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Monday, 8 October 2012

Live Review - Silver Apples

Start The Bus, Bristol, Oct 2 

HIPSTERS. They're everybloodywhere. Not that I should be surprised though - apparently this venue is the trendiest bar, not just in Bristol and the West Country, but in the whole of the UK (even if several London venues and one particular Glasgow club may disagree), which is why it's a bit of a coup for them to procure the services of one Simeon Coxe, aka Silver Apples (essentially a solo act since the death of drummer Danny Taylor), for one night. Considering the massive re-appraisal his work has undergone in the last decade since every DJ and his friend under the sun started quoting it, referencing it, dropping it, sampling it, looping it, fucking it and eating it then it's actually a match made in heaven- especially in the hometown of Portishead, Apples freaks to a man who surely penned the ultimate tribute in 'We Carry On' and even got a hit single in the process. Which is more than the man himself has ever managed.

Sadly, for that very same reason, there aren't many actual psych heads in the audience, but as my good friend informs me, there aren't many in Bristol per se, so maybe that's to be expected. It's still a packed house though, and it must warm the cockles of the man's heart to see such an entranced audience of people who weren't even alive when Contact was released. Plus, by the time 'the Apple' takes the stage, opening act Yule Bringer (terrible pun) has already set the mood with a suitably enveloping set of Schulze/Riley-inflected synth swoops, so the entire room is well primed for the sonic journey upon which they are soon to embark.

I'm not sure how many of the assembled throng are au fait with the Apples' recorded output, but the cheer that goes up once things get underway with the pulsating throb of 'Lovefingers' is a loud and appreciative one. Because Simeon as a composer, singer, performer and bandleader exists entirely in his own time and space, where concepts such as 'the Sixties' and 'the present day' are rendered irrelevant by the ever-propulsive throb and thrum of both his machinery and his brainwaves, it's sometimes difficult, nay impossible, to work out whether his loping, leaping sound is ahead of its time, quaintly retro, or both. Hence, when he adds a more 'dance' oriented beat to some of his late-90s material, slight house inflections to 'I Don't Care What The People Say' or even suffixes a techno coda to 'Oscillations', is he an elder statesman of rock trying to keep up, or is he the originator and prestidigitator of several genres and generations finally achieving the recognition denied most true prophets?

It's a knotty one, but maybe, without wanting to sound like a pretentious journo twat, to fully understand the properties of this music, which will always be more special than just the trips down memory lane peddled by many, you need to understand it in relation to everything that came before, during and after it. Not that I'm suggesting for one minute that Mods and proggers worldwide should start digging Balearic beats- heaven forfend- but a leaf has veins, as the Free Design sang, and trees have many roots and branches. And, having considered such, you are then provided with the answer to the above question: namely, that rather than just a 2-chord rock and roll songwriter with a lo-boob oscillator and a tone control, Simeon is an essential stepping stone in the history of electric and electronic sound.: a meeting point where Jean Jacques Perrey, Joe Meek, Pink Floyd, Tonto's Expanding Headband, Kraftwerk, Girogio Moroder and Arthur Baker conjoin. Always chronologically somewhere in the middle, he can never be retro, but he has already seen the future.

He's also a perfect example of the autodidact (having never learnt to play keyboards in a conventional sense) a survivor (teaching himself to play all over again in the 90s after a paralysing accident, not to mention having the balls to redefine himself as a solo act after the death of a long term collaborator) and at heart, a writer of perfectly pointed pop not averse to a sense of humour, as a song like 'I Found A Purple Egg In A Ukulele Bush' demonstrates. This is shortly followed by a spoken announcement about the benefits of 'spanking but not punishing' one's electronic equipment to make it comply with your will. If only any one of my laptops had accepted such treatment, I might still own a functioning one...

And, from the darker, more spacious beats of more recent material, to the childlike beauty of his soloing, across the eerie drones of new singles 'Edge Of Wonder' and 'Fractal Flow' through to the now heartwarmingly familiar bleep and clink of 'You And I', 'A Pox On You' and final encore 'Seagreen Serenades', an incredible human warmth and affection prevails. One that finally and conclusively serves to explain why Silver Apples music, regardless of what era it comes from, will always stand head and shoulders above its imitators. For once, the hipster, the performer and the writer all appear to be in agreement - and if being a solo performer means that technically Simeon can't be "in concert", to use the original meaning of the term, with other musicians, then he remains perfectly in tune with us. Catch him wherever possible.


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