Reviews Zone

Tim Blake: Crystal Machine (Esoteric Recordings) 31st March 2017



3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)



Who remembers Gong? Prog rock pioneers from the 1970s.  Formed in 1967 in Paris by Aussie Daevid Allen and Brit’ singer Gilli Smyth, who was also a Sorbonne Professor.

During the May 1968 student revolution, partners Allen and Smyth were forced to flee the country after a warrant was issued for their arrest. They headed for Majorca, where they had previously lived for a time. The band proper began in 1969, Steve Hillage probably their most celebrated member.

Tim Blake was their synth player from 1972 until 1975. His synthesiser experimentation and mastery was demonstrated on Gong albums such as “Flying Teapot”, “Angel’s Egg” and “You”. He joined Hawkwind from 1979 – 1980 and from November 2007.

After departing Gong, Tim teamed up with French lighting designer Patrice Warrener to form Crystal Machine, pioneering the use of lasers and synthesisers in a live setting, some time before Jean-Michel Jarre hit the big time with his spectacular visual shows and mega-selling album “Oxygene”.

Blake’s debut album, “Crystal Machine”, was originally released in 1977 on the French experimental label Egg and featured two pieces recorded live in the UK and in France. Now regarded as a truly pioneering work, this fully re-mastered edition includes three bonus tracks.

Bonus track one is ‘Surf’, recorded in 1976 at Chateau d’Herouville studios in France, issued as a very rare single under the pseudonym Saratoga Space Messengers. The reissue also includes both sides of the rare Spanish single ‘Synthese Intemporel’ as the other two bonus tracks. This edition of “Crystal Machine” features a new essay and fully restores the original album artwork.

Third cut, “Last Ride Of The Boogie Child” was recorded live at the Seasalter Free Festival in the Canterbury/Margate area of the UK in 1976. Around 1,000 people came from all over the UK for this free festival, and one punter has since written a blog about the event, and here is what he says about Tim Blake’s appearance:

“……Tim Blake and his synthesizer, he seemed to play all night every night and one long number was all to do with the generator running low on fuel and Tim was urging us all to, “think into the generator”, which I think we did, and later tried to think it to run out of fuel so he would stop….” How funny/cool is that? So those who were there can re-live those fabulous memories with this one track offered here. You do not have to “think into the CD player” when you listen, by the way!

There is a second live recording here, with “Synthese Intemporel” recorded live at Le Palace Theatre, Paris on 18th February 1977. This eight track album is one of two re-issues from Tim Bake released on the same date. The other being “Blake’s New Jerusalem”. Both well worth re-visiting.


By Simon Redley



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