Here's one you might not of heard of. Following the release of his best seller Silver Apples of the Moon, composer Morton Subotnick returns to studio to record his second experimental electronic release The Wild Bull in 1968. Subotnick at 35 years old is the first artist on Nonesuch records to get signed for a record commission. This isn't one of those albums you can pick apart song by song, rather you must digest "Part 1" on side 1 and "Part 2" on side 2. The inspiration is clear here with the title sharing the same name as the 1700 BC poem.
Oh, and did I mention this whole album is performed solely on electric synthesizers?
On the topic of the title name, Subotnick shares this: "The first side of this record was almost complete when I came across The Wild Bull. I was very impressed by the poem and quickly began to feel an affinity between the poem and the composition I was working on..."
"Part 1" starts off very quiet, roughly 30 seconds of silence before anything starts. Then the synths come in quiet and slowly work up to more noise, there's almost a beat that is made from the sounds of the board. The sounds pierce your ears at times and sporadically beep and boop until the sounds start to die down near the end of side 1. This isn't just anyone messing with electronic synths, Subotnick founded several tape related organizations including the Mills College Performing Group and the San Francisco Tape Music Center. This is definitely an album you need to digest more than once to understand.
To give you an idea of how this album was kinda put together, check out Subotnick in studio with his modular electronic music system:
"Part 2" starts off more normal, the first sounds sound like horns, then clinks and taps follow, like an early form of a drum machine. The heavy synths start to fade in and create chaos, the electric drums get louder. The record at this time sounds like a future age machine at work, grinding and grooving it's pieces together in order to move. One has only to wonder how Subotnick was able to compose music like this, now it seems almost normal to hear these sounds. I can't imagine the unsheathing of these sounds in 1968. "Part 2" switches, moving to heavy pulsating and sirens, the synths crawl right in your ears. A lone siren, more electric beats, a return of the horn like noises. It's almost like Subotnick reversed his process of introduction of the different sounds. This isn't what the youth listen to in today's time, this is truly thought out and real electronic music, not from a computer, but from a MACHINE. "Part 2" grows quiet, then returns, the sirens are gone, we are hovering like in the Jetsons with other crafts passing us by, stuck in traffic perhaps. In come the electronic drums, a static thunder builds in the background. The track is speeding up, tension rises, it's hard to distinguish the different sounds that are playing all at once, they ebb and flow. The heavier noises drop out, the pulsating synths are left, we end on a single note. Fin.
Overall I give this album an 8 out of 10. This was a gem I came across that I had no idea existed up until now. If Subotnick doesn't have credit already, he should receive some. This is sophisticated and interesting electronic music, way ahead of it's time.
I recommend this to fans of 70's synth prog rock.
- Ryne's Reviews.