Friday, May 3, 2013

Music Review - Synergy - Cords (1977)

I first heard the music of Synergy, a.k.a. Larry Fast a.k.a. Peter Gabriel's keyboard guru, on a late-late night Headphones show (can't remember the name... Psychedelic something?) on 103.9(Rock 104, for those in the know), a local album-oriented rock station. The piece played was "Disruption in World Communications" and it blew me away! The next day I was on the phone to the local Wooden Nickel to see if they had a copy. They did... on clear vinyl.

Getting the platter home and onto my turntable I was delighted to hear more of the same. Since this was around 1987 I was surprised to hear such well developed synthesizer sounds coming from a 1977 album. Wasn't that supposed to be the era of blips and beeps? Well, it mostly was but Larry Fast is a genius who built his own hardware, laboriously combining tracks to create these symphonic masterpieces. Often with early synth music the sounds pull you out of the experience. Not so here. The entire package is so extremely well executed that you can focus on the music, not the way it is delivered. This was also at a time when I was just getting into classical music so I was amazed to find music that used "modern" synthesizers in an instrumental format.

So about this "Disruptions" piece that so grabbed me. It still grabs me. It starts off with a light rhythm played on chilled bell tones while a flute-like sound overlays a calm melody. A malevalent sound intrudes briefly and the calm melody continues. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Another beautiful melody is introduced alongside harpsichord tones but is soon interrupted but dissonant tones. Not to be outdone the original melody returns, attempting to recover control, bolstering itself with brass bass tones but soon the chaos returns, attempting to merge itself with the original melody. The struggle continues but ultimately the chaos wins out as the song grows more and more dissonant.

What could be a mere novelty composition is, in the hands of Larry Fast, an amazing and engaging work. At one point I attempted to turn this into a marching band piece for a composition class. Can you imagine the nice, straight lines of marchers slowly dissolving into chaos on the field? But I wasn't able to transcribe the song well enough and it now sits somewhere in a box in my attic.

You can get your hands on this album for as cheap as a penny (plus shipping). Oh joy!

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