Steve Maxwell Von Braund

Steve Maxwell Von Braund is an Australian keyboardist and saxophonist who made the nation’s first electronic album, Monster Planet, released in 1975 on the experimental Clear Light of Jupiter label. Soon after, he formed Cybotron, a Kraut-inspired electronic combo that made three albums between 1976 and 1980.


Background

Steve Braund (b. 1947) grew up in Kew, a suburb three miles east of Melbourne. As a teenager, he listened to edgy rock groups like the Yardbirds and their local spawn (The Purple Hearts, The Loved Ones). After leaving school, he worked as a bookbinder and played saxophone in an unnamed band. His music interests branched into Zappa, blues, jazz, and the electronic sounds cultivated by Walter Carlos.

In 1970, Braund went to London to witness the blossoming English rock scene. He attended shows by the pioneering acts of space rock, namely Hawkwind, one of the first bands equipped with an EMS VCS3 synthesizer: a wood cabinet with effects knobs but no keyboard.

Braund made frequent trips to the Virgin Records store in Notting Hill Gate, where he collected imports by Amon Duul IIAsh Ra Temple, Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Tangerine Dream, and other artists in the Krautrock section (alternately called kosmiche: German for “cosmic rock”).

He returned to Melbourne and advertised for a local keyboard player. The respondent, Geoff Green, owned a Korg synthesizer. Meanwhile, Braund purchased Kraut titles from Pipe Import Records, a store inside Cathedral Arcade operated by producers Daniel Janecka and Jeremy Fiebiger, the co-founders of Clear Light of Jupiter, a label dedicated to experimental music.

Meanwhile, Braund met Tangerine Dream on their March 1975 tour of Australia, where he served as their tour guide of Northern Victoria.


Monster Planet

Steve Maxwell Von Braund released his singular solo album, Monster Planet, in December 1975 on Clear Light of Jupiter.

Monster Planet features four lengthy soundscapes inspired by the recent output of Tangerine Dream (Phaedra) and Kraftwerk (Ralf & Florian).

Braund plays Korg synthesizer and alto saxophone on Monster Planet, a self-performed effort apart from the title track, which features violinist Henry Vyhnal and late-period Aztecs drummer Gil Matthews, who doubles on bass. Ex-Masters Apprentices singer Jim Keays bellows the lyrics, which Braund co-wrote with Geoff Green.

A1. “Monster Planet” (9:00) features echoing effects and icy sounds that weave in and out (in E). Keays warns of a monster planet that will “conquer mankind.” At 3:45, a mid-tempo jam commences with drums, bass, and double-tracked, dissonant sax. The jam accelerates, then dissolves into fizzing synth drone.
A2. “Shadowfax” (10:00) fades in with synth drone (in E). Trebly textures collide (sputtering, spiraling). Piercing sounds inject dark, sustain tones.
B1. “Spirit” (14:14) passes through with dark, winding tones (in G), trebly and frosty. Midway (4:00–8:00), the track veers between aquatic sputters and near silence. The final section consists of icy, winding drones (in F, A, and B).
B2. “Crystal Forest” (8:18) opens with modulated violin notes and oscillating effects. Second passage (1:59) has icy drone (G→B) with spinning sounds. The final third (5:20–) drones forth with slithering violin; increased dissonance and velocity.

Braund recorded the title-track at “Gil’s Cosmic Studio,” where Mathews engineered the session. Vyhnal participated just before his band, The Millionaires, recorded their only single (“It’s a Deal”) for Mushroom Records. The remaining sessions took place at Armstrong Studios in Melbourne, where Janecka and Fiebiger co-produced Monster Planet, assisted by staff engineer Ian McKenzie, who also worked on Keays’ 1974 solo album The Boy From the Stars.

Clear Light of Jupiter pressed two supplies of Monster Planet. The primary release (illustrated by one Maija Torkkola) shows a cape-clad Braund hovered over a yellow plant with an atomic mushroom. An alternate monochrome cover shows his death stare, zoomed-in and half-faced.

Monster Planet was the inaugural LP release on Clear Light of Jupiter (cat# CLOJ 777), ahead of The Armada (by Aussie symphonic rockers Rainbow Theatre) and 2nd (by Kraurockers Agitation Free; originally released in 1973 on German Vertigo). CLoJ also issued a 7″ single edit of “Monster Planet” (b/w “Crystal Forest”).


Cybotron

Steve Braund and Geoff Green formed an electronic duo, Cybotron. Jeremy Fiebiger managed the act on Clear Light of Jupiter and pressed 1000 copies of their 1976 self-titled album, which achieved cult status among enthusiasts of Berlin School electronic music. Cybotron contains seven soundscapes made of multiple synthesizers (Korg, ARP, and Roland models) with organ, sax, and effects units.

Cybotron performed on Melbourne’s college circuit and released two further studio albums: Colossus (1978, Champagne) and Implosion (1980, Cleopatra). They inspired a subsequent wave of Australian electronic musicians, including Dennis Garcia (a guest on David Bowie‘s 1978 Isolar II tour), Ian MacFarlane (aka Violet Lightning), and the duos Peak and Rainbow Generator.


Return to Monster Planet

In 2020, Australian archivists The Roundtable issued Return to Monster Planet, a collection of seven long-vaulted Steve Braund and Cybotron tracks.

The material (dated between 1974 and 1981) is self-recorded apart from three Implosion-era tracks (“Abbey Moor,” “Detective,” “Unorganization”) with drummer Gil Matthews and bassist Mark Jones, who adds synthesizer to “Phase II.”

Return to features Braund on ARP2600, Mini Korg 500, Roland Strings, Ace Tone Rhythm Ace, and alto saxophone. “Goldhawk” features additional synth by one Paul Howells.

A1. “Re-entry”
A2. “Abbey Moor”
A3. “The Floor Before”
A4. “Phase II”
B5. “Detective”
B6. “Unorganization”
B7. “Goldhawk”


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