Various Artists

Moog [Original Soundtrack]

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Hans Fjellestad's documentary Moog and its soundtrack explore the connection between, and the lasting influence of, eccentric electronic genius Robert Moog -- his name is practically onomatopoetic -- and his quintessential analog synthesizer. Moog's two discs include the actual soundtrack, which features new tracks by contemporary artists, and another disc of vintage tracks. 33's "Abominatron," which mixes samples of Moog speaking with R2D2-like synth squiggles and heavy, blobby basslines, and the Moog Cookbook's "Bob's Funk" are straight-up tributes that are fun, but not especially creative. Likewise, Luke Vibert and Jean-Jacques Perrey's collaboration, "You Moog Me," is oddly subdued and straightforward, considering their previous quirky work. Money Mark's peppy "Nanobot Highway" fares better, as does Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins' "When Bernie Speaks," one of the few tracks here that shows how soul and funk embraced the Moog. However, Tortoise's startlingly dark, dubby version of the standard "Beautiful Love" and Cure keyboardist Roger O'Donnell's "Another Year Away" -- which captures the warm, slightly oppressive feel of some late-'60s/early-'70s electronic music -- twist the classic sound and image of the Moog to their own devices. Meat Beat Manifesto's "Unavailable Memory" and Stereolab's "Variation One" find these artists doing pretty much what they always do, with Moogs adding a bit of warmth and character to the proceedings. Tracks by newer performers are the most exciting: the Album Leaf's aptly named "Micro Melodies" is a lovely reminder that the Moog can be delicate. Plastiq Phantom's "Sqeeble" -- which sounds a bit like Akufen on steroids -- and Pete DeVriese's witty "You Have Been Selected" update the Moog's tradition of being playful and fascinatingly unpredictable. Japanese musician and visual artist Baiyon's "Mixed Waste 4.2" is another standout: it begins with pretty, subtle glitches and becomes a tangle of crossed and dropped signals. The second disc does a better job of showcasing the Moog's influence and diversity: ELP's "Lucky Man" and Yes' massive "Close to the Edge" show why the synth was a vital element in prog rock's flights of fancy, while Gary Numan's "Cars," Devo's "Mongoloid," and New Order's "Blue Monday" show how it also fit post-punk and new wave's frosty, paranoid tones. Meanwhile, Perrey's "E.V.A." and They Might Be Giants' cover of his "Baroque Hoedown" represent the lovably cheesy side of the Moog. It's something of a shame that Moog doesn't feature more of the artists who helped make the synth so iconic; Wendy Carlos, who made some of the most definitive Moog music, and Add N to (X), who pushed the innate playfulness of the Moog and other analog synths to the limit, are especially missed. It's understandable that the people behind the soundtrack didn't want to just make a "history of the Moog" compilation, but not enough of the artists on the collection really embody the creative, innovative spirit of Moog -- the man and the machine. Moog is far from a bad soundtrack, but the expectations of analog synth geeks might be too high.

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