How did you like them Apples?
Silver Apples were a fitting and fabulous addition to the brilliant 2009 Oscillations Festival. The festival, named after Silver Apples' first song and 1968 single, honoured the pioneering act by welcoming a performance at the Menagerie on University Avenue.
Two startling albums in at the death of the 1960s and Silver Apples kind of imploded, leaving a legacy that quickly crystallised to legend, with that staple of band lore, the great lost third album, gathering dust in original drummer Danny Taylor’s attic for decades.
When frontman Simeon Coxe III (aka Simeon) reactivated Silver Apples in the 1990s, the swell of goodwill was such that he’s been sporadically coasting on it ever since, occasionally writing new stuff, performing, releasing the odd single or EP or tweaking old stuff. The results have never been less than interesting.
Menagerie homeboy David Holmes obligingly and lovingly lays out a mellow, slightly trippy prelude for the great man himself, who finally comes on late in the day, looking for all the world behind his Bakelite boxes of tricks like Michel Foucault pottering about the garden shed. He starts to talk in monotone, bone-dry poetry, waspishly dissecting a nameless love. And then the drums arrive.
Following a near fatal accident in 1999, Simeon broke his neck but recovered sufficiently to perform in a more minimalist but equally interesting fashion. When Danny Taylor passed away in 2005, Simeon continued, but there was always a concern (as an avid Apples authority told me at the gig) that his syncopated but very human rhythms would be missed.
But Simeon has taken from the best of Taylor (literally a lot of the time as apparently most of the drummer’s sequenced cut-ups feature in the set) and when the antiquated, dusty old beats splutter into respiratory regularity it all makes perfect sense. This is pop music that somebody forgot to label properly.
You can see why Silver Apples have been cited as electro-pioneers. Their musical DNA is liberally spliced into most music of that much-misunderstood and nebulous genre. It’s there in the deadpan poetry of Kraftwerk, the skittish playfulness of early Human League, the lush swoon of John Foxx. You can hear it in the communal dance fascism of Orbital and the ECT mania of Aphex Twin, the persuasive groove of much Krautrock and the borrowed beats of hip hop, vis-à-vis Kraftwerk again.
Silver Apples' influenece pops up in unlikely places too. Listening to baby-punk geniuses Young Marble Giants the day after the gig you could have coloured me badd if the same spare oscillator-driven pop wasn't spewing gorgeously and guilelessly out of the speakers.
Whatever the Apple’s influence, it’s their music on the night, within the heavenly confines of a basement off the Ormeau Road, that makes the evening quite magical. Simeon causes the lame to dance, and the already dancing to supplicate in pseudo-religious fervour (well, one drunk girl anyway). It’s the whole performance rather than the parts – and it totters from the blissful to the downright irresistible.
I haven’t even got to the oscillations yet. 'Oscillations' at Oscillations from one the pioneers of the oscillator is a rare treat for a simple impressionable lad who once gleaned much musical sustenance from the creaking, squealing, treated synths of the great Eno-Ferry entente of 72-73.
During a pitch-modulated finale of epically insane proportions, I have something of a belated musical epiphany: I have the Silver Apples then to thank for my beloved Roxy, not to mention most of the pop music in the last 30 years that means anything more than a hot darn to me. Oh, and one of the gigs of the year too.