A tribute to the eccentric synthesizer.
When the British group Stereolab released their first singles collection in 1992, they weren't shy about their fetishes: It was titled Switched On. The group, led by the husband and wife duo of Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, was at the forefront of the rediscovery of analog keyboards in the 1990s—and the subsequent spike in the prices of vintage gear. With groups like Tortoise and the Moog Cookbook, and producers Pete Namlook and Fatboy Slim, the Moog made a bit of a comeback. Thanks to songs like the sitcom-length "Jenny Ondioline" and the dreamy anti-capitalist "Wow and Flutter," Stereolab found the most ardent cult following. "Moogie Wonderland" is one of their sillier tunes—a rippling, droning, farting, squirming, buzzing catalog of everything the synthesizer can possibly do. Luring fans as diverse as Blur and the Neptunes, the now-veteran Stereolab have actualized Moog's vision, which he stumbled upon so many years ago: to make music that is different and progressive, but with a warm and decidedly human wit.
Hua Hsu teaches in the English department at Vassar College. He is completing his first book, A Floating Chinaman, about H.T. Tsiang, his imagined rival Pearl Buck, and the often contentious community of Americans writing about China in the 1930s and '40s.
Audio excerpts from: Messe Pour Le Temps Present © 1967 Phillips; Oscillations From the Anti-Sun © 2005 Too Pure; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. © 1967 Colgems; James Brown's Funky People, Pt. 3© 2000 Polygram;Switched-On Bach© 1968 Columbia. All rights reserved.