Playing Records – June 2014

I began writing this series of articles last month to document some of the platters which had entered heavy rotation on the unsubscriber hi-fi during May (here). There will inevitably be crossovers from month to month but I won’t keep covering these in detail just give them a mention here. I’m still enjoying The Soundcarriers LP very much, it’s duly been transferred to my iPhone so I can play it in the car or on headphones. I’m also continuing to enjoy ploughing my way through the Electric Wizard back catalogue which brings me neatly to this month’s list of records;

Electric Wizard – Legalise Drugs And Murder
2012 – Rise Above Records

Legalise Drugs & Murder

I managed to purloin a copy of this rather fine 7” not too long ago and despite the fact that its two tracks have a running time of barely twelve minutes I’ve been hooked ever since I first heard it. Heavy as a skip full of bricks and as direct as a sawn-off shotgun to the ribs, the lead track kicks off with a lighter striking and a bong bubbling before the massive doom riffage descends – The Wizard love their green! I don’t know how much of a statement of intent this is, the band are very open about their somewhat controversial beliefs but as a tune, it fucking rocks and rocks hard! The flip side blends whispered voices with what sounds like the incidental music from some lost Euro horror flick from 1972. Extra points are awarded due to the cover riff on Sabbath’s Master Of Reality album.

Three Legged Race – Rope Commercial, Vol 1
2014 – Underwater Peoples

Rope Commercial, Vol. 1

Robert Beatty of the Hair Police is at it again under his Three Legged Race moniker. I love his work because it’s just so out there, so completely different to anything else. I wrote about his music (here) as it helped me through some tough times working from home. This EP is another confounding, confusing whorl of sounds and ideas that needs a few plays before things finally settle into place. He has broadened his sonic palette somewhat with touches of treated piano and a dulcimer which on Aside From Each Other and Together Overnight sounds so heavily submerged it could have been recorded from the bottom of a lake. There are manipulated voices, metallic clangs and discordance all over the place but I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way. Beatty has promised a full series of future EP releases for Underwater Peoples, If they’re as good as this then it’ll be one hell of a collection of tracks.

Rodion G. A. – Misiunea Spațială Delta
2014 – Strut

Misiunea Spațială Delta

Last June, I reviewed a fantastic compilation album by Romanian musician Rodion Ladislau Rosca (here) which was released on Strut. This month sees the release of this fifteen minute EP which was apparently recorded by Rodion for an animated TV series before being shelved. Unlike the compilation album this is all played on synths and in places sounds not a million miles away from something that Belbury Poly or Pye Corner Audio might release. There are also plenty of lysergic squiggles and bloops to wig out to as well as a section which reminded me of the old early 70s TV show The Clangers. I wonder how much of this stuff Strut are sitting on, I’d sure love another compilation right now.

Ekoplekz – Unfidelity
2014 – Planet Mu

Unfidelity

What’s this? Ekoplekz in accessible album shocker! Sell out I hear you cry? Well, this certainly is the most straightforward LP that Nick Edwards has crafted thus far but it’s still an Ekoplekz album in the true sense of the word. The old reference points of early Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and dub dynamics are all still present but there seems to be a new found swagger to the overall sound. There are also beats all over this record, not the predictable kind of preset beats you find on almost everything coming out these days but the sort of blunted and hissing snare/hi-hat combo you might find on an old Belgian or Italian minimal wave 12”. There isn’t a weak track anywhere, it’s all strangely hypnotic in a retro-futurist dystopian kind of way. Some people wrote off Edwards as a one trick pony after his first clutch of releases, this should set the record a little straighter. I can’t wait to hear what his next move will be.

Album Of The Month – June

V/Vm – The Death Of Rave (A Partial Flashback)
2014 – History Always Favours the Winners

The Death Of Rave (A Partial Flashback)

Oh my word, this is revelatory stuff. Leyland James Kirby (A.K.A The Caretaker) releases ten tracks under his now defunct V/Vm guise culled from the mighty Death Of Rave series which was given away as free mp3 files in 2006. That series was composed of 205 deconstructed tracks from the 1988-96 rave era which has now almost entered into music mythology. This isn’t a million miles away from his work as The Caretaker to be honest, it even has a symbiotic kinship with Lee Gamble’s utterly brilliant Diversions LP which essentially did the same kind of thing using battered old cassettes of early jungle records. Kirby has deftly stripped out the beats and tunes from his source material and left a wafting, ghostly vapour trail of euphoric hooks, rushes and stabs that the original music was built around. Kirby is a master of this kind of sound manipulation and this is no exception. I have been playing this solidly for the whole month and it’s made me feel very melancholic yet somehow strangely satisfied. It’s the sound of backlit fog slowly moving through a wood at night or blooming colonies of bacteria in a petri dish. It’s actually the sound of thousands of disembodied ravers up and down the country, arms aloft in flickering slow motion as they jack their sweating bodies in unison. Quite simply an astonishing release.

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The Cover Art Of Richard Powers (Part Two)

Last week I wrote about buying a large format book dedicated to the life and art of Mr Richard Powers by Jane Frank. Its title is The Art Of Richard Powers and is published by Paper Tiger, it’s definitely worth grabbing a copy from Amazon or another online retailer;

The Art Of Richard Powers by Jane Frank

The book contains hundreds of fantastically surreal paintings, some of which have appeared on the covers of science fiction books. His work spans over forty years, I have Richard Powers covers going back to the mid 1950s and on into the 70s but he continued to work until his death in 1996.

In the first part of this article I called Powers a visionary and likened him to artists such as Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy, this is no overestimation of his artistic skills which were truly great. His work graces many hundreds of book covers all of which are still highly prized by collectors all over the world.

I have chosen another eight of my personal favourite Powers covers here although keep your eyes open, I have many others which will probably find their way in to other articles from time to time.

A Pail Of Air by Fritz Leiber
1964 – Ballantine Books

09 Leiber Powers Pail Of Air

The Aluminum Man by G.C. Edmondson
1975 – Berkley Medallion

10 Edmondson Powers Aluminum Man

Hell’s Pavement by Damon Knight
1958 – Banner Books

11 Knight Hell's Pavement

They Walked Like Men by Clifford D.Simak
1967 – McFadden Books

12 Simak Powers Walked Like Men

Imagination Unlimited edited by F. Bleilber &  T. E. Dikty
1964 – Mayflower-Dell

14 Powers Imagination Unlimited

Impact-20 by William F.Nolan
1966 – Paperback Library

13 Nolan Powers Impact-20

Creatures Of The Abyss by Murray Leinster
1961 – Berkley Medallion

15 Leinster Powers Creatures Of The Abyss

Way Out edited by Ivan Howard
1963 – Belmont

16 Powers Anthology Way Out

Teece’s Bit… A Shadow Over Rotherham

A few months ago, I suggested to my fellow vintage paperback collector and music aficionado Teece that he might pen a few articles for me to use on my blog. I’m very pleased to say that he accepted my invitation and so here is his first guest spot;

 Teeces Bit Header

Harpers bookshop in the shadow of the imposing soot-encrusted church in Rotherham town centre was where I first got my unholy fix of science fiction and cosmic horror. The shop provided the haven of otherness which I craved as a teenager in the grim years of the early 1970s. Heading for those shelves bulging with creeping terrors and lurid futures, I felt I was transgressing… crossing a line that my parents, teachers and peers remained firmly the other side of. Just the sight of those weird and wonderful names on the book spines was enough to set my imagination racing – Philip K Dick, Cordwainer Smith, A. E. van Vogt, H. P. Lovecraft, Roger Zelazny, William Hope Hodgson, C. M. Kornbluth and the rest. It felt good to align myself with these literary misfits and malcontents in the shunned yet darkly fertile ghetto of ‘genre’ fiction. An escape from reality? Well no, this was the start of a journey into the deeper recesses of the human mind. These writers hold up a mirror – albeit twisted, warped and troubling! – to that strange and shifting place we call the real world.

One day I walked into Harpers and some new Panther editions of HP Lovecraft were on display. The covers were astonishing. Mind-blowing. I’d not read Lovecraft yet but I knew I had to have these books. If the stories were half as good as the cover art, crikey was I in for a treat. So I bought the books, read them, loved them, and have been re-reading them ever since. Sadly, inevitably, Harpers bookshop is no longer with us, but I still have the HP Lovecraft books (with cover art by Ian Miller) as you can see from these lovingly crafted photos by Mr Unsubscriber. And if there’s one thing better than an old favourite paperback on the shelf that you keep coming back to, it’s that book sitting next to it which you still haven’t got round to reading yet, but which is ready and waiting to take you on a new journey into the unknown.

(Click on an image for a larger view.)

At The Mountains Of Madness And Other Novels Of Terror
1973 – Panther
cover art by Ian Miller

Lovecraft At The Mountains Of Madness

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward
1973 – Panther
cover art by Ian Miller

Lovecraft The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward

The Haunter Of The Dark And Other Tales Of Terror
1974 – Panther
cover art by Ian Miller

Lovercraft The Haunter Of The Dark

Sandalmans Tabernacle T-shirts Now Available!

This morning I received my second package from Soddenham (website here), inside were two rather nifty Sandalmans Tabernacle T-shirts which have been produced to tie in with the imminent release of their debut Cassette (review here). It was my intention to get someone to model the shirts so I could take the photographs but things didn’t turn out that way so you’re stuck with me unfortunately!

The shirts are standard fit 100% cotton and can be bought here for £17.50 each so make your selection and show some support for Soddenham’s finest doom metal/folk band.

Shirt One
Band name logo on the front, cassette track list on the back;

Sandalmans T1 Front

Sandalmans T1 Back

Shirt Two
Band symbol on the front, band name logo on the back;

Sandalmans T2 Front

Sandalmans T2 Back

The Cover Art Of Richard Powers (Part One)

A few months ago I bought a very interesting large format book dedicated to the life and art of Mr Richard Powers by Jane Frank. The volume is titled The Art Of Richard Powers and is published by Paper Tiger, it’s well worth tracking down a copy which is still readily available;

The Art Of Richard Powers by Jane Frank

Within the pages are over a hundred of this great man’s surreal and visionary paintings, some of which have decorated SF books for over forty years. He was a towering giant in the world of science fiction cover artists, Salvador Dali and Yves tanguy rolled into one. I’ve always loved his work and look out for Powers covers whenever possible but they can be tricky to find due to his popularity amongst collectors.

Here are a eight such covers where a vision of the future is created by an imagination which has soaked up all around it to serve up a hypnotic, psychedelic brew full of bright colours, impossible geometry, beautiful curves and dreamlike happenings. I will follow up this article next week with a further eight covers.

The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov
1958 – Panther

01 Asimov Powers The Stars Like Dust

Robots And Changelings by Lester Del Rey
1957 – Ballantine Books

02 Del Rey Powers Robots & Changelings

Inside by Dan Morgan
1974 – Berkley Medallion

03 Morgan Powers Inside

The Time Dissolver by Jerry Sohl
1957 – Avon

04 Sohl Powers Time Dissolver

A Mile Beyond The Moon By C. M. Kornbluth
1962 – Macfadden

05 Kornbluth A Mile Beyond The Moon

The 6 Fingers Of Time (anthology)
1965 – McFadden Books

06 Powers Anthology The 6 Fingers Of Time

War With The Gizmos by Murray Leinster
1958 – Fawcett Gold Medal

07 Leinster Powers War With The Gizmos

No Room For Man by Gordon R. Dickson
1966 – Macfadden Books

08 Dickson No Room For Man

Music Review – The Antimacassar Chronicles by Sandalmans Tabernacle

Music Review
The Antimacassar Chronicles by Sandalmans Tabernacle

antimaccassar-chronicles-cassette-case

I’ve never had anything sent to me for review on my blog before and so I was very surprised when this cassette arrived at the end of last week from an associate in the tiny village of Soddenham in Norfolk (website here). The accompanying letter describes Sandalmans Tabernacle as a folk/doom metal band who have just recorded and are poised to self release The Antimacassar Chronicles, their debut album on limited cassette format only.

antimaccassar-chronicles-cassette-liner

Brothers Shaun and Simon Smeckler, both on bass are joined by Malachi Twemlow on “medieval percussion and pipes” which certainly piqued my interest. I immediately threw the tape into my deck and pressed play, having spent the weekend with this album I feel I’m now in a much better place to write a more thorough review.

antimaccassar-chronicles-cassette-dark-side

The album kicks off with The Quebeccian Shoehorn Equation which is ushered in by a tremendously throaty growl of rhythm bass before being joined by droning higher lead bass notes. The basses are eventually joined by the frenetic beating of nakers – a pair of small clay drums which hammer against the flow of the beat. I also became aware of chanting at around the halfway mark, guttural voices in a language or dialect unknown but heavily submerged in the mix. I wasn’t sure on first listen that this was actually present but subsequent plays suggest it’s definitely there. Rosamund’s Clerical Bypass is a short interlude featuring tuned bells and a saturated feedback drone before segueing into The Preece Cycle (rpt 14) which quickly establishes a pulsing, motorik groove of thick bass hits. The lead bass is all over this one, running roughshod over the mix in a menacing ascending/descending plunge. The tuned bells are still evident from the previous track but are joined by a snare drum which sounds more like musket fire and a tabor drum. The ten minute running time is over before you can catch your breath and jump straight into The Antimacassar Chronicle. This is an astonishingly heavy track, both basses working in unison to produce a churning, hellish miasma of infernal sound like a cross between Prurient and Wolf Eyes. Through the murk, a single pipe sounds and a snare drum tattoo beats out trying to pin the rhythm track down like a wild animal. The basses gradually swell with static and feedback into an all encompassing crescendo of eardrum bursting force until a voice bellows something half intelligible through the blackness and all dies away. Powerful and chilling stuff so far.

antimaccassar-chronicles-cassette-darker-side

Side B begins with Dmitri’s Lamentation, a forlorn crumhorn sounding out over a shimmer of bass amp noise and what sounds like field recordings. Crows, sheep and the rustle of wind mingle with the buzzing electronics and the somewhat nasal sound of the crumhorn to downright eerie effect. Next track, Secret Love and Chalky Testimonials presents massive, explosive bass hits which threaten to tear holes in your speakers as higher tones linger above them like trembling wires. The tabor and flute skirt around each hit like a black hole, trying in vain to add some light to the stygian darkness without once penetrating its gloom. But there’s no lightening of mood as Powdered Regret for Bathsheba roars into being on the back of a furiously pounded lead bass chord and shuddering rhythm. The lower register bass here growls and snarls ferociously hitting you right in the solar plexus. Once again I sense some kind of ritual chanting embedded somewhere in the background before the nakers kick in and provide even more propulsion to the track. Toward the end of its nine minute duration, a recorder and tuned bells can be heard on the periphery of the mix, slowly gaining ground as the basses eventually lose momentum and the nakers are reduced to single beats. Another segue occurs into the final track Blindness Clogs Pores which winds down the recorder and bells against both basses droning and crackling with electricity. The crackling slowly becomes the sound of fire which subsumes everything then fades to silence.

sandalmans-tabernacle-mini-poster

This is nothing short of an incredibly forceful and grippingly tense debut album running over with ideas and wilful experimentation. It’s very heavy sounding in its use of the bass guitar as main instrumentation but the medieval flourishes are used to great effect throughout, not sounding out of place anywhere. If Sandalmans Tabernacle were aiming for a different kind of sound with such a bizarre lineup then they’ve certainly achieved that much on this album. Big recommendation if you like doom metal, drone or experimental music of any stripe. The album receives an official release on 30th June and will be available through Boomkat, Juno and a few other online retailers until sold out. There will also be T-shirts available to tie in with the album’s issue.

sandalmans-tabernacle-logo

Four More Hidden Paintings

Yesterday I wrote about a little urban exploration I undertook with the kindly Mr Cafe as my guide (here) in order to see some hidden paintings by street artist Phlegm. After quite some time hacking through dense foliage, huge nettles and the unforgiving bramble thorns we retreated to a huge disused factory which was literally covered in artwork. Every wall was alive with colour, each new painting giving way to another huge piece of work. It was like the most amazing art gallery – all around were weeds and the discarded remnants of industry whist the walls vibrated with thousands of strokes of spray can paint.

I took a few photographs whilst I was there, the following pictures are my favourites;

(Click on each image for a larger view)

Graf Piece 1

Graf Piece 2

Graf Piece 3

Graf Piece 4