Chapter Music presents a vinyl/digital reissue of Melbourne post-punk icon David Chesworth’s pioneering 1979 debut 50 Synthesizer Greats.
Originally self-released on no label, 50 Synthesizer Greats was actually 37 tracks of minimal synth investigations, full of inquisitive humour and playful experimental spirit. The album was recorded in late 1978 by David in his parents’ lounge room, on an Akai 4000 DS reel to reel tape machine, using a monophonic Mini Korg 700 synth borrowed from fellow post-punk icons Tsk Tsk Tsk.
Bouncing down tracks via the Akai‘s primitive “sound-on-sound” feature resulted in unexpected echo effects and tricky mono vs stereo choices, while snatches of the earlier recordings David taped over to make 50 Synths can still be spotted here and there throughout the album.
David was only 21 when 50 Synths was made, but his energy and accomplishments were prodigious. With guitarist Robert Goodge he formed the much-loved Essendon Airport (check out Chapter’s reissues of 1979’s Sonic Investigations Of the Trivial and 1981’s Palimpsest). He became co-ordinator of renowned experimental music venue the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, and founded the Innocent Records label with Tch Tch Tch leader Philip Brophy, engineering or producing much of its output.
Chesworth’s late 70s/early 80s records and productions have become hugely sought after collectors’ items and DJ holy grails, across his solo work, Essendon Airport, Whadya Want, Chocolate Grinders, the Dave & Phil Duo and other projects. He has since become a renowned contemporary classical composer and sound artist, commissioned to create a sound installation for the Sydney Olympics and represented in the 2015 Venice Biennale with partner Sonia Leber.
50 Synthesizer Greats is where it all began for David Chesworth, and remains one of his most engaging and remarkable works. The remastered album is reissued with liner new notes and photos from David Chesworth himself, plus two digital- only bonus tracks. Of the 13 tracks that couldn‘t fit onto the original 1979 album, sadly only one has survived and is presented here, alongside a recently unearthed 11 minute opus from 1979, recorded on a massive Serge Modular Synthesizer.
"After punk flushed out the putrefaction that rock had largely become by the mid-to-late 70s, the three-chord thrasharama quickly became insufficient and the do-it-yourself imperative of punk adapted itself to a number of new alternatives/explorations. One of the most enticing was in a new strain of electronic music. Electronic rock had been prominently pioneered in the early 70s by the likes of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Eno, and it was the infusion of this avant-garde tradition into the do-it-yourself ethic that gave rise to a worldwide wave of post-punk electronic music (that ended up at the extremes of New Romantic synth-pop and experimental industrial noise). Yet while we always hear all about, say, Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire in the UK or Suicide and the Residents in the US, less is heard of the contemporaneous Australian electronic music movement, even though it may be more enduring than the others.
In Melbourne in the late 70s/early 80s, things were so wide open
that even the pub rock venues were awash with radical, electronic bands. In Sydney bands like the Severed Heads, Systematics and Machinations were isolated outposts, but in Melbourne, electronic music was thriving to such an extent it was even able to sustain several distinct and quite oppositional scenes within a scene. Leaving behind the hippy meanderings of Melbourne's own Krautrock outfit Cybotron, the so-called North Fitzroy Little Bands scene grew out of post-punk electro-rock pioneers Whirlywirld and the Primitive Calculators, and was characterised by its wild, instinctive, very visceral sense of experimentation.
If this was expressionism, the scene centered around the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre was contrastingly cerebral, abstract. Although the CHCMC also embraced older guard musicians like David Tolley, its stars were the likes of tch-tch-tch and David Chesworth, who had taken to the mini-Korg like it was the key to a whole new kingdom. David Chesworth in particular set a new standard when, in 1979, he released his debut album 50 Synthesizer Greats.
Nobody had ever made a record like this before. Totally devoid of the
slickness of, say, Kraftwerk, the album nonetheless had a K-Tel-like sense of kitsch to it that undermined any saccharine sweetness, giving the37 trax an atmosphere of disquiet that still catches in the ear. This
was (and remains) no mere muzak for moderns but something altogether more insidious, and haunting, and is an indication of the vibrancy of post-punk electronic music in Melbourne that the world might only now be catching up with. "
supported by 6 fans who also own “50 Synthesizer Greats”
compelling, joyous, synth dance rock… fresh and the real deal… a favorite from 2014
(not sure about the "punk" moniker… using the vocabulary from when it was coined, this is electronic new wave, in the same realm as ultravox, visage, fad gadget, and the flying lizards, and, more recently, mängelexemplar) Saucer