New Album, San Francisco Moog: 1968-72, Documents Psychedelic ‘Missing Link’ In History Of Electronic Music

Synthesist Doug McKechnie has released a new album, San Francisco Moog, that documents a missing link in the history of electronic music.

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.

6 thoughts on “New Album, San Francisco Moog: 1968-72, Documents Psychedelic ‘Missing Link’ In History Of Electronic Music

  1. Great to get this released, but the fairly hard panning of the sounds (in tracks 3 and 4 at least) is also very 60s. Personally, I would prefer a little rebalancing for modern listening customs (headphones).

    1. Agree. It’s a little weird. Still amazing though, to be transported back in time and hear what I presume is the real reverb of the Berkeley art museum and folks noodling around in the background trying to be quiet 🙂 What an amazing little time capsule. It must have been wild to hear that for the first time.

  2. I always figured except for price and access that someone had to have done some spacey cool stuff back then with all the mind exploring that was also going on. Some cool sounds and compositions and from when I was 8 some of them. Cool sharing, glad he put them out.

  3. Thanks for the comments. It was a very special time, and I was a very fortunate young man. Performing with the Moog changed my life dramatically, but the music industry of the time was a snake pit, so I archived the music. Later music of mine, along with the San Francisco, synthesizer ensemble and my duo work with Paul de Benedictis, or things that have yet to be disseminated in a meaningful way.… Doug McKechnie

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