Tim Blake Page 2
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  So... I sat on the steps of that Magick rehearsal room, picked up my Les Paul Junior, skinned up, and wrote a song, that I had to wait 7 years more to record.....

"It's a New Age!"....Thanks Daevid ... Thanx Bloom"

Armed with a very early EMS Synthi A (only the seventh one to be built) he tried working with Gong as a band member rather than as an engineer, but didn't quite fit in unanimously at this point. Drummer Pip Pyle found the rhythmic nature of Tim's EMS twitterings distracting, so his joining the band was delayed. However, he very soon became part of what's generally agreed to be the classic Gong line-up, and played on the three essential albums of the Gong trilogy - Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg, and You. His synthesizer playing was like no-one else's on these classic Gong albums, swooping, twittering, shimmering and darting through the music and providing much of the otherworldly magic essential to Gong's music and message. As well, his compositional skills contributed largely to the most important and enduring of Gong's music.

Appearances as a band-member on several other albums took place: with Steve Hillage on his first solo album Fish Rising, with Cyrille Verdeaux on two of the Clearlight albums - Symphony and Les Contes du Singe Fou - and with Hawkwind's Nik Turner on Xitintoday, among others.

The peak of all this, though, in my view, is the first of Tim's own solo albums, the brilliant Crystal Machine. The live shows featured the first ever use of a laser in a music concert setting, due to a collaboration with French light artist Patrice Warrener. Warrener is often assisted by Blake as he fulfils commissions to transform buildings and other architectural features with spectacular, rich and subtle lighting effects using his Chromolithe Polychromatic Illumination System.

As well as the pioneering use of the laser, Crystal Machine explored new areas musically with a unique design of EMS synthesizer. The early EMS Synthi A became one of a pair, linked together with various modifications to produce a much more versatile instrument. Blake wasn't alone in linking two EMS instruments - David Vorhaus did the same, and EMS themselves designed a VCS4 which worked in the same way, though without marketing it - but the twin EMS `Crystal Machine' was used to stunning effect and helps make the Crystal Machine album one of the finest electronic albums ever made, in my view. It's also true to say that Tim Blake is one of the very few musicians who can turn the EMS synthesizers into really expressive instruments instead of mere sound-effect devices. With the twin EMS synthi, a MiniMoog, Elka Rhapsody and a few signal processors, Blake made an album of truly stunning originality and creativity. The fluid, living solo parts on `Last Ride of the Boogie Child' stand out as possibly the most skilful use of voltage controlled synthesis I've ever heard.

This is extremely high praise, I know, but everyone I've ever played this album to has agreed, enthusiastically.

The next solo album, Blake's New Jerusalem, was described as an `analogue masterpiece' by Electronics and Music Maker magazine. It certainly is, though I think the later live performances of this music often have the edge over the studio versions. The recent live performances of `New Jerusalem' itself, with Blake and Jean-Philippe Rykiel, seem to take this song to a higher level. `Lighthouse,' from this album, became a staple Hawkwind live number, and benefits from the rock band treatment, though again Blake and Rykiel have played it stunningly in recent years. Jean-Philippe Rykiel also makes a magnificent contribution to this album's `Passage Sur La Cite De La Revelation.'

It's worth taking a slight detour here to discuss Jean-Philippe Rykiel a little more, as he's another often overlooked musician who's well worth discovering. His parents recognised Jean-Philippe's musical talents at an early age and supported his development as a musician. They asked Tim Blake to teach Jean-Philippe to play synthesizer, with the result that at the age of twelve he began working with the MiniMoog. He developed both as a synthesizer player and as a producer, on the one hand adding his distinctive playing to Blake's New Jerusalem and many live shows, and also to Steve Hillage's Open album, and on the other hand producing many of the important names in recent African music.

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