In Praise of Knob Twiddling (Reviews)

By Daniel Pemberton, 10 September 1997

Despite the current vogue for rediscovering old electronica, some records still retain a whiff of cheese that even the most dedicated musical revisionist can't remove. Daniel Pemberton makes impeccably tasteful music for impeccably tasteful labels such as London's NinjaTune. But when Mute applied the electrodes, he made some startling confessions:

"Although I was also into quite a few credible electronic artists when I was younger (Herbie Hancock, LFO etc.) people are always giving them respect, so I thought I'd write in support of those beard-wearing, knob twiddling square boys whose productions now get pushed to the back of everyone's record collection. My social standing may never be the same again by coming out of the electronic music closet in this way but I hope it encourages others to take my lead. Long live the bearded!"

:Jean Michel Jarre - Oxygene, Equinox:OK giving props to JMJ is about as cool as namechecking Hootie and the Blowfish but his first two albums certainly had their moments. Both were fantastic sound collages of phasing pads with twinkly analogue fairy dust all over the place and bits of them still sound pretty damn good today. Even the appalling magician's favourite "Oxygen 4" can sound alright if you listen to it as a piece of kitsch Moog electronica. And 'cos they sold so many you can pick them up for 50p at the Record + Tape Exchange. Bargain!

:Harold Faltermeyer - The Shoot Out (B-Side of Axel F 12"):I don't know much about old Harold except that (a) he produced the Pet Shop Boys' wonderful Behaviour album (b) apparently he has a huge collection of analogue synths (c) all his film soundtracks sound exactly the same and (d) the "Shoot Out" (as heard in the final scenes of Beverly Hills Cop when Eddy Murphy and co bust up the bad guys real good) is one epic bodypoppin' tune of old skool electro beats with a great DX7 synth line and those fantastic 'electronic tom tom drum' fills that were so big in the 1980s.

:Tomita - Snowflakes Are Falling:The best thing about Tomita, aside from the rather lush soundscapes he could create when not farting around and making horrible Moog masturbation records, was the fantastic photos that always accompanied his records. You would always get a picture of him standing very proudly in front of one big motherfucker of a keyboard with a million leads in it and thousands of knobs and patchbays that looked like the kind of keyboard that you had to have a beard to use. Good job!

:Vangelis - selected stuff which I can't remember titles of:He's big, he's fat, he's Greek and he's got one damn large beard. He is Vangelis and he is the knob twiddler's knob twiddler. Although he is still deeply uncool I feel there's a slow re-assessment coming on helped greatly by the re-issue of the Bladerunner soundtrack (his best work). Sure most of his music is horribly pomp but he sure knew how to programme a good pad sound. And with album titles like "Albedo 0.39" he was way ahead of those techno boys with their rubbish number-fixated titles.

:Hot Butter - Popcorn:Ironically this paradigm of uncool has suddenly become trendy thanks to the new found hipness of the Moog. As well as proudly boasting the legend "the world's first hit record produced entirely on a Moog synthesiser" on the cover the LP was also great because there was a photo of the aforementioned producers on the back, and surprise, surprise, they all had beards! Incidentally I have a great Klaus Wunderlich version of this song where he does a medley of it with "Theme From Shaft" on his Hammond Organ (with leslie). Nice!

Daniel Pemberton <danielp AT>