“Greetings to all of you… uh… from me… and the rest of us,” says Robert Arthur Moog at the beginning of the new archival release Electronic Voyages: Early Moog Recordings 1964-1969. It’s called an ‘audio letter’ in the product description, but its initial impression is that of a dispatch from a distant land. Being in 2019, we know the massive impact that Moog’s invention had on popular culture, from supplying psychedelic music its infamous tonality to building the tonal foundation for the far-out progressive rock of the 1970s. But, back in the early 1960s, Moog had no idea about the future of his instrument, so it turns out he was sending messages from someplace distant. Waveshaper Media’s Electronic Voyages: Early Moog Recordings 1964-1969 is designed to highlight the exploration and playfulness of the early Moog practitioners.
Moog’s instrument became well-known mostly through two specific avenues: Pop indebted rock and roll and Wendy Carlos’ masterful interpretations of Bach works. It’s refreshing then that this release mostly exempts all that and focuses on lesser-known works, and in the process, it puts more focus on the instrument instead of the idols.
It starts with the ‘audio letter’ described above, where Moog talks to one of his students, explaining the different tonalities of the instrument. It’s dry, and it’s truly not all that pleasant, but it is low-key and, because of that, delightful. From there we get said student Herbert Deutsch’s work, “Jazz Images, a Worksong and Blues”. In spite of it being a vehicle for the musician to try out as many functions as possible on the instrument, it is also stuffed full of excellent turns and phrases. Personally, the crispy percussion that occurs a third of the way through snagged me fully.
From here to the end of the release, it’s truly a mix of two types of works. The first type could be called “Way Out Art Pieces” like Lothar and the Hand Peoples “Milkweed Love”, where the instrument is being used as a wild atmosphere to help the artist towards their goal. The second type of song presented here are songs like Joel Chadabe’s “Blue’s Mix”, which come off as sound collages of the Moog’s abilities at the time. There’s a lot of burps and squeaks in these tracks, so your interest level in the instrument will determine your interest in the majority of this release.
At the end of the ‘audio letter’ of at the beginning of the release, Moog is telling his music muse, Howard Deutch, about some news. He just pulled some strings to get a booth at an electronics conventions. He’s excited, yet nervous. “You can see it’s sort of a two-faced deal. It’s a tremendous opportunity for me to get this stuff going, but on the other hand, it’s a tremendous opportunity for me to make an ass of myself.” Listening to these early recordings and noticing how much these squeaks and squawks, squiggles and smears have been fully absorbed within our current musical landscape, only one conclusion is clear. We’re not sure about that specific convention day, but it’s obvious that Moog won in the end. He became the face of a generation of music makers.