The acquisition of musical taste is a funny thing, particularly in its early stages. In my case it came from some of my other childhood interests, namely film and science fiction. The first records (yes, vinyl…) I bought were film soundtracks, mostly to fantasy or science fiction movies like Star Wars, Superman, etc. I still love all those big, Romantic orchestral scores by the like of John Williams, but Wendy (née Walter) Carlos’ score for Tron was one of the more intriguing ones, and the one which opened me up to the much larger world(s) of electronic music in general.
(In fact, thinking about it, perhaps the seed was planted much earlier, when, like most other children of the ’70s, I hid behind the sofa as the supremely scary Dr Who theme tune by the innovative BBC Radiophonic Workshop screeched from the television).
My first purchases in this genre were two Jean-Michel Jarre albums, prompted by a viewing of the spectacular Houston concert on tv (by the way, there’s an interesting, if sad, story behind one of the pieces played that night: Ron’s Piece). Oxygene and its successors felt to me like an aural equivalent to the science fiction I spent most of my time reading – the soundtrack for exploration of exotic alien worlds. I continued listening to this ambient/psychedelic sub-genre for some time (I still do today), discovering the likes of Vangelis, The Orb, The Future Sound Of London, and the mathematical pastoralism of Boards of Canada (see also this 80s nostaglia-tastic fan video for “roygbiv”. How many British tv title sequences and ads can you identify?).
In the meantime, the synth pop and dance end of the musical spectrum drew my attention, as I passed (mercifully rapidly) through a fairly major early adolescent obsession with electro, followed by the wackiness of Art Of Noise, the precision of Kraftwerk, the alternately disturbing and tranquil Aphex Twin, Orbital, who remain probably my favourite of all (yes, that is Tilda Swinton in the video), the big beats of Chemical Brothers and Leftfield, and many more.
Finally and most recently, minimalism has started to attract me. Apart from the aforementioned Boards of Canada, Brian Eno soothes the savage beast within, yet with an otherwordly quality missing from “ambient” jazz, acoustic or classical (although I’m partial to Arvo Pärt, especially Tabula Rasa). I can’t quite put my finger on why (I know, talking about music is like dancing about architecture, right?). Perhaps the “futuristic” qualities of these sounds paradoxically remind me of the past, of my childhood, of simpler times, when the future was unknown and everything was possible.