Silver Apples: A Review

Band on the Wall intern and music journalist Tom Woodward attended the Silver Apples concert on Wednesday 3 August 2017. We asked him what he thought of the show…

The late 1960s is known for being one of the greatest periods for musical creativity; psychedelia came to prominence, experimentation in rock and roll increased dramatically and world music found its way into the heart of the mainstream. One of the most seminal acts to stem from this era are Silver Apples; whilst they may not be as well-known as the huge psych-rock acts of the time, they remain a highly influential act who are name-checked by all your favourite electronic and psychedelic groups. Thanks to their experimentations with electronic music and developments into synthesizer technology, their sound (which pre-dates krautrock) became a hugely influential force in the progression of electronic music whilst offering a unique and experimental flair to the guitar-driven psych at the time.

The modern incarnation of Silver Apples features Simeon Coxe as a solo act. On stage he mixes samples of late percussionist Danny Taylor’s drum parts to his wild synth arrangements, amounting to a performance which is nothing short of spectacular. Complete with support from shadowy post-punkers Slow Knife and drone-tinged neo-psychedelia duo SilVer VialS, tonight’s show at Band on the Wall is a perfect example of how experimental music is equally interesting as it is enjoyable.

The first act to take to the stage are Slow Knife. Sporting blazers and an array of instruments ranging from bongos to a saxophone, the six-piece group start their set in an astonishingly dramatic fashion. The band provide a perfect musical backdrop to underpin the frontman, who delivers vocals in a spoken word fashion from a collection of scruffy notes. Whilst they may immediately invite comparisons to John Cooper Clarke and The Invisible Girls, their set reveals an array of influences and sounds, ranging from Tom Waits’ pairing of cryptic lyricism with eclectic instrumentation, the driven repetition of The Fall, flairs of effect driven guitars and intimidating noise rock freak-outs. Slow Knife’s set is interesting and memorable, proving to be an excellent start to a night of strange revelries.

Next up, is Manchester based two-piece SilVer VialS. Fresh from supporting Chilean purveyors of psych Föllakzoid and Berlin based Camera, the multi-instrumentalists play a lucid and dreamy set which gives the impression of one magnificently woven song. Their performance plays upon Neu!-esque krautrock rhythms, jammy repetitive grooves which harks to Wooden Shjips, and the shimmering melodies of Spiritualized. Even as a duo, the group hold the ability to assemble numerous layers with loops, hypnotic effects, fuzzed-out basslines and trippy vocal measures which are reinforced by the droning synths and motoric drum machine beat. SilVer VialS possess a sound where brilliantly executed repetition and kaleidoscopic psych builds and builds to a create a meditative effect. With a string of support slots from across the psychedelic world under their belts, SilVer VialS are a group to look out for amongst the Manchester alternative music scene.

The final performance is by none other than Silver Apples. Armed with an assortment of analogue synthesizers, oscillators, sound filters, effect pedals and other pieces of bizarre looking technology, Simeon delves into a set which spans all of his studio output. Following a short tweaking and warm-up of his otherworldly looking equipment, he begins to explore the left-field of 60s psych with the futuristic sounds of pounding beats and electronic drones, which are greeted with a rapturous applause from the audience. The appreciation is noted by Coxe, who engages in friendly chatter and jokes with the crowd for the duration of his set. The tracks are modified on the spot by Simeon, with the free-form sonic experiments giving the impression that no two Silver Apples performance are alike. With the bass heavy rumbling synths, electro grooves and head-nod inducing drum machine beats, it becomes clearer to hear the influence Simeon has had on genres from techno to hip hop; it’s no wonder the likes of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Stones Throw label owner Peanut Butter Wolf are avid fans. The highlight of the set is an extended cut of ‘Oscillations’ from the classic self-titled debut album; the reverberating vocals weave through dense, spacey synths which Coxe oversees with effortless ease. He leaves the stage, but the crowd desire more. After a brief break, he returns to perform a final song, a cut from the sophomore record Contact.

Silver Apples is a project which has overseen vast transformations throughout the years: from rising from the ashes of traditional rock outfit The Overland Stage Electric Band to adjusting the manner of performance and composition after losing a member, Simeon is a testament to how to change a project without losing the key essence of a group. Tonight’s gig highlighted Band on the Wall’s commitment to celebrating free thinking and innovative music, with three acts all performing to a first-rate standard.

– Tom Woodward, 2017. Posted with kind permission of the author.