In 1968, McKechnie got hold of one the very first Moog Modular Series III synthesizers ever made – serial number 004 – and began experimenting with it. Soon, he was hauling his modular system around the Bay Area, performing improvised concerts for audiences whose minds had been opened by psychedelia, but whose ears were often unfamiliar with electronic sounds.
While he recorded many of his performances, there wasn’t an outlet for them, so his recordings gathered dust in a closet for 50 years.
Here’s what the label as to say about the album:
The music on San Francisco Moog captures McKechnie eschewing the somber rigor of the academic electronic music of the era for a more free-flowing, melodic sound that nonetheless explores the limits of the instrument’s plastic sonic possibilities.
Using the keyboard and two 24-step sequencers that came with the deluxe Moog, he created music that wove together multiple electronic voices in the moment, an innovation typically ascribed to later pioneers like Tangerine Dream (who would end up the owners of the very same Moog—but that’s another story).
Cuts like “The First Exploration @ SF Radical Labs, 1968” and “Berkeley Art Museum” find McKechnie building and expanding musical moods that capture the in-the-moment nature of his playing. “Meditation Moog 1968” finds him taking a more minimalist approach, while still exploring the instrument’s timbral possibilities. “Baseline” and “Crazy Ray,” though improvised, sound more like fully formed musical compositions, with melody, counterpoint, and even hooks of a sort.
San Francisco Moog offers a unique glimpse into the psychedelic electronic music scene that was happening at the end of the 60’s on the West Coast.
While the album was not released in its day, one has to wonder how much influence McKechnie‘s performances – and the performances of other West Coast pioneers – had on the explosion of psychedelic electronic music experimentation in the 70s.
You can preview San Francisco Moog below or at Bandcamp.
Technical notes: All pieces were created on a Moog Modular Series III synthesizer and recorded live with no overdubbing to Ampex PR-10, Nagra 3, or TEAC four-channel recorders.