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Silver Apples

+ {Amphibian Lark}

The interstellar precursor to many a “krautrock” combo, or fellow Big Apple-ites SUICIDE and a plethora of incumbent post-rock acts, the SILVER APPLES duo seemed a fish out of water under the kaleidoscopic viewfinder of the psychedelic 60s scene. Master of ceremonies Simeon Coxe III and percussionist/drummer Dan Taylor had rescued their “superfluous” oscillators/electronics from their previous band, the Overland Stage Electric Band and, in 1967, the pair matched melodies with lyrics contributed by poet Stanley Warren.
A strange grouping indeed, who combined polite vocal cues with all sorts of weird and wonderful stretches of their imaginations, the surreal Simeon and Co signed to “pop” label, Kapp Records, for a mildly successful eponymous debut; SILVER APPLES (1968) {*7} – complete with beeps and radio interference – it dented the Top 200 lists. Whether opening signature salvo, `Oscillations’, was aimed to resonate with more than mere humans (coming at a time when Space and the Moon were about to be… er, conquered), who really knew, but in the melodious mind-grinders `Lovefingers’, `Velvet Cave’, `Whirly-Bird’ and `Dancing Gods’, even The VELVET UNDERGROUND or The MOTHERS OF INVENTION must’ve been worried of the ‘Apples procuring their avant-rock terra firma.
Surfacing only several months after their detached debut, album two CONTACT (1969) {*8}, caused consternation for Kapp, as the artwork of Simeon and Dan, superimposed on an ill-fated mock aeroplane crash encroached on the sensitivities of Pan Am airlines and their customers. Needless to say, the furore led to the label pulling the LP from retail and, even more shockingly, the confiscation of Taylor’s drum-kit!
The music within was not so graphic or distasteful, just drone-beats and polymath drumming. Simeon performed on banjo for `Confusion’, whilst his girlfriend Eileen Lewellen took over lyrical duties on the likes of `I Have Known Love’.
`You And I’, `A Pox On You’ and the manic-like `Gypsy Love’ were the counterbalance to any cosmic off-kilter elements that drifted in and out of the SILVER APPLES’ sonic sci-fi synths and mystical hippydom, thankfully without sacrificing little, if any, machinations.
A third album, THE GARDEN {*6} was shelved in 1970, but unearthed some 28 years, by which time various 80s/90s outfits (i.e. SPACEMEN 3, LAIKA, STEREOLAB et al) were proud to promote their dog-eared SILVER APPLES records, while unleashing their own versions of `A Pox On You’, etc., etc. Simeon and Taylor had both subsequently undertaken respective day jobs in graphic designing and telephone engineering, and that looked to be that for the duo.
However, in 1996, a near 60-something Simeon – who’d given up trying to find Taylor – enlisted a new recruit in keyboardist Xian Hawkins (of SYBARITE) for an altogether unlikely combination of The SILVER APPLES, initially only to release a one-off UK indie 7-inch for Enraptured Records: `Fractal Flow’. A drummer, Michael Lerner, was drafted into the equation for American and European tours, while “comeback” album BEACON (1997) {*5} was not as well received as they’d hoped. Drowned by the psychedelic simplicity of eight fresh tracks and three (`I Have Known Love’, `You And I’ and `Misty Mountain’) re-vamped from their late-60s salad days, it was clear that it’d be a hard task to surpass themselves, as well their descendants.
The one-track, 40-minute-long DECATUR {*5} album was released by Simeon’s Whirlybird Records in summer 1998, however, most of the record was down to variations of noise experimentation; BEACON REMIXED {*4} was also granted a release date that autumn. Just when things looked rosy once again (both Simeon and his old mucker Taylor worked on the tapes for the aforementioned “The Garden”), the singer was seriously injured in a car crash on November 1, 1998. Spinal complications and a broken neck left him severely paralysed and put paid to the reformation of the original duo. In the meantime, a collaborative effort, `A Lake Of Teardrops’, with followers SPECTRUM (i.e. ex-SPACEMEN 3’s Sonic Boom/Pete Kember), were first to ultilize the oscillating sounds of a re-cored SILVER APPLES.
As time wore on, Simeon and SILVER APPLES were hit a tragic blow, when, on March 10, 2005, Danny Taylor died in Kingston, New York. After a period of recuperation, Simeon duly took his SILVER APPLES on the road, mainly performing at festivals like All Tomorrow’s Parties and several others of note; a CD-r entitled GREMLINS (2008) {*4} would surface without much fuss.
In October 2011, there was a live collaboration with CLUSTER’s Hans-Joachim Roedelius under the “Silver-Qluster” motif, while PORTISHEAD paid tribute to “the Gods of Space Rock” by invited Simeon on stage to perform `We Carry On’. Almost swept under the carpet or, indeed, under the radar, Coxe and Lydia Winn LeVert (vocals, keyboards, bass) were the duo behind low-key moonlighting project, AMPHIBIAN LARK (2013) {*6}.
From being a mysterious artifact or simply the greatest electronic act to walk the planet (as defined by various music periodicals), Simeon’s SILVER APPLES were glowing brightly for what would be a swansong instalment a la CLINGING TO A DREAM (2016) {*7}. Luminescent and loved by Shindig magazine (as well as Wire), there was a one-man-RESIDENTS element to `Nothing Matters’, `The Mist’ and the gloopy `Susie’, whilst the missing-from-action `Fractal Flow’, made its first appearance on album. At 78 years of age, Simeon toured to promote the set and other dirges from bygone years.
© MC Strong 1997-2003/GRD series // rev-up MCS Sep2016

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