Saturday, 31 October 2015

Phantom Piano

I had a mind for the month of October to post a song a day themed around Halloween, but having a holiday booked in the second half of the month nixed the idea. Earlier today I was going to post The Specials Ghost Town, with its distinctive and eerie banshee wailing chorus, but I got sidetracked by the memorable cover art adorning the 12" sleeve. Failing to find an artwork credit on my own copy inspired me to roll up the sleeves and do some googling which revealed that the image of the skeletons had previously turned up on an album cover - fronting a 1966 sound effects library LP Sounds to Make You Shiver (which features appropriately enough something called Phantom Piano). After some more digging I found the original photograph which apparently was taken at a Belgian medical exhibition - the photograph so far untitled and the date unrecorded. Anyone have any additional info ?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Trek Lit

It won’t mean much to non-Trekers, but I've recently been dipping my toes into the plasma stream of Star Trek literature, a veritable galaxy of novels and stories encompassing the Original Series right thru to Enterprise and the films and spinning off into its own self-contained universe of Star Trek continuity and mythology. For someone like me, whose watched all the series and films (and am currently getting into Enterprise), it’s an exciting discovery, and I've completed my first installment of Trek-lit with David Mack’s 2007-2008 Destiny series, a fantastic trilogy of novels, largely set during The Next Generation era (but skillfully dipping between different timelines) which sees the Federation brought to its knees by a massive Borg invasion. I have no reservations in saying the Destiny books have been some of my best science fiction reading in years and after finishing that trilogy I’ve gone straight into another - The Eugenics Wars which over the course of three novels introduces Kirk’s nemesis Khan Noonien Singh, his rise to power on Earth and his banishment on Ceti Alpha V (which chronologically speaking comes between the Original Series episode Space Seed and the Wrath of Khan film. Phasers set to stun !

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Oz Archive

I’m planning to retro-fit my ipad later with the entire run of Oz magazines which I stumbled across this morning – all available to download as good quality pdf files courtesy of the University of Wollongong. Essential reading for students of 1960s counterculture. The archive also contains the original Australian run of Oz before editor Richard Neville relaunched the magazine in London in 1967. Read online or download here

Back in September I posted the cover of International Times #87 (September 1970) which featured a reworked still of Mick Jagger from Performance. Looking thru the Oz archive earlier today, the cover of #15 struck a cord, and another connection between Cammel and Roeg's film and an underground publication. Oz 15 from 1968 features a cartoon by Australian artist Martin Sharp, of Mick Jagger, which appears in slightly different form in Performance as a concert poster for the Turner Purple Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, prominently displayed in the scene where Chas is washing the paint from his hair...

Monday, 26 October 2015

Revisiting Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth

After being offline for the past week I'm catching up on some reading tonite which includes a few early, positive reviews for Arrow's Hellraiser boxset. I was initially disappointed I didn't move to pick up the boxset sooner - it quickly sold out its run (for once a limited edition that actually means it) - but this has been tempered somewhat by my recent revisit of Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (courtesy of Anchor Bay's DVD boxset). Watching the film again, I found it embarrassing, from the ill-advised army of Cenobites shooting killer compact discs (!) to some very variable performances and special effects. I have to wonder what film Nigel Floyd was reviewing when he covered the film for Time Out back in 1992, declaring the film "a worthy successor to Clive Barker's flesh-ripping original", and "adult horror to die for". Worse still the otherwise reliable Floyd handed the superior Dust Devil, a comparatively lukewarm appraisal in the pages of Time Out that same year...

Incidentally, when Arrow announced the Hellraiser box I had the hope that Hellraiser's original voice track might be found but I've read that that no post production clean-up was done on the voices of the cast so a re-instating of the original dialogue track was never on the cards. Still, it would be interesting to experience the film sans the American accents, so perhaps worth mentioning that actor Sean Chapman (who plays Frank Cotton) can be heard without that Chicago twang in Alan Clarke's films Scum and Made In Britain...

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Gardens of Stone

Decorative rock sculptures discovered on the coast of Tenerife where I spent the last week seeking refuge from Ireland's nuclear winter...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Lost Kraftwerk

I’ve been on a Kraftwerk binge for the last few days and I’m toying with the idea of picking up the four early albums Tone Float, Kraftwerk 1 and 2 and Ralf and Florian, all of which are available only as unauthorized CD editions currently available thru Amazon’s 3rd parties. I’ve long held off picking up these CDs which are courtesy of the Italian bootleg label Crown, but at this point I don’t hold out much hope these album will ever surface as official issues - Kraftwerk Inc. has effectively airbrushed the albums from the official discography, the noisy improv-experimentation of the pre-Kraftwerk Tone Float and the duo of self-titled albums have more in common with the proto-Industrial textures of Cluster and Tangerine Dream’s debut Electronic Meditation than the clean spacious melodies of Man Machine and Computer World. But it’s a real shame Ralf and Florian, one of Kraftwerk’s very finest albums has been pushed aside, as it’s an essential stop-over on the road to Autobahn. Has anyone picked up these Crown CDs ? I’m aware that all four are needle-drops so apart from a bit of crackle, how do they sound ?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

23 Skidoo

I was listening to 23 Skidoo's fantastic 1983 album The Culling Is Coming earlier, and some casual googling yielded this little treat, which ties in quite nicely to yesterday's musings about abandoned city spaces... Made in 1965 for the National Film Board of Canada, 23 Skidoo is an 8min b/w film which finds Montréal mysteriously devoid of life. For admirers of the haunting coda of L'Eclisse this is required viewing and one can imagine a young David Cronenberg seeing this and being excited by the possibilities. Taking note of the director's name Julian Biggs, I got a frisson of deja-vu and realized that I had recently seen his name attached as producer to the excellent 1965 Canadian film The Railrodder in which Buster Keaton travels thru the great Canadian outdoors on a motorized rail-rider...

The Visitor

Nathan Bryce clutching a copy of Thomas Jerome Newton's album The Visitor in The Man Who Fell To Earth... My wife has been away all this week in Germany with work and I've been missing her terribly. I wanted to send her some love songs via youtube this evening but her hotel dial-up has put an end to my romantic plans - no such trouble back in the pre-Internet days when a trustworthy blank tape would communicate all the heart's secrets using someone else's poetry. In our case we fell in love to the music of Dead Can Dance... All this reminded me of that bittersweet moment in The Man Who Fell To Earth when Newton reveals his album, presumably a suite of long distance love songs, was recorded for his wife. "She'll get to hear it one day...on the radio" Newton explains. Tragically we know she never will...

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Abandoned City

Earlier this morning I was leafing thru reviews of The Warriors and it dovetailed nicely with a thread I’ve been poring over at the ever fantastic Skyscraper City, a forum dedicated to all things urban and architectural. The pictures below are taken from a thread entitled Brutal New York, a lively discussion about New York's more insalubrious neighborhoods of the 70's and 80's. I've always been drawn to abandoned spaces and forbidden zones - I remember well seeing the first teaser trailers for I Am Legend and getting excited by shots of Times Square chocked with marauding plant life and streets strewn with car wreckage. I think Omega Man would have greatly benefited from these broke down NYC locations – despite scenes with Charlton Heston driving around an impressively empty Los Angeles, the film still looks a little too antiseptic for my liking. Leave it to the Italians to take advantage of NYC's ready-made apocalypse, and I'm particularly fond of 1982's Bronx Warriors in this regard, which features some very dilapidated neighborhoods… Some interesting links to follow for your reading pleasure. Should you be looking for a musical accompaniment I would highly recommend the title track from Harold Budd’s dark and ominous 1984 masterpiece Abandoned Cities...

Brutal New York
NYC in the 70’s
NYC filming locations for The Warriors

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Sutro Gothic

More improbable buildings... below, the Cliff House, San Francisco and the Medina Castle in Pit and the Pendulum... This morning I came across a photograph of Adolph Sutro’s Gothic palace Cliff House, from 1902. A structure still exists today on the cliffs above above Ocean Beach but it's not quite as enchanting. Looking at the photograph jogged a memory of Albert Whitlock's beautiful matte painting seen in Corman's film. I haven't heard Roger Corman, or Tim Lucas' commentary tracks from Arrow's BR of Pit and the Pendulum, but I wonder was the Cliff House an influence on Whitlock's design ?

Philips Pavilion

Pictured below, the Philips Pavilion designed by architect and composer Iannis Xenakis for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels… I watched Aliens a few w/ends back and have been mulling over the image in James Cameron’s film of the dome-shaped atmosphere processing station on LV-426. I expect Cameron based his sketches for the plant on an industrial installation of some sort but this imposing looking structure has always reminded me of Xenakis’ complex, curving 3-pronged tent design of the Philips Pavilion. With that in mind I’m currently listening to Xenakis’ 1971 work Persepolis, an hour-long electro-acoustic sound work of metallic drones, industrial clatter, atonal whistles and serrated electronics. The work was written to commemorate the founding of the Persian city of Persepolis with Xenakis’ swirling score representing busy city life, but rather it sounds like a trip into some infernal slaughterhouse, all swinging meat hooks and rusted chains. Another pivotal proto-Industrial piece of music. Listen here

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Ornette: Made in America

I've been dipping into Shirley Clarke's filmography over the last forthnight and this afternoon I watched Clarke's 1984 film Ornette: Made in America, a free-wheeling portrait of the great composer and jazzman Ornette Coleman. The film is set against the backdrop of a performance of Ornette's third stream orchestral work Skies of America accompanied by the Fort Worth symphony orchestra (pictured below), and flashes forwards and backwards thru various era's of Ornette's life (including some dramatic vignettes from Ornette's childhood). It's not a wholly successful film - some sequences treated with psychedelic and video effects date it quite badly, and at times the film is edited to within an inch of its life with dizzying flash cuts and strobe lighting. But the real meat and potatoes of the film, Ornette's extraordinary music, survives intact, and there's fantastic footage of man in performance with Prime Time and in conversation, revealing an incredible probing, radical intellect. The film also comes with a cameo appearance by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin at the opening of the arts centre the Caravan of Dream, with Burroughs reading a selection of texts from his books. After years of unavailability Ornette: Made in America is back in circulation again as a very fine DVD/Blu and is warmly recommended.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Filmed in Supermarionation

Sky Arts served up a treat last night with the 2014 feature length documentary Filmed in Supermarionation, which celebrates the work of Gerry Anderson and the team of supremely talented puppeteers and designers who created Thunderbirds... This very comprehensive film gathers together all the key players and includes a wealth of archive photographs and vintage behind-the-scenes footage - and particularly wonderful to see designers and technical people interact with the puppets and models. What emerges most emphatically from the documentary is the Herculean task of creating Stingray, Thunderbirds and later series like Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Joe 90, the evolutionary leaps Anderson and his team made from early puppet series like The Adventures of Twizzle to the Thunderbirds films. Anderson's productions were still regularly aired on TV when I was growing up (Terrahawks from 1983, I particularly remember), but I was in too much of a hurry to move on to more adult fare, and often scoffed at what I thought was Thunderbirds' corniness. But in recent years I've grown to admire Anderson's series more and more and have come back to it via Kaiju jamborees and the films of Jan Švankmajer and the Brothers Quay... Filmed in Supermarionation gets a second airing on Sky Arts later this evening at 6:45pm, and is highly recommended.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Journey Through A Body

First album of the day, Throbbing Gristle's Journey Through A Body, recorded in Rome in 1981... This is not a TG album I revisit very often, but I had a dream last night that I was sightseeing in Milan and bumped into the group at various junctures - Gen and Sleazy were kicking a football around with some ragazzi (a very Pasolini-esque image I think) and Cosey was seen shopping with a friend in Milan's boutiques. No sign of Chris, perhaps he was locked away at control room at RAI Studio mixing Journey Through A Body... Journey is probably no one's favourite TG record but it's one of their most fascinating. I've been listening to this album for over 20 years and I still haven't quite figured it out. I don't hear much of Chris and Cosey on this (maybe Catholic Sex), but a lot of Gen and Sleazy, working out ideas that would re-appear in Psychic TV - the album's final track, Oltre La Morte, Birth And Death, TG's most singularly beautiful moment is a dress rehearsal for Mylar Breeze from the Themes 2 album...