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Electronic Evocations 

The Silver Apples ride the sine wave

Wednesday, Sep 19 2007
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Though not as widely recognized as other New York City mavericks, electronic-rock pioneers the Silver Apples created an otherworldly and influential sound in the late 1960s. Singer Simeon Coxe and drummer Danny Taylor were working in an East Village cover band when Coxe's fascination with tube oscillators (a tone-generating device with simple pitch and frequency controls) led the pair to pursue their outsider muse.

Wiring a bank of oscillators together to create an unwieldy contraption he christened "The Simeon," Coxe conjured a dense swirl of pulses, drones, and bleeps that Taylor propelled forward with his circular, locked-groove drumming. Coupled with Coxe's surreal lyrics, songs like "Oscillations" (a minor hit when issued as a single in 1968) and "Gypsy Love" still sound like interstellar transmissions beamed back from the future almost 40 years after their original release.

Before the Apples came along, most electronic-music experimentation was isolated to a fringe of the modern classical avant-garde. At the time, however, such esoteric sounds had yet to reach the duo's ears. "Danny and I were both influenced more by Jimi Hendrix and Fats Domino than anyone else," Simeon explains via e-mail. "We mostly didn't hear of those experimenters until much later when people started asking us about them."

With their compelling mix of throbbing electronics, fixed rhythms, and proto-sampling — jet sounds, ringing telephones, and random radio tuning were all creatively incorporated into songs — the Silver Apples laid the blueprint for the motorik beat and droning pulse that would become Germany's krautrock movement. Coxe is quick to discount such an early impact ("I doubt they had heard of us," he writes), but there's no question that echoes of the Apples' work can still be heard in modern music. Though Taylor passed away in 2005, Simeon continues to deliver the Silver Apples' electronic gospel to a new generation.

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Dave Pehling

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