1969: Dick Hyman - Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman

When you picture the future, what does it look like? If you take your cues from pop culture, the view’s a little bleak -- a landscape of distant, desolate planets and bright white spaces inhabited by cyborgs and machines, all marching to the vocoder-powered voice of Kanye West. Come to think of it, it’s a lot scarier typed-out than it is through the gloss of a music video.

The funny thing is, since the dawn of the space age, our vision of the future hasn’t changed that drastically. For evidence, one needs only look at the cover of Dick Hyman’s 1969 album, Moog: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman. Reverse carbon copies of Hyman himself emerge from an early model spacecraft; they stand stiffly, sometimes floating above a sparse, crater-filled terrain. The emptiness of space looms in the background.

And then there’s the music contained within -- jazz and pop spun through the modular waves of the then-emerging Moog synthesizer. Hyman, a classically-trained jazz pianist and composer, was, along with his contemporary Wendy Carlos, one of the pioneers of the machine. Electric Eclectics was his first foray into composing for the Moog (he’d previously pioneered similar use of the Lowrey organ), and the resulting album is one of the most successful of its kind. "The Minotaur," a classic proggy jam, was the first Top 40 hit composed entirely on the Moog and would subsequently provide a bit of shameless “inspiration” for Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s "Lucky Man." The rest of the tracks (including a transcendent yet still danceable take on James Brown's "Turn It Up or Turn It Loose") range from pure kitsch to loungey pop to hazy improvisational jazz. It all comes together to form the "sound of the future": pulsating blips, jaunty bloops, and funky bleeps; undulating sine waves and modulating grooves; melody and human emotion, processed through the heart of a machine. The result, however, is surprisingly warm and undeniably entertaining.

So how does the sound of the future hold up today? Well, sort of dated, actually -- a bit like a space age bachelor pad relic. This is hardly a criticism, though. Hyman was doing something new, testing the boundaries of an instrument that had rarely been used to its full potential before. And the result, while occasionally veering into questionably cheesy territory, is for the most part a set of virtuosic instrumental pop tunes iconically indicative of the era. To say they’re dated? Well, do you imagine Daft Punk won’t sound a little kitschy after 40 years? How about Kanye’s aforementioned robot vocals? It’s not a knock to anyone’s creative integrity, just a note that artistic merit shouldn’t always be judged based on the technology available at the time.

So maybe the future doesn’t sound exactly like Moog predicted it would. That doesn’t diminish the contributions of Hyman and his contemporaries to the modern musical sphere. Beyond all of the analog noodling, all of the killer sampling fodder, and all of the influence the guy’s clearly had on everyone from Beck to Stereolab to Momus, Hyman’s most important contribution is the enlightened realization that electronic music doesn’t have to be cold and distant, so long as the person playing it’s got a little soul.

1. Topless Dancers of Corfu
2. Legend of Johnny Pot
3. Moog and Me
4. Tap Dance in the Memory Banks
5. Four Duets in Odd Meter
6. The Minotaur
7. Total Bells and Tony
8. Improvisation in Fourths
9. Evening Thoughts
10. Give It Up or Turn It Loose
11. Kolumbo
12. Time is Tight


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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