Words: Johnny Fry
Often regarded as the muddy root of electronic music due to their never before seen use of oscillating synthesisers, Silver Apples’ self-titled album may only be remembered due to its pioneering attributes rather than any virtuous musical prowess.
The groundbreaking album was released in 1968 amid a psychedelic, patchouli-stinking, hippie biome of late 60s New York. This was not long after the puppeteers of the nine oscillator stack – singer-synthesisest Simeon and drummer Danny Taylor – were booted out of their psych band for even suggesting the use of a 1940s sonic alien synthesiser. Combining the bleeps and blops with psychedelic pseudo-formalities that refused to imitate bands such as The Doors and The Byrds, the bizarre fruit was welcomed with great intrigue and quickly became a common feature at large – occasionally up to 30,000 people – Woodstock-esque gatherings.
In my opinion the whole album would have been a damn sight better if the corny – near on cringey – vocals were never added. The instrumentals would have sufficed. Its a shame the original album concept is so often overlooked because of its countless imitations in electronic music since – for example, 10 years later, when two US performance artists by the names of Alan Vega and Martin Rev took Silver Apples’ concept and began to tweak it and produce far more interesting sounds as the group Suicide. However, this could have just been down to Alan Vega’s profoundly creative vocal talents.
Despite Silver Apples’ idea and manifested sound – vocals-meeting-synth-via-a-drum-kit band – being poached and polished countless times in electronica, krautrock and synthwave, the forefathers of the concept have some undeniably potent tracks. The opening track ‘Oscillations’ could easily be mistaken for Kraftwerk with lyrics ‘oscillations, oscillations, electronic evocations of sound’s reality‘. This is accompanied with wobbly oscillations of pitch like a twanged metal bar being waved in the air, and intrusive beeping you’d expect to hear in a nuclear meltdown. Radio and telephone-like samples are dotted among incredibly random violins in ‘Program’, and prove that the duo were far more than just conceptualists, but rather full-blown pioneering creatives able to conceptualise and express ideas that had never before been realised in a musical format and inspire innovative musicians for decades to come.
Listen to Silver Apples here: