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[CP 110-110.5 CD] Chris Swansen; Pulaski Skyway, Album II, The Sound Of The Moog

Creel Pone

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Last copies of this 2013 edition of Swansen's two early-mid-70s self-issued LPs ("Pulaski Skyway" is covered by tracks 1-9, "Album II" ditto tracks 10-18) adding the contents of the 1971 "The Sound Of Moog" flexi-disc to the proceedings (tracks 19 & 20). 

OK, this one takes a little bit of explaining - on the surface, yes, another set of Moogsploitation joints, but closer in fact to the Holy Grail of said. Released in 1972 & 1975, this pair of obscure, self-released LPs issues some of the first “Pop” music ever made on the Moog Synthesizer by one of the first people to own a system - famously, choreographer Alwin Nikolais got the first off the line, but library music composer Eric Siday & the subject here were among Moog’s initial customers - Jazz musician Chris Swansen.

Swansen grew up in Milwaukee, studied music at Dartmouth in the late 50s & ended up teaching at Berklee for a spell between touring with Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, and - of course - Herb Pomeroy. A trombone, piano, & bass player by trade, his multi-instrumental & arrangement skills - his name pops up all over the place, from Steve Marcus’ Vortex-label side “The Lord’s Prayer” to several Gary Burton & Phil Woods releases - coupled with his growing interest in electronic music made him the perfect candidate to be one of the first artists to have a “Residency” at the fledgeling Moog Music corporation in 1968, giving many demonstrations and concerts on the Moog Synthesizer throughout the next few years at the MOMA in New York & the Musée D’Art Modern in Paris - plus, in the early 70s, while recording much of the later music heard here, he shared a studio with David Borden’s Mother Mallard.

Chris’ unique approach to creating densely layered music on the, at that stage, still monophonic Moog Modular, shows a real love & understanding of the system beyond the “by-the-numbers” approach many would take even later on. Talking about the Moog system back in the day, Chris  wrote:

"My music derives from as many sources as i can find and use electronically. the music is not limited by the instrument as almost any conceivable sound or tone color is possible on the synthesizer. Almost every style of composition and orchestration is used at one time or another, with an overall freedom given to rhythmic and harmonic components of the total structure. Jazz, rock, folk musics of many parts of the world, indian scales and intervals, classical and romantic western forms and harmonies, serial techniques, and Grecian, Arabic and Chinese intervallic systems, as well as pure electronically derived forms and patterns all enter into my compositions."

The two LPs in question were issued from archival materials after he relocated back to Wisconsin to raise his family - whereas W. Carlos’ 1968 “Switched on Bach” was inarguably the first record that put the Moog out into the collective consciousness via a series of rigid, formic executions of the Bach material, it’s interesting to think how the landscape would have changed had this music been issued as it was being recorded. In many ways it’s the polar opposite, taking a loose, improvisational, and at times even funky approach to single-line arrangement methods - every single sound on every piece herein comes from the Moog; the drum-parts, largely white-noise bursts, are hand-played, as are the many 3/4/5-part “Horn” lines.

Rather than issue everything on two discs, Mr. P.C. C.P. has decided to change things up & issue these two historically important sides on a single disc as a “2-for-the-price-of-1” initiative - thanks Mr. P.C. C.P. !!!