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KEVIN O'NEILL / HISTORY

Kevin O'Neill
instrumental synthesizer music pioneer from South Wales



Live 2CD set...

Pioneering Welsh synthesist primarily active during the 1980s. Kevin was one of the rare examples of a unique talent with a distinctive personal style. True, he did occasionally display his roots and influences in his music, but he never set out to copy or emulate anyone. So Kevin was not another Schulze or TD wannabe, and this was what made his music so invigorating and exciting - we'd never encountered the likes of it before! For this reason alone Kevin's music has remained fresh and vital. Kevin released a total on 9 albums over 9 years, starting in 1984 with ICON - an album that was released with universal acclaim from the "electronica" community. A playful, yet dark edged, music full of unique ideas - it established his style which he developed on and came up with further new angles from, never quite repeating himself throughout his career. Keys to the development of his sound included the OSCar synthesizer, manufactured by the Oxford Synthesiser Company from 1983, an instrument that was ahead of its time in many ways and one of the few mono-synths of its time to have MIDI. Kevin was also not a musician, but a dabbler. He had some training in electronic studio techniques, with help from Steve Howell at his Cardiff Hollow Sun Studio. But that was it, everything else was down his own exploration and experimentation. And throughout those 9 years Kevin never stopped experimenting. Kevin also played at 2 of the annual Electronica festivals, in Stafford and in London, and also at some other special events organised by the Network 23 collective of electronic musicians. It seems that he only gave up on music when cassette sales in the 1990s dwindled, and he since turned his attention to other things, as an author and computer artist.
††† Initially we presented our favourite two releases on Auricle CDR, namely: ICON and INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY, his first and third cassettes. These were cleaned-up for an authentic sound sans hiss or defects and remastered by Alan Freeman at Tachyon studio. Since negotiating those, Kevin gave his permission to reissue all his other cassettes. But, as a lot of the master tapes had long been lost, some help was needed. Fortunately Jack McCafferty had archived all his collection, and also some had gained release before in digital form. Puzzling it all together, it was possible to recreated the complete collection of releases as superior sounding CDs, adding some unreleased material as well as 2 archive collections and a free introductory download sampler.

reviews...

Kevin O'Neill synthesist
Germany was without doubt the birthplace and hotbed of what has become popularly known as Synthesizer or Eurock Music, and although many of the original innovators, Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, et. al. still thrive, it's sad to say that little music of worth now emanates from that quarter.
A large proportion of present day progressive, inventive and interesting electronic music is now being produced by British artistes who, whilst acknowledging a great debt to their Teutonic mentors have managed in most cases to adapt and mould the music to produce their own individual styles. Interest in and respect for these UK composer/musicians has been steadily increasing over the past few years and names that immediately spring to mind in this context are Ron Berry, Ian Boddy, Mark Jenkins, Carl Matthews, Paul Nagle, Colin Potter and Mark Shreeve.
To this small, but important band of synthesists should now be added the name of newcomer Kevin O'Neill.
Kevin was born in Cardiff in 1945 and like most people of his generation (myself included) was weaned on the music of The Beatles, thence Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, etc. It was not until the very late seventies however, that he became immersed in the synthesizer music of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. Around this time a number of events affected Kevin's personal circumstances and general outlook on life and music. After a rather chequered career in numerous jobs he was made redundant and left to survive via his own devices. From various music magazines he read of and became interested in more avant-garde electronic music (thus learning that there was life beyond Tangerine Dream and Schulze!) and a desire to produce music himself led to him borrowing his younger brother's Wasp synthesizer. Once ignited the spark flared and the desire to learn more about synthesizer and electronic music grew.
Towards the end of 1982 he enrolled for synthesizer lessons from Steve Howell and thus learned the basic principles of analogue synthesis. A firm friendship twixt student and tutor developed. Being unemployed, funds were hard to come by, but thanks to an understanding family Kevin managed to purchase a Roland SH-101 and a second-hand Sony TC-377 domestic tape-recorder. Thus, set up, recordings were made at home during the first part of 1983 and later in the year at Steve's Hollow Sun Studio utilising the far more sophisticated equipment available there. From these humble beginnings Kevin's first commercially available tape album ICON was produced and released in August, 1984.
Opening paragraph of Peter Harrison's Kevin O'Neill article in Audion #2 (September 1986)

Kevin OíNeill - ISLANDS (own label K 05) MC
Kevin O'Neill, on the other hand, has decided to go for the lengthy approach to composing, but on side 1 of his new tape he goes through more rewarding musical moments in 20 minutes than youíll find on 50 minutes of the other two. Musically Kevinís now in a category all of his own, sort of melodic/cosmic space-music that is constantly changing as you listen to it, only noticeably so and not a subtle/subliminal change that makes some others minutes seem like hours. In terms of mood it recalls early seventies Tangerine Dream and was just made for a non-sunny day. Right from the start it grabs your attention and just forces you to listen until it stops, full of multi-layered synth melodies/space-music, it reveals a potentially huge, if not exactly commercial, talent at work. But thatís not all, thereís a side 2 and, after side 1, it comes as a shock to the system, being almost early Shreeve-like in its approach with a long track of free-flying synth music but without any real melody/rhythm, yet certainly not spacey/cosmic. Kevin seems to have found the listenerís answer to "free-form synth music" with a composition that, whilst strange, is again totally absorbing. At parts, repetition (not that apparent until a few plays) creeps in and Kevin, like Shroeder, obviously needs those cosmic scissors, but overall a remarkable fourth album and his best by a long way.
[part of a 3-way review by Andy Garibaldi, including albums by Gandalf and Robert Schroeder]

more reviews are included on some of the release pages

discography...

ICON (AN ELECTRONIC MUSIC ALBUM) - MC private K.T. 01 (1984), CDR Auricle AMCDR 234 (2017)
METAMORPHOSIS
- MC private K 03 (1985), CDR Auricle AMCDR 244 (2017)
INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY - MC
private K 04 (1986), CDR Auricle AMCDR 235 (2017)
ISLANDS ‎- MC
private K 05 (1987), CDR Auricle AMCDR 247 (2017)
OMEGA ‎‎- MC private K 06 (1988), CDR Auricle AMCDR 248 (2017)
LIVE! ‎‎- MC
private K 07 (1988), LIVE! + 2xCDR Auricle AMCDR 255/6 (2017)
KATHARSIS ‎‎‎- MC Direction Music dmc 09 (1990),
CDR Auricle AMCDR 259 (2017)
YGGDRASIL ‎‎‎- MC Direction Music dmc 22 (1991),
CDR Auricle AMCDR 263 (2017)
A HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE - MC Arrival Music AM 002 (1993),
CDR Auricle AMCDR 264 (2017)
THE SECRET TAPES ‎- CDR Auricle AMCDR 275 (2017) unreleased archives

compilations...
COMPENDIUM - MC Direction Music dmc 12 (1990) original track: The Game Pts 1 - 5, plus 4 remixes
ICONOCLAST - THE VERY BEST OF KEVIN O'NEILL ‎- CDR Arrival Music AM.CDS.1 (200?)
DEPARTURES - AN ODDMENTS ANTHOLOGY 1985 TO 1996 - 2xCDR Auricle AMCDR 273/4 (2017) includes all the tracks listed here in grey (except Zen And The Art Of Falling Off Buildings Parts 1-3 which is a bonus on LIVE! +)
REFLECTIONS ‎- DL Auricle AMDLS BC3 (2018) original tracks: Pamukkale, Reflections

unique Kevin OíNeill tracks on various artists releases...
MYTHS OF FAR AND NEAR
- MC private K 02 (1985) track: Zen And The Art Of Falling Off Buildings Parts 1-3
A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD - 2MC Dark Star DS 1-2 (1985) track: The Claws That Catch
JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT - 2MC Auricle AMC 014 (1986) track: Scylla And Charybdis
THE CANTILEVERS OF PASSION - MC Land Of Yrx Products Basl 27 (1987) track: The Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle (also on the re-compilation: NEW AGE MUSIC FOR INDUSTRIAL AREAS)
U.K. ELECTRONICA '86 - The Final Front-Ear - MC Lotus Records (1987) track: Berceuse
SOUNDS UNKNOWN VOL 2 ‎- MC Sounds Unknown SU 3 (1988) tracks: Sherry's Song, Nant Fawr
THE 2ND AMP RECORDS COMPILATION ALBUM - MC AMP Records AMP-C 007 (1988) track: Pieces Of Eyot
THE DREAM IS JUST BEGINNING - MC Electronical Dreams 002 (1988) track: Oscar's Theme
DIRECTIONS - MC Direction Music dmc 01 (1989) track: Krakatoa
REMOTE VIEWING VOL.2 - MC Network 23 Box 002 (1989) track: Lik Mai
ARRIVAL - MC Arrival Music AM 001 (1993) tracks: Gilgamesh, St. Paul's, Flowers For Algernon
FROM THE HILLS OF DREAM - MC Direction Music dmc 24 (1994), VHS dmv 01 (1994) track: Shining Water
APHELION - MC Messenger Music MRM 9 (1996) tracks: Joy, Bosnia, There Is A Place, Are You Joe King?

other notable compilation appearances...
REMOTE VIEWING 1
- MC Network 23 Box 001 (1986)
THE INTIMATE TEXTURE OF SOUND - LP HWYL 1 (1987)
CYFEIRIADAU GWAHANOL ‎- MC Direction Music dmc 13 (1990)

Kevin O'Neill reviews in Audion - #1/10, #2/26-28, #3/8+10, #5/27, #7/27+31, #8/18, #9/28, #10/3+28, #12/10+14-16+22+32+33, #15/35, #17/4, #22/25+33, #26/24, #29/39, #44/41, #53/28

 

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