Tickling My Fancy Music Revue: Fringe Magnetic, Psycho & Plastic, Teotima, Velour Modular.
Feature: Many Happy Returns Alan Moore.
Fringe Magnetic ‘Clocca’ (Loop Records) – 2nd December 2013
The third and ‘final album’, or rather ‘chamber-orchestral avant-garde jazz stage production’, from the Fringe Magnetic project is part romantic Baroque, part industrial tattered, suite and concatenate journey through a magical world for grown-ups. With influences as diverse and wide ranging as Django Bates and Igor Stravinsky, Rory Simmons’ conducted 12-piece ensemble waltz, glide and re-apply the spirit of Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane (without the harp I might add, though every other woodwind, brass and string instrument makes an eventual appearance), Gershwin and Scott Walker to a contemporary narrative. Simmons own trumpet-led travails fluctuate between both Miles Davis’s descriptive noodling’s and his more ambient, lofty peregrinations.
Fielding an impressive cast of ‘Europe’s finest’, Simmons has gathered around him an able backing group of fellow dreamers and acclaimed musicians, who it must be said, effortlessly sweep through a mix of dry-ice effect movie score and exotic jazz without jarring the overall diaphanous melodic flow.
Though mostly an instrumental oeuvre, Clocca also features a trio of vocalists on a handful of tracks. Elisabeth Nyaard adds a soporific cooing aria style vocal to ‘Cross The Boarder’, and loosely duets with Emila Martensson on the soothing romantic ‘Confess Desires’, whilst edgy baritone, Andrew Plummer, spreads veiled dystopian lament on the caustic ‘Stitched In And Back Under’.
A literary theme permeates throughout the albums 12-tracks, with Katherin Dunn’s cult Geek Love story inspiring the, already mentioned, meatbeat manifesto gnarled, Stitched In And Back Under, and Douglas Coupland’s ‘Generation X’ array of anxiety-ridden topics used as the source for ‘Scrutiny’, there’s also T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and a David Mitchell diatribe on grammar and vocabulary quoted as a song titles, ‘Garlic And Sapphire’ and ‘Only A Poltroon (Despises Pedantry)’. The most disturbed or should I say far-out duo of tracks, ‘Dreams Of Dylar’, allude to the fictional drug (invented to combat the, as it turns out, rational fear and anxiety of death) invented by Don Dellilo for his acclaimed 80s novel, White Noise; the middle American cast of characters driven crazy and unhinged by the strange, metaphorical and allegorical side-effects; sound checked on the album by a chaotic schizoid giddy jazz score.
Blurring the classical and jazz boundaries to circumnavigate a cinematic rich landscape of flora and fauna – with the occasional miasma of delusional futurism – the album’s leitmotif is one of learning, desire and contemplation in the modern world; imbued as it is with an impressive quarry of authors, observers and musicians.
Only A Poltroon (Despises Pedantry)
Cross The Border
Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo
Stitched In And Back Under
Dreams Od Dylar Pt.1
Dreams Od Dylar Pt.2
Garlic And Sapphire
Rory Simmons- trumpet/flugelhorn/electronics
Robin Fincker- clarinet
Tori Freestone- flute/piccolo
James Allsopp- bass clarinet
Kit Massey- violin
Natalie Rozario- cello
Ivo Neame- piano
Jasper Hoiby- bass
Ben Reynolds- drums
Psycho & Plastic ‘Shibuya Beach’ (GiveUsYourGOLD) – Available Now
Featured a while back on the Monolith Cocktail, ‘acid-glitch rapping Teutonic outfit’ Psycho & Plastic’s cardboard puppetry video, Matekater, was a quirky synth driven curio; just one of the peculiar electro-psych Hip Hop tracks from their the Shibuya Beach EP.
Confined on release – earlier this year – to a ‘switched-on’ underground via a 12” release, the German group’s label has since struck a favourable worldwide distribution deal with Finetunes. So if you missed out the first time around, Shibuya Beach is now available on all platforms, both digitally and (still) on vinyl.
Teotima ‘Counting The Ways’ (First Word Records) – 25th November 2013
Sophisticated and delicately floating on a bed of laidback South American and African grooves, First Word Record’s latest ‘spiritual jazz’ act Teotima launch their downplayed-carnival-meets-moody-downtown-funk-cinematic debut, Counting The Ways, this month.
Smoothly played by a 14-piece ensemble – instigated via a workshop project in 2011 by bandleader and guitarist-composer Greg Sanders – the grooves and heralded horns hark back to the 70s, globetrotting between Cuba, Brazil and Ghana. Slipping easily into the hypnotic and meditative mood of that decade, the live sound is deep and has a glowing warmth – far better I expect on vinyl than through a digital stream.
Produced by underground jazz connoisseur Ben ‘Nostalgia 77’ Lamdin, the album works its meandering way through soulfully smooth caressed and wandering vocal led horn schmoozes and drifting sweetly played African– via the San Franciscan Bay circa 1970 – grooves. The Teotima vibe doesn’t just gel together it melts.
Velour Modular ‘Forward’
Rippling with a certain European chic and mystery, the latest electro-pop narrative from the collaborative duo, Velour Modular, both bounces along elegantly to a neon-dubstep and club backtrack, whilst aloofly starring off into a noir fog of contemplation.
An ‘abstract’ meeting of minds, French singer Guilhem and the London-based producer Hektagon, deliberated and forged a working partnership, one late night, over Skype. Sharing an indulgence and obsession for the big-themed sci-fi of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Logan’s Run and for the 80s fantastical children’s tale, The Never Ending Story, the duo have formulated a ‘human in the machine’ retro-futurist sound, imbued in part by the 8-bit, electronic pioneered soundtracks that these films featured.
The debut single ‘Forward’ precedes the ‘poetically’ and philosophical meditative inspired Capsule EP, which features the prophesied verses of William Blake and a central philosophical theme on the ‘four states of existence’: “Numerology too is central the project, a key aim being to create a mythology about the four states of existence, each track developing its identity in relation to its number. The downbeat Esc (1) is written in the first person, for the first entity created, the pure form, while the ominous Forward (2) is about the life that develops from 1, the conflict of duality and humanity’s appetite for power. The punctuated synths and frayed electronic pulses of Technology Worshippers (3) is the trinity, the ultimate knowledge, and finally the fizzing, extroverted electro of Sudden Motion (4) represents the rebirth – the next step.” Fancy that!
Many Happy Returns Alan Moore On The Occasion Of Your 60th Birthday.
Despite the customary hyperbole about Alan Moore’s contribution to the comic book/graphic novel art form, England’s most creative and erudite esoteric storyteller is also perhaps one of the late twentieth century’s (and for that matter the early 21st century’s too) greatest fictional writers across all platforms. His talents have successfully and theologically transgressed theatre, music, film and the novel.
Daring to elevate the often sniggered at and dismissed comic books of yore to a ‘highbrow’ status – arguably saving the industry in the process and creating a new unashamed ‘adult’ market – Moore is one of the progenitors of the existential, angst ridden superhero; producing perhaps the greatest and most acclaimed graphic novel masterpiece of all time, Watchmen: underused and filed-away lesser known characters from the D.C. Comics archives given a new lease of life as degenerate, paranoid, anxiety-ridden sociopaths and psychotics, all making sense of a fucked-up world, plunged into a destructive apocalyptic cause by the ‘cleverest man in the universe’, for its own salvation. Routinely – and rightly so – acclaimed for its vision at the time and novel-like depth, Watchmen was and still is the blueprint for the modern era comic. Superheroes thrust into the realities of an age that’s neither good nor evil, but more grey and amorphous; where morality meets the complex threads and politics of social realism, and comes out wanton.
From scribing such bizarre, philosophical sci-fi fare as Future Shocks and Halo Jones (amongst many others) for the UK’s celebrated homegrown 2000AD, to creating a whole universe of characters and titles, single-handedly, for the US independent publisher, America’s Best Comics, Moore has breathed new life into fiction. Whether it’s proverbially sailing close to the wind with the controversial erotic Lost Girls or weaving the most intricate psychoanalysis on the Ripper murders yet (the amazing, scribbled etched rendered, opus, From Hell), no taboo is ever off limits or deemed too sordid to drag over.
A curmudgeon of the highest order, Northampton born and breed, Magi, high priest, polymath and bruiser, Moore has never compromised, even when Hollywood and D.C. Comics came a-calling with incentivising bundles of filthy lucre – though indeed the studios did butcher Moore’s V For Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell, the sagacious magi washed his hands of the whole affair, taking neither a penny or credit; instead handing over his cut to the graphic novels’ illustrators.
Choosing the familiar four-walls of his own private kingdom in the terrace house he was borne into, his self-imposed exile of sorts (except of course for occasional performances, meeting and appearances) suits him just fine. So it’s not too surprising to find his that his forthcoming behemoth novel, Jerusalem, and its predecessor, Voice Of The Fire, are both set there – as are many of Moore’s fanzines and stories, including his instigated local underground magazine, Dodgem Logic.
Reified author of ‘umpteen’ hundred stories, titles and series, reaching right back to the primordial soup and thrusting forward into the far future, Moore’s gift is in translating the most obscure, mind blowing and psychological ideas into a cohesive narrative: his highly acclaimed Promethea ‘five-parter’, alone weaves Alistair Crowley, theosophy, Hermetic Qabalah, quasi-fetishistic science and the Écriture féminine theory of writing – practiced by such notable French feminists as Hélène Cixous – into a metatextual dummy’s guide to spiritualism and the occult.
We could wax lyrically forever and a day: having not even progressed past the graphic novels, let alone mention his magical inspired cabaret shows, psycho-geography projects and spoken word performances, or even listed the myriad of contributors and artists that have helped shape those projects. Attempting to chronicle, almost, forty years of work into a pitiful post on a humble blog seems a hopeless task. But we shall persevere with both a feature originally written for Brighton’s listings/culture magazine Source and a collection of ‘Moore on video’ highlights.
Published a while back for Source as part of their long running back page, ‘six of the best’, feature, I chose the graphic novels that had imbued and made the most impact upon myself. A few years old now, I’ve added some updates and amended a few schoolboy errors in grammar (it was early days remember!).
Six of the best: Alan Moore Graphic Novels
V For Vendetta (1988/ Vertigo)
Moore’s prediction of a far-right neo-Nazi hell on Earth dystopia, where 1984 is a daily reality, is almost on the button: as it turns out both the left and the right are equally ready to document our every move with surveillance cameras on every street corner, and to take away our privileges and freedoms in the name of counter-terrorism.
England has become a closed off society to the outside world whose population have become slaves both physically and mentally to a ruling elite after a near nuclear war breaks out.
That is until a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing avenger starts his campaign of revenge, culminating in bombings, murder and mind games along with acts of terrorism – finishing the job that the original November the 5th plotters failed.
Along with a young mysterious girl named Evey, we follow our anti-heroes as they almost bring the whole nightmare of totalitarianism crashing down.
Never has an anarchist been so witty, charismatic and charming. And since the 2008 financial collapse, adopted the world over as the ultimate masked crusader by various disgruntled protestors, from the occupation groups of Wall Street to London’s own stock exchange.
Batman: The Killing Joke (1988/DC Comics)
A reinvention of the caped crusader that came out in the same year as Frank Millers own radical re-work, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, this short story offers a more personal and disturbing portrayal of Batman’s most dangerous adversary, the Joker.
Escaping from Arkam Asylum one last time this screwed up and psychotic loon composes a macabre theatre of revenge, with disturbing results. A grand finale at a disused fairground prompts us to believe in the last few frames that our hero, the caped crusader, has finally done the deed and ended the Joker for good.
We even get a back-story that provokes sympathy for the green haired one before we are jerked back into watching another poor innocent get the chop.
Loosely homage to the ultimate superhero Superman, Moore reinvents (yet again) the classic heroic man of steel as Supreme. An archetypal of the stiff upright and moralizing 50s protestant ethical protector brought up to date, the story follows our hero’s adventures over the last forty years as he struggles to come up against the troubles of our modern times.
Written in an entertaining and humorous manner, Supreme has to deal with both the mundane reality of the world outside and a wealth of complex issues involving his own use as a brand, whilst reminiscing about old foes and the golden era of comic book super villains: very much the post modernist superhero tale.
From Hell (1999/Knockabout)
More complex and multilayered than a graphic novel was supposed to be, this epic tome equals Watchman in both ambition and importance.
With Eddie Campbell’s scribbled and sketchy style of illustration causing nausea and claustrophobia, the dirt and grime of Victorian London almost rubs off on your thumbs as you turn the pages. No depiction since has captured the brutality and seediness so well; forensically pulling apart the whole era and case files to the nth degree and weaving a story of the occult imagination.
We follow the surgeon turned Jack the Ripper, Dr.Gull, from his service to Queen Victoria to his eventual transcendence into pure horrific madness. The chapter on the butchery of Mary Kelly is almost banal in barbarity as the good Doctor offers up his work to a higher plain.
Imagine a world where characters from the pages of the novels by Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll and H G Wells among many others rub shoulders with real historical people. A copyright nightmare that’s seen some volumes release dates put back months (even years), Moore pitches Captain Nemo, Alain Quatermain, Dr.Jekyell and his psychopathic alter ego Mr.Hyde, the Invisible Man and Mina Murrey against adversaries like Moriarty and a Martian invasion from Mars.
Volume 3 moved forward to the late fifties and features a rather creepy and cowardly alter-ego version of James Bond, and subsequent extended chapters have re-imagined a electric-kool-aid 60s London and Eagle comics style dystopian present.
With multitudes of plots, characters and references – which make the mind boggle – this is a really ambitious undertaking even for Moore, who seems to be enjoying himself with the far-fetched and brazen implausible mash-ups.
One thing Moore does really well is write strong parts for women and this is his best to date.
A young Sophie Bangs is the latest in a long line of vassals for a 5th century mystical Egyptian warrior to channel. Set in a modern day New York that is heavily dominated by science, this collage student loses herself in myths and magic. Promethea is both real and imagined and is used as a weapon against both the dark forces that are out to destroy it, and the modern world that wants to contain it.
A groundbreaking graphic novel that changes illustrational style throughout and takes in references from mysticism, cabalism, Alistair Crowley and ancient pagan beliefs to paint a multi-layered world of dimensions and philosophical thought.
This set of stories is well and truly out there and encourages much further reading.
Here’s to Anarchy in the U.K and beyond…
Be careful what you wish for…
Psychogeography One, travailing Highbury…
Psychogeography Two, peregrination of Northampton…
Extraordinary Gentleman indeed…
The Moon And Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre Of Marvels…
Jimmy’s End, it’s coming….