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Archive for the ‘Neil Gaiman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-Tiny Desk Concert #976 (May 27, 2020).

I feel that it is something of a failure on my part that I never really got into Wire.

Although I don’t know why, I will never forget that their 1988 album is called A Bell is a Cup … Until It is Struck (I was working at a radio station when it came out and “Kidney Bingos” was a minor hit).  But I never really followed through with them.

Bob Boilen, on the other hand, is a huge fan.

For me, it was beyond surreal to watch Wire performing at my desk, in broad daylight, in 2020. I spent many an evening over the past 40 years, listening to their original, artful bursts of noise and imagery, seeing them in dark clubs in the ’80s and beyond. From the time I first heard them in 1977, few bands have encapsulated my musical aesthetics like Wire.

There have been some hiatuses for Wire since their debut in 1977 (from 1981-1985 and 1993-1999) but each time they reunited, it was the original four person lineup.

It was only ten years ago that guitarist Bruce Gilbert officially left the band.  But at the Tiny Desk,

there they were, with three original bandmates: Colin Newman, singing his enigmatic poetry, and those driving rhythms of Graham Lewis on bass and Robert Grey (aka Robert Gotobed) on drums. Matthew Simms was the “new” bandmate, having now played with the band for the past 10 years.

Thankfully, Wire plays four songs (they still only play for 15 minutes and they are Bob’s favorite band).

What’s most remarkable is how the sound of songs such as “Cactused” from their 17th album, Mind Hive, sit so well next to “French Film Blurred” from their 1978 album — and one of my favorite records ever made — Chairs Missing.

“Cactused” has a cool chugging rhythm and bass.  Newman sings in his deadpan, almost spoken delivery.  Newman plays the little guitar leads while.  It stops on a dime.  This band is tight.

“Be Like Them” is also new.  I love this song.  It’s got a slinky guitar riff which is  accompanied by three loud thumps (drums and bass) to accent the verses.  Simms plays a really cool noise-filled “solo” (really just some noisy chords) in the middle of the song.  Newman is once again kind of deadpan reciting his lyrics.

“French Film Blurred” is from 1978. It’s got an unusual riff and Newman sings a bit more than speaks, although he is still restrained.  They make great use of the two guitars with Simms adding all kinds of sounds while Newman plays the main melody.

Everyone tunes and then Newman says they’re going to play “an obscurity from the 80s that we revived into the current set.”  “The Offer” is from 1989’s ITABA.  It’s slower and rather quiet.  There’s even some gently picked guitar parts from Simms. But as it nears the end the song gets louder and louder with Sims adding a distorted and a flanging guitar.   The songs seems like it’s over, but while everything is ringing out, Newman pays a few ending chords.

Try and imagine your favorite artist today, playing a concert in someone’s office in 2062 and still having an emotional impact with extraordinary new songs. As I said, it’s beyond surreal and genuinely thrilling.

Wire played their Washington DC show on March 9, so that’s probably when this concert occurred (and therefore MUST have been the final Tiny Desk Concert before the quarantine].  Wire were playing Philly on March 10.  I had considered going but I had a lot of other shows to see in March so I didn’t want to overload.

This set was so good, I wish I had gone to see them. Maybe they’ll be back in 2021.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #10

This is the final issue of Five Years (I think).

It was supposed to be released during the Coronavirus epidemic.  But Abstract Studios offered a special cover (so I don’t know what the proper cover looks like yet).

NEWS: We’re going to release a tiny print run of Five Years #10 for subscribers, & anyone who wants one really. This is for those reading the single issues who don’t want to wait months to read the final chapter. If not a subscriber, you can pre-order a copy in our store now. Just CLICK HERE.

The rumor is Diamond Comics will reopen this summer and we will be able to stagger release issue 9 and 10 to the general public then. 9 is sitting in their warehouse, waiting like a rodeo bull. For the small number hooked on the single issues, we feel you deserve 10 now, because without your monthly support the series couldn’t have happened at all.

So I bought the limited edition cover because I wanted to finish the series.  I didn’t think he could possibly end the series with this issue as it seemed like there was too much up in the air. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Out of this World: Atmospheric Sounds and Effects from The BBC Radiophonic Workshop (1976).

Neil Gaiman mentions a recording like this in the story.  he says that at a party, the music is like a mix of Kraftwerk and music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

This album came out in 1976.  it was evidently issues on CD in 1991 as Essential Science Fiction Sound Effects Vol. 2.

The album was divided into four sections (two on each side), each representing a different theme: “Outer Space”, “Magic and Fantasy”, “Suspense and the Supernatural” and “The Elements”.

It’s pretty amazing the sounds these people were creating back in the 1970s with the technology that was available.  Some of it sounds a little cheesy and yet most of it is either right-on spooky or has become such a staple of our subconscious that it calls up memories of things like this being very spooky.

I really like that the record credits the men and women who created these sounds.

  • Dick Mills
  • Peter Howell
  • Brian Hodgson
  • Paddy Kingsland
  • Richard Yeoman-Clark
  • Roger Limb
  • John Baker
  • Malcolm Clarke
  • Delia Derbyshire
  • Glynis Jones
  • David Cain

This isn’t something that you would really sit down and listen to (well, I might) but it is fun to pick and choose and to imagine what the creators pictures as they made these sounds.  And I can totally imagine the party music that was  across between this and Kraftwerk,  Cool, man.

Outer Space
A1 –Dick Mills Sea Of Mercury 1:07
A2 –Peter Howell Galactic Travel 0:49
A3 –Brian Hodgson Tardis Take-Off 0:55
A4 –Brian Hodgson Tardis Land 0:22
A5 –Dick Mills Space Rocket Take-Off 0:27
A6 –Dick Mills Space Rocket Land 0:27
A7 –Paddy Kingsland Flying Saucer Land 0:17
A8 –Paddy Kingsland Flying Saucer Take-Off 0:17
A9 –Richard Yeoman-Clark Flying Saucer Interior Constant Run 0:37
A10 –Brian Hodgson Space Ship Control Room Atmosphere 1:00
A11 –Brian Hodgson Space Ship Interior Atmosphere 1:03
A12 –Dick Mills Electric Door Open 0:02
A13 –Dick Mills Electric Door Shut 0:03
A14 –Brian Hodgson Laser Gun, Five Bursts 0:12
A15 –Brian Hodgson “Computer” 0:43
A16 –Brian Hodgson Gravity Generator 0:34
A17 –Roger Limb Time Warp Start, Run, Stop 0:24
A18 –John Baker Venusian Space Lab. 0:50
A19 –Malcolm Clarke Andromeda War Machine 1:10
A20 –Dick Mills Space-battle 0:42

Magic And Fantasy
A21 –Malcolm Clarke Dance Of Fire-Flies 0:43
A22 –Delia Derbyshire Dreaming 1:11
A23 –Glynis Jones Crystal City 1:00
A24 –Dick Mills Enchanted Forest 0:49
A25 –Malcolm Clarke Goblins Lair 0:45
A26 –Glynis Jones Magic Carpet Take-Off 0:14
A27 –Glynis Jones Magic Carpet Flight 0:22
A28 –Glynis Jones Magic Carpet Land 0:12
A29 –Brian Hodgson Magic Flower Grows And Buds 0:12
A30 –Roger Limb Magic Beanstalk Grows 0:09
A31 –Dick Mills Star Fairies 0:38
A32 –Malcolm Clarke Midsummer Elves 0:29
A33 –Malcolm Clarke Fairy Appears 0:05
A34 –Malcolm Clarke Fairy Disappears 0:05
A35 –David Cain Wizard Flies Off 0:09
A36 –Malcolm Clarke Casting A Spell 0:11
A37 –Malcolm Clarke Magic Mushroom 0:03
A38 –Glynis Jones Magic Bird Song 0:30

Suspense And The Supernatural
B1 –Delia Derbyshire Phantoms Of Darkness 1:05
B2 –Dick Mills Uncanny Expectation 0:48
B3 –David Cain Spectres In The Wind 1:02
B4 –Malcolm Clarke Evil Rises Up 1:05
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “Threatening shadow”
B4 –Dick Mills – “Moments of terror”
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “Passing shade”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Psychic fears”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Two terror twangs”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Three terror bangs”
B4 –David Cain – “Terror zing”
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “Terror glissando”
B4 –Malcolm Clarke – “‘Thing’ approaches”
B4 –Brian Hodgson – “Roaring monster”
B4 –Peter Howell – “Firespitting monster”
B4 –Dick Mills – “Nightmare forest”
B4 –Dick Mills – “Fiendish shrieks”

The Elements
B4 –Delia Derbyshire – “Heat haze”
B4 –Roger Limb – “Desert sands”
B4 –Delia Derbyshire – “Frozen waste”
B4 –Delia Derbyshire – “Icy peak”
B4 –David Cain – “Snow swirls”
B4 –Roger Limb – “Passing clouds”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Starry skies”
B4 –John Baker – “Electric storm”
B4 –John Baker – “Watery depths”
B4 –John Baker – “Rising bubbles”
B4 –Glynis Jones – “Spring tide”

[READ: February 1,2020] How to Talk to Girls at Parties

This graphic novel is an adaptation of a short story that Gaiman had published in 2006.

The illustrators are twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá and they are magnificent–they perfectly complement this story both in style and color choice.

Two boys, a studly blond fellow and a smaller, dark-haired fellow are heading off to a party.  The blond guy, Vic is very excited about it because there will be girls there! The other boy Enn, is more realistic and says that Vic will go off with a girl and he’ll be in the kitchen listening to somebody’s mum going on about politics or poetry or something.

But Vic will not be deterred.

He doesn’t actually know the address.  He wrote it down but forget the paper  at home. However, they’ll just hear the party when they get close.

Enn demurs more but Vic says you just have to talk to girls, they’re just girls, they’re not from another planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1964).

The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 18, 2015] A Christmas Carol

gaimanchristmasJust like two years ago when we saw A Christmas Carol, a few days later I listened to the audio book.  This year, I found a different reading of it by Neil Gaiman.  This one comes from the New York Public Library podcast, and is available on Soundcloud and iTunes.

What makes this reading unique (and now different from Patrick Stewart’s awesome reading and from the McCarter production (which is different from the book as well) is that the version Gaiman read was hand-edited by Dickens for his own performances.  What?

Yes, evidently Dickens performed this story live a few times.  As the NYPL site explians:

Charles Dickens could not only write a crackling good story, he could perform it. And so in 1853, he took his Christmas Carol show on the road, first in Britain and then in the United States. Audiences loved it. Dickens didn’t simply read from his book. He transformed it into a stageworthy script—cutting, pasting together pages of excised passages, adding stage cues for himself, rewriting, then cutting some more…. Indeed, there is only one such copy of A Christmas Carol, created by Dickens himself, and The New York Public Library has it.

Gaiman read the “as the great author intended, following edits and prompts Dickens wrote in his own hand for his unique readings 150 years ago.” (more…)

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