Monday 29 December 2014

Quiet World

NOTE - not long after I posted this Bandcamp changed their policy with regard to the whole tax kerfuffle which meant that the albums could stay up.

For the last 11 or so years I have been making music (under a number of aliases) and running a little label called Quiet World.  If there was a competition for the world's smallest label Quiet World would definitely be in with a shout but over the years I have released a fairly large amount of music from some really rather amazing musicians including 2 albums by legendary Fluxus composer Philip Corner.

Whilst Quiet World the label will continue the new EU rules on VAT on sales of downloads mean that maintaining the digital side of things will, from New Years Day 2015, become far more work than it is worth and so (almost) all the music on the Quiet World Bandcamp page will be deleted.

So, with only two days to go until they all go to that big Recycle Bin in the sky I thought I'd share with you all some of the noises I've made over the last decade and a bit.

Obviously if you're reading this in 2015 only this link for the free download of 'This Quiet World' will remain active.

My music is predominantly slow, low and quiet, dealing in deep, dark tonal work and drawn out drones often mixed with field recordings.  Depending on my mood I alternate between using synthesised and acoustic sounds as the predominant noises.  Sometimes the music is wilfully abstract, other times cosmic, mellow, tuneful or creepy.  Hopefully (if you're quick) you'll find something you like.

Below is a small selection of what's there, there are lots more. Each album is priced at £2.50 but obviously can simply be streamed for the next couple of days.


Simple Ghosts and Lazy Old Bones
An album I made with two close friends featuring guitar, electronics, the gate to a local park (on 'I am an Owl') and theremin.

Strange Pilgrims
Made with Arizonan field recordist Banks Bailey using my electronics and his recordings of a Hermit Thrush.

The Earth in Play
A very mellow two song set of deeply ambient pieces.

Phantasms I & II
The first two parts of my personal tribute to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  The third will now only be available on the actual CD release of all 3 volumes.

Walking Through Fireflies
A very personal set of ambient pieces created as a tribute to a friend now sadly passed.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Caballistics Inc.

Gordon Rennie (writer)
Dom Reardon (art)

During WWII, Q Department was formed within the Ministry of Defence to combat Nazi occult warfare. In the 21st century, however, it has outlived its usefulness and its funding is scrapped. Enter reclusive millionaire rock star Ethan Kostabi, who has bought up its employees and constructed a brand new outfit - Caballistics, Inc.

Going Underground

A 2000ad story that tells of the UKs wartime magical warfare unit, Q Department, finally being dissolved by the British government only to find itself bought by the enigmatic ex-rockstar Ethan Kostabi and reinvented as supernatural investigators for hire Caballistics Inc.

Making up the new team are the two leftovers from Q, Doctor Jonathan Brand and the unfortunate Jenny Simmons, demon hunters Hannah Chapter and Lawrence Verse and the very unpleasant magician Solomon Ravne.  Together they are hired out to combat haunted railways, escaped demons and disembodied occultists.

The world they inhabit is shared with that of Doctor Who and Quatermass and Rennie's other 2000ad series Necronauts (and subsequently, Absalom) and is littered with references to all and more.  I've liked Rennie's writing for years; his work always seems to come from a place of fannish enjoyment but distanced from slavish adherence to canon. So, truthfully, I was expecting this to be good and it didn't disappoint.

The real revelation here though is the art of Dom Reardon.  I'd not seen his stuff before but his atmospheric black and white illustrations are an absolute joy that perfectly capture the feel of the narrative.


In this second volume of Rennie and Reardon's supernatural horror things are going decidedly downhill.  Ravne has been 'killed' by an Israeli hit squad and it takes him a while to get better, a psychotic, ex-SAS, asylum escapee joins the team, Jenny's passenger is here to stay and a very powerful and utterly insane magician previously associated with Q Department is getting bored of his island prison.

The various stories take us around London with a horny / hungry Jenny, drop into the depths of a 1960 horror movie studio and travel up to the Scottish highlands to save royalty from some ancient, axe wielding nature spirits.

As with the first volume this is a joyful romp filled with geeky references that are as irreverent as they are reverential.  I love this series.  It's a change of pace for 2000AD and is all the stronger for it.  It is though an absolute crying shame that they've never collected the series finale for us folks that don't read the weekly.

The novels

There were also two Caballistics Inc. novels ('Hell on Earth' and 'Better the Devil') published by Black Flame back in 2007.  Unfortunately they weren't written by Rennie but by freelance writer Mike Wild who, according to his bio on the Abaddon Books site, has worked on ' Doctor Who, Masters of the Universe, Starblazer, 'Allo 'Allo! and ­ erm ­ My Little Pony'.  I read them just after they appeared and they were OK.

The first deals with a buried angel intent on kick starting Judgement Day whilst the second tells of a magical attack on London that drops the group up to their necks in golems and demons.

They're good solid pulp reads that absolutely hurtle along and Wild has done his absolute best to emulate Rennie's style on the comics but it does come across a bit forced and lacks a little of the love Rennie brought to the world his creations inhabit.

Friday 5 December 2014

The Chronicle of the Black Sword

By 1985 the links between British space rockers Hawkwind and author Michael Moorcock were very well established with collaborations between the two stretching back to the early 70s. Moorcock had supplied lyrics for and performed on stage with Hawkwind numerous times over the years, got them an appearance, albeit in the background, in the 'Jerry Cornelius' movie 'The Final Programme' and even contributed towards them being featured as the heroes of a novel (The Time of the Hawklords by Michael Butterworth).  It is then surprising that it took these two giants of the British psychedelic scene so long to fully commit to an album based around Moorcock's most beloved creation, Elric of Melnibone, but 1985s 'The Chronicle of the Black Sword' saw them finally take the plunge and create an album that was (almost) entirely based around Moorcock's series.

Buy it here -  The Chronicle Of The Black Sword

I have to admit to not being a huge fan of the album - it's OK but I find it all a little lacking in fire - it's what came next that hooked me.

Hawkwind - Live Chronicles
In late 1985 the band headed out on the road in support of the album taking with them various dancers to 'act out' the Elric storyline and Moorcock himself to provide spoken word interludes.  They recorded two of the shows and released them as the album 'Live Chronicles' and as the 'Chronicle of the Black Sword' live video.

The album features the '...Black Sword' tracks but they've woven some classic Hawkwind songs such as 'Angels of Death' and 'Master of the Universe' into the narrative.  It is everything the studio album is not.  It's filled with lively, urgent performances of both the old and the new songs and the band seem on tip top form and fully committed.

Buy it here -  Live Chronicles

The video is the same but personally I've never been hugely enamoured with interpretive dance (or any sort of dance really) and so the guys and gals writhing around the band are something I find more than a little distracting.  Pair this with mid 80s video technology, dodgy post-production effects and Hawkwind's psychedelic light show in full force and you get a colourful but restless and slightly nauseating experience.  It does have it's charm though.

(Note - if you're in the UK the vid seems to have unfortunately been blocked there are various extracts online though)


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Wednesday 3 December 2014

Ghostly Experiences

Susan Dickinson (editor)
Armada Lion

Apart from having just about the most glorious cover art - by Antony Maitland - of any book I've ever bought this collection of supernatural tales turned out to be great fun. There are some fabulous authors behind that cover, a few of whom I know well and a couple I'd been looking forward to checking out.

This collection was originally published as half of  much longer anthology called both 'The Restless Ghost' and 'The Usurping Ghost' which was subsequently split into this and a second anthology called 'Ghostly Encounters' - which I've just noticed I have on my shelf waiting it's turn.  It's  lovely discovery because if it's half as good as this one then it'll be a good ride.

Opening proceedings is 'Feel Free' by Alan Garner wherein a young artist finds himself physically in harmony with the creator of an ancient Greek dish.  It's beautifully executed and straight off the bat a very unusual, sympathetic and human take on the idea of a haunting.

Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale is up next with a haunted house tale, 'Minuke', which felt like a home counties version of 'Poltergeist' and is very much in the modern day rural horror vein that he explored in shows such as 'The Stone Tape' and 'The Murrain'.

'Witches Bone' by the one author in the book I'd not heard of, W. C. Dickinson, followed on with a slightly silly tale about a wishing bone and the mayhem it leaves in it's wake.  It was entertaining enough in a 'Tales of the Unexpected' sort of way.

H. R. Wakefield's 'Lucky's Grove' is a dark and bloodthirsty little tale about a Christmas tree inadvisably transplanted from a grove of trees with a dark reputation.

Continuing the rural horror is H. P. Lovecraft's, 'The Moon Bog', as two Americans attempts to clear an Irish marsh lets loose entities who are otherwise inclined.#

Sheridan Le Fanu (here billed as J. S. Lefanu) is represented by what is by far the weakest story in the collection, 'The White Cat of Drumgunniol', with it's story of a cat that foreshadows death for a particular family.  It's not bad, it's just a bit of cliche.

I'd never read any Robert Louis Stevenson before so his 'The Bottle Imp' came as a very nice surprise as a couple desperately try to rid themselves of a malign magical bottle.  It's wonderfully constructed and I was almost cheering for them by the end.

Closing the book was a real treat, Joan Aiken's, 'The Apple of Trouble'.  It's light, funny, inventive and fully silly as two resourceful children attempt to rid themselves of the apple from the Garden of Eden, a cantankerous uncle and the three Furies (or Erinyes) who follow the apple around and exact vengeance on whoever is unfortunate to own it.  It's a joyous read and by the time I was halfway through I'd already made the decision to track down more in the series.

In all it's a great little collection filled with variety and invention featuring some great writers and stories written over at least a century that feel entirely at home in each other's company.