Saturday, May 31, 2008

I Felt Inadequate For Not Owning Any Silver Apples Music Until Today. So Should You

Photo courtesy of Flickr user bradleyloos

Silver Apples is one of those bands that seems to have been put on this Earth solely for the enjoyment of music snobs. Their career was brief (two albums in two years before seemingly vanishing off the face of the Earth for 30 years), their albums sold poorly, and the music was often far too abstract for the vast majority of the music-listening public. Of course, this means in the 40 years since their debut, Silver Apples has had (and continues to have) an immeasurable impact on contemporary music.

It is in this context that I have always heard the name mentioned. It isn't uncommon for me to read a review of an album I love and see a Silver Apples comparison being made. This was quite apparent when reading the many reviews of Portishead's Third, an album that readers of this blog know I hold in high regard. On several occasions critics would reference Silver Apples while praising Portishead's triumphant return to greatness, so finally I decided that I would put a stop to my ignorance and pick up one of their albums already.

For stuff this old and obscure torrent sites are usually a bad place to look (unless you have access within the guarded walls of, or other private trackers), but luckily Amazon had the debut self-titled Silver Apples record available for download. I figured if these guys were as great as I kept hearing then the least I could do is pay for their album.

Within five minutes (counting download time) I could see their massive influence as plain as day.
Silver Apples was released in 1968 (one year before Monster Movie, the first album by German musical geniuses Can) but within its 18 tracks you can hear elements of Portishead (Third is basically a darker, more bleak incarnation of Silver Apples), Suicide, Spacemen 3/Spiritualized, Kraftwerk, Stereolab, NEU!, and many more that originated on this album. The most influential element of the duo's sound was undoubtedly lead vocalist Simeon's mastery of a nine-oscillator instrument of his own invention, dubbed (appropriately enough) the "Simeon".

This instrument provided Silver Apples with the ability to manipulate and refine tones with more precision and quality than anything ever heard before. The result was an interesting (to put it mildly) interpretation of pop music, which was definitely light-years ahead of its time. It also helped usher in an era of musical experimentation with electronics (Krautrock, Brian Eno, David Bowie, etc.) that reshaped music dramatically for the next 40 years. I'm not kidding around, Silver Apples were that far ahead of the curve.

Listen to the comparison below to see what I mean:

Silver Apples - "Oscillations" (from Silver Apples)

Portishead - "We Carry On" (from Third)

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