08 November 2010

Donald Sutherland

The Basics:

Donald Sutherland, Canadian by birth, was born to Frederick and Dorothy Sutherland in 1934, in Saint John, New Brunswick. Following an education at the University Of Toronto, Sutherland studied at the London Academy Of Music And Dramatic Arts in the late 1950s and subsequently played a number of small roles in horror films and thrillers. As his career progressed, Sutherland's roles became more complex, with the result that by 2000 Donald Sutherland had become a most respected actor, with many major films to his name, and a career that has stood the test of time. Nowadays, as well as major film roles, Sutherland hosts television shows and has even appeared in music videos.

The Beginnings:

Of course, returning to the very beginnings of Sutherland's career, these initial roles are in no way to be ignored. Look where they got him! With a penchant for the sinister, lanky type, Sutherland's physical appearance lent a certain disturbing quality to his roles. Tall, gawky and with, it has to be said, rather googly eyeballs, Sutherland was perfect for initial roles such as Bob Carroll in the luridly-titled Dr Terror's House Of Horrors, or Joseph in the intriguingly-named Die! Die! My Darling!. Following a modest career boost in The Dirty Dozen, Sutherland's real big break came with the 1970 film M*A*S*H, in which Sutherland took the role of surgeon Hawkeye Pierceand, in the process, discovered that not all films are cheap horror flicks that give away the entire plot in the title.

Stardom:

Following this, Donald Sutherland, it has to be said, attained stardom. His mainstream successes were mixed with more peculiar film ventures, often verging on the politically volatile. Co-starring with Jane Fonda in the popular thriller Klute (1971) seemed like a good career move, but going on to write, produce, direct and star in an anti-Vietnam war film (FTA, 1972) may, at the time, have seemed less sensible. Then again, the graphic sex of Don't Look Now may well have drowned out any controversy from his previous ventures. Even if such things weren't shocking enough for the late 70s, the brutish, ruthless characters depicted by Sutherland in The Day Of The Locust and 1900 were guaranteed to attract peoples attention. I'm reliably informed, though I've yet to see it for myself, that his appearance as a pot smoking professor in Animal House is well worth witnessing.

The Eighties And Onwards:

It was in the seventies that Sutherland really came into his own, though he remained a respected and popular actor right through to his more recent films. Playing the father in 1980's Ordinary People, and a Nazi spy in Eye Of The Needle continued Sutherland's propensity for creepy roles, and though his eye seems drawn more to smaller roles, evinced in such films as Lock Up and Backdraft, Sutherland is remembered fondly for his mainstream, well-known roles just as much as his more obscure film outings: playing Wilhelm Reich in Kate Bush's video for her song Cloudbusting being one such fan-delighting appearance. His rolled-back, scary-eyed howl at the end of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, too, provides more than enough material for a film buff to adore Donald Sutherland forever.

More Than You Need To Know: A Summary

Height: 6'4"
Date of Birth: July 6, 1934
Birth Place: St. John, New Brunswick, Canada
Education: University of Toronto, where he majored in Engineering and Drama, followed by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Wife: Currently Francine Racette (actress; whom he met in 1972). Originally, Sutherland was married to Lois Hardwick, also an actress, whom he married in 1959 and divorced in 1966. She was followed by Shirley Douglas, another Canadian actress, whom he met while filming Castle of the Living Dead in 1964. They were married in 1966 and subsequently divorced in 1971.
Other Relationships: Jane Fonda (with whom he had three-year relationship)
Father: Frederick Sutherland, a salesman
Mother: Dorothy Sutherland, originally Dorothy McNichol
Children: Angus Redford Sutherland (born in 1979), Rossif Sutherland (born in 1978), Roeg Sutherland (born in 1974), Kiefer Sutherland (born on December 21, 1966 to Shirley Douglas), Rachel Sutherland (born on December 21, 1966 to Shirley Douglas; twin sister of Kiefer)

Selected films you may have heard of:

Salem's Lot (2004) (TV) (filming ) - Richard Straker
The Italian Job (2003) - John Bridger
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) (voice) - Dr. Sid
Space Cowboys (2000) - Jerry O'Neill
Virus (1999) - Capt. Robert Everton
The Puppet Masters (1994) - Andrew Nivens
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) - Merrick Jamison-Smythe
JFK (1991) - X (unknown general in black)
Backdraft (1991) - Ronald Bartel
Kate Bush: The Whole Story (1986) (V) - Father in the music video Cloudbusting
Max Dugan Returns (1983) - Brian Costello
Animal House (1978) - Prof. Dave Jennings
The Eagle Has Landed (1976) - Liam Devlin
The Day of the Locust (1975) - Homer Simpson
Alien Thunder (1974) - Dan Candy
Don't Look Now (1973) - John Baxter
Steelyard Blues (1973) - Jesse Veldini
Klute (1971) - John Klute
Kelly's Heroes (1970) - Sgt. Oddball, Tank Commander
M*A*S*H (1970) - Capt. Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce

Selected films you probably haven't heard of:

Da wan (2001) - Tyler
Threads of Hope (2000) (voice) - Narrator
The Hunley (1999) (TV) - General Pierre Beauregard
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994) (TV) - Capt. William Marsden
The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas (1992) - Narrator
Lock Up (1989) - Warden Drumgoole
Gas (1981) - Nick the Noz
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) - The Clumsy Waiter
Oedipus the King (1967) - Chorus Leader
Billion Dollar Brain (1967) - Scientist at computer
Die! Die! My Darling! (1965) - Joseph
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) - Bob Carroll
Hamlet (1964/III) (TV) - Fortinbras, Prince of Norway

09 October 2010

Goodbye Horses

You told me, I see you rise...
But it always falls.
I see you come, I see you go.
You say "All things pass into the night"
And I say, "Oh no, Sir - I must say you're wrong."

Q Lazzarus, like Gina X Performance and so many other minimalist electronic artists, has all but vanished without a trace. Any hint of a popular revival comes from external forces - the electroclash synth revival, the odd left field cover version or perhaps an unexpected soundtrack appearance.

In Q Lazzarus' case, 1991's brief revival was due to the latter. Goodbye Horses, their one hit wonder is remembered most fondly for its use in The Silence Of The Lambs. Buffalo Bill dances before his mirror, his penistucked demurely between his thighs, gently mouthing the words to this minimalist, electro gem. It wasn't Goodbye Horses first appearance on a soundtrack, though - the songs first official appearance was on the soundtrack of Jonathan Demme's Married To The Mob. That was 1998, about three years before Silence Of The Lambs. Riding on the back of Hannibal Lecter, a single release took the opportunity to pair up the song with b-side White Lines.

The song itself, written for Q by William Garvey, exists in two versions - the original 4:20 version, and an extended 6:27, apparently produced specially to capitalise on the success of the Lambs. The lady herself, Q Lazzarus, can be seen briefly in another Jonathan Demme film, singing Heaven in the movie Philadelphia. The music is electronic, melancholy and minimalist. While the word simple is unfair, the song is in no way complex - a simple note fades into a drumbeat, and a single, sparse melody picks out the same note, an octave or two higher. The bassline joins in, repetitive and insistent, and finally the melody gains an extra note before Q Lazzarus begins to sing. The effect is aural perfection to rival Gina X's No GDM.

And the meaning - this flying over horses? A link to Eastern philosophy, we're told, rather vaguely. The horses represent the five traditional senses, keeping one tied to the physical plane of existence. The song concerns the struggle to rise above these earthly boundaries, to transcend and rise. And there - knowing that, how perfect is the song for Jame Gumb, as he struggles to rise above the boundaries of his physical sex?
Psyche, a Canadian electronic outfit, reasonably faithfully cover Goodbye Horses on their 1996 release, only getting a little carried away later on with an amateur-sounding synth solo. More industrial than pop, Carrier Flux offer their version freely on the internet. Sadly, tracking down the original is a little more complex. It's not on the Silence Of The Lambs soundtrack; divert your attention instead to finding a copy of the Married To The Mob CD. Finally, the compilation Retro-Active Volume 2 features the extended version, even going so far as to acknowledge the song's status as 'super rare'.


"I must disagree, oh no, Sir...
I must say you're wrong."
Won't you listen to me?
Goodbye horses... I'm flying over you.
Goodbye horses... I'm flying, flying, flying over you."

11 September 2010

Big Science - Laurie Anderson

Big Science is Laurie Anderson's first proper album release: a nine track studio recording which was released in 1982. You may have heard of Laurie's huge performance art show, United States Live, and each of the nine tracks are reworked versions of popular pieces from that show. One of them, track two, is the classic track O Superman, Laurie's surprise UK chart success, which made its way to number two after John Peel heard it and featured it on his radio show. Big Science recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a remastered CD edition, now including the b-side to O Superman, the rather peculiar 'Walk The Dog', and the original O Superman video. (As part of the this 25th anniversary version, a track named Big Science 2 also appeared on iTunes; think of it as a remixed hybrid version of O Superman and the actual track Big Science.)

The Big Science sound is usually described as 'avant garde', and often considered to be 'electronic' music, although a quick glance at the credits list shows a surprising amount of live instruments are involved. The other problem with the 'avant garde' aspect is  that while you will undoubtely adore it and rapidly become filled with a desperate desire to play it for everyone else on the planet, your friends will look at you with utter disbelief. 'But it's Laurie Anderson!' you'll say, as though that explains everything: the mad vocoders, the weirdly repetitive saxophone bursts, the peculiar and slow handclaps over the top of Laurie's curious, spoken word delivery of her strangely poetic lyrics. Relax, if it doesn't grab them straight away it'll grow on them...

There are songs about sweaters, songs about the destruction of those places we all hold dear, songs about curtains, society crashing and burning. If it all sounds rather strange then that's fine; the whole album is strange. Never in a million years could you ever imagine it as a commercial release - that stage would come later in Laurie's career as she embraced actual singing, just for an album or two. At this early stage, though, everything's deadpan and, if you're quick enough to spot the jokes, occasionally rather amusing. Seriously, if you've not heard this album, do something about it now.

Big Science (1982, Warner Records):
1. From The Air
2. Big Science
3. Sweaters
4. Walking And Falling
5. Born, Never Asked
6. O Superman
7. Example #22
8. Let X = X
9. It Tango

2007 Version adds:
10. Walk The Dog
11. O Superman (Video)

Credits:
Laurie Anderson: Vocals, Vocoder, Farfisa, violins, percussion, electronics, keyboard.
Roma Baran: Farfisa bass, glass harmonica.
Bill Obrecht: Alto sax.
Peter Gordon: Tenor sax, clarinet.
David Van Tieghem: Drums, percussion.
Rufus Harley: Bagpipes.
Perry Hoberman: Flute, sax.
Chuck Fisher: Alto and tenor sax.
Richard Cohen: Clarinets, bassoon, baritone sax.

02 August 2010

Chris de Burgh

Introduction

Ah, Chris de Burgh. Born as Christopher John Davison in 1948 in Argentina. Currently living in Ireland and with British nationality. Personally thanked by Princess Diana for writing his greatest hit, Lady In Red, and almost unavoidable in the UK at Christmas time because of A Spaceman Came Travelling, which is played only slightly less than Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody. De Burgh has sold over 45 million albums worldwide, and managed to sell 8 million copies of his hit, Lady In Red, which is initially surprising since most people profess to loathe it. Which also makes it interesting to hear that it reached number one in 25 separate countries, including the United Kingdom.

Career

So where did it start? Well, Chris de Burgh signed a contract with A&M Records in 1974, at which time he was touring as the support for Supertramp. His early releases were a kind of folksy seventies pop, and didn't do particularly well. Neither did the next album, or the next. By 1981 there was enough material to release a best of collection, although the best of a not terribly successful bunch was hardly destined to do tremendously well in the charts. And yet, although there wasn't much UK or US chart success, de Burgh continued to improve his global profile, clocking up reasonable sales in many a far-flung corner of the world. Regardless, the greatest hits collection served as a nice introduction to The Getaway, which produced the single Don't Pay The Ferryman. And, at last... a US hit.

Don't Pay The Ferryman, a peculiar song with a mythology-influenced feel, helped the album to get to number 43 in the US charts. The album did slightly better in the UK, reaching number 30. The album Man On The Line followed, with increased success. Riding on this success, as record companies are wont to do, a further greatest hits album was released, achieving de Burgh's highest chart position so far. And then... Into The Light.

Released in 1986, Into The Light hurtled up the charts, carried (not literally) by The Lady In Red. The album reached number two, and the single, Lady In Red - well, you'll need to be some sort of hermit to have avoided hearing it so far. Similarly with the next single, a re-release of A Spaceman Came Travelling, which was originally on de Burgh's 1975 album, Spanish Train And Other Stories. Into The Light, despite containing The Lady In Red, has a lot going for it. Vaguely progressive, vaguely 80s synth in some places, there are hints of an interest in the events of Revelations - in fact, for the eagle-eared, there are a fair few Biblical references dotted throughout Chris' career. (The Risen Lord on Flying Colours is a pretty big hint, and The Leader and The Vision are clear references to Revelations.)

His career sort of took off from there, actually. Although not exactly well-loved by the common man, there are enough people out there to buy his records, watch his concerts and generally adore him for Mr de Burgh to be an enduringly popular artist. Having your own record label helps, though I doubt we'll ever see Chris clamber up the charts again, unless it's some sort of re-release of an old hit at just the right time. And his career continues - there's a general descent into release after release of greatest hits collection, cashing in on earlier successes, but he continues to tour and, indeed, was apparently the first Western act to perform in Iran after the 1979 revolution.

A Small Note

I may be alone in this, but I have to stand up and point out that by all accounts and being reasonably charitable, Chris De Burgh is actually pretty successful, and (although it may come as a shock to you), not all his work is as maudlin and downright soppy as Lady In Red. There's plenty of soft rock in his back catalogue, yes, but there's also elements of prog, plenty of lovely 80s synth stuff, a bit of concept-album-tinged stuff and a fair few groovy ballads, out-and-out pop hits and even some rather saucy stuff. Well, Patricia The Stripper, anyway.

Bill Bailey is prominent amongst de Burgh's detractors, pointing to his wildly uncontrolled eyebrows, picking on the undeniable cheesiness of some of his songs. But then I love Bill Bailey's work, too, at least once he's managed to get started. His first five minutes of any set usually consist of him going 'ooo' and 'hello' and 'I look like a klingon'. But regardless, the Cockney medley of Chris de Burgh songs speak true love to me, and giving him pride of place as the top spot in the scale of evil is surely a veiled worship attempt. And what's so bad about Lady In Red? Don't we all have off days? Didn't Kraftwerk produce The Hall Of Mirrors at one point in their career? Did they not ever think of getting a guest vocalist? Does Marillion's Kayleigh not still haunt them, even as children dance around under sprinklers in the park? But do we judge Kraftwerk by their reedy vocals? Do we blame Marillion for Kayleigh... well, maybe just a little. Er... do we not listen to Toyah because of her lithp? Um... isn't Chris de Burgh much, much richer than us and aren't we all just a teeny bit jealous? Perhaps. Or it might be his recent claims to be able to heal people by laying on hands, or the alleged affairs of the early nineties. Or is it, perhaps, that some people are just naturally annoying? Whatever it is, you can't deny his success, however much you may wish to join with Bill Bailey and describe him as a 'mono-browed purveyor of ultimate filth'.

Oh, and he's 5 foot 6 inches tall. Just in case you were wondering. His website's an endless treasure trove of such snippets...

(Mostly Complete) Discography Note the increase in collections as time passes...

Far Beyond These Castle Walls, 1974
Spanish Train and Other Stories, 1975
At the End of a Perfect Day, 1977
Crusader, 1979
Eastern Wind, 1980
Best Moves, 1981
The Getaway, 1982
Man on the Line, 1984
The Very Best of Chris de Burgh, 1984
Into the Light, 1986
Flying Colours, 1988
Spark to a Flame: The Very Best of Chris de Burgh, 1989
High on Emotion: Live from Dublin, 1990
Power of Ten, 1992
This Way Up, 1994
Beautiful Dreams, 1995
Live in South Africa, 1997
The Love Songs, 1997
Quiet Revolution, 1999
The Ultimate Collection - Notes from Planet Earth, 2001
Timing Is Everything, 2002
The Road To Freedom, 2004
Live In Dortmund, 2005
The Ultimate Collection, 2005
The Storyman, 2006
Gold, 2007
Now and Then, 2008
Footsteps, 2009
Moonfleet, Coming in 2010

27 July 2010

Children Of The Corn

Adapted from a Stephen King short story and directed by Fritz Kiersch, the 1984 film of Children Of The Corn has, unfortunately, followed in the footsteps of many other mildly successful horror films and spawned sequel after sequel - an excessive quantity, and of varying quality, if truth be known.

That said, the original film is not entirely without merit, or indeed without its fair share of unpleasant scares. Some of Steve King's books have suffered far worse indignities in their journey from page to screen, but even though the movie makes some effort to remain true to the story, the movie version will quickly disappoint anyone who's read the original, no matter how hard you feel actors Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton and John Franklin are trying.

The basic plot is quite simple. The adult inhabitants of a small town, tucked away in the midst of row upon row of lush, green corn, are suddenly and brutally murdered by their children. Under the leadership of travelling boy preacher, Isaac, they begin a strange cult which worships a sinister force that inhabits the corn fields: He Who Walks Behind The Rows. This peculiar situation is discovered by a young couple, Burt and Vicki, who (in the best traditions of such films) get separated, caught, escape, find two rebel children to help them, get caught again and so on, until they finally manage, in a triumph of finest eighties special effects, to defeat the evil force and escape. There is, of course, the final surprise!-that-wasn't-really-the-end moment, but following this all is well. (Except all isn't well, of course: the sequels started to appear, culminating last year in a TV remake of the original. With any luck that'll be it, although there's always the possibility they'll all get remade, then re-remade and so on...)

Children Of The Corn was directed by Fritz Kiersch and was written by George Goldsmith, based upon a short story by Stephen King. Lasting for ninety-three minutes, the film received an R rating in the USA, and an 18 in most other countries, mainly due to the amazing number of violent deaths that occur before the credits have even finished - an entire café of adults is wiped out with surprising speed. The original (and superior) short story can be found in King's book, Night Shift, a copy of which makes a cameo appearance on the dashboard of Burt and Vicki's car.

After watching Children Of The Corn, why not enjoy (or endure?) 'Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice' (1993), 'Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest' (1995), 'Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering' (1996), 'Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror' (1998) or 'Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return' (1999), which somehow skips the intervening 659 films. But wait - we're not finished! There's the straight-to-DVD 'Children of the Corn: Revelation' (2001), and finally the 2009 TV remake. Whew!

24 July 2010

Clive Barker

"I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker." Stephen King

Born on October 5th 1952 in Liverpool, England, Clive Barker is a man of many talents. Probably known best as an author and secondly as a director, Barker is also a talented artist, and even forages into the realms of designer.

Barker has been openly gay for some time, though the gay main character in the novel Sacrament is what really brought his sexuality into the public eye. He lives with his partner, the photographer David Armstrong, and his daughter Nicole. They share their house with a small zoo of animals, including a parrot which shares the same name as a character from Abarat: Malingo.

Writing

It was his writing that first brought him to the attention of Stephen King, leading to the above quote. The Books Of Blood consists of six volumes of short fiction, each of which explores themes of sexuality, fantasy andmystery with a clear link to horror. There are stories which tell of a race against hell itself, of mysterious islands where the dead gather. Races of strange creatures co-exist in remote areas of the world, in a dusty settlement somewhere the future of the world is decided by old men playing dice, and in the depths of the modern city lie the grotesque city fathers, demanding blood sacrifice for the continued wellbeing of the city.

Barker's early stuff is pure horror, but intelligent stuff. Rarely, if ever, does Barker descend into cheap and easy blasphemy, the great temptation for all horror writers and a cliché early James Herbert utterly fails to avoid. Instead of casting aspersions on what is, Barker specialises in the creation of complex fantastic worlds, bursting with original - and often unpleasant - ideas. This tendency became even clearer as Barker's career progressed:Imajica and Abarat both feature undeniable elements of horror, but this element of the grotesque takes place as a backdrop for a hidden fantasy world of beauty and wonder.

Many lament Barker's turn towards such fantasy: Barker now describes himself as a fabulist, telling fables primarily to enthrall, though his nature is such that he cannot easily shy away from horror. Even the Abarat Quartet, a series of works aimed at teenage children features stitchlings (little, sewn-together monstrosities), along with a group of vicious hive-minded creatures and Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight.
It would be interesting, were it possible, to ask Steve King if the future turned out quite as he anticipated. I like to think it turned out better, though you'll find, as always, opinion varies...

Movies

One of the most enduring images of horror: a leather-clad man with his face sectioned into squares by deep incisions, a pin driven firmly into each severed intersection, is the creation of Clive Barker. Pinhead, as he is affectionately known, is the chief character of 1987's horror success: Hellraiser. Based on an earlier novella, The Hellbound Heart, it was not Barker's first film, though it remains his most successful. Earlier movies, The Forbidden and Salome are experimental art movies, and aside from a whirling, naked Clive Barker with an obvious erection, hold little of interest for the majority of us. Rawhead Rex was an early adaptation of a Books Of Blood story, which is far eclipsed by Bernard Rose's adaptation of Candyman.

Nightbreed, an adaptation of the novella Cabal, was intended to eclipse the success of Hellraiser. Ultimately, despite a plethora of cutting-edge special effects, a soundtrack by Danny Elfman and an amazing quantity ofpromotion and tie-ins, the film failed dismally. Barker was disappointed, but undeterred. Lord Of Illusions, starring Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula did little better; a shame, for Lord Of Illusions is an intelligent and enjoyable piece of horror.

Artwork

Barker is a bold visual artist. His work, unsurprisingly, features strong elements of graphic horror and brutal, often disturbing sex. A series of strangely beautiful symmetrical ink drawings accompanied his novellaCabal, and The Thief Of Always, too, features painstaking beautiful illustrations throughout.

Two books, Illustrator and Illustrator 2, give full details and many examples of Barker's illustration work, while the books of Abarat feature page after page of full colour images.

Independent exhibitions also provide opportunities to sample, or even purchase, Barker's work. Until recently the Bess Cutler Gallery handled much of Clive's work, though now Luna7 provides access to what little of his work is currently available.

Recently, Barker has begun to collaborate more with his partner, either painting on models before they are photographed or writing prose to accompany their image. Armstrong's book Rare Flesh is an excellent source of these collaborations.

Other Projects

Undying, a game developed by DreamWorks Interactive provided Barker with an opportunity to create a new mythology and enhance it with interactive aspects. Similar in many ways to games like Quake or Alice, Barker placed an emphasis on a strong storyline and, as a result, the game plays as a chilling, interactive short story.

Recently, McFarlane Toys have begun producing a series of collectible figures. Tortured Souls, as they are known, bear some resemblance to the cenobites from Hellraiser.

Works:

Novels:

1985 The Damnation Game
A complex story which would fit well amongst the shorter works featured in the Books Of Blood. A gambler takes on the role of bodyguard to Joseph Whitehead, unaware that Whitehead's power is due to the exchange of his immortal soul. Classic Barker horror.

1986 The Hellbound Heart
Forming the basis for the film Hellraiser, the book's plot differs only in minor details from Clive's subsequent film version.

1987 Weaveworld
An entire world, for safety, is woven into the threads of a carpet. The scourge, sworn enemy of the inhabitants of the Weaveworld is desperately sought by a small but dedicated group of individuals determined to see the Weaveworld destroyed.

1988 Cabal
Later to become the film Nightbreed, Cabal follows a similar but less complex plot to Weaveworld; a hidden, grotesque society is threatened by outsiders, bent upon its destruction.

1989 The Great and Secret Show
Subtitled 'The First Book Of The Art', The Great And Secret Show is the beginning of an epic tale of magic, mingled with the mundane, hinting at a secret core to reality which underpins and affects everything. Great power is to be had, but it is inevitable that such power can be used for evil, as well as good.

1991 Imajica
Easily Clive's most complex and imaginative work. An entire set of worlds are introduced, and we travel through them with two of the characters, encountering a vast array of imaginative creatures and individuals. Imajica is an intense and amazing work, and its influence on Clive's later works, particularly the Abarat series, is obvious.

1992 The Thief of Always
Aimed squarely at children, yet still retaining a grim and unpleasant undertone, this book features Harvey Swick, who longs for adventure. The holiday home he is spirited away to has more than a few dark secrets, however.

1994 Everville
The second book of the art, which expands further on The Great And Secret Show, and also sees the involvement of Harry d'Amour, Barker's private detective character who appears in his film Lord Of Illusions.

1996 Sacrament
A metaphysical air surrounds this novel, which brought Clive's sexuality to the public's attention in no small way. Dealing with animal extinction, homosexuality and two mysterious and quite deadly individuals, this is an intense and compelling tale.

1998 Galilee
Described as a romance, Clive experiments with a family saga, though as one might expect, the family has more than a few dark secrets, and there's a refreshing amount of magic involved.

2001 Coldheart Canyon
Hollywood, sex, dead stars and disturbing creatures.

2002 Abarat
2004 Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War
Forming two of a proposed quartet, the Abarat books feature an imaginary world not dissimilar to that of the Imajica. Aimed at children, however, the horrific nature of Imajica's worlds are toned down somewhat, though the imaginative and creative element is still strong.

Collections:

1984-1985 Books of Blood 1 - 6
1987 In the Flesh
1987 The Inhuman Condition
1991 Clive Barker, Illustrator
1993 Illustrator II: The Art of Clive Barker
1995 Incarnations: Three Plays
1996 Forms of Heaven: Three Plays

Films:

The Forbidden
Salome
These two early films are experimental pieces, showing Clive's interest in film but with little potential for mainstream success.

Rawhead Rex
Based on the story of the same name from the Books Of Blood.

Hellraiser
Barker's first successful mainstream film, for which he wrote and directed.

Nightbreed
Less successful than Hellraiser, this second film was nevertheless a minor hit in cinemas and spawned the usual plethora of merchandise. Ultimately, however, it has failed to achieve long-term appreciation.

Lord Of Illusions
Again directed and written by Barker himself, and an enjoyable film in its own right, this too failed to make much of a splash.

Gods and Monsters
This film is a biopic of the life of gay film director James Whale. A wonderful, engrossing film, directed by Bill Condon with Clive taking the role of executive producer.

Biographies:

2002 Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic by Douglas E. Winter


Website:
www.clivebarker.info
www.clivebarker.com

10 July 2010

Bernard Rose

British director Bernard Rose began making films at an early age, and in 1975 won a BBC amateur film competition which allowed his three minute film to air. He began working on the final season of The Muppet Show, where he took the part of a small gopher, and on The Dark Crystal in 1981. Following this, he attended the National Film And Television School where he achieved a Master's degree in Filmmaking. A number of MTV music videos followed, for artists such as UB40, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Roger Waters and Roy Orbison, along with a little more work on television. An eclectic mix, one may note...

Paperhouse, his 1988 full length film, was what first brought him to my attention, however. I count it as a guilty pleasure now, for while it hasn't dated particularly badly, the film treads a strange line between fantasy and horror, and the ambiguity of its characters is eclipsed only by the desire to give the little girl a good talking to about children being seen and not heard. That's an understatement, actually: if it were socially acceptable I'd confess to wanting to slap her. 1992's Candyman, a film adaptation of Clive Barker's story 'The Forbidden', almost fulfils my personal description of heaven, bringing together not only Bernard Rose and Clive Barker, but Philip Glass and Virginia Madsen as well - Glass composed the film's wonderful score, and Madsen stars.

Rose has produced other films since, and I must confess to liking none of them so far. I thought Snuff-Movie, his 2005 effort, had promise, but ultimately found it unwatchable. Perhaps you'll have better luck, or perhaps you'd be better off sticking to Paperhouse and Candyman, waiting around for Bernard to get back to his roots and produce the terrifying, bastard child of these two masterpieces.

19 June 2010

Primal Image - Alan Lamb

Imagine the Australian desert; vast tracts of dry, windswept land, occasionally delineated by stretches of telegraph wire. Imagine spending the years between 1981 and 1988 connecting piezo-electric contact mikes to these cables, recording the result to analogue tape and, back at base, equalising the whole thing. This is what Australian biological scientist Alan Lamb did, focusing in particular on a half-mile section of abandoned telegraph wires in Australia's Western Outback.

Often referred to as wire music and reminiscent in many ways of the early works of Philip Glass or Steve Reich, from just this source (and with no other processing) Alan Lamb produces dark and brooding music, possessed of a strange and indescribable beauty. The sound is certainly surprising, ranging from sharp, shooting pulses not unlike the traditional sound of sci-fi B movie lasers to low, cyclic throbbing vibration. There are periods of near-silence where the listener drifts in space before being thrust into the centre of a grinding, sawtoothed storm. Space-Centre-medical-unit hums are overlaid by the crashing exhalations of... something... somewhere...

The idea of it seems almost absurd; just another mad musical stunt from those crazy minimalist composers - no more sane than music for blocks of wood or Einstein On The Beach's five hour length. And yet the recording is entrancing and constantly changing; it's almost organic, evoking images of abandoned cables singing beneath the wind's ministrations. It is certainly never boring or repetitive.

Released by Australian Dorobo records, Lamb's CD Primal Image, eventually released in 1997, contains two tracks: Primal Image, lasting almost half an hour, and Beauty, clocking in at just under seventeen minutes.

It was later followed by, of all things, a remix version - Night Passage Demixed, featuring four dark ambient remixes of the original recordings produced by Ryoji Ikeda, Thomas Koner, Lustmord and Bernhard Gunter. The last track carried a warning that the extremely low frequency vibrations contained on the track were liable to damage hi-fi equipment used to play it.

Alan Lamb's compositions are also available in an edited form on the compilation album A Storm Of Drones, which, as the title suggests, features other work in a similar genre. It's a nice compilation, mainly edits, but rather hard to find, in my experience.

18 June 2010

Driller

"When the Freescape idea was conceived several programmers approached turned down the opportunity to be involved, saying it couldn't be done." - Ian Andrew, Incentive Software
In the time before dedicated 3D graphics cards, true 3D games were a rarity. The most common approach was to fake 3D: often isometric projection was used, usually by carefully layering pre-drawn graphics - see Head Over Heels, Rasputin or Knight Lore for examples. There were some genuine 3D games, of course: Elite, with its simplistic (yet astounding) vector graphics, and Sentinel, whose filled vector polygons were a step up on Elite, but came with the disadvantage that they took longer to draw. Even with these precedents, upon its release Driller was considered an astounding achievement.

But this was late 1987. Incentive had spent some time developing Freescape, their trademarked system for displaying games in three-dimensions. It was slow - each screen took a second or so to draw, and consequently smooth movement was out. The game advanced in a series of one-frame-per-second cut scenes, but you could understand why; these graphics were amazing! Perfectly shaded polygons (at 176 x 256 stippled monochrome on my Spectrum 128) with perspective - you wouldn't give it a second glance nowadays, but back then to see that kind of thing on your screen was a rare treat. The Freescape engine lasted for a couple more games, as well: Both Castle Master and Total Eclipse would take the gameplay to a higher, more polished level, and the 3D Construction Kit allowed you to inflict your own levels upon unsuspecting friends.

Which is not to say the gameplay of Driller was bad, but compared to later efforts there was definitely something lacking. The game itself took place on the fictitious mines of Mitral, a small moon. For the purposes of the game this moon turned out to be eighteen flat, square panels joined together at the edges, forming a polyhedral surface. The original game provided a cardboard model to fold up and make, at which point it quickly became apparent that there were gaps on the surface of the moon - basically it was a rhombicuboctahedron and the triangular faces didn't exist as far as the game was concerned. Walking blithely over the map quickly resulted in death - drop off the edge of the wrong platform and you were done for.

Careful (and slow: don't forget that drawing delay!) exploration of the surface, however, provided plenty to do. All manner of buildings and vehicles cover the surface of Mitral. Plenty of puzzles to solve, switches to toggle, crystals to find and, of course, gas to release. Ah, yes - the gas. That's why it's called Driller. Your job is to release a build-up of gas under the surface of Mitral by appropriately positioning drilling rigs and pressing the right key to relieve the pressure.

We're told that Driller took a year to create, and upon its release the widely held opinion was that it showed. Your Sinclair's Phil South gushed over the graphics, describing them as 'brilliantly rendered' and described the 'quality of workmanship' as superb. Driller was, in its time, a milestone.

I never finished it.

02 June 2010

Moonbootica

Moonbootica is a band consisting of two DJs and music producers, koweSix and tobitob. They have produced remixes for Junkie XL, Tomcraft, Planet Funk, Tiga and Mando Diao, among others, and have worked directly alongside artists like IAMX and ascii disco to produce modern, electro dance music.

In 2001 they formed their own record label, Moonbootique, apparently because they felt their style of electronic dance music didn't fit nicely into any other label's output. Regardless, as Moonbootica, they have released a number of albums, including the self-titled Moonbootica and Moonlight Welfare, although their main output seems to be on 12".

25 May 2010

Army Of Lovers

Army Of Lovers - A Brief History

Bursting onto the music scene in 1987, Swedish band Army Of Lovers are a force to be reckoned with. The portrayed image of trivial self-obsession belies a series of album releases featuring songs covering a remarkably diverse selection of subjects and styles. Nestled amongst perfect nuggets of disco-pop lie highly polished dance tracks, screaming synthetic masterpieces and sensual, rhythmic grooves. How many other albums boast a song about Marie Curie's discovery of Radium and a vicious ballad about the death of Saint Sebastien, never mind an album where such historic epics take pride of place next to a 2-minute song about Michaela's poodles (and her belief that she should pray to God so that God will believe in her), and the five-minute voodoo extravaganza that is Walking With A Zombie?

Famed for their outrageous image, camp beyond words, even going so far as to employ their own fashion designer Camilla Thulin, the Army were unafraid to employ excessive make-up, inappropriate use of corsets,phallic objects, tons of gold paint and vast quantities of glitter. Everything was fake - even the live shows employed hair-brushes, toy microphones, plastic violins - anything the band could think of to make sure that everyone - absolutely everyone - knew that they were miming. In fact, Army Of Lovers positively adored controversy, such as the storm stirred up by their 1993 single Israelism, actually a pro-Jewish anthem, but banned in Israel for scenes involving a Madonna-like bra which squirted milk and a general feeling of utter confusion over the point of the video, apart from fun, fun and more fun, apparently at the expense of Judaism. It's all fun, however pithy that might sound. How else do you explain the Army's sudden retreat to a monastery for the song Judgment Day, where a suitably repentant Alexander gives birth to Åke, the Army Of Lovers dog? What other reason can there be for Jean-Pierre's leather nappy in the video for Crucified, other than this bizarre sense of controversial fun? Certainly, the Army killed off an entire dance-floor of party guests in their La Plage De Saint Tropez video, long before Sophie Ellis Bextor got her hands on a packet of matches and got it into her head she might want to burn the goddamned house right down. For more information, get hold of a copy of Videovaganza, The Army's collection of rather twisted music videos. It eventually appeared on DVD as part of the Grand Docu-Soap greatest hits album.

The actual Army line-up underwent a complex series of changes in the years following the release of the first album; originally a three-part outfit consisting of La Camilla, Jean-Pierre Barda and Alexander Bard, in its time the Army has swapped a couple of members around (exchanging La Camilla for Michaela Dornonville De La Cour), expanded into a platoon of four with the addition of Dominika Peczynski and then swapped the other two back again for the 1995 release of what was announced as its final album, Les Greatest Hits. Throughout their time Anders Wollbeck worked closely with Bard, writing and producing much of the material as part of the Army Of Lovers team.

Yet despite its 'definite' breakup it would seem that the Army lives on! Two years on from the offical breakup came the release of Master Series in 1997, also compilation album, the Army having entered that phase of their career which seems to consist of an ever-increasing number of compilation albums.

And so we arrive at 2001 - rumours abounded in 2000 about remix albums, more greatest hits releases, that kind of thing. But no-one really believed it - the whole thing seemed too good to be true... maybeStockholm Records' usual method of releasing things ("It'll be May... no - June... no - next year. Maybe.") would get in the way. But then Le Grand Docu-Soap appeared, albeit with the usual variable release date, and the song Let The Sunshine In (a reworked cover of the song 'Let The Sunshine In/ The Flesh Failures' from the musical Hair) was released on the 12th of March, almost one month after its illegal debut onNapster from the 13th of February. Hands Up, another cover, was also released, though rumours of a further release of Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes turned out to be incorrect. Maybe there weren't limited edition gold panties to go with this album, but there were posters of the album cover with the gang dressed up in their usual style, Alexander even going so far as to clutch a penis in a jar whilst enduring a particularly false beard, La Camilla standing disturbingly close to a large wooden cross, Dominika looking as top-heavy as ever and Jean-Pierre draped in so many beads and sequins it's a wonder the man could stand up. They were back, if only for a moment!

The main creative force behind the band is, undeniably, Alexander Bard, something of a personality in Sweden if only because of his unremitting arrogance, be it real or all part of the fun. It is ironic that utter doom and gloom forms the main impetus for Bard's first song, Life In A Goldfish Bowl, released under the band-name Baard. The track is pure minimal synthpop, almost remeniscent of Kraftwerk's Metropolis. The b-side to the track, which has recently been re-released on vinyl by Genetic Records, is of a similar ilk: A Saviour For The Nations deals with the death of a great leader, and the ability of a country to cope with such events.

Baard was not, it must be said, tremendously successful, although one must surely count as some measure of success the re-release of a song over ten years later by a different record company. At the time, however, Alexander had to move on, and this is where the irony comes in. Barbie was a musical drag queen with more than a little attitude. Squeaky, mischievous and certainly an acquired taste, Barbie's hit song Prostitution Twist is cheesy, synth-driven pop, and could not be more distant from the gloomy techno-misery of Baard. It makes no excuses - the whole point of the song is to teach you how to get your high heels on and learn how to make love, underneath the streetlights in the middle of the night.

Following the demise of Army Of Lovers, or at least their descent into cover-songs and re-released greatest hits albums, Bard, retaining Anders Wollbeck's co-writing skills, teamed up with Mattias Lindblom andMarina Schiptjenko to form the more serious band Vacuum, as well as working on various media guru sidelines and popping up as a businessman extra on Caroline Af Ugglas' video for Egoistic. Two albums of songs covering subjects as diverse as particle physics, distant galaxies, India's nuclear weapons programme and Zoroastrianism were released - The Plutonium Cathedral and Seance At The Chaebol. Vacuum continued to release songs for a while, though Bard left following those first two albums to write for and manage the more Army Of Lovers-esque band Alcazar. Eventually, Alexander's involvement with Alcazar ceased, and the band Bodies Without Organs, later known as BWO gave way to a new project for 2010, Gravitonas. There will, undoubtedly, be more from Bard, but whether there'll ever be any more Army Of Lovers, remains in the lap of the Gods of Earth and Heaven...

Army Of Lovers: A Brief Album Discography

Army Of Lovers released and re-released several albums as European editions, US editions, UK editions and just-plain-odd editions. Some of them had extra tracks, some had tracks missing, some had a completely different set of tracks entirely. The following is a general list of these releases with the more peculiar versions, like the Argentinian version of Disco Extravaganza (complete with Quiereme Como A Un Revolver Cargado), omitted for clarity.

Disco Extravaganza (1990) Album
1:10 Birds Of Prey
4:20 Ride The Bullet
4:09 Supernatural
3:33 Viva La Vogue
4:24 Shoot That Laserbeam (Re-Recorded Version)
4:57 Love Me Like A Loaded Gun (The 1990 Remix)
3:23 Baby's Got A Neutron Bomb (The 1990 Remix)
4:02 Love Revolution
4:32 Scorpio Rising
4:23 Mondo Trasho
3:59 Dog
3:27 My Army Of Lovers
3:47 Hey Mr DJ
4:12 I Am The Amazon (The 1990 Remix)
3:51 Planet Coma 3AM


Massive Luxury Overdose (1991) Album]
3:44 We Stand United
3:32 Crucified
3:08 Candyman Messiah
3:39 Obsession
4:01 I Cross The Rubicon
3:54 Supernatural (The 1991 Remix)
3:42 Ride The Bullet (The 1991 Remix)
4:26 Say Goodbye To Babylon
3:39 Flying High
4:09 Walking With A Zombie
3:27 My Army Of Lovers


Massive Luxury Overdose (1992) Album
3:54 Dynasty Of Planet Chromada
3:32 Crucified
3:08 Candyman Messiah (Radio Edit; unlabelled)
3:39 Obsession
3:44 We Stand United
4:26 Say Goodbye To Babylon
3:26 The Particle Song
3:18 Someone Somewhere
4:01 I Cross The Rubicon
3:39 Flying High
4:09 Walking With A Zombie
3:58 Judgment Day


The Gods Of Earth And Heaven (1993) Album (16 tracks)
0:41 Chihuahuas On Parade
3:41 We Are The Universe
3:32 La Plage De Saint Tropez
3:54 I Am
0:44 Le Portrait De Jean-Pierre
3:20 Israelism
3:32 The Grand Fatigue
4:04 Carry My Urn To Ukraine
3:33 Sebastien
0:45 La Storia Di O
3:16 Blood In The Chapel
3:48 The Ballad Of Marie Curie
4:10 Heterosexuality
3:02 Sons Of Lucy
0:35 Also Sprach Alexander
3:45 The Day The Gods Help Us All


Glory Glamour And Gold (1994) Album (13 tracks)
5:31 Hurrah Hurrah Apocalypse
3:45 Sexual Revolution
3:59 Stand Up For Myself
3:14 Lit De Parade (Video Edit)
4:02 Life Is Fantastic
3:10 Mr Battyman
3:31 C'est Démon
3:39 Shine Like A Star
6:10 You've Come A Long Way Baby
3:25 Ballrooms Of Versailles
4:18 Dub Evolution
4:02 Like A Virgin Sacrified
3:27 Lit De Parade (Radio Edit)


Les Greatest Hits (1995) Album (18 tracks)
3:54 Give My Life
3:30 Venus And Mars
3:29 My Army Of Lovers
3:28 Ride The Bullet (The 1991 Remix; unlabelled)
3:57 Supernatural (The 1991 Remix; unlabelled)
3:33 Crucified
3:41 Obsession
3:10 Candyman Messiah (Radio Edit; unlabelled)
3:58 Judgment Day
3:12 Everytime You Lie
3:22 Israelism
3:32 La Plage De Saint Tropez
3:55 I Am
3:28 Lit De Parade (Radio Edit; unlabelled)
3:58 Sexual Revolution
4:00 Life Is Fantastic (The 1995 Remix)
3:59 Stand Up For Myself (The 1995 Remix)
4:31 Requiem


Les Greatest Hits (1996) Album (18 tracks)
Re-release including the following track instead of the 1995 remix of Stand Up For Myself
3:57 King Midas


Master Series (1997) Album (18 tracks)
3:32 Crucified
3:27 Ride The Bullet (1991 Remix)
3:27 My Army Of Lovers
3:39 Obsession
4:57 Love Me Like A Loaded Gun
4:27 When The Night Is Cold
3:44 We Stand United
3:24 Candyman Messiah
3:58 Judgment Day
3:20 Israelism
3:32 La Plage De Saint Tropez
3:54 I Am
3:27 Lit De Parade (Radio Edit; unlabelled)
3:58 Sexual Revolution
3:59 Stand Up For Myself
3:54 Give My Life
3:30 Venus And Mars
3:45 The Day The Gods Help Us All

13 May 2010

Erasure

Purveyors of shiny pop gems to the masses, Erasure was formed by Vince Clarke in 1985. Fresh from Yazoo and a couple of collaborations with Feargal Sharkey (under the name The Assembly) and Paul Quinn, Erasure drew on the best of Vince's early work. It built upon the cheerful bleepings of early Depeche Mode, adding a little more depth to the rather strange lyrics of songs like New Life and Dreaming Of Me, and exchanging Alison Moyet's 'rootsy blues' vocals with the choir-boy falsetto of Andy Bell. That's a different Andy Bell to the one from Ride - Erasure's new vocalist was an ex-butcher and glittery gay diva in the making. Since its humble beginnings, Erasure has produced two decade's worth of shiny disco beeps and managed five number one albums and twenty-five top 20 singles, fusing Andy's thoughtful lyrics with Vince's ever-evolving synths.

Humble beginnings, yes: Vince, seeking a further outlet for his musical success with Depeche Mode and Yazoo, advertised for a singer. It had worked with Yazoo (Yaz, in America.), enticing fellow Basildonian to work closely with Vince to produce two knock-out synth albums and four hit singles. Forty candidates later, Andy Bell made the grade and in September of 1985 the first single Who Needs Love Like That was released. It barely charted, and the follow up single, Heavenly Action was doomed to a similar fate. Even 1986's 'Oh l'Amour' made little impression on the UK charts.

Releasing Wonderland, the first album, Erasure took the opportunity to tour, taking the synths on an extended tour of sparsely-populated back rooms and university student union bars. It was during this phase, working hard to drum up support, that Erasure's single Sometimes, taken from the second album The Circus, slipped into the UK charts at number two. The third album, The Innocents, swooped in at number one on the British album chart, as did its follow up, Wild!, both albums producing a range of hit singles but never quite managing to achieve the elusive number one spot. Chorus followed in 1991: Erasure were on a roll.

Famed for a certain camp charm, it was this relentless, in-your-face homosexuality that led to b-sides like No GDM, songs like Pistol and Sexuality, and the eventual 1992 release of ABBA-esque. Four ABBA covers, complete with shimmering front-cover and a range of dreadful remixes, pushed Erasure to number one for the first time ever. They followed up with a greatest hits album, and have since kept up a warm, analogue sound. I Say I Say I Say marked Erasure's last real chart success, producing the singles Always, Run To The Sun and I Love Saturday. Though Erasure have in no way been unsuccessful since, albums such as the eponymous Erasure (a masterpiece of entirely uncommercial ambient twiddlings), Cowboy and the cover versions of Other People's Songs have been moderately but hardly staggeringly successful. The second greatest hits album can often mark the beginning of the end, though Erasure rallied round with the 2005's Nightbird and 2007's Light At The End Of The World.

The eighties were notable for bands like Erasure, of course. Bronski Beat, The Communards, Pet Shop Boys and Soft Cell all embodied the two-blokes-with-a-synth feel of the era, and it was all the better if one of them was gay. In Thatcher's Britain, homosexuality was embroiled in a mess of 'family values' propaganda and Clause 28 villification campaigns. Andy Bell, openly gay and camper than a row of fairy-lit pink tents, joined a significant group of talented, popular and openly-gay pop frontmen, bringing the very idea that perhaps it's not too bad to be gay to an ungrateful quantity of conservative homophobes.

Erasure show no signs of splitting up, though both Vince and Andy are free to pursue their own side-projects. Andy Bell intends to release a solo album in the near future, though it's been on the cards for years, and Vince Clarkehas recently teamed up with Martyn Ware (of Heaven 17 and early Human League fame) to produce ambient soundscapes, including a piece intended for the National Centre For Popular Music's Soundscapes 3D auditorium, utilising cutting edge Lake Huron audio processing hardware. Clarke And Ware are a little less pop than Erasure, producing cutting-edge synth with an emphasis on technical wizardry; Pretentious and Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle are vocal-free ambient epics, with an unmistakeable Vince Clark spin.

Erasure: Maybe not as active as The Pet Shop Boys, but just as much fun...

Album Discography:
Wonderland (1986)
The Circus (1987)
The Two Ring Circus (1987)
The Innocents (1988)
Wild! (1989)
Chorus (1991)
Pop! The First 20 Hits (1992)
I Say I Say I Say (1994)
Erasure (1995)
Cowboy (1997)
Loveboat (2000)
Other People's Songs (2003)
Hits! The Very Best Of Erasure (2003)
Nightbird (2005)
Light At The End Of The World (2007)

07 May 2010

Black Hearts In Battersea

Hot on the heels of Joan Aiken's The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase comes Black Hearts In Battersea. Simon, the resourceful, heroic young boy from Willoughby Chase was, at the end of the first book, just getting into art. On his way now to London to study painting he, unfortunately, stumbles onto a plot reminiscent of the first book.

Wicked assassins are planning to overthrow King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea. A diverse and twisted plot ensues, featuring all the things children are sure to love: more wild wolves, excessive kidnappings, a shipwreck and a range of poisoned pies all make an appearance.

Bonnie and Sylvia have a minor role in the story, but most of it takes place in the company of Simon and Dido Twite, another of those waif-like children Joan Aiken seems to enjoy depicting so much.

Joan Aiken was born in Sussex, England, and her clear enjoyment of the English culture is plain: her subtle and gentle poking of fun at the English establishment works well as she continues to explore her alternate history where the Stuarts have retained the throne and a Channel Tunnel already exists. Those who have read The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase will undoubtedly wish to continue the experience; those who have not would do well to seek out Willoughby Chase, though each book will, of course, stand alone.

05 May 2010

Explorers Of The New Century - Magnus Mills

Explorers Of The New Century is a novel by Magnus Mills, orignially published in 1995. It's his fifth novel, and conforms perfectly to the style of Mills' previous works while maintaining a quite obvious distance. This style is a complex one. Mills has been compared to Kafka, and with good reason. Allegory, banality and comedy mix together in Mr Mills' prose, which is so descriptive and yet so deceptive. Don't miss a word - they're all important and, looking back once you've finished each novel, you'll see just how much a single, throwaway phrase can matter.

In the meantime, just enjoy the words. Mills conjures up a parallel world of Pinter-esque horror, situations far from modern reality and yet curiously reminiscent of normal, everyday life. I recently re-read Explorers Of The New Century in one afternoon. Once again, the progression of the story blew me away. It is allegory, pure and simple, although the actual meaning of the story is more difficult to define. Ostensibly about a simple expedition to the 'agreed farthest point', with the book even designed to look like a Victorian hardback adventure novel. And yet there's far more going on, hinted at with an underlying tension to the interactions between the characters. There are plot twists, too - great wrenching twists that you simply don't see coming at all. No spoilers, I'm afraid: you're going to have to read it.

Explorers Of The New Century was published in 1995 by Bloomsbury. Its ISBN is 0747580189 (Hardback), and I'm afraid that while it's in print and available to buy, Bookmooch copies are scarce.

01 May 2010

Tomorrow, In A Year - The Knife, Mt. Sims and Planningtorock

I remember being disappointed. The Knife were planning something of a hiatus, and it was showing all indications of lasting a while. As it happened, the period of dearth I had dreaded didn't last too long: the Karin Dreijer part suddenly produced a 'Fever Ray' album out of nowhere, whilst Olof Dreijer produced the most interminably dreadful remix known to man and shoved it on the (can I be bothered to do the characters? no, fuckit) Year Zero Remixed album. (Trent and I still disagree on the whole Year Zero thing, but so far he's refusing to talk to me.)

Tomorrow - in a year, no less! - came out of months and months of hard work, I'm sure, but it sounds best if I say it came out of nowhere. Suddenly an email appears - The Knife are involved in an opera, along with a band I'd only heard of on a DJ Hell compilation which included the demurely-titled 'Hate Fuck'. Planningtorock remain a mystery, but one well worth exploring, assuming that their involvement with the CD goes beyond planning and extends into knob-twiddling and general electrical jiggery-pokery.

That's what this work is about, actually. The calls of birds, the movement of geological structures, the interaction of swarming shoals and endlessly calling birds, desperate for a mate; that's what it's all about. Inducing an analogue synthesizer to give birth to the mating call of a short-billed thrush, twisting it through a low-frequency oscillator to emulate its more evolved cousin, then mixing the two: this is what the album is about.

Darwin, his work, the justification for our existence - it's all brought into focus, as Karin manipulates her voice over the analogue workings of her brother, Mt. Sims and Planningtorock. Twisting and winding, the instrumentation tells a story, and the soaring, the twisting and the wailing, screeching synths all conspire to clarify the situation.

Let's be clear: if you don't get the idea, then from track one through to ten, you're listening to something you don't want to hear. It's not Lady Gaga. It's not Thelonious Monk accidentally playing what turn out to be the right notes. It's a synthetic representation of the evolutionary processes which form Darwin's theory, and it's perfection. What more can be said than that I listen to it for pleasure, and that those who inhabit the room with me do not? Does everyone believe that 'The Haywain' is the ultimate expression of art? Does everyone search for a new 'Mona Lisa'? Are Dali's massively-stilted elephants not a valid representation of art?

This work - Tomorrow, In A Year - is genius.

27 April 2010

Brian Yuzna

Brian Yuzna's career is a jack-of-all-trades affair. His work as a producer, actor, screenwriter, film editor, perhaps as a result of this, has been a strange mixture of hit and miss. A clear fan of hardcore horror, much of his output is focused on HP Lovecraft's work: the classic film Re-Animator was a memorable success for Yuzna, though its spawning of a myriad forgettable sequels is less notable. Other-Lovecraft related projects include From Beyond, Dagon and Necronomicon; while never truly unsuccessful, such films never truly achieved widespread success.

Yuzna was born in the Philippines in 1951, though he was educated in Central America and the United States. His love of horror fiction was obvious from an early age, and his family's involvement in cinema is equally obvious: Brian's four children have all gone on to become actors and actresses, with varying levels of success.

Intriguingly, amongst Yuzna's filmography is the rather bizarre inclusion of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, which he worked on in 1989 with director Joe Johnston. This family comedy was, however, a mere blip in Yuzna's career - it was swiftly followed up with Bride Of Re-Animator, the first of those dreadful sequels. The Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Disney project did mark the beginning of a collaboration with Stuart Gordon, however, who would work with Yuzna on Dagon.

Those wishing to investigate Yuzna's work for themselves would be wise to begin with Society, a subtle, psychological horror that only spills over into out-and-out gore at the very end of the film. Re-Animator, too, is well worth the time.

22 April 2010

Fairy Liquid

Quite simply, it's for washing dishes. In fact for around forty-five years in the United Kingdom the words 'Fairy Liquid' and 'washing-up liquid' have been nigh-on synonymous. A series of adverts starring Nanette Newman firmly established the brand, so much so that the original advertising slogan is well-remembered: 'Now hands that do dishes can be as soft as your face, with mild green Fairy Liquid'. Blue Peter, too, did its part - almost every week an empty washing up liquid bottle would be required during the construction part of the show. They never mentioned Fairy Liquid by name, of course, but if you wanted quality, that's what you'd use. (This was back when the bottles were simple cylinders, of course, and it seemed to take weeks and weeks of waiting to procure an empty bottle.)

Fairy Liquid is now produced by Procter and Gamble and remains a highly-recognised brand of washing up detergent in the UK. It's also available across Europe, although the names inevitably vary slightly in different countries. The fairy brand also extends to dishwashing detergent and a gentle, non-biological laundry detergent.

You can even get differently fragranced versions now, and there's the usual 2010 options of antibacterial, lemon, orange and other bizarre hybrids that make choosing washing up liquid like a visit to a cut-price gourmet restaurant. Do you really believe the lavender-and-octopus or the anti-bacterial-twine-and-magic-sausage varieties are really making any difference? In my day we had lemon or original and liked it... eucalyptus and garden mint extracts... tsk!

20 April 2010

Teapot


I'm a little teapot, short and stout.
Here's my handle, here's my spout.
When I get all steamed up, hear me shout:
Tip me up and pour me out!



The teapot, a hollow vessel in which tea is brewed and from which it is ultimately poured is now well-known around the world. Seemingly a boring, unremarkable and utilitarian item of pottery, one might feel it is difficult to get excited about the teapot. Well, even if becoming excited is out of the question, becoming educated certainly isn't...

The Origins Of Tea Drinking
(Or 'Who discovered that cows give milk, and what did he think he was doing at the time?')

There are two legends concerning the origins of tea. Shen Nong, a Chinese Emperor from the third century BC was sitting beneath a tree, boiling his drinking water when the leaves of the tree fell into his bowl. The taste, not unpleasant to the Emperor, quickly increased in popularity. A plausible tale, if you can get past the idea that the Emperor's mother obviously never warned him about eating berries, mud or, indeed, the liquid formed from brewing mysterious leaves.

Either way, the second legend is probably less believable, though it may possess a little more romantic appeal. It is the fifth century, and a Dharuma Buddhist monk has travelled fromChina to India, pursuing his faith. During the fifth year of a seven-year meditation he finds sleep is beginning to overcome him. Offended by his own eyelids, he cuts them off and hurls them to the ground. At this very spot, a tea plant springs, from which the monk cuts the leaves and brews them. The drink produced, he finds, keeps him awake, allowing him to pursue his spiritual studies.

Regardless of how, Camellia sinensis, the common tea plant, is now consumed all over the world. It was first cultivated in the 4th century when wild plants were taken from China toIndia. This evergreen tree is kept at a manageable five foot height, the leaves picked by hand, one worker picking enough tea per day to produce around 2800 cups.

Brewing Up: The Rising In The East
('If you have enjoyed this drink, why not share it with your friends?' - Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser)

Teapots were not immediately used upon the discovery of tea. Even in the 8th century tea leaves were hand rolled, dried and ground into powder. This powder, mixed with salt, was dried into cakes which were added to hot water, forming a thick liquid, prized for its supposed medicinal value. These cakes eventually gave way, in 9th century Japan, to the powder remaining in loose form, which was simply added to hot water and whisked vigorously. Indeed, it was not until the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, 1368 to 1644, that leaf infusion became commonplace.

It is from this era that the earliest examples of teapots originate. Made from the characteristic clay of the YiXing region of China, these strong yet delicate pots were used as both brewing and drinking vessel, each tea-drinker being provided with an individual-sized pot. Tea was sipped directly from the spout, making the transition from brewing bowl to teapot a smooth one.

Demand for teapots spread from China to Japan, and by the 15th century tea-drinking had evolved a complex set of ceremonies, drunk for social reasons rather than simply for medicinal beliefs. The teapot was no longer merely a brewing vessel, but had the added dimension of artistic merit. Teapots with themes were introduced; red clay or shudei teapots became prized as creative pieces, as did the well-seasoned YiXing pots. The Japanese province of Bizen became renowned for its earthenware, and new techniques were developed to produce these delicate and highly-prized vessels.

Brewing Up: Go West!
('Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.' - Alice Walker)

Tea, at this point, began to spread into the West. Mirroring the evolution of tea-drinking in the East, tea was first used in herbal infusions and tisanes. By the seventeenth century Europe had adopted the drink with enthusiasm, labelling it 'cha' after the Cantonese name, and a little later British inhabitants were showing increasing interest in the beverage, adopting theAmoy term 'tay'.

Teapots arrived in Europe with the first shipments of tea, however, and by 1883 the East India Tea Company, formed in 1669, was importing YiXing teapots. Portuguese traders also began importing teapots, naming the pottery buccaro or boccaro ware after the delicate red earthenware seen in South and Central America. These imports had an influence, of course, on European versions of teapots, which were quick to follow.

Initially, the European teapot, often constructed from silver or ceramic would also be used for coffee or hot chocolate, and the earliest known British vessel designed specifically for brewing tea is the silver ewer now featured at the Victoria And Albert Museum in London. It is inscribed '1670 - tea-Pott'. This dates it within ten years of a ceramic European teapot, made between 1670 and 1680 by Arij de Milde in the Dutch town of Delft. The European version, unlike the tall, silver British pot, retains the YiXing design with a short spout and loop handle.

Present Day: The Place Of The Teapot In Everyday Society
('Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.' - Author Unknown)

With the advent of bagged tea, the teapot is in something of a decline at present. While, not so many years ago, the teapot was a revered item, occupying its own space in the kitchen and often equipped with its own set of clothing, there is something convenient about slipping a single bag into a cup, brewing the beverage and discarding the teabag before drinking.

Nevertheless, for those who prefer the ritual of making tea, or simply feel that a better flavour is produced from loose tea, the pot is still available in both traditional and more modern varieties. Bodum, popular for their coffee brewing equipment, make a clear glass teapot with a central reservoir for the leaves which can be sealed off once the optimum brew strength has been achieved. The more traditional earthenware pot does become seasoned over time, however, and many will swear by a decades-old pot despite the internal build-up of tannin. A glance inside a well-aged teapot can often be more scary than enthralling, though I recall my own grandmother complaining bitterly that the new pot didn't taste the same. Either way, radically different varieties of teas should be kept to their own pots - a green tea would easily be spoiled by brewing in a teapot that has been well-seasoned with black tea.

The teapot has, regardless, entered popular culture. The Utah Teapot is well known to anyone involved in 3D computer graphics work, and more recently a Malaysian cult, The Sky Kingdom erected a 35 foot tall pink teapot on its property. This 2004 addition was, apparently, symbolic of the life-giving properties of water, though it has caused much controversy with nearby residents.

Making The Perfect Cup Of Tea
('The perfect temperature for tea is two degrees hotter than just right.' - Terri Guillemets)

It must be said that I ignore the following advice completely when making my mug of Earl Grey, preferring instead to force a teabag to the bottom of a mug, pour on hot water and then, in a display of total ignorance and sacrilege, add a splash of milk before it's even had time to brew properly. For the perfect cup of tea, one has to be a little more pedantic:

A cup of tea is approximately 98% water, so for the best cup of tea one requires the best quality water. Bottled or filtered water produces the best flavour. Bear in mind that dissolvedoxygen content will affect the quality of the tea, as well; never draw water from the hot tap or use water which has been boiled for an excessive period of time.

Pre-heating the teapot is vitally important, too. If poured into a cold vessel the water will immediately drop a couple of degrees, hampering the brewing process. To pre-heat the pot simply rinse it out with boiling water and discard.

The recommendation is that three grams of dry tea leaves are used for every six fluid ounces of water. In practice, one rounded teaspoon per cup will do. Bear in mind, tea enthusiasts, that oolong teas may vary greatly in density, due to their large and wiry leaves. On the other hand, gunpowder tea is much denser than ordinary tea, and only two thirds of a teaspoon is necessary to achieve an ideal strength.

When brewing black tea, the water should reach a rolling boil and immediately be poured onto the leaves, the pot lid being placed firmly on for the five minute steep time. Green tea, which also benefits from slightly less brewing time, is better with water at around 70 degrees celcius (160 degrees Farenheit) - a good rule of thumb is to wait for the first few bubbles to rise from the base of the kettle and pounce, or even to leave the kettle for a few minutes after boiling before beginning to steep the tea...

Enjoy...

Batty Man

"How I see it, Empress, is that all the people who are talking about faggots and making battyman music, it's like they are bigging up battyman! You understand? Battyman deserves no space on my album! When I say, "Babylon" or "corruption", a dem that, mother of all that! A dem that, you understand?"
Battyman or, indeed, chi-chi man, is a derogatory term for a homosexual or gay man, originating in Jamaica. The word occurs alarmingly often in Jamaican popular culture, in music related areas and amongst other popular celebrities, including those barely-linked to Jamaican culture, such as Ali G.

Whilst it would be foolish to take much offence from Ali G's clearly tongue-in-cheek use of the term, it is nevertheless a fact that in many cases the word is used with deadly seriousness in such songs as Buju Banton's 1990 hit Boom Boom Bye Bye, which encourages the killing of homosexuals or, more recently, Chi-Chi Man from TOK, which features the lines: From dem a par in a chi chi man car, blaze a fire mek we burn dem. From dem a eat in a battyman bar, blaze a fire mek we done dem.

It might not be what we'd laughingly call 'the Queen's English', but it's pretty clear. It's hatred, not even thinly disguised. It's a plain and straightforward declaration of irrational and crudely-directed hate, involving fire and derogatory name-calling. But the question is, can this hatred be explained by culture?

It's true that being gay or lesbian is the ultimate sin under Jamaica's widely-held religious beliefs. According to the Guinness Book Of Records, Jamaica has the most churches per square mile, and let's not forget that there is also a strong Rastafarian component to Jamaican society. Complicate this further with laws that support intolerance - in Jamaica it is still legal to arrest two men caught having sex in private - and you are provided with a culture that seems to have by-passed any semblance of understanding and is hell-bent on making sure every Jamaican teenager, gay or otherwise, grows up with the the inculcated certainty that you're better off dead than queer. Or, to put it another way, if you're queer then you're dead.

Can this be true - an embedded culture of hate? Many proponents of Jamaican culture, citing such examples, insist that the implied hatred is simply not there, it is merely a natural reaction founded in culture and religion. The argument here essentially being that these 'battymen' break both legal and moral boundaries and thus deserve pretty much all they get. Others, such as Swedish band Army Of Lovers claw back the word in a more aggressive manner, releasing the song Mr Battyman with its deliberately provocative lines, all delivered in a sarcastic Buju Banton-esque intonation: He meet dem hunky sailor... He dress in fruit and flowers... Dem say that him obscene...


Obscene... right. Then there's the mOBSCENE, who really put the boot in with their homophobic mob:
"The gay man who died after being attacked in Trafalgar Square last autumn was called a "batty man" before he was kicked and stamped on, the Old Bailey heard. Ian Baynham, 62, died in hospital on October 13th 2009, several weeks after he suffered head injuries while on a night out."
Quote 1 taken from interview with Luciano and Mikey, available on jahworks.org
Quote 2 taken from PinkNews.co.uk, April 20th, 2010

18 April 2010

Revolutions - Jean Michel Jarre

Revolutions is Jean Michel Jarre's eighth studio album, released in 1988. As with many of Jarre's albums, it is themed, and in this case the varying revolutions taking place around the world inspire the album. Not simply the obvious theme of violent political turmoil, but also the industrial or computer revolution; at the time this album was produced, computers were becoming an increasing part of everyday life, and such change came with the usual bundle of nameless terror and apprehension with which humanity greets most change.

The album uses a variety of genres to reflect the themes. The first four tracks - Industrial Revolution overture and parts one to three - feature a kind of orchestral-industrial sound, a mixture of stylised factory sounds, heavy synthetic strings and choir. Two tracks, London Kid and Tokyo Kid are heavy-handed tone poems representing the differences between two different lives. Hank Marvin features strongly on London Kid, and Jun Miyake plays trumpet extremely bizarrely on Tokyo Kid, over the top of an equally peculiar, distorted jazz beat.

Dulcie September is paid tribute to in the song September. Dulcie, if you're unaware, was assassinated in 1988, a member of the South African ANC. Choirs of children and a synthesized steel drum sound form a backdrop for strong female vocalisations.

A word about the Roland D-50. Rather new at the time, Jarre took a liking to the preset sounds and basically used them as is. If you can get your hands on a D-50, you'll find even the distinctive rhythm track on Industrial Revolutions Overture is a preset. Hunt around for 'Machine Run', 'Griitarrr 2', 'Motor Orchestra' and 'Kokubo Strings' and hold your own little Jarre concert. Michael Jackson also seemed taken with the D-50, as showcased on 'Bad', and the pizzicato strings from the D-50 are very prominent on Enya's 'Orinoco Flow' - 'Pizzagogo' is the preset to go-go for, I believe.

Tracklist

01 Industrial Revolution Overture (5:11)
02 Industrial Revolution Part 1 (5:10)
03 Industrial Revolution Part 2 (2:17)
04 Industrial Revolution Part 3 (4:13)
05 London Kid (4:28)
06 Revolutions (4:56)
07 Tokyo Kid (5:23)
08 Computer Weekend (4:43)
09 September (4:06)
10 The Emigrant (3:57)

14 April 2010

Scissor Sisters

"Are you a Scissor Sister?" - Electrobix, Hungry Wives Passive Depressive Mix

Scissor Sisters. A peculiar mixture of glam rock, disco and electroclash, all mixed up in a rather camp, extremely risqué, but definitely, absolutely not exclusively gay manner. "The fact that some of us are gay affects our music the same amount as it does that some of the members of Blondie are straight," we discover on the DVD We Are Scissor Sisters And So Are You, a comment which thoroughly explains how early tracks like Someone To Touch, Bicycling With The Devil and Step Aside For The Man shifted attention from out-and-out outness to a more pop chart friendly UK debut album tracklist. With that attitude shift came a shift in sound, as well - from their early beginnings to their imminent launch of their third album, Scissor Sisters have changed. Altered. Maybe even evolved.

Early Days:
('Dead Lesbian And The Fibrillating Scissor Sisters')
So, it's 2001. Who wouldn't want to form an electro band and name themselves after a lesbian sex position? Well, if you happen to be go-go dancer, stripper and all-out attention seeker Jason Sellards and multi-instrumentalist Scott Hoffman you'll not only do that, but you'll immediately rename yourselves Jake Shears and Babydaddy. Add one Ana Lynch, wittily re-titled Ana Matronic, and we're all set, particularly since Ms Matronic hosts her own cabaret show at a Lower East Side New York club. It's not just who you know, it's where you work: The Slipper Room was the band's first gig. History doesn't seem to record how well Dead Lesbian et al went down, but tracks from the Dead Lesbian era are undeniably weird, and far more electronic than their current output. Take Bicycling With The Devil, an almost electroclash mish-mash with truly bizarre lyrics. "I see you dancing, damn you look good. I wish I could dance like you but I ain't got no legs.' is the more sensible part of the song, rapidly giving way to 'I see you defecating, damn you look good. I wish I could take a shit too, but I ain't got no anus.' Quite how riding the bicycle of the devil into hell helps with this isn't really made clear, alas.

A Touch Of Class:
('We gotta lose the dead lesbian...')
With the addition of Derek Gruen, now guitarist Del Marquis, and Patrick Secore, destined to become drummer Paddy Boom, the name was, probably wisely, shortened to Scissor Sisters and the band were signed to independent label A Touch Of Class. Electrobix, an early single, later to be re-released on the Scissor Sisters: Remixed! album, was recorded along with a b-side. Adored and reviled in equal parts, Pink Floyd's classic expression of inner misery, Comfortably Numb, was re-worked with a bizarre Bee Gees disco feel, complete with the ah-ha-has from Staying Alive somehow wedged into the chorus. In fact it was all high-falsetto vocals, which were coupled with a bass-line ripped straight from Stevie Nicks' The Edge Of Seventeen to produce a version of the song completely unlike Roger and Dave's original vision, guaranteed to either delight or enrage Pink Floyd fans the world over. (David Gilmour and Nick Mason have apparently expressed a liking for the group, though Wikipedia is a little shaky on details here.)

With unsurprising irony, Electrobix attracted virtually no attention at all, while Comfortably Numb was immediately picked up by the DJs of a range of electro clubs. The song rapidly spread to the UK, where The Cock in London booked the band for its first British gig. From there, Polydor sniffed out the single and signed a contract. Laura, the groups first UK single, enjoyed a limited release in 2003, and managed to make almost no impression on the UK singles chart. Its disappointing peak of 54 garnered a little attention from New Musical Express, and the song enjoyed a surprising amount of radio play in Australia. A further song, It Can't Come Quickly Enough featured on the soundtrack of the 2003 film Party Monster, accompanying cinema-goers as they left before watching all the credits. It didn't make much impact, but at least the band were getting somewhere.

Fame:
('Remix, re-use it, when you wanna suck to it...')
Scissor Sisters' breakthrough was in 2004, once again featuring the song Comfortably Numb. Reaching a more respectable number 10 in the UK and a well-deserved number 1 in the US, it was quickly followed by Take Your Mama, reaching 17, and a re-release of Laura, which managed number 12. Determined to squeeze as many singles as possible out of their first album, the self-titled Scissor Sisters, the band continued to release. Mary reached number 14, while Filthy/Gorgeous managed their highest chart position yet: number five. The album, meanwhile, reached the coveted number one spot and went on to become the best-selling album of 2004. Scissor Sisters, even without their dead lesbian, had finally achieved that elusive success.

Awards and accolades followed. The music industry is good at this kind of thing. Best international group, best international breakthrough and best international album at the 2005 Brit Awards, as well as the coveted opening-spot at which they performed Take Your Mama. Then there's the GLAAD Media Award for outstanding musical artist, opportunities to perform at Live 8, V Festival and so on. A range of collaborations with other artists also began to appear. I Believe In You with Kylie Minogue, a cover of Sufragette City with Franz Ferdinand, a bit of Jake on Andy Bell's new album or Ana Matronic joining New Order on their latest album. There's also the remixes: the delightfully-named 'sticky tits' remix of Bucci Bag's More Lemonade, their pulsing disco version of Blondie's Good Boys and even a slightly strange 70s disco remix of the Pet Shop Boys' Flamboyant.

The Present:
('Ta-Dah')
Scissor Sisters second full album, Ta-Dah, was released in 2006. Closer in style to the self-titled Scissor Sisters album than the early electronic work, the album nevertheless made a sudden lunge in a very different musical direction while retaining the curious pop appeal. I Don't Feel Like Dancin' and She's My Man feel like familiar territory, while Paul McCartney and Kiss You Off go for a more synthetic feel. Worth a listen, but not the chart-pleasing frenzy-producers we saw on the debut album, and while the critical acclaim rolled in, the success seems to have rolled out. I still love 'em, and so should you, despite us both being abandoned for the big'n'popular fan stakes. But look...

The Future:
(Invisible Light?)
There's high hopes that some time in the future, we'll be able to review Night Work. Altogether: scissor those fingers together and get them firmly crossed... one, two, scissorscissorscissorscissor...

Tracklists:

Scissor Sisters (Self-titled)
Release Date: 20 July, 2004
Tracks:
1: Laura
2: Take Your Mama
3: Comfortably Numb
4: Mary
5: Lovers In The Backseat
6: Tits On The Radio
7: Filthy/Gorgeous
8: Music Is The Victim
9: Better Luck
10: It Can't Come Quickly Enough
11: Return To Oz

Note: The UK edition features a number of bonus tracks, following an only slightly scary message from Ana Matronic herself. The two extra tracks are The Skins and Get It Get It. Both are available on other formats.

Remixed!
Release Date: 23 November, 2004

Tracks:
1: Filthy/Gorgeous (ATOC vs. Superbuddha Remix)
2: Comfortably Numb (ATOC Dub Remix)
3: The Skins
4: Comfortably Numb (Tiga Remix)
5: Electrobix (12" Mix)
6: Filthy/Gorgeous (Extended Mix)
7: Comfortably Numb (ATOC Extended Edit)
8: Comfortably Numb (Tiga Dub)
9: Electrobix (Hungry Wives Remix)

Ta-Dah
Release Date: 18th September, 2006

A limited-edition 2 CD version is also available with bonus tracks, some of them suspiciously like early Scissor Sisters.

Tracks:
1. I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
2. She's My Man
3. I Can't Decide
4. Lights
5. Land of a Thousand Words
6. Intermission
7. Kiss You Off
8. Ooh
9. Paul McCartney
10. The Other Side
11. Might Tell You Tonight
12. Everybody Wants the Same Thing

Other early tracks, while never officially released, are relatively easy to find on the internet. These include Someone to Touch, Bicycling With The Devil and Monkey Baby, as well as demo versions of one or two later songs. 'Making Ladies' is a standout.