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23 Mar 2017

Tim Blake (Gong, Hawkwind) “Crystal Machine” 1977 UK Prog,Electronic,Experimental








Tim Blake (Gong, Hawkwind)   “Crystal Machine” 1977 UK Prog,Electronic,Experimental
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First solo effort by Tim Blake. I was first made aware of him in 1995 when I bought my first Gong albums (the Radio Gnome trilogy). So naturally that’s how I became aware of him. In 1995 I barely knew of the Internet (it was just beginning to take off thanks to the introduction of Windows 95, which included built-in web connection and web browser). I didn’t get hooked online until 1999, and it was a lousy WebTV (good for surfing the web and making online orders, but you couldn’t download, and you had very limited access to certain audio and video files). So in 1995 I still had to resort to mail order catalogs to buy stuff I couldn’t get in my neck of the woods. One mail order catalog sold CDs of Tim Blake, including Crystal Machine and Blake’s New Jerusalem. That meant I discovered he embarked on a solo career in the late ‘70s. So I had to assume they were progressive electronic and I was right. I assumed they were originally released on Virgin Records, which was the label Gong recorded for. Turns out he was recording for EGG, a French label (that’s known for many great progressive electronic albums of the late '70s), apparently Virgin rejected his music. 
Crystal Machine is a collection of live recordings from the Seasalter Free Festival in England in 1976, and La Palace Théâtre in Paris in 1977. These were all improvised, so whatever flaws are plain to show to everyone, but I really dig the wonderful analog synth sounds. I knew after hearing Gong’s final Radio Gnome Trilogy, You (1974) that he would have made it as a solo artist and does this album ever prove it! “Midnight” has that wonderful synth effects and lots of wonderful analog synth leads. “Metro/Logic” features this strange percussive rhythm, with plenty of synth leads, with Gong-type sound effects at the end. “Last Ride of the Boogie Child” shows the one weak spot, and that Tim Blake wasn’t the greatest singer out there, but it’s just two short spots here,, mainly synth bass with synth bubbles and leads. “Synthese Intemporel” is close to Tangerine Dream territory, not too different from what TD was doing around 1975. “Crystal Presence” is simply electronic effects, sounds like the same effects I heard off Angel’s Egg. On the original LP, this piece ends in a lock-in groove that repeats the same sound effect over and over at the end until you lift the needle (provided you’re playing it on a non-automatic turntable). 

I am ever so glad Tim Blake did pursue a solo career in electronic music, and while the album isn’t perfect, I really dig the '70s vibe and analog synth sounds and this is a required addition to your progressive electronic collection…..by…..Progfan97402………


While Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Kraftwerk are considered as the initiators of electronic-rock (as opposed to Stockhausen, Glass, Cage, Wendy/Walter Carlos , who are pure electronic pioneers) , this album remains , in my opinion, the birthplace of ambient- electronica, mainly because of its spacey feel (No, not Kevin) . I have played this to many younger fans/experts of house-trip , who proceeded to kneel in respectful prayer, when I gave them some historical background. Clearly, having played with the classic Gong line-up made quite an impression and Hi T Moonweed , as Tim Blake was known then , was featured prominently on the by now mythic Trilogy. This is supremely delicate music, quite minimalist with its overtly languid textures, lucid whisps of cosmic colouring and serene astral explorations. First, let’s get one thing straight, this prog sub-genre can never sound dated (especially in view of the current popular aversion for synthetic and synthesized sounds, relying more on today’s image re-hash and fashion attitude: aka Black-Eyed “Piss” and Maroon feces). Electronica will always be a futuristic horizon, regardless of what new gimmick hits your Ipod. This glazed and fragile masterpiece will stand the test of time and it will require some very devoted concentration the first time around, so PLEASE, do not attempt a “background muzak-while I’m cooking some risotto” initial run through, it won’t work! Perhaps long after dinner’s end, on the deck with a fine armagnac & gazing up at the midnight stars, that’s when you will reach the promised euphoria of stellar atmospheres. Definitely, a personal fave. 4.5 galaxies……..by tszirmay ………….

Recorded after the end of his stint in Gong and before he joined Hawkwind, Tim Blake’s debut solo album Crystal machine is a part-studio part-live affair, documenting music composed to accompany a pioneering laser light show. Musically speaking, it’s mostly in line with the work being produced at around the same time by Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze, with enough callbacks to Tim’s earlier work in Gong to distinguish it from those pioneers of Krautrock- derived electronic music. It doesn’t present anything to revolutionise the genre, but it more than holds its own against the likes of, say, Tangerine Dream’s Ricochet or Schulze’s Moondawn……. by Warthur ……….

Too many synth artists of the early to mid-'70s seemed more interested in demonstrating their dexterity with their instrument than actually showing why it was worth being dexterous with in the first place. The reason Tim Blake is important is because he took the opposite approach entirely. Schooled in Gong and soon to dignify Hawkwind, Blake is a composer first, a technician a very distant second. And if New Jerusalem, his solo debut, represents a peak which electronic rock in general has yet to top, Crystal Machine is at least equal to the task. In maintaining the earlier album’s application of melody over mood, Blake totally separates himself from the ranks of sallow, clever souls who let their machines do all the talking – a lesson which, by year’s end, both Jean Michel Jarre and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” would both have translated into worldwide chart-toppers. More importantly, however, Blake also liberated the synth from the showroom and showman. Two tracks – “Last Ride of the Boogie Child” and “Synthese Intemporel” – were drawn from live concerts, an arena where very few onlookers are listening in on headphones and even fewer care how clever the musician is. The fact that flying bottles, cans, or coins interrupts neither performance testifies to that. There is nothing here which packs the sheer visceral energy of “New Jerusalem” itself, of course, but that’s a point which Blake himself confirms, by confining the title track this time to a scant minute or two of oscillation, then slipping it nicely into a stick groove at the end of the vinyl. If listeners let their attention wander for a moment, it could play on forever……….by Dave Thompson………..

The first in a total of 8 solo albums by Tim Blake. An influential synthesist and composer, Blake worked on all three albums in the Gong trilogy. He had a critical role in the formation of another formative space rock band, Hawkwind. Blake is also credited with being one of the first musicians to bring the synthesizer out of the studio and on to the stage on his 1972 tour with Gong. Interestingly, when he began touring as Crystal Machine with the release of this album, he became the first artist to introduce the use of lasers to live entertainment. 

Named after the moniker he assumed when playing live, Crystal Machine is a synthesizer tour de force. Newly emancipated from the collaborative confines of Gong at the time of this partially live recording, you can hear Blake’s youthful energy as he blasts off into space. Give a listen and if you close your eyes, he’ll take you along…………..
Personnel: 
- Tim Blake - 2 Ems Synthis A’s, Minimoog, ELKA Rhapsody, EMS Frequency Shifter, MXR Flanger, Sony TC 850 Tape Deck Echo, Sony Mix 12, producer 
- Patrice Warrener - Spectra Physics 164 Argon Laser, Crystal Machine Projector 


Tracklist 
A1 Midnight 6:22 
A2 Metro Logic 6:28 
A3 Last Ride Of The Boogie Child (Seasalter Free Festival 1976) 7:50 
B1 Synthese Intemporelle (Crystal Machine Live At Palace, 18/2/77) 15:52 
B2 Crystal Presence 1:28

Line-up / Musicians 
Tim Blake / keyboards 

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