Moog Ensemble (feat. Will Gregory)/Charlemange Palestine

Barbican, London - 8 July 2015

"Extraordinary and incredible - I doubt I will see or hear the likes of this again"

A very different gig (well technically a concert) to usual at the Barbican Centre which found me in the front row with an opportunity to chat with Charlemagne Palestine about how he started working with the likes of Robert Moog and Alan R Pearlman (ARP) in the 60s with synthesizers, and also a discussion around the mighty Moog Series 55 (which had been leant by Moog for the concert). The kit list comprised of what appeared to be:-

• 1 x Moog Series 55 with additional effects units
• 3 x Moog Voyager RME
• 1 x Moog Sub Phatty
• 4 x Casio keyboards (model unknown)

American composer Charlemagne Palestine started the session with a drone from the four Casio keyboards which had been tuned to beat (in much the way the oscillators on a Minimoog beat as they drift) and then he proceeded to explain that he was a Ceremonial Performer and proceeded to chant "Moog!" several times and clinking two partly-filled wine glasses. The piece then evolved with additional oscillators being gradually added to the sound, one by one. Initially from the Moog Voyagers, then the Sub Phatty and finally the might Moog Modular.

Each oscillator seemed to be set to a different pitch and shape and brought in gradually to an enormous sound, all being drones, with no envelopes (other than that produced by turning the volume knob) and then reaching a crescendo as all 41 Oscillators played together. The oscillators were then removed gradually one by one (with further chanting) until only the Casios were left and the performance then ended. Did Charlemange create the 'Golden Sound' he was looking for? Only he knows. But it was an extraordinary performance - totally not in my normal electro pop genre – but incredible. For the sheer experience 10/10 as I doubt I will see or hear the likes of this again.

[Charlemange Palestine]      [Charlemange Palestine]   Moog Ensemble   Moog Ensemble

Photos [L-R]: Charlemange Palestine (x2), Moog Ensemble (x2)

Will Gregory (Goldfrapp), Adrian Utley (Portishead) and an ensemble of jazz, classical and punk musicians exploit the full potential of the Moog synthesiser. On any other night the line-up of kit for this performance by the Moog Ensemble would be mind blowing:-

5 x Minimoogs
1 x Moog Sub 37
1 x Roland SH09
1 x Roland SH01
1 x Korg MS20
1 x Korg Delta
1 x Roland Promars
1 x Modular Synth (unknown – potentially Roland System 100m). Originally it was planned to use four Minimoogs but one had to be added to replace a faulty Micromoog.

As it was, the idea of hearing all of these vintage devices on stage live was incredible and I was not to be disappointed. Three of the musicans used wind controllers to control their synths (Will Gregory was using a WX7) and this added a great deal to the performance. Sadly I cannot recall the entire set list but it started off with the Brandenburg Concerto (in the vein of Walter/Wendy Carlos) and then went on to a medley of Purcell and the glorious Ludwig van Beethoven from Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, played over Anthony Burgess narrating the first chapter of the book.

Later in the concert we were treated to a version of John Carpenter's Escape from New York theme – which was immense. And then some pieces that clocked the triggers of all the synths together (using a central automated clock on a laptop – bloody digital!) for two pieces. The first just using white noise and filters etc. (very percussive) and a second using oscillators to add melody and bass – a very clever idea beautifully executed (technically not easy either as the Moogs use an S-trig and the Rolands and Korgs gated triggers).

At the end of the gig there was an unexpected encore (unexpected by the Ensemble that is) so they performed the Brandenburg Concerto once more. 
Review + Photos: Mark Smith