02. Eclipse (10:46)
03. Medusa (7:57)
04. Raga In Asia Minor (15:35)
- Steve Braund / ARP synthesiser, ARP sequencer, Korg synthesiser, processed saxophone
- Colin Butcher / drums, percussion, synthesisers
- Geoff Green / piano, organ, strings, Mellotron, synthesisers
Cybotron might have been something more than just a footnote in musical history, if only:
A) The band had formed in England or America, instead of in the cultural isolation of southern Australia,
B) They didn't share the same name with a popular techno group from Detroit, operating more or less at the same time, and
C) Their career peak hadn't coincided with the violent shift of musical headwinds that capsized so many likeminded outfits at the end of the 1970s.
Too bad, because the band had the potential to make a splash during its all-too brief lifetime, which instead crested on this second album, released in 1978. There's a temptation to brand them as an antipode TANGERINE DREAM, always the yardstick for measuring any musical trio top-heavy with synthesizers. But the aggressive drum work and macho electronic riffing brings their sound closer to the psychedelic space-rock spirit of classic HAWKWIND, right down to the same processed, interstellar sax, played here by bandleader Steve Braund.
It was the unique blend of instruments - synthesizers, heavy drums, and saxophone - that gave their music such a distinctive punch. Steve Braund may have been an expatriate German living Down Under, but unlike the early kosmische pioneers of TANGERINE DREAM his own band was hardly experimental (at least not on this album). The music here is strictly rock, with the bombastic vitality of all those analog synths and sequencers sounding no less appealing (if not quite as fresh) after more than thirty years.
In truth the album has dated less than the band's cheesy sci-fi name and amateur cover art. And in retrospect it's a good thing they never compromised the authority of their strictly instrumental blitzkrieg with singing. I can't imagine the jet-fueled jams of "Eclipse" or "Medusa" being improved by lyrics, but then again a lot of fans were saying the same thing about TANGERINE DREAM before that band's addition of a vocalist for the "Cyclone" album, released the same year as Cybotron's sophomore effort.
The Australian trio will never be remembered as musical innovators. But they succeeded in forging a singular identity for themselves, no small accomplishment in the creative cauldron of the mid-1970s. It may be too late for a complete rediscovery, but I'm reassured to find they haven't been completely forgotten.
[ Consumer postscript. The available digital version of the album - at Amazon and elsewhere - differs from the original vinyl, cutting more than nine minutes off the epic "Raga in Asia Minor" but adding a pair of bonus tracks as compensation: a short remix of the muscular title track, and the TD influenced sequencer space-out of "Ride". The trade-off actually makes the album shorter than it used to be, but still worth searching for. ]