By Neil Higgins
1. Claude Larson & his Computer Controlled Oscillators - Mountains & Meadows
Like a lot of the early synthesizer artists this German producer veers between moments of lush magic & terrible cheesy nonsense, but this is a lovely warm wave of analog atmosphere to kick things off.
2. Tonto’s Expanding Head Band - Cybernaut
When these synth pioneers started making this music around 1969 there were virtually no reference points for what they were doing. This was just the music that the machines seemed to want to make/
3. Mike Vickers - Surf Rider
This slightly re-edited piece of proto-techno was recorded by a former member of Manfred Mann, and featured on a library music LP on the British KPM label.
4. Sid Bass - Moog Espana
The first commercially successful synthesizer record was ‘Switched-On Bach’ by Walter (later to become Wendy) Carlos in 1968. It was an attempt to show that the Moog synthesizer could replicate the full palette of sounds of an orchestra. Although it now feels like a full-on novelty record, it pretty much kick started the popularity of the Moog and launched the idea of using synthesizers in popular music.
5. Adrian Wagner - Where Are We Going
A hypnotic but slightly bonkers epic from the UK Charisma label – home of Genesis and the Monty Python albums.
6. Cabaret Voltaire - Seconds Too Late
Punk might have shattered much of the cosmic pretensions of 70s synthesizer music, but electronic music emerged darker and more experimental after the late 70s.
7. Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - Ceres Motion
This is just a small section of a 15-minute long minimalist journey. It’s well worth soaking up the incredibly euphoric full-length version.
8. Kraftwerk - Antenna
The Men Machine certainly weren’t the first electronic group, but they were the first to sound like they were in complete control of the machines and to create their own unique sound – mysterious and unearthly but totally catchy.
9. Avida - Il Grillo e la Formica
Some abrasive but romantic electro madness from early 80s Florence, Italy. This features the great Maurizio Dami.
10. David Bowie - Weeping Wall
From the majestic B-side of ‘Low’, Bowie’s Eno-influenced homage to 1970s German electronic music.
11. Makers - Don't Challenge Me
A wonderful, obscure synth-soul classic from a recent compilation ‘Personal Space: Electronic soul from 1974 to 1984’. That’s all I know …
12. Suicide - Touch Me
These New York electro-punk pioneers took electronic music down a completely different back alley – one littered with junkies, muggers and seedy glamour.
13. Cluster – Caramel
Cluster was Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, two of the most legendary figures of 70s German experimental music (OK then, Krautrock – I was trying to avoid using that ridiculous label, but it’s inescapable). This warped minimal groove brings to mind a bunch of ecstatic robots dancing in a forest clearing. Anyway, Dies ist verdammt gut…
14. E.M.A.K. - Filmmuzik
The E.M.A.K. collective were part of an early 80s second wave of German electronic music. Futuristic techno, minimal, deep house – you can hear the germs of all these movements in this track. Although it is 1982 in Germany and these things don’t exist yet, do they?
15. Laurie Anderson - Big Science
Famous for taking ‘O Superman’, an abstract 8-minute minimal experiment, to the top of the charts – that could happen in 1982.
16. Rhythim is Rhythim - Kaotic Harmony
The next chapter is well known … when black kids in the urban decay of Detroit, USA, started to absorb some of these sci-fi sounds from Europe and fused them with the ghosts of soul and disco to create Techno. This is a glimpse of how powerful that fusion could be.
17. Cluster - Rosa
Closing with another track from the ‘Zuckerzeit’ LP. Deep, sad and otherworldly. Magic stuff.