Apioneering electronic warrior, Tim Blake cut his teeth supplying synth and keys to Gong’s 70s debut trilogy, Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You. After his prog-flavoured fling with Saratoga Space Messengers, Blake teamed up with French lighting designer Patrice Warrener for his Crystal Machine project, forging a template for modern prog shows with lasers and synths that manifested in the pure electronic rhapsodies of 1977’s self-titled debut album, then the following year’s Blake’s New Jerusalem. He joined Hawkwind for a year before 20 out of the spotlight, broken only by 1991’s Magick, then enjoyed a 21st century rebirth, which included rejoining Hawkwind in 2007.
Even if the beautiful cosmic weirdness of the Gong years is relegated to three wigged-out extrapolations, all bases are covered over three discs (and DVD of 1979 French TV footage) that comprise this astute summation of this oftenundersung electronic trailblazer’s idiosyncratic career. That first Crystal Machine album is represented by the glistening Midnight and 15 shimmering minutes of Synthese Intemporal, showing how he beat Tangerine Dream at the snow-peaked sequencer pulsation game. Better still are the New Jerusalem pair, including its undulating title epic. The first Hawkwind stint is reflected by Lighthouse and Who’s Gonna Win The War, with a dash of Magick before his return in message-strewn space prog mode with 2000’s The Tide Of The Century, 2002’s Caldea Music II marking a return to pure instrumentals.
This is the mode that dominates disc three’s previously-unreleased gems; three from The Birth Of Crystal Machine (including multi-layered 20-minute ambient monster Forteresse/Crystal Mirrors To Infinity displaying distinct Terry Riley influences), plus six from live shows in Amsterdam (2006) and Exeter (2009). As this set shows, Blake was best before the world caught up with him but still ploughing a fearless field up to 2012’s most recent work Noggi ’Tar.