and pretentious, but the number is high, and scarily enough, doesn't seem to be getting any less as each year goes on.
Contact's album cover features the spaced out duo at the helm of some intergalactic star-ship, with Simeon looking like he is effectively in space, all wide eyed and confused. It is a good indicator as to what can be expected inside, echoic and interplanetary soundscapes flirt with the more identifiable aspects of human nature; love, jealousy, anger, and basically having a good time.
Each song has it's own perfect place in the Silver Apples canon, with Simeon's rambling, and seemingly aimless synthesizer and oscillator constantly jostling for your attention, and regularly eclipsing his own understated and confused vocals, all the while drummer Danny Taylor using his expansive drum-kit to underpin the whirlwind of intense musical explorations.
Drones play a vital part in crafting the Silver Apples sound, and on Gypsy Love it is no longer an issue to contain them, the band stretches out into a tense 5 and a half minute epic, with Simeon seemingly mentally drained at the end of it. Opening track You And I is another similar affair, mixing the hippy ideals of all-consuming and suffocating love, with the instrumental steel and mechanic grit of the future. Each track really does take it's own place in the album, a point in which Silver Apples seem to have became almost experts in.
While the tracks do demand equal attention, there are a few tracks that are definite standouts from the album, and the band's career as a whole. A Pox On You turns the moronic attitude of peace and love on it's head, and instead favours a tirade of anger, an embittered lover cursing his recently ex-girlfriend, and it really does sound like a curse, it has a gypsy swagger to it that combines the dizzyingly experimental instrumentation with Simeon's heartfelt cries over a love lost, the song at just over five minutes long is as good an introduction to Silver Apples work as any track, and still sounds as humiliatingly challenging today.
Fantasies is another such track, a bizarre little ditty revolving around a cacophonous rolling drumbeat, coupled with a simple and almost childlike synthesizer riff. In this track it is extremely interesting to note Simeon and Taylor's improvisational relationship, with the former regularly stating, "change course....now", whenever a new bout of mind bending improvisation is about to occur.
Lastly there is Seagreen Serenades. A track that is clearly attempting to emulate the experience of being on drugs, underwater. And it does it extremely well, the whimsy of shoals of fish, seaweed, and just generally the slow pace of life underwater are all captured in the haze of about a tonne of L.S.D. It is as good a reason as any to not try drugs, you may drown, Silver Apples, like everything else, did drugs underwater first so you don't have to, and so it was with electronic music.