Sunday, 1 August 2010

Silver Apples

I don't know much about music, but I love the noise it makes, paraphrasing an original quotation from Thomas Beecham, talking about the English. And on Thursday night I heard some wonderful noise.

First up was Dan Merrill, with "avant garde electronics from the King Dead Rat", playing a looped piece he wrote ten years ago. I've seen Dan a few times, and always enjoy his ideas and his violin playing. Next were Eat Lights Become Lights "celestial krautrock drone", a three-piece in the vein of Can, Faust, Amon Duul and Kraftwerk.

And the headliners were Silver Apples, or maybe it should be "was", as hereby hangs a tale. Silver Apples "legendary 60s psychedelic synth project from New York", Simeon and Danny Taylor were active in New York around 1967-69, and reformed in the 1990s. In 1999 their tour van was forced off the road, seriously injuring the band. Simeon broke his neck, had to learn to walk again, is unable to play his instruments as before, and is still partly paralysed. Danny died in 2005, of complications linked with the crash.

So there's just Simeon on the road, but he uses samples of Danny's drumming, so he's kind of still there. And what do we see? A kitchen table with a heap of old electronic equipment (called The Simeone), oscillators, valves, and tones of wire spaghetti out of the back, and a big brass handle making classic Doctor Who sounds - who needs a lead guitarist when you've got one of these? The instruments and the music would have brought a smile to Harry Partch's face.

And here comes Simeon himself, a dapper old guy with a foppish leather hat, and a charming smile. Little bits of chat, but mainly getting on with the music. I won't attempt to describe it; I'll just say he was doing his thing. Uplifting and accessible, repetitive vocal lines, a steady beat, and smoke and lights. I could almost have been in a New York club in 1968, except that I had just become a teenager at the time, didn't have a passport, and thought Chelmsford was a fair distance. Simeone looked like a mad scientist in a 50s horror movie lab, wrestling with his array of instruments.

Our evening's entertainment was at Colchester Arts Centre, and a great time was had by all. A good mix in the crowd, not just the weird beard and sandals brigade that are my contemporaries, but also lots of much younger people who had a super night out. How satisfying it must be for 70-year old (?) Simeon to be on the road, with his trunks full of gadgets, playing at small venues and having loads of young people dancing and grooving to his psychedlic tunes. It's all very well being a landmark in the history of electronic music, but can you still get out there and do it for a crowd, and communicate with people fifty years younger? For Simeon we can say an emphatic "yes". A magical night out for all who were there.

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