06 June 2011

Angus Scrimm

Angus Scrimm is primarily remembered for his role as the Tall Man in Don Coscarelli's science fiction/horror film Phantasm and its sequels. Which is, in a sense, ironic - Scrimm himself concurs that such a role was a complete departure from his usual acting work.

Growing up in Kansas City, Scrimm confesses to never imagining a career as the star of a series of horror movies. Moving to California as a teenager, he studied drama at USC, leading to a steady career in theatre, televisionand some film work. Without the opportunity to work on Phantasm, Scrimm is convinced he would still be playing comedy roles.

His 1979 appearance in Phantasm produced an unforgettable character, aided by Scrimm's ability to look almost effortlessly sinister. A screwed up right eye and bizarre crop of greying hair combine with a perfectly straightforward suit and tie to produce the enduring image of the Tall Man. And from this basis Scrimm went on to star in numerous other such roles: Dr. Lyme in Deadfall (working alongside Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen) or the unpleasant Seer from Mindwarp, in which he starred with Bruce Campbell.

Added to Fangoria Magazine's Horror Hall Of Fame in 1994, Scrimm stands alongside Stephen King, Anthony Hopkins and Vincent Price. With regard to the Tall Man, Scrimm admits to being amazed at the affection with which he is held, though a little reflection on the matter will show that such affection on the part of fans is nothing new; Pinhead, from Clive Barker's Hellraiser is afforded the same admiration, and Robert Englund's Freddy Kruegeris of a similar ilk. "I am continually amazed that the fans have so much affection for such a dark character whose trade is essentially death. Audiences enjoy laughing with the Tall Man as he does his appalling deeds.'

It would be a mistake to assume that Scrimm's entire career is based around the Tall Man, however. As a journalist he has written for TV Guide, Cinema Magazine and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, as well as maintaining an intriguing career producing liner notes for a huge range of albums. There is no doubt, however, that Phantasm is his enduring legacy: 'Tell them I haven't hung up the old balls yet!'

18 March 2011

A brief history:

Formed in 1986 and hailing from Tromsø, Norwegian band Bel Canto use a subtle blend of electronics, guitars and vocals to produce ethereal, strange and beautiful music. Occasionally, traditional ethnic instruments or even classical arrangements punctuate tracks, or a heavier, synthetic feel might develop, perhaps showing the influences of Geir Jenssen, part of the original line-up, who later left to form Biosphere under the name Bleep. Geir's style is clearly visible on the Bleep remix of Dreaming Girl.

Following the release of the first album, Bel Canto became a double act, now consisting of vocalist Anneli Drecker (whose name may be familiar for recent collaborations with Röyskopp and A-ha) and Nils Johansen. Taking their name from the bel canto style of opera, the range and expression of Anneli's voice is undeniably deserving of such comparisons; bel canto means beautiful singing. Both the music and the vocal styles have been compared to the Cocteau Twins, though Anneli's lyrics do not generally correspond exactly with Liz Fraser's echolalic singing. More often than not, the lyrics for Bel Canto songs are in English, perfectly audible, multi-layered and sometimes rather odd: The reptiles escaped, who said boo? Was it me but who then was I? being a perfect example, closely followed by The dinosaur slipper man does the very best he can to make a living out of what he does. Other tracks, meanwhile, feature Norwegian, German or French vocals, such as those on Im Best'n Beihs, Le Temps Dégagé or traditional folk-story Die Geschichte Einer Mutter.


White-out Conditions (1987)
Birds of Passage (1990)
Shimmering, Warm and Bright (1992)
Magic Box (1996)
Rush (1998; released as Images outside Europe)
Retrospect (2000; compilation album)
Dorothy's Victory (2002; only released in Norway)

Bel Canto's style has varied over the course of their career. The first album, White-out Conditions deals with the frost-filled fjords of Northern Norway. Ethnic instrumentation and repetitive percussion brings a feeling of bleakness to the album, and Anneli's vocals muse on the creaking ice, bodies floating in the cold sea, and the futility of vision under white-out conditions. The music may be beautiful, but the theme of the album strikes precisely at the point between beauty and danger; overall, a keen reflection of the beauty and danger of the white-out landscape.

The second album Birds Of Passage moves onto more varied themes, though still with a downbeat theme, shown in songs like The Suffering and Intravenous. Third album Shimmering, Warm And Bright is stunning; quite possibly their best, and certainly their most Cocteau-Twins-esque.

Magic Box features collaborations with Jah Wobble, and the following album Rush has a more synthetic feel. Following the release of a compilation album, Retrospect, Bel Canto returned to elegant, guitar-based instrumentation, backed by washes of synths and multi-layered vocals, producing Dorothy's Victory, sadly only available in Norway, but more than worth making the effort to seek out. Anneli's solo albums, beginning with Tundra (2001), are also worth finding.


White-Out Conditions:
1 Blank sheets (4:13)
2 Dreaming girl (3:04)
3 Without you (4:03)
4 Capio (2:20)
5 Agassiz (3:56)
6 Kloeberdanz (3:00)
7 White-out conditions (4:08)
8 Baltic ice-breaker (4:43)
9 Upland (6:59)
10 Chadeinoi (3:29)

Birds Of Passage:
1 Look 3 (4:34)
2 Dewy fields (4:04)
3 Continuum (4:35)
4 The suffering (4:07)
5 The Glassmaker (4:28)
6 Picnic on the moon (4:41)
7 Intravenous (3:18)
8 Oyster (3:07)
9 Birds of passage (5:26)
10 A shoulder to the wheel (4:18)
11 Time without end (5:01)

Shimmering, Warm And Bright:
1 Unicorn (5:19)
2 Summer (4:47)
3 Waking will (5:16)
4 Shimmering, warm and bright (3:18)
5 Sleep in deep (2:45)
6 Buthania (2:52)
7 Le temps dégagé (4:43)
8 Spiderdust (3:59)
9 Die geschichte einer mutter (6:54)
10 Mornixuur (7:51)

Magic Box:
1 The magic box I (1:21)
2 In zenith (5:29)
3 Freelunch in the jungle (4:14)
4 Rumour (5:24)
5 Sleepwalker (4:50)
6 Bombay (3:58)
7 Paradise (5:11)
8 Didn't you know it? (4:23)
9 Big belly butterfly (4:46)
10 Kiss of spring (4:26)
11 The magic box II (1:20)

Rush / Images:
1 Images (3:36)
2 All i want to do (4:52)
3 Spacejunk (3:57)
4 Verena (3:11)
5 Idly I de-ice (4:54)
6 Nornagest (0:43)
7 Rush (4:32)
8 99% of me (3:01)
9 The dinosaur-slipper-man (3:26)
10 Hearts unite (4:38)
11 Sun (5:45)
12 Here, in shadow (2:41)
13 Heaven (5:40)

Retrospect CD1:
1 Bombay (3:52)
2 Shimmering, warm and bright (3:13)
3 Didn't you know it? (4:11)
4 Images (3:34)
5 Summer (4:36)
6 Paradise (4:56)
7 Idly i de-ice (4:51)
8 Spiderdust (3:55)
9 A shoulder to the wheel (3:56)
10 Capio (2:09)
11 Unicorn (4:12)
12 White-out conditions (3:41)
13 Dewy fields (3:48)
14 Waking will (5:11)
15 Blank sheets (3:51)
16 Rumour (5:01)
17 The suffering (3:35)
18 Disappear club 5 (4:38)

Retrospect CD 2:
1 White-out condition (Demo 1986) (4:57)
2 Baltic ice-breaker (Demo 1986) (4:31)
3 Maaligaabidaa (B-side) (2:54)
4 Keena maareeme (B-side) (4:58)
5 Birds of passage (Live in Tromsø 1999) (4:47)
6 Heaven (Live in Tromsø 1999) (5:05)
7 Dreaming girl (USA Remix by Bleep) (4:02)
8 Shimmering, warm and bright (Alien nation) (6:03)
9 Ride the unicorn (Alien nation remix) (6:20)
10 Rumour (BandB remix) (7:46)
11 Agnus dei (4:46)

Dorothy's Victory:
1 Foolish Ship (4:32)
2 Feels Like I'm Already Flying (3:59)
3 You Rock My World Tonight (4:42)
4 Disappear Club 5 (4:34)
5 Night Lady (6:37)
6 Dorothy's Victory (4:22)
7 Tree (5:34)
8 Happy Time Fly Fast! (3:54)
9 Im Best'n Beihs (5:17)
10 Corals, Jade and Pearls (4:00)
11 Ladonia (5:15)

21 January 2011

Beborn Beton

Beborn Beton are a three-member German synthpop band. Founded in 1989, Beborn Beton initially found success in Germany, although over the course of their career they have made significant advances into Europe and the United States. The band's line-up is simple enough, remaining unchanged since 1989. Beborn Beton are Michael B. Wagner, taking charge of keyboards and sharing composition duties with Stefan Tillmann, who also focuses on keyboards and percussion. Stefan Tillmann is generally known as Till, however, to avoid confusion with the third member, Stefan Netschio, who works on the lyrics and vocals.

With regard to the name of the band, while Beton is the German word for concrete, the official website tells us that Beborn doesn't mean anything in particular - the band's name came to one of the members whilst travelling on public transport and, after a little deliberation, was adopted despite initial concerns over its lack of meaning. The reference to concrete is explained by the band-members as referring to the urban environment in which they grew up, and the word appears once more in the title of their third album, Concrete Ground.

The Music:

Beborn Beton produce melodic, often melancholy, synthpop. The lyrics are sometimes in German, but usually in English. Subject matter ranges from the usual mundanities of love through to little lost robots, American patrotism, suicide and bloodsucking. There's a different but not too dissimilar cover of The Human League's Being Boiled out there, as well. If you're into synths, maybe VNV Nation, Depeche Modeor De/Vision, then Beborn Beton's music is all good stuff, with plenty of synth bass, pulsing melodies and a hint of industrial or future pop every now and then. Their debut album, Tybalt, actually appeared almost three years after the band's formation. Consequently, the album is more of a compilation than a cohesive work, featuring the best tracks from the band's first three years. Well-received in the electronic music scene, the 5-track single Twisted was released, and a follow-up album, Concrete Ground affirmed Beborn Beton's synthpop direction. A change of record label and Nightfall was released. In many ways, this was Beborn Beton's 'break-through' album, producing the club-friendly track Im Innern Einer Frau and achieving some measure of commercial success in America as well as Europe. The single Another World, a deceptively cheerful-sounding song about suicide, received considerable airplay in Europe and continues to enjoy popularity in synthpop and industrial nightclubs across Europe and the United States.

More label changes followed, accompanied by a slew of re-releases. A new album, Fake, with associated single Poison was released in 1999, following which Beborn Beton has gently slipped into a cycle of re-record, re-mix and re-release; the final two albums on their discography are both Best Of compilations with a number of remixed or re-recorded classic tracks included. A period during which the band appeared to be pouring their creative energy into plenty of touring and playing live followed the greatest-hits-lull, and since then... nothing.

So far.


Beborn Beton have also remixed a number of other artists' work. Their remixes usually remain true to the original song, but with a classic Beborn Beton feel. Their version of Apoptgyma Berzerk's Kathy's Song, for example, combines clean synthpop basslines with the original vocals and a classic DX7 bell sound to great effect.

Apoptygma Berzerk - Kathy's Song
Camouflage - I Can't Feel You
Claire Voyant - Majesty
Clan of Xymox - Something Wrong
Cleen - The Voice
De/Vision - Your Hands On My Skin
Funker Vogt - Under Deck
Infam - Limbo
In Strict Confidence - Seven Lives
Wolfsheim - Approaching Lightspeed


Tybalt (1993) (Single release: Twisted)
Concrete Ground(1994)
Nightfall (1996)
Tybalt Re-release (1997)
Truth (1997) (Single release: Another World)
Concrete Ground Re-release (1998)
Fake (1999) (Single release: Poison)
Rückkehr zum Eisplaneten (2000)
Tales From Another World (2002)