South Yorkshire producers Dean Honer and Jarrod Gosling have been trading as I Monster since the late 90s, issuing both their own albums and collaborating with the likes of The All Seeing I, The Human League and The Eccentronic Research Council.
Bright Sparks, however, is their most satisfying release yet. An accompaniment to the documentary of the same name, it’s a frothy tribute to eight avatars of electronica, from Robert Moog through to Ken Freeman, inventor of the polyphonic synth.
The former is given his dues in The Fantastic Tale Of Dr. Moog And The Birth Of The Shimmering Beast, which references Moog’s historic meeting with co-conspirator Herb Deutsch in ’63 and Beaver & Krause’s famous workshop at the Monterey festival. The Uncertain Contents Of The Buchla Box doffs its cap to Don Buchla, Californian creator of the modular synth, over a gorgeous rhythmic bed that sounds like an electronic calibration of Free’s Wishing Well. Honer and Gosling add spacey whooshes and multi-tracked voices that imbue the song with an ecstatic sense of Aquarian wonder, a countercultural awakening that chimes with lyrics about Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the Acid Tests. ‘Open the box, get on the bus!’ goes the mass refrain. It’s arguably the album’s standout moment.
A frothy tribute to eight avatars of electronica.
The nimble propulsion of Kraftwerk is evoked on Alan R. Pearlman And The ARPiological Exploration Of The Cosmos, a tune that traces the influence of the ARP synth (a step-up from the Moog and a vital conduit for Genesis, Caravan, Herbie Hancock, Pete Townshend and Low-era Bowie, to name but a few). Elsewhere, the tranquil glide of The Bradley Brothers Realise The Transmutation Of The Chamberlin To The Mellotron offers a cool counterpoint. The weird ambience and experimental burps of London 1969: The Wizards Of Putney Deny Accusations Of Unholy Enchantment At The Electronic Music Studios (EMS) – a proggy mouthful if ever there was one – charts the arrival of the cheap and portable VCS3, beloved of Eno, Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream. Electronic Dream Plant (EDP): The Dirt In The Ointment trumpets the onset of the new wave of audio synths seeping into the market in the late 70s/early 80s. Introduced by post-punk ambience and weird pools of static, the song breaks into a stark electronic pattern that carries a digital imprint of Throbbing Gristle and Add N To (X).
A potted history of electronic music aside, the beauty of Bright Sparks lies in its ability to create something valuable, fresh and engaging from the very inventions it celebrates.