Wednesday 27 May 2015

Christopher Lee reads 'The Black Cat'

27th May 2015, the day after what would have been Peter Cushing's 102nd birthday is Christopher Lee's 93rd birthday.

The mischievous part of me thought to just repost yesterday's Dracula blog but instead I thought I'd make something more of it and take the opportunity to share with you his reading of Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Black Cat'.

Lee was born in Belgravia, London in 1922 took up acting after the war and appeared as a supporting actor in some 30 films before landing the part that would in many ways define his career, as the creature in Hammer's 'The Curse of Frankenstein' alongside Peter Cushing's Baron.

Roles as Dracula, both Sherlock & Mycroft Holmes, Duc de Richleau, Fu Manchu, The Mummy, Lord Summerisle and many more followed including major roles in some of the key movie franchises of recent years as Bond villain Scaramanga in the 'The Man with the Golden Gun', Saruman in both 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' trilogies and as Count Dooku in Star Wars episodes 2 and 3.

Seemingly never one to take time off Lee has also provided his uniquely distinctive voice to documentaries, animations, games, a series of heavy metal albums and happily for us here a selection of literary readings.

Sir Christopher Lee we at Wyrd Britain raise a glass to you and wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Dracula (1958)

Today, 26 May 2015, marks what would have been the 102nd birthday of the late great Peter Cushing and what better way to mark the occasion than a viewing of what is arguably not only his finest hour (and 12 minutes) but also that of his friend and co-star Christopher Lee as well.

So today I wish to share with you the 1958 Hammer production of Dracula.

Directed by Hammer's legendary director Terence Fisher (who would, between 1958 and 1960, direct Cushing through roles as Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and The Sheriff of Nottingham) and starring Cushing and Lee in their career defining roles as Van Helsing and the Count, future Bat-butler Michael Gough, and Catweazle himself Geoffrey Bayldon.

It's an action movie interpretation of the novel with Lee's brooding, stately and utterly cold vampire counterpointed by Cushing's vibrant and dashing action hero leaping on tables, swinging from curtains and finally dispatching his foe in one of the most recognisable of all Hammer scenes.

I know you're all going to enjoy this one.  If you're anything like me you've seen it many, many times already but there's always time for another viewing of an absolute classic.

Dracula 1958 by Alice-Bauer

Saturday 16 May 2015

The British Space Group

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." 
Leonardo da Vinci 

Available now on the Quiet World label is the debut album from my new music project The British Space Group called 'Eyes Turned Skyward'.

For the last 12 or so years I've been releasing music under my given name and also using several aliases.  My music is generally of the slow, low and atmospheric variety mixing deep dark drones with field recordings and spatterings of electronics.

You can hear a selection of music in this post from the end of 2014.

This new project is something slightly different for me.  It was sparked by a desire to create music on a theme.  Namely my love of British science fiction of the 50s, 60s and 70s, hence the, I hope, suitably old fashioned band name.  This urge follows on from two EPs  I released around 5 years ago - Phantasms I & II - which consisted of a couple of sets of radiophonic style miniatures - you can hear these at that link above - that spoke of my adoration of the work of a certain Workshop.

There's a follow on album to the two Phantasms EPs coming in early 2016 but in the meantime I would like to point your attention to the first The British Space Group album, 'Eyes Turned Skyward'.  It's title comes from the quote that tops this post as I thought in conjunction with the band name it most ably summed up what I was trying to achieve with this music.

Some nice folks have been kind enough to say some pretty lovely things about it.

'I cannot recommend this album highly enough. For fans of electronica, hauntology, soundtracks, minimalism and experiential music; there is something here that will touch something in all of you. Watch the skies, listen ...and wait.' - Grey Malkin, The Active Listener

'With this album, The British Space Group, have created something that is a must-buy for those into the more thought provoking side of music. It manages to bridge the gap between 70’s sci-fi soundtracks and modern ambient/drone. It’s an album that plays like a short movie with each component vital to the story. It’s an album that must be listened to from beginning to end as each song represents a chapter in this most enjoyable story.'  - Simon Tucker, Louder Than War

You can buy and / or listen via the player below.  I hope you enjoy.


Wednesday 13 May 2015

A Bundle of Nerves

Joan Aiken
Peacock Books

I first came across Aiken's writing in an anthology called 'Ghostly Experiences', which I loved so finding this was a real treat.

This is a collection of short stories of a ghostly, macabre or just plain darkly humorous bent all written in what I'm beginning to see as Aiken's light and playful written voice.

The tone of the book is set immediately with the brilliantly comedic and twisted 'Cricket' and 'The Man Who Had Seen The Indian Rope Trick', both of which feature tales of stuffy Englishness coming face to face with something 'other' and losing out.  Next up is a fun but insubstantial tale of music and obsession ('Do You Dig Grieg?') and another of lust and avarice ('Belle of the Ball') before the book hits a decided high point with it's sole science fiction tale, 'Five Green Moons', as an angelic alien visits a small British town looking for somewhere he can make his home.  'Smell' adds revenge into the mix before 'Furry Night' brings romance, sport, peril and lycanthropy to the table.

At this point we are only 7 stories in and with 12 still to go  - the next boasts the frankly unparallelled title of 'As Gay as Cheese' - we are already certain that it's going to be a ride unlike many others.  Indeed, as it transpires, over the 19 tales we are treated to an imagination that is playful, inventive, exploratory, refined, bloodthirsty, absurd and peerless.  I am fast becoming a devotee of the lady's work and as such cannot recommend this highly enough.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Magic and Marillion's Garden Party

I'm going to admit here right out of the gate that I've never been a fan. Marillion were always a bit floppy and fussy for my hardcore punk and industrial leaning tastes. I'm also going to admit that I used to try and wind up a Marillion obsessed ex-colleague by humming 'Kayleigh' whenever he passed and ending random sentences with the words 'Dilly, Dilly'.

Jon, if you're reading, 'Is it too late to say I'm sorry?'

There has though always been one little thing they did that has intrigued me; the slightly malevolent video for the song 'Garden Party', the second single from their debut album 'Script for a Jester's Tear'.

Buy it here -  Script For A Jester's Tear

The song itself is a fairly typical pop prog ditty of the type they made their name doing. The music is jaunty and filled with sharp stabs and busy synths overlaid by lyrics detailing the attendees and their behaviours at the titular party.

Garden party held today
Invites call the debs to play
Social climbers polish ladders
Wayward sons again have fathers
Hello, Dad, hello, dad
Edgy eggs and queueing cumbers
Rudely wakened from their slumbers
Time has come again for slaughter
O on the lawns by still Cam waters
A slaughter, it's a slaughter

Champagne corks are firing at the sun again
Swooping swallows chased by violins again
Strafed by Strauss they sulk in crumbling eaves again
Oh God not again

Aperitifs consumed en masse
Display their owners on the grass
Couples loiter in the cloisters
social leeches quoting Chaucer

Doctor's son a parson's daughter
Where why not and should they oughta
Please don't lie upon the grass
Unless accompanied by a fellow
May I be so bold as to perhaps suggest Othello

Punting on the Cam is jolly fun they say
Beagling on the downs, oh please do come they say
Rugger is the tops, a game for men they say

I'm punting, I'm beagling, I'm wining, reclining, I'm rucking, I'm fucking
So welcome, it's a party

Angie chalks another blue
Mother smiles she did it too
Chitters chat and gossips lash
Posers pose, pressmen flash

Smiles polluted with false charm, locking on to Royal arms
Society columns now ensured, returns to mingle with the crowds
Oh what a crowd

Punting on the Cam, oh please do come they say
Beagling on the downs, oh please so come they say
Garden party held today they say

Obviously the above lyrics are copyright to whoever owns them - the page I copied them from didn't say who that was.
I'm printing them here purely for those who are unfamiliar with the song.
Basically, please don't sue me, I'm poor and friendly to dogs.


The video features the band as a gang of rag tag 'Just William' types, all scruffy school uniforms and grubby knees, discovering the party and deciding to indulge in a spot of mischief. And this is where it gets intriguing as while there's an element of sticky bun pilfering and tying shoelaces together for the most part the mischief takes the form of several displays of sympathetic magic.

They make one Princess Diana looky-likey party goer faint by mimicking her and then holding their breath and another is made to fall from her wheelchair by tossing a bicycle into the river before the video ends with them face painted, stood around a wooden sigil glaring across the river at the party goers whilst the vicar crosses himself repeatedly at the sight and a gale blows up, sweeping both the party and the guests away.

It's all very Hammer, very Dennis Wheatley and very silly. It also seems massively out of character (and please remember I'm saying this as someone whose knowledge of the band is significantly less than minimal) as they always seemed a fairly wholesome bunch; more the types to attend garden parties than the types who would destroy them using supernatural forces but then as I now see it for the first time the singles cover artwork is fairly dark and like I said, what do I know.

Well, what I do know is it's fun. Garden Party was, way back in 1983 / 84, one of the very first music videos I'd seen and even though the music wasn't / isn't to my taste the content of the video absolutely mirrored what I loved (still love) in movies and has stuck in my memory all that time which probably speaks volumes about why I now write a blog called Wyrd Britain.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Wyrd Britain Mix 3

A new mix for a new month.

A mix of  acid folk, neo-krautrock, classic indie, wannabe trailer trash and soundtracking.

Hope you enjoy.

Freddie Phillips - Trumpton theme [00:00]
Half Man Half Biscuit - Time Flies By (when you're a driver of a train) [00:53]
Ten Benson - The Claw [03:30]
Magnet - Gently Johnny [06:24]
Appliance - Number Three Channel Is Clear [09:36]
Wolf People - Village Strollin' [13:51]
Julian Cope - They Were On Hard Drugs [16:23]
Queen - In The Death Cell [23:28]
Third Ear Band - Fleance [25:49]