Playing Records – July 2014

Demdike Stare – Empirical Research / Testpressing#005
2014 – Demdike Stare / Modern Love

Demdike Stare - Empirical Research

Demdike Stare - Testpressing#005

There surely is no rest for the wicked as the mighty Demdike Stare prove with this incredible double-header of releases. First off, another mixtape following on the heels of last year’s tremendous Post Collapse set. Empirical Research begins with grating electronics and chanting before weaving through 70 minutes of dark audio ritual and sonic juxtapositions where lost foreign film themes and music concrete rub shoulders with crackling ambient outerludes and all manner of sonic detritus from the past forty years or so. Canty and Whittaker serve up another brilliantly curated, molasses thick stew of sounds from their seemingly bottomless crates to stunning effect. Then comes the latest in their series of test pressing 12’s, number 5 to be precise. A side Procrastination is all shuddering machine gun beats, blunted bass hits and whiplash sound effects whereas B side Past Majesty pits distorted guitar chops against post punk drums then rachets up into a lop-sided, jerking pogo of a track before being swallowed whole by guitars. Incredible stuff. There’s no wonder Demdike Stare are one of my favourite bands – endlessly inventive and refusing to be shackled by either convention or the latest sound.

Time Attendant – Bloodhounds
2014 – Exotic Pylon

Time Attendant - Blood Hounds

Paul Snowden is a painter and artist, he also makes music under the alias of Time Attendant. I was lucky to pick up a copy of his Tournaments EP a few years ago and was hooked by the feverish experimentation spilling across its four tracks. Here, Snowden builds on the same template of electronics and skittering beats but over a longer running time. Ermine Fever is awash with reverb, Inky’s Pitch has a skeletal, dubwise feel to it and Fuchsia Circles builds to a bleeping, droning crescendo midway which ends in a slightly John Carpenter-esque wash of synths. Excellent first full length release from a definite name to watch.

Vatican Shadow – Death Is Unity With God
2014 – Hospital Productions

Vatican Shadow - Death Is Unity With God

I’ve spent a lot of time during July with this behemoth of a release – a six cassette box set no less – and still feel that I am just scratching the surface of its twenty tracks. Dominick Fernow has crafted a set which takes in his darkest Al Qaeda fantasies and incorporates the Waco siege for good measure. Like all Vatican Shadow releases, the track titles are indicators as to where Fernow’s paranoid visions are focussed at the time of recording. The first tape is extremely ambient and almost silent, building slowly in burning intensity like the siege itself before all hell breaks loose on the following cassette. Koresh Babylon and Texarkana Resistance both feature relentless, thundering drum loops which threaten to engulf the tracks completely. The rest of the set then moves into a hazy, more measured sound as tracks mirror the heat and tension of the Branch Davidian compound. Shadows On The Courthouse Wall could almost be a Boards Of Canada track with it’s sheen of ferric distortion and billowing synths. There’s almost too much here to properly take in during a single sitting and so I’ve been listening to it in smaller parts. This is an epic, widescreen kind of release which demands a much larger investment of time to sit through than most albums. I have to say that it amply rewards such an investment though and is a brilliantly structured and tense listen throughout.

Mordant Music – Travelogues 14: Stranger Ohm The Shore
2014 – Mordant Music

Mordant Music - Travelogues 14 Stranger Ohm The Shore

After some contact with the good Baron Mordant earlier this month, I was sent a pre-release zip file containing the next three instalments of Mordant Music’s rather excellent Travelogues series. This series started in 2008 and now stands at number fifteen, each part being a single ten minute sound-scape. Although I’ve enjoyed each of the three new Travelogues, I keep returning to number fourteen for a replay. The track is based around Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore and features tiny snippets of music, string flourishes and Bilk’s voice in apparent interview wrapped up in a reverb heavy cloud of audio effects. It’s simple but incredibly effective and never seems to last a full ten minutes before it ends. Big thanks to Baron Mordant for this sneak preview.

Boris – Noise
2014 – Sargent House

Boris - Noise

Japanese three piece Boris have released many LPs during their career and dipped their toes into several different genre types on the way. This is their first album in three years and is, by the band’s own admission a consolidation and streamlining of their many facetted sound. First track Melody has a slight shoegaze feel to it whereas following track Vanilla cranks up the speed and throws on the riffs for good measure. Heavy Rain brings the doom amid crashing drums and rumbling guitars but still maintains a lightness of mood through its use of ethereal vocals. But the centrepiece of the whole album is undoubtedly the nineteen minute Angel which begins with chiming guitars and pulsing toms before breaking open into massive riffage and a strafing lead guitar solo. The track then gradually turns full circle back to the sound of the opening guitar and toms. There’s still time for a little thrash before the LP ends with Quicksilver which plays out at a ferocious speed ending followed by a short downtuned doom coda. Boris have definitely nailed it with this release, an album of gear changes and stylistic differences which gel perfectly into a coherent whole during its hour long running time.

Album Of The Month – July

Woodbines & Spiders – W&S
2014 – Geophonic Audio Systems

Woodbines & Spiders - W&S

When I heard that this album was about to be released, I was pretty excited to hear it as I’m a big fan of both The Advisory Circle and The Moon Wiring Club, this being a long fermented collaboration between Jon Brooks and Ian Hodgson. If like me you’re an aficionado of the output of either Brooks or Hodgson then you’ll love this fine LP of decaying synths and spectral electronics. The whole album is a cocoon of worn out sounds, disembodied voices and strangely terrifying slo-mo horror-scapes – the stuff of bleak rural daydreams amongst crumbling old farm houses. A cough, knocking at the door, ringing telephone, creaking timber, all of these familiar sounds are imbued with a different grimy pallor in this new setting. Slow Accident and Aye In The Sky both use musty synth arpeggios but are no less odd due to the shifting washes of sound which cloak them like mist. There are also two longer pieces – Regression Suite and Gas suite, both of which are around ten minutes in length. They both feature more ghostly sounds and warped voices although Gas Suite is lighter in tone than the more disturbing Regression suite with it’s disorienting web of slippery tape effects and growlingly slow spoken word interludes. Ambient this is not! In all, this is a wonderfully realised album which tugs at the very edges of perceived normality with its inherent strangeness and odd construction of bizarre sounds which frankly, I can’t get enough of.


Twelve More Richard Powers Covers

A few weeks ago I published a two part article on the cover artwork of Richard Powers (here and here) and was amazed by the number of books I had on my shelves bearing covers by Powers. I narrowed down my selection ruthlessly for the articles but still had a pile of books left over with stunning cover art. I’ve also had a couple more titles through the post with amazing Powers art and so I decided to post one more article covering the remainder of my original selection plus a few of these newly acquired titles. Here then are a dozen more Richard Powers covers;

Indoctrinaire by Christopher Priest
1971 – Pocket Books

1 Priest Indoctrinaire

3 From Out There edited by Leo Margulies
1960 – Panther

2 Anthology 3 From Out There

Away And Beyond by A. E. van Vogt
1959 Berkley Books

3 van Vogt Away And Beyond

Time Out For Tomorrow by Richard Wilson
1962 – Ballantine Books

4 Wilson Time Out For Tomorrow

Expedition To Earth by Arthur C. Clarke
1953 – Ballantine Books

5 Clarke Expedition To Earth

Strangers From Earth by Poul Anderson
1961 – Ballantine Books

6 Anderson Strangers From Earth

Mortals And Monsters by Lester Del Rey
1965 – Ballantine Books

7 Del Rey Mortals And Monsters

The Reefs Of Earth by R. A. Lafferty
1968 – Berkley Medallion

8 Lafferty The Reefs Of Earth

Preferred Risk by Edson McCann
1962 – Dell

9 McCann Preferred Risk

Outpost Mars by Cyril Judd
1954 – Dell

10 Judd Outpost Mars

43,000 Years Later by Horace Coon
1959 – Panther

11 Coon 43'000 Years Later

Star Surgeon by James White
1963 – Ballantine Books

12 White Star Surgeon

What The? #9

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

I Sing The Body Electric by Ray Bradbury

1972 – Corgi
Cover art not credited

This very odd cover clearly features a heavily rouged glam rock centaur with a rather natty feather-cut hairstyle flexing his biceps, his forearms transmogrifying into miniature bicep flexing glam rock figures. I think I’m slowly losing the plot here.

WTF9 Bradbury I Sing The Body Electric

A Scottish Haul

Last week I visited my good friend Mr Anderson and his rather wonderful family in Aberdeenshire. My trip has become a yearly fixture in both our calendars now as is a trip to Leakey’s bookshop in the city of Inverness. We called into the former Gaelic church located strangely enough on Church Street on Thursday after a stout lunch and began the serious business of browsing the hundreds of shelves crammed with books.

Leakey's 1

The building seems to made from books with shelving reaching up to a mezzanine floor (which also houses a cafe and coffee bar) and up to the roof. It’s a veritable treat for the eyes.

Leakey's 2

I was lucky enough to find almost a dozen titles which just had to be purchased, here are a few of my favourite covers;

Imagination Unlimited edited by F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
1966 – Mayflower-Dell
Cover art by Richard Powers

Bleiler & Dikty Imagination Unlimited

Twilight World by Poul Anderson
1964 – Panther
Cover artist uncredited

Anderson Twilight World

Toyman by E. C. Tubb
1973 – Arrow Books
Cover art by Chris Yates

Tubb Toyman

The Winged Man by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull
1970 – Sphere
Cover artist uncredited

van Vogt The Winged Man

Who? by Algis Budrys
1964 – Penguin Books
Cover art by Raoul Hynckes

Budrys Who?

Beyond The Barrier by Damon Knight
1970 – Macfadden
Cover art by Jack Faragasso

Knight Beyond The Barrier

Then on Saturday prior to my return back to Rotherham, we visited Books and Beans on Belmont Street in Aberdeen which is a coffee shop, cafe and secondhand bookshop rolled into one. We ate breakfast, drank coffee and indulged in a little more browsing before wandering over to the train station. Once again, I was fortunate to find a few more titles to add to my Leakey’s selection and so here are a couple more covers;

The Other World by J. Harvey Bond
1964 – Mayflower-Dell
Cover art by Richard Powers

BB Bond The Other World

The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine
1959 – Corgi
Cover artist uncredited

BB Maine The Isotope Man

Night Of The Saucers by Eando Binder
1972 – Five Star (UK)
Cover art by John Cayea

BB Binder Night Of The Saucers

Operation Terror by Murray Leinster
1968 – Tandem
Cover artist uncredited

BB Leinster Operation Terror

Both shops are wonderful places to visit and spend some time in if you’re looking for books whilst in Scotland. I can’t recommend these places highly enough as there is nothing even remotely like them where I live. Let’s hope shops like these continue to grow and flourish in these harsh times as they surely deserve to.

David Pelham’s Hoyle Triptych

Roughly a year ago I had the good fortune to fall upon two copies of a three book Penguin mini series in a second hand shop. Both books were in exceptionally good condition for their age and were priced very reasonably at £3 each. Of course I had to have them and find the third book too, it wouldn’t be that hard – would it? Or so I thought back then. In the intervening period I kept my eyes and ears open for the missing volume through all my usual channels and have been unlucky… until now.

Last week I noticed that one of my larger book dealers had a copy for sale and quickly contacted him to purchase it. I could hardly await it’s arrival, then on Saturday morning it duly fell through the letterbox with a thump and I had another Penguin collection success story on my hands!

Two of the books were written by Fred Hoyle, A professor of astronomy at Cambridge University no less, the third title was co-written with his brother Geoffrey. The stark, sleek black covers are by David Pelham, the geometric design mirroring the contents of each volume. The only colour added was the stencilled name and title at the top centre of each cover. Because of this design, they end up looking more like text books than Science Fiction novels, see what you think.

Here is David Pelham’s Hoyle Triptych in all it’s glory;

The Fifth Planet by Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle
1971 – Penguin Books
Cover art by David Pelham

Hoyle Fifth Planet

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle
1971 – Penguin Books
Cover art by David Pelham

Hoyle The Black Cloud

October The First Is Too Late by Fred Hoyle
1971 – Penguin Books
Cover art by David Pelham

Hoyle October The First Is Too Late

What The? #8

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

The War Book edited by James Sallis

1971 – Panther
Cover art by Peter Tybus

So, what do have here to illustrate Panther’s 1971 anthology The Book Of War? Four figures – one of which is a skeleton – sit astride giant blue eyeballs which are shooting jagged beams of death and destruction from their retinas. The skeleton brandishes a big machine gun (perhaps a bit too big) whereas the furthest figure is using a bomb instead of an arrow in his bow. The central two beings have J and F emblazoned on their chests marking them out as perhaps Justice and Freedom. Freedom has a sword which also has laser flashes emanating from it’s tip whilst Justice rather feebly swings a set of scales which are great for measuring weights etc. but known to be very poor in long range combat situations.

WTF8 The War Book