Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tim Blake - Crystal Machine (1977)

On first hearing this several years ago, I pondered on how acid house/techno didn't happen sooner than it did, as all the seeds were in place way before the first true blossoming's of the genre.

Hell even Pink Floyd had an early prototype on 'Dark Side of The Moon' fer god's sake.

In 'Crystal Machine' you can hear hints of all those future classics by Jaun Atkins and Model 500 to name just two. Arpeggiated sequences and and lush keyboard refrains dominate much of the record, with great synth 'drifts' of sound to accompany you on your journey. The music gives a heavy nod to 'Phaedra' era Tangerine Dream and those Krautrock pioneers, but with a great ear for melody too, this really is something you've gotta HEAR if you haven't already.


The 'gear list' reads like an analogue nerds dream, and goes something like this...

"2 EMS Synthis A´s, Minimoog, EMS Frequency Shifter, MXR Flanger, Sony TC 850 Tape deck echo, Sony Mix 12, ELKA Rhapsody"

Mmm, now if only I had another morgage, I might be able to afford some of it.

Tim Blake 1976

To be honest, I don't know a whole lot about Tim Blake. I've read he was a member of Anglo-French acid freaksters 'Gong' from 1971-75 before departing to move to France and form/ make Crystal Machine with Patrice Warrener. But Crystal Machine is a stone cold killer of the genre, which is sadly much overlooked.
I can't comment on his other releases, as I don't own them, and have yet to track them down, but I'm sure it would take something pretty special to sound better than this.

Crystal Machine Live 1977

Here's a review from All Music Guide which just about sums it up.

"Too many synth artists of the early to mid-'70s seemed more interested in demonstrating their dexterity with their instrument than actually showing why it was worth being dexterous with in the first place. The reason Tim Blake is important is because he took the opposite approach entirely. Schooled in Gong and soon to dignify Hawkwind, Blake is a composer first, a technician a very distant second. And if New Jerusalem, his solo debut, represents a peak which electronic rock in general has yet to top, Crystal Machine is at least equal to the task. In maintaining the earlier album's application of melody over mood, Blake totally separates himself from the ranks of sallow, clever souls who let their machines do all the talking -- a lesson which, by year's end, both Jean Michel Jarre and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" would both have translated into worldwide chart-toppers. More importantly, however, Blake also liberated the synth from the showroom and showman. Two tracks -- "Last Ride of the Boogie Child" and "Synthese Intemporel" -- were drawn from live concerts, an arena where very few onlookers are listening in on headphones and even fewer care how clever the musician is. The fact that flying bottles, cans, or coins interrupts neither performance testifies to that. There is nothing here which packs the sheer visceral energy of "New Jerusalem" itself, of course, but that's a point which Blake himself confirms, by confining the title track this time to a scant minute or two of oscillation, then slipping it nicely into a stick groove at the end of the vinyl. If listeners let their attention wander for a moment, it could play on forever." (Written by AMG contributor  Dave Thompson)

I got sent this by a pal in Canada, who knew I was a sucker for all things 'Electronic and Kosmische' and that I was also a massive early Hawkwind fan (he was a member briefly from 1979-80'), and as the price of this disc is still ridiculous over on Amazon and Ebay, he kindly sent me  a copy.
Apparently Tim Blake has returned to the masked ranks of Hawkwind in recent years and is still going strong touring and playing live. Can't wait till he comes near me to finally check him out.

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