- Choronzon – Tangerine Dream (Exit)
A very accessible and uptempo number to kick things off. Heard it for the first time when I went to my first ever proper gig at the Glasgow Apollo when I was aged 12. The second ‘classic’ lineup of TD, with Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Johannes Schmoelling.
- Oscillations – Silver Apples (Silver Apples)
Silver Apples were a psychedelic duo who formed in New York in 1967. Simeon Coxe created his own primitive performance synthesizer (called ‘The Simeon’) out of audio signal generators and various control mechanisms. All the sounds you hear could be (and still are!) performed on stage in real time.
- Welcome to the Machine – Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here)
This will need no introduction, but it is probably the most distinctly electronic and ‘synthy’ song of Floyd’s back catalogue, using such iconic machines as the VCS3, Mini Moog and ARP Solina strings.
- Overture (Reprise) – Louis and Bebe Barron (Forbidden Planet)
The Barrons were a married couple working out of New York. They were commissioned to create the ‘Electronic Tonalities’ which accompanied the MGM science-fiction movie Forbidden Planet. Louis would create electronic devices based on the cybernetics theories of Norbert Wiener. They would record the audio output of these devices as they were manipulated (some might say ‘tortured’). It was then Bebe’s job to splice together these sounds into a layered, musical composition. The Forbidden Planet soundtrack could not be nominated for an Oscar, as it was not considered ‘music’. Please be sure to use the reprise version of this track (at the end of the album) as it is presented without the roars of the MGM lion, unlike its first appearance on track 1.
- Equinoxe 1 – Jean Michel Jarre (Equinoxe)
JMJ’s 1978 follow-up to the groundbreaking Oxygene was even more polished and multi-layered as its predecessor. This track was used as the theme tune for The BBC’s Holiday programme in the UK.
- To The Unknown Man – Vangelis (Spiral)
Funnily enough, another BBC theme tune choice, this time for snooker. Be sure to fade at the 06:20 mark (if not before), as it rapidly becomes pants after that point.
- Force Majeure – Tangerine Dream (Force Majeure)
The first long-form track of the show, this is probably my first choice for introducing a newbie to the world of Tangerine Dream. It has rocky grooves, ambient sections, hypnotic sequencers and even abstract soundscapes. It has real focus and leanness, with not a single second wasted. It has a lot in common with Tubular Bells, with new themes being introduced on a regular basis. The main thing is that it’s all about the MUSIC for 80% of the time, with the remaining 20% being meticulous attention to detail in the sound department. This was created in the transition years between the Froese, Franke, Baumann lineup and the Froese, Franke, Schmoelling lineup, when they had a real live drummer in the form of Klaus Krieger.
- Clock – Node (Node)
OK, so Node are a bunch of modular synth nuts, with members of such high profile as producers Flood and Ed Buller. They recently put on a concert at the Royal College Of Music in London, with almost certainly the biggest gathering of modular synths in history. This track is menacing and can be a bit challenging, but it has something in common with the dark ambient movement of the ’90s.
- Oxygene 2 – Jean Michel Jarre (Oxygene)
It’s difficult to decide where to start with this track. Yes, JMJ can be a bit of a knob at times; all show and no substance. But this…this is something magical which he created in a ‘bedroom studio’ when he was an unknown. The instrumentation was magical, too. VCS3, Korg Mini Pops drum machine, Eminent 310 string machine, Mellotron, ARP 2600. It is a psychedelic universe of colours, warmth, melodic invention and sonic fireworks.
- Down In The Park – Tubeway Army (Replicas)
So Gary Numan landed on the UK like The Man Who Fell To Earth, with an entire mythos and musical identity already sharpened to perfection. The dark, dystopian worldview seemed to be just what we needed in the Winter of Discontent. Certainly I personally latched onto it instantly. He got a bit of a snubbing from other synth artists at the time, but he has proved himself eminently worthy 30-plus years later.
- Deep Distance – Ashra (New Age Of Earth)
New Age Of Earth is arguably the most beloved album of Ashra’s output. It is very accessible, and can easily be dismissed as a fluffy “New Age” album. But it really lies within the Berlin School of electronic music, treading a path of gothic majesty rather than wooly-headed wispiness.
- Rubycon pt 1 – Tangerine Dream (Rubycon)
The greatest recording ever produced by the human race. This is organic, fluid, psychedelic, melodic (in a weird way) and just…..beautiful. Somehow, the stars and planets and personalities and technology aligned in Virgin’s Manor Studios for a few days in 1975, and this is what happened. The blueprint for so many disciples to worship (including Under the Dome).
- So Long Ago, So Clear – Jon and Vangelis (Heaven and Hell)
The angelic voice of Jon Anderson and the sensitive orchestration of Vangelis on a variety of instruments including his beloved Yamaha CS-80. What’s not to like in this gloriously romantic epic?
- Europa Endlos – Kraftwerk (Trans-Europe Express)
Kraftwerk get called a lot of things by the music press: Godfathers of Techno, Cold Robotic Germans, etc, etc. To me, their greatest strengths were their love of melody, and being in the right place at the right time to adopt gorgeous, warm, analogue musical technology. I much prefer the German-language version of this song to the English one.
- I Feel Love – Donna Summer (I Remember Yesterday)
The historic sound of the future. Psychedelic, hypnotic, darkly sexual, and quite unlike anything which had come before. Giorgio Moroder was the producer, and so much more on this track, playing and recording the entire backing on an enormous Moog Modular system. To this day, it sounds like something which has teleported from the future like a T-1000.
- Le Petit Oranger – Irene Papas (Odes)
Not quite sure which category to place this one in. It’s quite folky and world-music in a sense. But the subtle interplay between Papas and Vangelis is just something beautiful to behold. A gorgeous melting-pot of warm, analogue synths and emotive vocals.
- Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles (Revolver)
The Beatles, George Martin and Goeff Emerick pull out all the stops to create THE blueprint psychedelic single. Tape loops, classical Indian instrumentation, and all that Abbey Road studio could throw at them.
- Hunger For The Flesh – Howard Jones (Dream Into Action)
Often dismissed as a pretty-boy pop icon, Howard Jones produced at the very least two incrdible albums in the form of Human’s Lib and Dream Into Action. He was also able to get some very decent sounds out of the Yamaha DX-7. It was a toss-up between this track and “Hide and Seek”. This won out for some mysterious reason.
- Rubycon pt 2 – Tangerine Dream (Rubycon)
OK, the second half of the greatest album in the world. It follows no rules, simply making the best music in its ability. It is gothic, majestic, and finishes on achingly beautiful sweeps of synth, then mellotron flute fading into the distance.