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Tonto's Expanding Head Band - Zero Time CD (album) cover


Tonto's Expanding Head Band


Progressive Electronic

2.94 | 13 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Built by boffins

"Zero time" is more important for its place in prog, and indeed music, history than for the music it actually contains. T.O.N.T.O. stands for The Original New Timbral Orchestra. This is not in fact an orchestra, but the first polyphonic synthesiser. Up until its invention, synthesisers were monophonic, giving the type of sound first heard on tracks such as ELP's "Lucky man". The developers of T.O.N.T.O. were Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, the performers on this album. Hence you can see why I say the music is of secondary importance, it was written by a couple of boffins and without wishing to be unfair, at times it sounds like it!

The album consists of just six tracks spread unevenly over the two side. The three on side one ("Outside") run to around 13 minutes, while side two ("Inside") is over 20 minutes. No other instruments are used other than the synthesiser, which provides the rhythms and the main themes. While the sound effects and unique synthesised atmospheres will these days sound somewhat tame and prosaic, at the time (1971) they were baffling and exciting.

This album really is all about the sounds though. Apart from some processed vocals on "Riversong", it is entirely instrumental, with spacey sounds and slow atmospheric washes dominating throughout.

The album served as an effective marketing tool for the T.O.N.T.O, with many commercial artists using it to distinguish their music soon after. "Zero time" has taken on a legendary status due to the album's rarity in the intervening years. The reality is though that it is an interesting rather than enjoyable album. It will now return to my LP collection to lie undisturbed for another 20 years.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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