With a smart little synthesiser app on their title page (that actually allows you to record four tracks of “music”) Google tells me its Robert Moogs 78th birthday today..
Now being a bit of an electronic music fan, Mr Moog’s instruments have played a huge part in the sound of my musical back catalogue: from the Progness of Yes, Genesis, and Floyd, through the squeaks and wobbles of Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, to the masterly sequencing of Giorgio Moroder and the electronic stylings of Travelogue era Human League, right through to today and Etienne Jaumet’s timeless Nightworks EP, I have always loved the sound of analogue oscillators, sequencers and modulators…
So happy birthday Mr Moog and thank you very much indeed for many thousands of hours of listening pleasure, created (I know not how) by these extraordinary machines…
The Moog logo is also a timelss and lovely thing..
Olias of Sunhillow was the first solo album by Jon Anderson, better known as the voice of Yes, a little man with a high voice and a gift for stringing disparate words together to create what he called sonic poetry, but which most other people dismiss as nonsense…
Olias of Sunhillow was that singularly 1970′s thing, a full blown concept album. Written and recorded over the winter of 1975 whilst taking a break from seemingly constant touring with Yes, it was released (to limited critical acclaim it must be said) along with other solo albums by each of the band members, in the summer of 1976.
I was probably about 15 or so when I first bought it and I was immediately taken with the epic science fantasy concept, (inspired by Roger Dean’s wonderful paintings for the cover of Yes’s 1971 album Fragile) the mesmerising, almost ambient electronic music and the rich and beautiful artwork.
Jon Anderson was credited with writing, singing and playing every instrument on the album, locking himself away in his home studio over a period of many months, with over 30 instruments, a multi-track recorder, some early electronic keyboards and sound advice from some music mates, including non other than his later 1980′s collaborator, Vangelis. This approach to doing everything himself was, if I remember, a direct result of Anderson being disgruntled that he was only ever thought of as the singer and occasional tambourine player with Yes. As such he looked to address this by using Olias to demonstrate to the world his multi instrumental abilities.
The concept for the album revolves around the complex and slightly confusing story of Sunhillow, an alien planet destined to destruction, whose inhabitants are forced to leave on a space ship called the Moorglade Mover. Three key beings, Olias, Ranyart and Qoquaq are each called upon to perform various tasks, so allowing the ships occupants to survive their journey and arrive safely at their new home (which may or may not be Earth…)
The original gate-fold sleeve is a wondrous thing to behold. Thick expensive card, with additional inserts, allowing the English artist David Roe (famous for his pictures of dragons) to create a series of detailed and intriguing images over four panels, with each panel illustrating an excerpt from the story… Marvellous.
All in all a real treat for a teenage music fan, and it’s a record I’ve never tired of, I must admit.
Listening to it again, (for what must easily be the 1000th time) it doesn’t sound as dated to my ears, as much of the music from the Seventies. Chris Squire’s solo album A Fish Out of Water from the same year, whilst also being pretty good, is very much rooted in the bombast and excesses of the times; big production, orchestras etc. Olias, I would argue, with its rich electronic textures, understated tribal rhythms and layered vocals, stands the test of time far better.
Give it a listen, see what you think… Olias of Sunhillow.
There’s a worryingly obsessive site here I came across, if you fancy knowing more about Olias…
To end with a little known fact of the day… the little girl you can see holding a kitten and nestled in below her dad, to the right of the image above is Deborah Anderson. Now better known as a photographer, she was however the voice on one of my favorite tracks from the 90′s, Alex Reece’s sublime Drum & Bass classic, Feel the Sunshine…
It was produced for me by my very good friend Wong and is exactly what I wanted, in fact more so. I had the idea for this tattoo a while ago and I’ve been messing about trying to arrange standard fonts for ages, but couldn’t get anything to work, so I am eternally grateful to him for his graphic skills…
The design references a number of things:
I really like the idea that a symbol can mean a whole word: these four characters are spoken as “And You And I”. A simplification of the written language, without losing any of its meaning.
I’ve also always liked the ampersand, a historic and unusual character (or logogram as Wikipedia calls it) and have been using it as often as I could for many years now.
Those Prog heads among you may recognise the title of one of my favourite tracks from one of my all time favourite bands….
And you and I climb crossing the shapes of the morning,
And you and I reach over the sun for the river,
And you and I climb clearer towards the movement,
And you and I called over valleys of endless seas.
I was never sure exactly what the words meant, but I have always liked them, they way they sound and work together, heartfelt and evocative, full of a myriad possible interpretations, all of them positive.
Which brings me to the primary generator for this design, which was so that I could have the name of my beautiful partner written on my body, along with a subtle acknowledgement that without her, none of this means anything.
Now there’s just the decision as to where on my ageing skin it should go….
And here it is…
Many thanks to James @ Cherry Blossom Tattoo E14, a thoroughly nice chap indeed, and thanks again to Wong for the original design.
I’m well chuffed with it….
I got quite excited the other day when I saw that two of my all time graphic design heroes were giving a seminar/ presentation at the O2 in April, so I ordered two tickets and confess that I am looking forward to their show and tell…. I’d like to think it might be in the form of a DJ style battle, with one artist presenting an image and then the other looking to better it.. that’d be pretty good fun.
Roger Dean is perhaps most famous for the work he did with the band Yes, and their various offshoot projects. This includes the bands instantly recognisable logo and countless album covers he did during the 1970′s and 80′s, most notably Fragile, Tales from Topographic Oceans and Yessongs, a triple live album that used a huge amount of cardboard.
Whilst both artists are renowned for their very vivid imaginations, their styles are very different. Dean mostly works (or used to, I wouldn’t be surprised if he uses digital media now) with acrylic paint and produces breathtaking images that capture fantastic and otherworldly landscapes. Thorgerson on the other hand generally uses photographic images which are then modified to produce the slightly odd and sometimes unsettling views and perspectives for which he is famous.
I’ve lost track of their more recent work, so I’m hopeful that this presentation will bring me up to date as well as acting as a timely reminder or their immeasurable contributions to both music and art.