Playing Records – February 2015

The first month or so of any given year is always slow when it comes to new releases and so I’ve mainly been spending my time becoming familiar with some of last years gems as well as reacquainting myself with the odd golden oldie. It’s a varied batch as usual so let’s dive straight in and find out what’s been spinning this month at unsubscriber towers…

Omnichrom by NeoTantrik
2014 – Pre-Cert Home Entertainment

Omnichrom - NeoTantrik

I suppose you could call NeoTantrik a supergroup of sorts counting as they do such luminaries as Finders Keepers head honcho Andy Votel, Sean Canty from Demdike Stare and synth supremo Suzanne Ciani amongst their ranks. Not that this effort is an overlong, overblown affair stuffed with aimless noodling as other such outfits seem to produce. Instead what we get is a shimmering haze of drifting drones and sun-bleached ambient interludes. The flute and synth waft of Sun Environment on the A side is utterly beautiful in a dreamlike, lost in a desert kind of way – so good in fact that I pinched the original sampled version for inclusion in my Rural Weird mix which is still available for download here. The title track on Side B is awash with cymbals and hand percussion before the final track pitches eerie electronics and free-form drums against babbling voices and tape manipulations. There are three planned instalments in this series beginning with the Blue Amiga LP which sneaked out a few months ago before being snapped up by the heads. I’m loving this one and most definitely can’t wait to hear more.

Lucien Goethals by Lucien Goethals
2014 – Cacophonic

Lucien Goethals - Lucien Goethals

Belgian composer Lucien Goethals sees a timely release of this compendium of works after time spent working at the Flemish division of the Belgian Broadcasting & Television System then later later as a key producer in the division known as IPEM (Institute for Psycho-acoustics and Electronic Music). These three rare pieces showcase compositions scored for combined orthodox instruments with magnétaphone – a kind of reel to reel tape recorder. The longest piece, Difonium uses saxophone to great effect against sparse electronic splutters. On the flip, Cellotape is a cosmically inclined minimal free jazz workout whilst the final track is purely synthetic, an analogue bubblebath. It’s great that important experimental records like this are still being released by a few tiny, brave labels. Long may they continue to do so!

Reek of Putrefaction by Carcass
1988 – Earache

Reek of Putrefaction - Carcass

Back in 1988, the late John Peel played three tracks by a band called Extreme Noise Terror and I was hooked immediately but it wasn’t until I picked up this LP that the grindcore micro-genre finally coalesced into something that ENT always promised to be. From the stomach churning mortuary photo collage on the cover to the track titles – vomited anal tract anyone? – this is still an exhilarating listen even today. It has all the ingredients we know and love from our favourite grindcore bands; Tracks played at ludicrous speed, a drummer hammering out blast beats and barely intelligible guttural vocals. The tracks come at a fast pace too, each one lasting an average of around a minute and a half so no time to catch your breath until the whole album spins to a halt. It’s amazing just how life-affirming something so entrenched in death, decay and gore can be. Nothing left to do now but bang your fucking head and breathe in the putrefying reek until you have to wretch. Yeah!

Sovrapposizione Di Immagini by Daniela Casa
2014 – Finders Keepers Records

Sovrapposizione Di Immagini - Daniela Casa

A pioneering work of experimental themes, wigged out jams and spacey interludes by Italian synth goddess Daniela Casa. This collection is culled from various library music labels by Finders Keepers Records and is being made commercially available for the first time since it was recorded in the early 1970s. One of the things that astonishes so much is the breadth of stylistic cues touching every base from incidental film music through skewed takes on jazz and pop to scuzzy rock workouts. Another amazing fact is that Casa recorded all of these tracks in her home studio and even constructed some of the equipment she needed to produce them. It’s about time some credit was given to this tremendously creative and fiercely independent woman, kudos to Finders Keepers for being on the ball here.

From Out Here by The Advisory Circle
2014 – Ghost Box

From Out Here - The Advisory Circle

Ghost Box stalwart Jon Brooks returns with his third LP of retro-futuristic peans to technology, industry and that certain childhood nostalgia we all feel from time to time. The album was described by the label as “a Wyndham-esque science fiction story, where bucolic English scenery is being manipulated and maybe even artificially generated by bizarre multi-dimensional computer technology”. Intriguing stuff, but it all fits together beautifully. I can well imagine these songs being manufactured in a 1970s laboratory rather than been merely written at a keyboard. Once again I hear traces of ‘Music For Schools’ and ‘Open University’ weaving their way indelibly though proceedings like DNA but this LP is far more than the sum of it’s parts. There’s a warm glow shining deep in these valves which somehow manages to imbue the whole album with a more human feeling than on previous outings despite it’s prevalent electronic construction. Jon Brooks and Ghost Box don’t seem to be capable of putting a foot wrong, another essential release in an already impeccable back catalogue.

Album Of The Month – February

The Summoner by Kreng
2015 – Miasmah Recordings

The Summoner - Kreng

It’s been three years since Pepijn Caudron released the mighty and infernal Works for Abattoir Fermé box set which has enjoyed constant airplay here at unsubscriber towers. This then is a much anticipated release and holy shit is it worth the wait. The first track alone is enough to give you nightmares playing on an almost silent drone for some minutes before erupting into a cacophony of strings. Caudron has changed his approach to composition on The Summoner by ditching all sampled material and utilising a dozen string players instead. The effects are truly devastating. Second track Anger is brooding and tumutulous in equal parts, strings slashing through the blackness until pent up fury boils over and obliterates everything. The album is based around 5 stages of mourning, and was prompted by the death of several close friends. This fact alone imbues proceedings with a hushed gravity and caustic bleakness which the music mirrors perfectly. But it’s on The Summoner that this sonic shift away from the past is most apparent. Caudron weaves his black strings around doom metal band Amenra whose blunt riffs, organ and funereal drums sound perfectly at home in the swirling miasma. Final track Acceptance is a chink of light through the preceding gloom, strings hover low in the mix as a piano plays a simple, plaintive phrase. It’s probably the most beautiful thing that Kreng have ever recorded and manages to bring a lump to my throat every time it plays. Power doesn’t always have to be dark. This is nothing short of a stunning release and one which I’m sure I’ll be playing for many months to come and beyond. If you’ve never heard of Kreng, this is a perfect way in to their haunted, charnel house existence. If you are familiar on the other hand, stand by for the sweeping changes to their sound and prepare to be blown completely away. MASSIVE recommendation for this one.

A Badger Book On Sunday With The Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe, Chapter 18

Rev Fanthorpe Frame

This week’s selection from the Badger archives is a sure-fire winner on so many different levels. Pel Torro (which is an altogether inspired pseudonym by any standards) is once again the good Rev Fanthorpe writing with Harry O. Mansfield. The tagline is almost as lurid as the cover and reads;

The new formula was taking effect, his mind was changing.

And what a cover it is! A bearded and bespectacled scientist menacingly brandishes a syringe containing the titular formula whilst a concerned looking disembodied head materialises in the foreground through the swirling shadows. It’s a small work of sadly uncredited genius that I’m forever glad to have as part of my collection.

I feel like my mind is starting to change too now and so I’d best crack on with the book before I lose all of my somewhat delicate sensibilities. See you again next week for more Badger action my fellow pulp aficionados!

Formula 29X by Pel Torro
(Serial Number SF87)
This version was published in 1963 by Badger Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Badger - Torro Formula 29X

A Package From The USA

I’d been after a copy of a particular book for some weeks when I stumbled across it by chance on eBay one evening. I was a little put off at first however as it was located in the States and I always think that postage overseas seems to be extremely steep when compared to other sources. In a bid to negotiate a better shipping fee, I decided to browse the seller’s shop for other books to make up a parcel and I was amazed to find twenty or so titles screaming out for my attention. Eventually I decided on fifteen volumes and duly contacted the seller who gave me a very reasonable price for shipping to the UK. The books were also on the cheap side too so it was a win-win situation.

At the back end of last week, a parcel arrived for me bearing familiar markings and so I tore it open with much relish to reveal the stash of new books waiting for me inside. I thought I’d share most of the covers here, several more of them are destined for other posts. And so here then are ten books fresh from the USA;

A Cupful Of Space by Mildred Clingerman
This version was published in 1961 by Ballantine Books
The cover artist is Richard Powers

Clingerman, A Cupful Of Space

Testament XXI by Guy Snyder
This version was published in 1973 by Daw Books
The cover artist is Kelly Freas

Snyder, Testament XXI

Meeting At Infinity by John Brunner
This version was published in 1969 by Ace Books
The cover artist is John Schoenherr

Ace - Brunner, Meeting At Infinity

The Day Of The Shield by Antony Alban
This version was published in 1973 by Berkley Medallion Books
The cover artist is Richard Powers

Alban, The Day Of The Shield

The Stochastic Man by Robert Silverberg
This version was published in 1976 by Fawcett Gold Medal Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Silverberg, The Stochastic Man

A Sea Of Space edited by William F. Nolan
This version was published in 1970 by Bantam Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Anthology, A Sea Of Space

Other Worlds Of Clifford Simak by Clifford Simak
This version was published in 1962 by Avon Books
The cover artist is Richard Powers

Clifford Simak, Other worlds Of...

Tomorrow Is Too Far by James White
This version was published in 1971 by Ballantine Books
The cover artist is Dean Ellis

White, Tomorrow Is Too Far

The Syndic by Cyril M. Kornbluth
This version was published in 1955 by Bantam Books
The cover artist is Richard Powers

Kornbluth, The Syndic

Day Of The Giants by Lester Del Rey
This version was published in 1964 by Airmont Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Del Rey, Day Of The Giants

A Badger Book On Sunday With The Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe, Chapter 17

Rev Fanthorpe Frame

It’s becoming a habit now, albeit a rather pleasing and much anticipated one to be sure. Sunday once more and the side table bears a steaming hot cuppa plus the latest Badger tome to be leisurely taken in as the sun moves across the heavens behind its usual covering of thick cloud. Bliss!

This week I’ve plumped for another John E. Muller title, a pseudonym as if you weren’t aware by now of the venerable Rev Fanthorpe himself aided and abetted by John S. Glasby and A. A. Glynn. The cover features a rather fashionably bearded young chap gazing skywards as all manner of retro-futuristic space craft fly about him. Noble stuff indeed! The cover tagline reads;

There was something beyond the limitless space….If only man could reach it

Well, my cup of tea is cooling now so it’s time to delve between the speckled pages and read on. More Badger frolics and hi-jinx to follow next weekend so join me with a hot beverage of your choice and keep on reading…

The Venus Venture by John E. Muller
(Serial Number SF62)
This version was published in 1961 by Badger Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Badger - Muller The Venus Venture

A Package From Redruth

Just recently whilst browsing eBay, I came across an intriguing sounding book with a great cover and decided to take a chance bid on it as the auction was due to end in around half an hour. Whilst I waited, I clicked to check out the the seller’s other items and was surprised to see another three golden period SF books which had rather good covers, all of which were scheduled to end at a similar time to the first.

There were a few counter-bids as the end drew near but I eventually won all four auctions paying a good deal less than I otherwise expected to. I was extremely pleased with this little haul but not as much as when a parcel containing the books arrived a few days later from Redruth in Cornwall.

The first book out of the package was a very early Digit publication with a sterling wraparound cover featuring ants attacking a robot. The remaining three volumes are great examples of the ‘digest’ format which is slightly wider than a standard paperback and uses staples to hold the pages in place rather than glue. The two Scion titles also have rear cover advertisements which I have included in the photographs below, one of which appears to be for a prototype e-cigarette! feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

The Robot Brains by Sydney J. Bounds
This version was published in 1956 by Digit Books
The cover artist is C. Stewart

Digit - Bounds, The Robot Brains

I Came – I Saw – I Wondered by Volsted Gridban
(Pseudonym for E. C. Tubb and John Russell Fearn)
This version was published in 1954 by Scion Ltd Books
The cover artist is Ron Turner

Gridban, I Came - I Saw - I Wondered

Gridban, I Came - I Saw - I Wondered Back

Across The Ages by Vargo Statten
(Pseudonym for John Russell Fearn and Alistair Paterson)
This version was published in 1952 by Scion Ltd Books
The cover artist is Norman Light

Statten, Across The Ages

Statten, Across The Ages - Back

Mission From Mars by Rick Conroy
This version was published in 1952 by Panther Books
The cover artist is John Pollack

Conroy, Mission From Mars

A Badger Book On Sunday With The Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe, Chapter 16

Rev Fanthorpe Frame

It’s Sunday once more and that can only mean one thing – time to break out a Badger book. This week’s title is yet another written by John E. Muller, better known as the Reverend R. L. Fanthorpe, John S. Glasby and A. A. Glynn. Let’s see what the all important tagline reads;

Out of the depths of space came hands of power and rockets of terror

This predicament is quite literally illustrated on the cover as a pair of rockets tear past a rather startled lady whilst three blue hands reach up towards her. Another Harry Fox classic judging by the signature on the painting.

Time for me to crack on and dive in so I can find out more about these terrifying rockets and powerful hands from the depths of space. I’ll meet you back here again next Sunday for more vintage Badger madness. Comments as ever are more than welcome.

Orbit One by John E. Muller
(Serial Number SF69)
This version was published in 1962 by Badger Books
The cover artist is H. Fox

Badger - Muller Orbit One

From The Library Of The Unsubscriber No.11, The Return Of Junior Unsubscriber

I think it was sometime a few months ago when I was initially preparing this article and in walked junior unsubscriber who asked what I was up to with my books. After explaining that I was again choosing more covers for an article I was writing, she decided that I needed some additional help like last time (here) and so I turned her loose on the stacks of books I was sifting through at that point. Just like last time I asked her to only pick books that she thought had interesting covers and a surprisingly short while later she had all five titles selected, a wry smile playing across her face. I might ask her to do this a little more often for me if these are the results I can expect.

I asked her what she liked most about her choices and have included her annotated comments under each entry for a little enlightenment. I mean, I’m sure we’d all love to know exactly what does go through the mind of an inscrutable twelve year old when choosing their vintage science fiction books.

And so thanks to the invaluable help of the small but mighty one yet again in preparing this humble article, here’s this week’s collection of junior unsubscriber-approved paperbacks for your enjoyment, comments if you please;

Beyond by Theodore Sturgeon
This version was published in 1970 by Avon Books
The cover artist is uncredited

The man is only wearing pyjamas, he’ll end up getting a cold because he’s outside and all the plants have faces.

Sturgeon Beyond

Alien Embassy by Ian Watson
This version was published in 1979 by Panther Granada Books
The cover artist is uncredited

He’s very a very fat and ugly alien, I don’t think he eats his vegetables and has a bad diet with burgers and chips for dinner every night.

Watson Alien Embassy

The Omega Point by George Zebrowski
This version was published in 1974 by New English Library Books
The cover artist is Ray Feibush

Skeletons are very scary things… and these ones have guns too. That makes them extra-scary things.

Zebrowski The Omega Point

Conditionally Human by Walter M. Miller
This version was published in 1966 by Panther Books
The cover artist is uncredited

Someone has written all over these men’s heads. They also have keys to wind up their brains. What happens if they stop? Is that when they go to sleep?

Miller Conditionally Human

Mutants by Gordon Dickson
This version was published in 1973 by Collier Books
The cover artist is uncredited

I really like the man’s cape and costume, even though he’s wearing green tights which is a bit funny. He might be going to a fancy dress party or somewhere like that after fixing his machine.

Dickson Mutants