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25th July 2014

(file under Summer Reading)

No music to tell you about as I've not been playing anything.  Mostly been sat somewhere shady with a glass of something cold and a book listening to the sounds of the world.  I will be uploading some music reviews soon but in the meantime.

(file under Books)

Ben Aaronvitch - Moon Over Soho
This is the second of these Peter Grant novels and like this first it was pretty good fun. Grant is investigating the death of a part time jazz musician. Along the way he makes the acquaintance of a new 'young' lady friend, forms a new band for his dad and discovers that there is a very dangerous black magician working some particularly bay magic around the place.
Through the course of the book we are introduced to more of the less ordinary denizens of London whilst we are also, along with Peter, schooled in the history of magic and magicians in the UK. I'm an absolute sucker for this sort of urban fantasy but am also quite sceptical and hard to please so it's got to be done right. I'm uninterested in superpowered, supernatural creatures simply roaming the streets, it's silly and it's cliched and more importantly it's naff. For me they need to be incorporated into the fabric of the mundane; to be simply another ethnic group with the city albeit ones with a rather unusual genetics. Aaronovitch manages this excellently.
It's a cool little caper with some really nifty characters who have real presence on the page.  The story is fun and action packed with a lively pace throughout and an ending that opens the way for all manner of intrigue to come.

Dan Abnett - Ravenor vs Eisenhorn: Pariah
A fab surprise on a post Xmas visit to the bookshop as I didn't know this was out.
The first two trilogies - particularly Ravenor - are a real favourite of mine so I was very keen to see where this was going to go.  I pretty much wasn't disappointed.  It wasn't as balls out inventive and editing as the other two series openers but it did have it's moments.
That it features at its centre Bequin who spent the entirety of the Ravenor books dead(ish) and frozen was confusing but the ride to the realisation was a trip.  It's pretty much all about the set-up for the series this one and it'll be a fun ride to find out just where Abnett takes this and just how badly these former allies are going to hurt each other before they take down Chaos.

Alan K. Baker - The Martian Ambassador
This is the first in a series of Steampunk novels featuring secret agent Thomas Blackwood and psychical researcher Lady Sophia Harrington.
It's a bit of a mess. The world into which we are plunged is at first glance that of Wells' War of the World but with benign Martians helping out, computers operated via little fairies that allow contract with the Earth's akashic records and there's an evil Venusian running around killing people whilst yelling "Look at me! I'm a Martian!" so people look to blame the peaceloving and helpful Martians.  Like I said, it's a mess.  It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, urban fantasy, sci-fi, period Lovecraftian horror, Gaiman-esque appropriation of a English fairy lore or none, some or all of the above and so ends up being a hodgepodge of each and unfortunately doesn't have it in it to transcend its limitations.
In its favour though I read this on holiday and it was a bit of fun that I could dip and drop at will and certainly helps laze away the day but I won't be hunting out the second in a hurry.

Gail Carriger -Etiquette and Espionage
The author of the Alexia Tarabotti stories here returns to that world but at a slightly earlier date -about 20 years maybe - to tell the story of a finishing school for assassins.
A fairly daft premise sees the young and troublesome Sophronia packed off to an unknown finishing school where she soon learns that the lessons are a lot more fun than anticipated.  She also gets herself embroiled in an escapade around an early aetheric communications device that gives her ample scope for hi-jinks and exploring.
We get to meet some familiar characters along the way and the whole thing has Carrigers characteristic light touch.  It's at YA novel so it's a bit light and fluffy but on the whole it's a bit of fun.

Max Allan Collins & Richard Piers Rayner - Road to Perdition
I've known and liked the film St give it came along which surprised me as I don't really have a lot of time for Tom Hanks movies.  The book had eluded me though until I found it in a local charity shop the other day.
It's a different beast to the film, less of a road movie vibe, although that's in there, and also an little bit more real, although I certainly am discounting his escape from Capone's office from that statement.
An enjoyable short of tale even though this whole gangster thing isn't a favourite.  It's coherent and complete and satisfying. What more do you want from a Sunday afternoon read.

Russell T. Davies - Doctor Who: Damaged Goods
Now that was an unexpected treat.  Obviously he's a very able scriptwriter but in his one and only attempt at a novel there was always going to be an element of trepidation as to whether it'd work.
I thoroughly enjoyed it.  What a very different Doctor Who series this would have made.  It's pitch black in tone and filled with drugs and sex - impersonal, alfresco gay sex mostly.  It's set on a London housing estate and features a family called the Tyler's (any relation?) who have a terrible secret that's tearing them apart. Across town is Mrs Jericho and her very I'll son who looks very much like the Tyler's youngest, so much so that the already unhinged Mrs Jericho begins a rapid descent into outright lunacy upon setting him.  Into this mix we have an alien weapon possessing the body of a dead cocaine dealer (and all who've partaken of his wares) and of course The Doctor and his entourage.
The giant robot ending (shades of the Other Doctor Xmas special) is a little OTT but the characters and the settings are spot on.  The doctor is note perfect and the scene in the kitchen and the dining room when Mrs Jericho finally loses it and goes homicidal is utterly sublime.
There were places where I thought it dragged a little but for the most part I thought this was a real entertaining piece of work that would have made for a very, very different show.

Matt Fraction & Gabriel Ba - Casanova: Avarita
This is the third and final part of the Casanova story and it finds him traversing the multiverse in an attempt to for the world of every possible version of the person who will be Newman Xeno.  Is not a task that sits well with him and he soon starts to work to his own ends.  Not everyone is best pleased with this and chaos inevitably ensues.
It's an appropriate end to a series that has been equal parts engrossing and confusing and one that has left me feeling like I've been on quite a fun trip that I was a little to distracted to enjoy fully and as such need to do it again.

Barry Gifford - The Stars Above Veracruz
This set of shorts from the author of the Sailor and Lula novels (the first being Wild at Heart made into a movie by David Lynch) had some gems mixed amongst them and there were some moments of pure Gifford but it wasn't all gold.  Some parts dragged which is really saying something with stories that often only lasted a couple of pages.
On the whole though it was still a typically fun piece of Gifford-ana.

Jonathan Green - Pax Britannia: Evolution Expects
It has been ages since I read one of these Pax Britannia books and it was a nice surprise just how much I enjoyed it.  I looked the others, they were fluffy and silly but generally solid pulp fun.  This new one continues on from the breakdown of the government in previous book (Human Nature) as the Prime Minister went postal.
The new PM and the new head of the secret service are trying to reclaim the polluted city and therefore reinvigorate the country.  Meanwhile Ulysses is investigating both the appearance of a golem in the east end and the worrying number of people changer into insects hidden away in Bedlam.  At the same time there's a new vigilante hero in town with distinct Batman tendencies.
Big, silly and fun.  Looking forward to the next one.

Jay Lake - Mainspring
Another book that's been hanging around for a while that I've finally got around to reading.  
Mainspring tells of a young man's quest to rewind the eponymous spring at the heart of his clockwork world - yeah, I know.  His mission takes him from his home and across the US via hobos and captivity into the air on a dirigible down to the equatorial wall. Across the wall via a giant cog -yeah, I know - after having been kidnapped by flying demon things and meeting an immortal guru not wise enough to know that the guide he gave him was a bit of a dick.  Across southern Africa in the company of horny, hairy Neanderthals.  Africa, where the only people he encounters are the aforementioned happy go lucky little shaggers and a city of super tall and aloof homicidal magicians.  Then, down across the ocean to the south pole on a super dirigible he happens across before restarting the world via the power of love. Yeah, I know.

Alan Moore & Facundo Percio - Fashion Beast
This is an old Alan Moore based on an idea he'd worked on with Malcolm McLaren way back when.  It tells of a self obsessed cloakroom attendant named Doll who finds herself hired as the feature model at the world most prestigious fashion house.  As the world falls apart outside she discovers that life inside the fashion house to be wholly dysfunctional.
It's an entirely of sort of thing that didn't really grab me to the point most of Moore's things do but it's lack of anything to grab onto may be a fairly good reason as to why it never saw the light of day until now. It seemed empty, almost vacuous even.  The ending is heavy handed and the pacing was uneven but an intriguing read nonetheless.

Alan Moore - 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom
This is a reproduced essay written by Moore on his current non Lovecraftian obsession -  pornography.
It's an interesting little read that is entirely and obviously Moore and feels like it fell straight out of the pages of Dodgem Logic.  The really odd thing about it are the remarkably prudish illustrations.  For an article that is championing the decline in quality of pornography it's remarkably coy about showing almost anything that could be considered actually pornographic.
A light but enjoyable article that is more polemic than argument but was possible better suited to be a magazine article rather than a book in its own right.

Charles Stross - Equoid
Bob is landed with an investigation into possible strange goings on at a farm outside of London.  The local DEFRA vet and part time crytozoologist has spotted tell tale signs of an equoid, or 'unicorn' as they're more commonly known, outbreak.
In Bob's world - and also in that of H.P.Lovecraft whose letters regarding his own dealings with them are interspersed through the narrative - unicorns are thoroughly malignant and murderous creatures that need taking care of with extreme prejudice...and fire...preferably napalm.
It's only a little short but it crackles with intent.  Often these little freebie reads can be a little weak but this feels like it belongs in the canon and wasn't just hacked out as a begrudged contract obligation.   Well worth your time especially as it's free at the link below.
read it here - http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid

Charles Stross - The Apocalypse Codex
I really like these very British Lovecraftian books about the UK's magical secret service The Laundry that Stross has done but I'm not sure I could actually read one. All the one I've come across (and I'm fairly certain that it's all of them) have been audiobooks and now all the characters are so entirely tied up with the voices that reader Gideon Emery has given them that this is the only way for me now.
This latest one pits our promotion bound hero, computational demonologist Bob Howard, against an American evangelist with a hard on for waking the Sleeper which would be bad news for all involved and everyone not involved. Helping him along the way are two external operatives - Persephone Hazard and Johnny McTavish, a witch and an ex-squaddie respectively - who slowly reveal to him the the true hidden history and nature of The Laundry.
This time out it's less obsessed with the bureaucracy of the agency and what we get is more of a straight adventure story but as Stross has been writing each as a pastiche of different authors such as Len Deighton, Ian Fleming and Anthony Price and here inserting Bob into a Peter O'Donnell (Modesty Blaise) novel that's understandable. These have fast become amongst my most anticipated releases and are an absolute joy to find out where Stross is going to take Bob next which is a particularly apt way to end this review as it mirrors the tantalising end of the book.


9th July 2014

(file under Sleep, glorious sleep)

I'm on holiday and loving it.  Warm days and mellow vibes. Here're some book reviews of things that have been helping me chill out.

(file under Books)

Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451
(HarperCollins UK)
Time, I think, for a classic. I do this every now and again. I'm a fairly freeform sort of reader normally and just go with what catches my eye but now and again I like to dig into the classics for a while. They rarely disappoint. I did A Canticle for Liebowitz recently which turned out to be a corking experience so, as I said, time for another. This is one of those books that regularly sits near the top of 'Greatest ever...' lists so I had high expectations for it and disappoint it did not.
The story, as I'm sure you all know, tells of the awakening of fireman Guy Montag from a world of blinkered, sanitised corporate delusion where he burns books for a living to one where he becomes one of the saviours of the very things he's meant to hate.
It's a poignant, sad and exhilarating and is as tightly wound as Montag's nerves. Most of all the novel seems utterly and depressingly real. Magnificent.

Mitch Cullin - A slight Trick of the Mind
Behind my head as I write this is a shelf with about 20 Sherlock Holmes books plus various DVD adaptations / versions. It would be pretty safe to say I'm a fan. I am not however even remotely precious about it. Amongst those 20 odd books and sat alongside the canon are a number of pastiches, some are downright silly - the 'War of the World' one springs immediately to mind (written by the magnificently named Manly Wellman). Another features him teaming up with a young Teddy Roosevelt, whilst a third pits him against the gentleman burglar Arsene Lupin although he is called Herlock Sholmes in that one. There's even a first edition of Michael Chabon's masterclass of a novel featuring an elderly Holmes, The Final Solution.So basically, do what you want with him. The character is malleable and durable enough and I'm enough of a fan to go along on the journey and see if it's going somewhere interesting.
In 'A Slight Trick of the Mind' Mitch Cullin takes Holmes somewhere very interesting indeed, to the end. Cullin places the nonagenarian Holmes in two very different settings and the younger version into what at first seems like a rather nondescript case that eventually takes on much deeper meanings.
Switching effortlessly between his life amongst his beloved bees in the company of the housekeeper's son, his beekeeping protégé, and a trip to postwar Japan ostensibly to search for prickly ash but also to satisfy a young man's curiosity regarding his estranged father whilst also being drip fed the resolution of the earlier case; Cullin's book is that rarity, a literary pageturner. It's beautifully written and reveals it's heartbreaking secrets both far too soon and frustratingly slowly. The carefully crafted links between the various stories are given the time and space to allow their tales to tell and to allow us to more fully understand what it means to be both Holmes at the height of his powers and Holmes at their decline.
For many people this will no doubt be an ill fit alongside the canon but those people will be missing the point. This isn't a book about Sherlock Holmes the great detective; he is simply the principal in a book about loss both great and small. Loss of friends, loss of family, loss of a child, loss of love, of memory, of things, of direction and ultimately loss of self. Holmes is ourselves wit large and as such any loss is born magnified and intensified. Through him we are shown what it means to be ultimately, inevitably, inescapably fallible.
I found this to be a beautiful and poignant read that took me to a place I've not visited in a while and brought me back filled with questions for which the answers can only be experienced when the time comes for them to be asked.
Heartily and resoundingly recommended.

Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Every now and again it's fun to do into Gaiman's worlds again and see what he's been up to. This one is fairly safe ground for him telling - in flashback - the story of the time when he and the family of 3 ladies who lived down the end of the lane accidentally brought a grey thing into the world and then sent it away again.
In a lot of ways it felt like a kids book but with some decidedly adult scenes dotted throughout. The version I got was the audiobook as read by the author and it was, as you'd expect, nicely done and it very much lent an extra autobiographical feel to the proceedings in support of the first person narrative.
It was an enjoyable trip, not for me on a par with his best but still bags of fun.

Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill - Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
(Top Shelf)
This is the second League of Extraordinary Gentleman spinoff books to feature the exploits of everyone's favourite sub aquatic pirate goes off to Germany to rescue her daughter and her son in law, the air pirate Robur.
The book mixes in The Great Dictator, Metropolis, Cabinet of Doctor Cagliari, She and more to great effect. I've got to say though that if it wasn't for the majesty of Jess Nevins and his explanatory website - http://jessnevins.com/annotations/rosesofberlin.html - much of it would have been incomprehensible to me as it was written in German and I don't currently have a friendly German to hand..
It's a quest book (of sorts) and as such is a little thin on plot but what there is is typical Moore and there is plenty of distraction in the always beautiful art from O'Neill who as ever brings the most absurd worlds to life in stunning, awe inspiring and eye popping glory.
Not the best of them but still wonderful.


22nd June 2014

(file under A vague sense of achievement)

Through the fog of work I really wanted to get at least 2 new albums up on here this week and - Yay me! - I have.  Yeah, I know that's not many but I take my triumphs where I can find them.
The chosen two are quite different in conception if not in realisation and are both well worth a listen.
I'm also waiting on the return of the first new Quiet World release of 2014 from our potential new printers.  This is the tester to see what the quality is like so fingers crossed for a (cracking) new release in about a week or so with several more to come in fairly short order.
Anyway, more on that when it happens.

(file under Music)

Merzouga - 52°46’ North 13°29’ East – Music for Wax-Cylinders
(Gruenrekorder Gruen 124)
There are two predominant forms of field recording releases I get sent here at Wonderful Wooden Reasons.  The first is of the collector variety; a compendium of noises often on a particular theme (usually location) meant to represent, reproduce or chronicle.  The second is the field recording as instrument, or perhaps more correctly sound source, to be manipulated and processed often until it's unrecognisable and a thick soupy grey murk.
Of the two it is the former that I hold in higher regard (which is not to discount the latter entirely) but there is a third and much rarer form that comes my way on occasion that is by far for me the preferred.  Here the field recording becomes a clear and equal partner in the work, neither hidden nor dominant, and this is what we have here.
At the heart of this album are a number of wax cylinder recordings created in the early 20th century by globetrotting Germans and kept in the archives of the Berlin Phonogram Archive.  These phonograms have been digitised and made available to artists to explore and utilise. 
Merzouga are the duo of Eva Popplein (electronics)and Janko Hanushevsky (electric bass) and here they have seamlessly interwoven a selection of beautifully worn, warm, crisp and crackly recordings of song and speech into their music.  The voices guide the piece with the Hanushevsky's bass giving the proceedings a real melancholy perfectly at home with the aged beauty of the recordings whilst also occasionally pushing itself to the fore and fluttering against your perceptions like one of the more broken of the elder recordings.  Popplein's electronics insinuate themselves in between the sounds adding subtle textures and colours with the realisation that its presence is all the stronger for it's restraint.
This is a glorious recording.  It's a communion with voices past, an exploration of the ethnographers curiosity and, most of all, a celebration of the vitality of sound. 

Peter Orins - Empty Orchestras
(Helix / Circum-Disc LX 006)
Peter Orins is the drummer in Kaze who we had the pleasure of hearing recently (check the Wonderful Wooden Reasons archives) and has returned to these pages with his band mates replaced by electronics which is makes a nice change as it's usually the drummer who is ousted by circuitry.
On this, if my reading of the slightly over-written press release is correct, Orins is dueting with his autonomous - their word - noise producing gadget.  Whether he is in some way triggering the textural changes via his drums or whether this little electronic Merzbow is entirely going it's own way and he is responding to and interacting with is something of which I'm unsure.  It is all rather fun though.  The drums are sometimes a little too high in the mix but the end result is an abrasive, rhythmic, stompy and thoroughly enjoyable collection of old school industrial improvisations of the type not seen around these parts for far too long.


15th June 2014

(file under Bloody work commitments)

I was hoping to get a couple of reviews posted this week but work has gotten in the way and I've pretty much been grading papers all my waking hours.  We're two weeks from the end of term and it's always nuts but I'm more on top of it than i usually am at this crazy busy time of year.  Postings will be sporadic whilst I get this stuff done but in the meantime here's one I posted on the blog earlier this week.

(file under Music)

Various - Funny Old Shit: A Trunk Records Sampler - vol. 1
(Trunk Records)
Trunk compilations are always a joyous experience. One that is to be greeted with a smile and an expectation of being taken on a trip like no other.  This first in a new series of budget compilations is no exception.   As you'd hope it's a glorious TARDIS of sound that travels through time, space and genre to bring us 16 examples of unusual, crackpot, wonderful and, yes, funny old shit. 
Where else in your collection will you find Brazilian movie soundtracks, French avant-garde (Pierre Henry & Pierre Schaeffer), the b-side of the first ever Radiophonic Workshop release (a pseudonymous George Martin as Ray Cathode),  Noel Coward reading Ogden Nash over Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns (a melody that the Harry Potter composers were most definitely aware of) and calypsos from both Robert Mitchum and the UK TV legend that is Bernard Cribbins; Mitchum's about a stolen watch and Cribbins' about gossip that references both an oxyacetylene welder and someone having their kneecaps scraped - which sounds exquisitely painful - all sharing the same space along with 10 other equally bonkers and marvellous excursions into the peculiar.
But, and I can't put this strongly enough, even if the catalogue of delights I've listed above don't inspire you to go out and grab this fantastic and cheap - did I mention the cheap?  it's only £2.99 on CD - compilation then you absolutely must, must, must, must, must go out and get it for the exquisite vocal take on Coltrane's 'Naima' by The Double Six of Paris which I've had on loop for days now.
It's always cause for smiles when a new Trunk release drops on the doormat but that's especially true when it turns out to be as good and as much fun as this one.


31st May 2014

(file under A right mix)

And so as another month comes to a close here is a new Wonderful Wooden Reasons mix to sink your ears into.  Included are a selection of some of those featured in these pages over the last month.
Hope you enjoy.

do the clicky thing HERE for the music.


27th May 2014

(file under This blog is Radiophonic)

If there's one particular reason I do the music I do and like the noises I like then that reason is the chaps and chapesses of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  During last years celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who there were a number of points where these fine people started to get some of the wider recognition they deserved.  One of the best of these was the album I talk about below. 
Accompanying it is a fabulous three disc set from someone who, I'm pretty sure, is amongst the legions of us who had our ears defined by the Workshop.

(file under Music)

BBC Radiophonic Workshop (and others) - Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Collection
(Silva Screen Records SILCD1450)
OK, an admittance right off the bat.  These folks are my musical heroes so I'm probably not going to be particularly critical here.  I think the people who made up the Workshop are amongst the most important figures in electronic and experimental music particularly in the UK if not worldwide and it must be said that a lot of that is down to the work they did on one particular TV show.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary Workshop archivist Mark Ayres has been sifting and cleaning two and three quarter discs full of Radiophonic Workshop Doctor Who cuts for each of the 7 Doctors that they were affiliated with.  There's special sounds and incidental music galore from each of the main Workshoppers associated with the show and it's absolutely glorious although during a concerted listen even I can find myself getting a little sick of the various versions of the theme.
the Last disc and a bit is taken up by six cuts from John Debney's orthodox but not wholly awful soundtrack to the 8th Doctor's movie and then an entire disc of Murray Gold's entirely not my cup of tea soundtracks for Doctors 9, 10 & 11.
It's the first lot that are of interest here though and they absolutely do not disappoint.  If the names Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson, Tristram Cary, Paddy Kingsland, Dick Mills, Roger Limb (and so many more) mean anything to you then you are going to have a blast with this album.  If they don't then perhaps you need to rectify that frankly shameful state of affairs and this'd be a hell of a good place to start.

Pye Corner Audio - Black Mill Tapes, Vols. 1-4
(Type Recordings TYPE118CD)
I'm pretty much a newcomer to the joys of PCA having first heard him via the live stream of his Boiler Room set that I was pointed towards by a friend; it is well worth your time.  Duly impressed I went forth and picked up the 'Sleep Games' album on Ghost Box and found myself a copy (cough) of the first 2 Black Mill Tapes (which make up the first CD in this here set).  'Sleep Games' is terrific and, at the risk of repeating myself terribly,  well worth your time but not really current enough to feature here and I try not to include things that I've acquired by slightly nefarious means so I've been waiting my chance to give a shout out for PCA.
The full set of Black Mill Tapes is a joy to behold.  As you should imagine from the Ghost Box link there's a definite nostalgic flavour to some of the music here; it is occasionally whimsical, sometimes solemn and often deeply unsettling.  Across the three discs there are a number of common touch points that give us an insight into where PCA are pulling inspiration from with suggestions of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack,  Boards of Canada(esque) twisted electronica, the kosmische musik of Klaus Schultze (and friends) and the abundant joys of the European library music vaults all mixed with an obviously abiding love for the deeper, slower, trancier ends of dance music. 
With a two and a half hour runtime over three discs covering 5 years worth of work this is a phenomenal set that shows a committed, organic and most of all an instinctual development to create a body of work that is quite simply utterly and completely well worth your time.


23rd May 2014

(file under Seven reviews in one update. Seven!?!)

Seven! It's like the old days.  In truth the book reviews were written in early April and I've ony just copied them out of my notebook and two of the music ones are 7" singles but still, seven.
Some really good music here and at least one sci-fi classic that I'm very late to the party on.
Hope you enjoy.

(file under Music)

The Avons - Hardscrabble
(no label)
I'm pretty sure that there was a letter that came with this 7" but it's got misplaced in the chaos that masquerades as my daily life.  I do remember though that it referenced the lovely folk at Intangible Cat so I'm pointing you in their direction.
According to the little info I can find The Avons hail from Marseilles, Illinois and they're quite contrary.  The music - at least to a point - reflects that; the contrary that is not the Illinois bit.  2 tracks - it is only a single remember - of oddly mellow jazzy cuts.  Side A pairs up Angelo Badalamenti style Twin Peaks vibes with scat vocals to wonderfully sinister effect.  The reverse is a less quixotic and more melodic creature that retains the Lynchian aura of the imminent commencement of something fuck-awful but holds itself back from the full reveal - fortunately - and is all the better for it.
I'm sorry this sat in the review pile for so long - which pretty much goes for everything else in there too - because it's really bloody good and as my adoration of Mr. Badalamenti isn't something that gets fed anywhere near enough to hear music that is channelling the same spirits as him is a stone cold treat.

Xavier Dubois - Sunset Gluts
(Humpty Dumpty Records HMPTY024)
We've met Xavier before in these pages as part of a duo called Y.E.R.M.O along with Yannick Franck.  Here he is shorn of the others sonic manipulations and instead presents us with a rather fine set of stringed meditations.  Over the course of the 16 tracks he makes use of 4 string instruments - electric guitar, prepared guitar, acoustic baritone ukulele & a kamancheh (a Persian bowed instrument) - with the former being the most readily apparent.
There are elements of various folk musics here along with a very much appreciated desire to keep things a little off kilter and interesting.  The music is rarely overt except when it needs to be and for the most part Dubois keeps things moving with an agreeably fluid and luminous air. 
I'm generally not the biggest fan of solo instrumental records - I find they can be terribly self indulgent and rather samey affairs - so when one sneaks up on me and shows a commitment to be neither of those things it's a real joy.

Roj - The Amateur's Attic (early tape work)
(Peripheral Conserve pH-19)
Former Broadcast keyboard player Roj's album of the other year released via Ghost Box, 'The Transactional Dharma of Roj',  was a very fine set of atypical electronica that I've found myself returning to again and again each time finding something new and interesting.  So, I jumped at this 7" release (also digital - see link below) on Berberian Film Studio director Peter Strickland's Peripheral Converse label.
Two tracks - the first an unsettling crystalline, effect saturated tone piece that slowly fragments and dissolves into the ether,  the second a gentle, crackling, almost broken, rolling, melody - that sit together as a lovely little set filled with pensiveness and unease.

Darren Tate - Secret Mantra
(Fungal 050)
As we've done 5 albums together (they're here btw if you want them - ian-quietworld.bandcamp.com) it'll come to no surprise to anyone when I say I'm a real fan of Tate's music.  As Ora, Monos and as his own good self he has over the last 20 odd years produced some of the most individual, honest and immersive music to come out of the UK.
On this, the 50th release on his Fungal label he seems in a more spacey and playful mood than has been the case for many of his more recent releases where he's been more interested in plumbing the minutiae of his immediate soundworld.  Here he has brought his toys out to play and the album is dominated by synth explorations, guitar noodles and bells.  This is absolutely my favourite side of Darren's music.  I love it when he goes cosmic on us as he has a way of conjuring tones and atmospheres that have an almost palpable presence within a room yet retain their unearthly qualities. 
I love this album.  I think it's one of best releases he has made and a real testament to the continuing quality of Darren's work.  Happy 50th Fungal. Here's to 50 more.

(file under Books)

Thomas M. Disch - The Prisoner
(Penguin Books)
This is a sort of sequel to the original series which sees the title character returned to the village.  At least that's what I gathered from the Wiki page write-up of the books.  When you read though it features many instances of repeated storylines from the TV show; indeed there is a section where #6 finds film of his previous time there.
Truthfully, even though it started off well enough it soon degenerated into a bit of a mess and ended as a real disappointment.

Walter M. Miller jr - A Canticle for Leibowitz
(Orbit Books)
This classic three act post apocalypse novel has been sat on my bookshelf waiting it's turn for a good while now.  I was pleased to finally have both the time and the inclination to get around to it as it turned out to be a fantastic read.
It tells the story of the monks of Saint Leibowitz, a pre-war technician who had hid various scientific books, charts and scraps from the vengeful mobs that rose up after the war.
The three sections depict a 'mediaeval' setting where Leibowitz is a candidate for sainthood, an 'enlightenment' era where science is once more being re-invented and a final supra-modern era of spaceflight and nuclear weaponry.  Each of these sections centre around the actions of the monks of the abbey of Saint Leibowitz and their quest to keep the knowledge safe and alive.  In addition there is the knowledgeable and very long lived hermit who in many ways is responsible for much that happens.
It was a beautiful and poetic piece of work that held me absolutely rapt throughout.  The use of the Catholic church and it's rather depressing allusion to cyclic history was a simply amazing trip throughout.

Various Authors - Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collection
(Puffin Books)
This is a walloping great tome of a book featuring 11 stories covering 11 Doctors from a gaggle (11 funnily enough) of name writers for teens and adults.  It's a pretty solid experience all told with each author putting in a pretty robust performance.
Opening the proceedings is Eoin Colfer with a nippy little rooftop romp over Victorian London against kiddie stealing space pirates.  Blatant Peter Pan-isms abound made concrete by a proper cheesy ending.
Michael Scott's 'The Nameless City' is a fun Lovecraftish old ones tale that sticks the second Doctor and Jamie against some very old Time Lord enemies  whilst Marcus Sedgwick sends #3 and Jo to ancient Norway to swap a spear before finding themselves amongst nascent gods and a carefully laid trap.
Philip Reeve sticks 4 and Leela up a very large tree that wants revenge for something he's not going to do for quite some time and 5 with Nyssa in tow heads to wartime US and removes two alien species - one happily, the other not so - from a small town.  6 and Peri come face to face with the Rani at an Elvis wedding and 7 manages to rewrite the universe and make the Daleks benign.  8 on the other hand goes up against a sentientish alien spore that's turning all organic matter into itself.
There's a lovely idea at the heart of Charlie Higson's quite bloodthirsty ninth Doctor story set between the two times he asks Rose to travel with him.  Derek Landy on the other hand goes all out with the silly as 10 and Martha are stuck inside an awful sub Enid Blyton novel that, much to the Doctor's disgust, Martha had read as a kid.  Then, finishing the lot, Neil Gaiman sends the Doctor and Amy up against another bunch of ancient enemies who have evicted the people of Earth.
In all a light and fast read aimed firmly at the YA market (and sad old DW geeks like me) but also an entirely enjoyable one.


20th May 2014

(file under day glo plastic seats and silver suits)

I have a real love for the Ghost Box label.  It's mix of radiophonics, electronica, library music and pop makes me, frankly, embarassingly happy and in the past they've shown they're not averse to exploring the dark and droney also (on releases by Mount Vernon Arts Lab & Eric Zann) which means every possible musical box is ticked for me.  Which brings us to their newest release which is very much in the former camp.

(file under Music)

The Soundcarriers - Entropicalia
(Ghost Box GBX020)
With the possible exception of the Study Series collection of 7" singles the Ghost Box label has for the most part based itself around the work of 3 artists - Jim Jupp's Belbury Poly, Julian House's The Focus Group, Jon Brooks' Advisory Circle interspersed around these four have been oocasional releases from Pye Corner Audio,  Mount Vernon Arts Lab and former Broadcast keyboardist Roj (Stevens) and it is to his old band (amongst others) to which thoughts are immediately turned once play is pressed.
A quick search tells me that this is The Soundcarriers fourth album which means I now have 3 more albums I need to track down and inflict upon my long suffering bank account; particularly while the sun is shining.  'Entropicalia' is a joyous and groovy mash of motorik rhythms, sunshine pop, space age psychedelia and Gallic charm.  I mean no slight when I say the The Soundcarriers - really as their name implies - hold their musical pedigree in full view; bands such as The Free Design, Stereolab, Can, Sallyangie, and more make for interesting reference points but truthfully only that as what we get is an amalgam that easily holds it's own.
There are some moments of sublime pop on here but for me it's when the band loosen their grip a little and start to open up during the album's latter half that it all truly comes together for me as the instruments start to soar finding endless clear blue skies on 'This is Normal'.
It is a little step outside the proverbial box for the label but one that has paid off in spades by finding a band that wholly complements the Ghost Box roster without holding themselves up in comparison.  It's a playful nostalgia for the sci-fi pop of a promised future that never arrived and it's a hell of a lot of fun.


16th May 2014

(file under home made instruments and a home made into an instrument)

I've had a ridiculously busy week topped off with a fatigue triggered chronic headache that lasted for around 24 hours and resisted all efforts to shift it.  In between all the other stuff though I managed to get in a couple of dedicated listening sessions.  Randomly plucked from the - happily depleting - box of unheard CDs next to my desk were two albums I had been vwery much looking forward to checking out. Turns out they were well worth the wait.
Hope you enjoy

(File under Music)

Clocks and Clouds - In A Pentagonal Room
(Archive of Anaphoria AOA3)
A welcome return to the pages of Wonderful Wooden Reasons for Kraig Grady.  Here, the chief ambassador for the great island nation of Anaphoria ably assisted by Terumi Narushima mesmerise with a stunning set of delicate and spacious microtonal works recorded in the titular pentagonal room and presented bereft of any subsequent studio tweakery.
For this recording Kraig and Terumi made use of instruments (vibraphone and harmonium respectively) tuned to the 'meta-slendro' scale designed by Erv Wilson.  Now, I tried to read up on it in order to try and cue you folks in on it but truthfully it just gave me a headache so I stopped but if music theory is your bag then you should check this out - anaphoria.com/wilsonintroMERU.html.
For me, as ever, it's the noises that count and this is delightful.  It floats and twists and trips over itself in the most sublime ways.  Sounds gently push at each other, playfully wrestling and merging in ways that sound like they shouldn't work but absolutely do.

Spectral - ... 0r A Blind Man's Carven Star
Spectral is the musical nom de plume of Gavin Semple who I'm sure some of you will know from his writings on Austin Osman Spare - which a quick gander on Amazon tells me are currently selling for some quite eye wateringly large sums of money.  I must admit to ignorance to his words but I'm very glad to have been exposed to his music.
What we have here is an upcoming release of two discs worth of recordings documenting the last decade of Gavin's musical musings.  Produced entirely from non-ordinary sound sources what we are presented with is a set of deep, dark drone pieces with a definite post-industrial ambience to them.  Texturally they have a coarse grained granite like quality along with a definite sense of weight that gives it real presence in the room. It is anything but intrusive though; the still, calm evolution of each piece and the easy progression between them makes it a most welcome accompaniment to other activities as it colours and enhances the environment whilst also rewarding close and attentive listening.


9th May 2014

(file under the weekend cometh)

As the weekend arrives I'm doing another of these quick updates for you of two albums that I've been enjoying this week, one each from the two labels that have featured most strongly in these pages over the last few years, Belgium's Mystery Sea & Germany's Gruenrekorder.  Both labels are hotbeds of recorder on field action and have produced over the years an ambundance of fantastic music.  A noble tradition that is continued with these two releases.
Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend.

(file under Music)

Philippe Lamy - Drop Diary
(Mystery Sea MS72)
Mystery Sea is the elder of the two labels curated by Daniel Crokaert - the other being Unfathomless - and where it's younger sibling concerns itself with concepts and reflections on location this takes water as it's core concept.
I've no idea who Philippe Lamy is and as I'm writing this in a notebook (of the dead tree variety) whilst sat in a coffee shop with no wifi access that isn't going to change anytime soon.  So, entirely focused on the music with no preconceptions except the knowledge that water is going to feature in there somewhere, what do we have.  We have water.  Well, a little.  The drops implied in the title are very much present throughout in various forms and create some lovely pittering, pattering, blooping and tonking tonalities onto which Lamy has poured a variety of subtle soundscapes - some soft, some harsh, some sparse, some dense but rarely overt as on the whole this is a restrained and purposeful set that exudes a distinctly amorphous quality that made for  an enjoyable experience.  

Lasse-Marc Riek - Helgoland
(Gruenrekorder Gruen 109)
Helgoland is Germany's only offshore island and home to (according to Wikipedia) around 1000 people and, if this collection of recordings is to be believed, a hell of a lot of birds and a colony of grey seals.
These recordings form part (all?) of Gruenrekorder's head honcho Lasse-Marc Riek's phonography of the island's wildlife and it is a truly fascinating collection of sounds.  I'm no bird spotter, I have a garden full of sparrows, jackdaws and magpies along with an occasional great spotted woodpecker (he's awesome), but for the most part I'm happy to put out some feeders to help them along and then go back to my book and leave them be.  I suspect Mr. Riek doesn't share my benign ambivalence as the selection of recordings he's produced here are meticulous, detailed and intimate as they document the various conversations and catcalls of the assorted critters with crystal clarity
and a curious ear.
Regular readers will know that I'm not the world's biggest field recordings fan.  I like them yes but I certainly don't go out of my way to search them out.  With that in mind please understand that it takes a lot for an album of solely field recordings to make me really sit up and notice and not to simply turn it down to ambient level and treat it as wallpaper.  This album has never been treated in such a way; it's too full of life and to insistent to ever sit at the back of your attention.  It's interesting and vibrant and compulsive listening and is amongst the best examples of the craft that it's been my pleasure to hear.


7th May 2014

(file under it's good to be back)

I can't even really begin to tell you how much I'm enjoying music again.  The joy had mostly gone away for quite a while.  I was so busy and feeling so rough that I was simply taking comfort in old favourites and eccentricities.  I've now spent the last 3 weeks getting back into the swing of things with Wonderful Wooden Reasons (and also with Quiet World - more on that another time) and am thoroughly enjoying myself.  It has helped that the music I've been randomly pulling out of the box next to my desk has all been pretty much fabulous.
So, two more today.  From Israel, Farthest South and from Southend-on-Sea Lost Harbours.  Two different approaches creating two equally beautiful albums.
hope you enjoy.

PS - don't forget about the Blog over on the left there.  You can subscribe and the reviews often go up there a day or two earlier until I have time to update this site.

(file under Music)

Farthest South - Spheres & Constellations
(Farsouthwest Records FSW002)
Space is most definitely the place for the 3 folks (Barry Berko - keys / guitar, Yair Yona- bass / effects / iPhone, Yair Etziony - analog synths) who make up Israel's finest free expression, psychedelic explorers, Farthest South. 
On this, their second album, they have fully committed themselves to pointing themselves at the farthest point (presumably in a southerly direction) and then heading towards it in as stately a manner as possible; passing through the most grandiose of environments and boundless shimmering oceans before coming to a final rest.
I've been in contact with Yair (Yona) for a few years now and have featured the music of both he and his compatriots a few times and have always enjoyed but this new project, even after only two albums, are already one of my most anticipated of outfits and I urge you to track this down.

Lost Harbours - Into the Failing Light
(Liminal Noise Tapes LN009)
Lost Harbours first came to my attention a couple of years ago with their Hymns and Ghosts album.  It was a very nice slice of dronelicious dark-ambient folkery which the duo - Richard Thompson: guitar, vocals, bowed guitar, piano, samples and electronics & Emma Reed: flute, clarinet and violin - continue to develop on this new album. 
The dark, brooding, building intensity and power of the opening of 'Into the Failing Light' belies the fragile cracked beauty of the music that lies at it's heart.   It moves from what feels like a Coil-esque ritualistic gathering of energy, a summoning into an achingly poignant and  beautiful lament for the lost day that equally takes comfort in the  coming embrace of the dark.  It's does all this in ways that are never twee, never expected and always delightful.  It is, quite simply, a beautiful piece of work.


3rd May 2014

(file under saturday psychedelia)

Two new music reviews today. Something big and bold and something utterly silent.
If you want to know what the hell is going on in the first review clicking the link will take you straight to the relevant release page on the Gruenrekorder site (I particularly recommend reading Frans de Waard's review at the bottom of the page.
Have a good weekend.

(file under Music)

Christoph Korn & Lasse-Marc Riek - series invisible, Collection, II
(Gruenrekorder Gruen 099)
Location: Swansea (UK). Typed on an out of date PC on a sideboard masquerading as a desk. Written 02.05.14, 1.23 PM  Deleted 02.05.14 6.10 PM Duration 193 words

Raagnagrok - Man Woman Birth Death Infinity
(Lotushouse Records LHRCD19)
The first time I played this CD I fell asleep.  Not, you may think, the most auspicious first impression but it was a very nice sleep indeed - what wasn't so good was the bit where I woke up with my head slumped sideways over the arm of the chair with the worst pain in my neck.  The sleep though, was deep and dark and profound.  I'd got to about halfway through the album's 14 minute epic journey towards 'Infinity' and then I was gone.  They'd taken me with them, entirely.
What we have here is a UK duo of Mark Pilkington on modular synth & electronics and Zali Krishna on electric sitar & guitar  who have produced a set of intensely celestial kosmische jams; some live, some studio.  The occasional presence of the sitar means that a vaguely Indian aspect is often shown (as is also implied by the bands name) but it is Germany in the very early 1970s that is most apparent.
With a running time of an hour and with a concise palate, many of the tracks, once the music starts to permeate the room, do run into each other and the whole becomes more important than it's parts as they paint a really rather glorious psychotropic colourfield.  There are moments I'm not hugely enamoured with but even these parts often swirl by once it's achieved consonance with the room (and my head) and they are few and far between. 
I've had this album here for just under a week now and it has pretty much dominated my ears since it arrived with the discs being carried from house to car and a rip sitting front and centre on my MP3 player.  If big, bold Krautrock inspired kosmische excursions are your bag then really do hunt this down cause you'll love it. If they're not, hunt this down anyway because it's great and it may change your mind.


27th April 2014

(file under something to listen to at last)

During our downtime I've been occasionally entertaining myself by putting together mixes of some of the odder and groovier sounds within my collection - here - but I've not been able to do a WWR one simply because I've not been listening to new music.  Well after spending the last fortnight finally getting some things up on here (and on the Blog also for those of you who like that sort of thing) i got to make a mix.
You can find it here - http://www.mixcloud.com/quietworld/wonderful-wooden-reasons-april-2014/ - and it features those folks who i've written about during April.
I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to share it around (I could do with the hits)


26th April 2014

(file under Quiet World alumni)

After the reappearence of Mike Fazio in these pages a couple of days ago we have reviews of two new albums by folks who have released on Quiet World and one who has previously featured in these here pages. 
Also, I'm going to try and get a mix online tomorrow featuring the folks I've featured over the last couple of weeks.

(file under Music)

Heart of Palm - Mayonnaise
(self released)
A very welcome return to Wonderful Wooden Reasons for our favourite Ohioan experimentalists HoP as they debut their new 5 piece lineup with the addition of a drummer and a keyboard player / circuit bender.  Musically, Faust -particularly the Irmler version - is always going to be your reference point for where HoP are coming from as they produce eclectic, improvised, psychoactive tangles filled with sudden shifts and churning ambiences.  The improvisations here are muscular, bordering on violent, punching their way off the CD and treating your woofers likes the dogs they are.  What makes HoP so enjoyable for me is that they almost entirely avoid the showboating that can sometimes spoil improvised (and indeed all) music as they always feel as though they are listening and responding  to each other and not just flailing. 
This sort of thing is never going to be to everyones taste but personally I love it and it is another fascinating step in the development of one of my favourite bands.

Keith Seatman - Around the Folly and Down Hill
(K.S. Audio ksa003)
It's been about a year since Wonderful Wooden Reasons was last visited by Mr Seatman and it's fun to see where his muse has taken him in that time.  The playful psychedelia is still very much to the fore as is a sense of treditdation and disquiet here bolstered by some definite hauntological touches both musically and via the albums source of inspiration - games played near a folly on Pepperbox Hill in Wiltshire.
The album's blithe, impish nature is utterly infectious and it's nicely sequenced to provide a definite sense of narrative to run throughout leading us to the albums deliciously creepy denouement on 'A Gathering of the Odd'. 
Keith has produced an album filled with life and joy, and a little trepidation just to keep things interesting, and it is heartily recommended.

Adrian Shenton - Electric Breath
(Phonospheric six)
New four track album from Cardiff's Adrian Shenton recorded and improvised in January 2014.  Using a battery of both the conventional (Kaoss Pad, effect pedals, contact mic) and the un (squeaky toy, tray, spring) he has produced a slow burning set of darkly ambient post-industrial drone pieces. 
Never in a rush Adrian allows each piece plenty of breathing space whilst he gradually adds textures and colours.  The album moves through a variety of states as it opens in a relative optimistic state filled with the light of a new day before becoming increasingly, but gently, more convoluted and disquieting as it proceeds along.
I've been enamoured of Adrian's sounds for a few years now and believe he's getting better and better with every release.  This is a fine example of what he does and I heartily recommend you giving it a listen especially as it's available as a name your price digital release.


23rd April 2014

(file under Music)

A Guide to Reason - Iconography
(Faith Strange FS16)
Those of you who keep a regular eye on my witterings  here at Wonderful Wooden Reasons will possibly have noticed that I am a bit of a fan of the work of New York's very own Mike Fazio who is the ever so lovely chap behind this here project (and also Orchestramaxfieldparrish).  Under that other guise his music is a big and bold monolith of sound that towers over you  here he's gone for a very different approach  and incorporated delicate ambience, ticking rhythms, electronic flutters and flurries and occasional oneiric melodies.
It's by far the most melodic, immediate and warmly beautiful set of music I've heard Mike produce and without meaning even the tiniest of slights against any of his previous work I think it is by far the best thing I've heard him do.  It's so easy to get lost within these twisting, flickering warping sounds as they weave through the air and so difficult to leave them behind at the albums close.
Beautifully strange and strangely beautiful.

Linda O'Keefe & Slavek Kwi - Collaboration 2009-2012
(Tentacles of Perception Recordings 2012)
It's taken me quite a few plays to get my head into this little 2 track EP type thingy but in the end I think it was worth the effort. 
These two tracks are the results of  a long term (and possibly overly complicated) collaboration from these two Ireland based sound artists.  What we have is an aural collage that layers ephemeral sounds of everyday life (children's voices, a ping pong ball, background chatter) with sounds both amorphous and (if you'll excuse a crass term) deliberately musical.  It does, for the most part, work similar territory to Steven Stapleton but without the sense of fun and nonconformity that characterises his work they have produced a pretty cold and dispassionate pair of compositions that make for interesting  if not particularly engaging listening. 


16th April 2014

(file under why so many books all of a sudden?)

Second upload of book reviews in two days, why?  I've pretty much always got a book with me and for the last few years whenever I've finished reading one i scribble some notes about it in one of a series of black notebooks (I'm currently on my seventh).  As such I have a load of them pretty much already written and I've been typing up the more complementary ones.  More music coming soon.
In the mean time though...

(file under Books)

Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips - Criminal vol.5: The Sinners
This has been a very fine series indeed and this episode doesn't change that fact.
This volume is a return to the story of Tracy Lawless the AWOL soldier from the second volume. Here he is working for mob boss Sebastian Hyde as an increasingly unreliable hitman until he finds himself tasked with looking into who is knocking off bad guys all around town. This, and other certain entanglements, along with an agent from the military bent on taking him back means that he finds himself in all manner of hot water.
There was a little logic leap towards the end that raised an eyebrow but on the whole this was a fun little jaunt into noirland. 10 years ago when I was reading lots of Raymond Chandler and Charles Willeford this would have been my absolute favourite comic book. As it is it's simply one I like a lot.

Mark Chadbourn - Wonderland
I've been saving this one for a time when I had a Who craving but not much time to spare. This is the last of the Telos Doctor Who novellas that I have here. They were, on the whole, a pretty enjoyable set of romps being a different, more adult, odd and creepy set of tales than is usually the case.
Wonderland is a second Doctor story that fins him, along with Been & Polly wandering around San Francisco's Haight Ashbury at the height of its hippy fame. Two different things - which inevitably prove to be the same thing - are happening here. The Doctor is receiving strange visitations that detail former foes whilst a young hippy girl - our narrator - is searching, often with Ben & Polly's help, for her missing boyfriend.
It's a little unfocused and the ending was both a bit sleazy and unsatisfying but Chadbourn has constructed a fairly interesting take that probably needed a lot more room and a little more development to tell properly.

Peter Dickinson - The Weathermonger
This is the first of the trilogy that formed the basis for the 1970s TV series 'The Changes' although this one barely featured in the TV show at all except for a vague similarity in terms of the ending.
It's the sorry of two kids - Geoffrey and his little sister Sally who are travelling through a a and is ng regressed back to the middle ages in order to find the source of the problem. With the assistance of an ancient Rolls Royce and Geoff's (titular) weather magic the two plough their way across the country being attacked by wild boars, angry superstitious peasants and lightning whilst being pursued by a feudal lord and his pack of dogs.
It's a little romp of a book and I'm really surprised it isn't better remembered although I wonder if the drugs at the end had a part in that. Personally though I thoroughly enjoyed and I am very pleased to have the other two installments here ready for reading

Terrance Dicks - Doctor Who & the Day of the Daleks
A reprinted adaption of a Target novelisation of the third Doctors first encounter with the pepper pots.
It's a cool little read that romped along at a frantic pace which is pretty much the exact opposite of how these old Pertwee episodes actually were with the story dragged out over 6 or so episodes.
Here the Doctor and Jo are brought in to investigate mysterious attacks on a peace envoy which turns out to be a guerrilla fighter from a Dalek controlled future attempting to change the past. The Doctor is surprisingly passive throughout south only occasional burst of martial arts.
I liked this. It took about an hour to read and was monumentally daft but it was a lot of fun.

Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows - Neonomicon
I read the first little book here, The Courtyard, a little while ago. It was an OK little Lovecraftian spin that really didn't go anywhere. Well now it's the prequel to a much longer piece wherein the FBI take notice of the devotees of old Howard's ideas and subsequently participate in the end of the world.
It's not Moore at his most deep and devious; it's more than a little pulp and the story is both salacious and unpleasant. I'm not a Lovecraftian - I will give him a go one day - and so bits of this were lost on me but it wasn't a bad read.

Andy Roberts - Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain
The Jay Stevens book, Storming Heaven, is one of my favourite reads but it is very US centric so when I spotted a copy of this in the window of a Glastonbury bookshop I felt an immediate need to read.
It was a little disappointing. The writing is OK and the information interesting but there are blatant gaps in the narrative - not his fault as the records are blocked - which are frustrating and jarring and drag things down somewhat and after a while you start to wonder (possibly unfairly) if maybe he could have been a bit more rigorous in his research. More frustratingly though is that Roberts is blatantly evangelical regarding LSD. I prefer my authors to maintain a short of scholarly distance and simply relate the facts. I can make up my own mind and don't particularly enjoy being preached at.
That said though I still found much of interest here and it's definitely worth a read if it's your sort of subject matter.

John Wagner, Alan Grant & others - The Taxidermist
This is a collection of stories featuring one particular character from Dredd history; Jake Sardinia, Olympic taxidermist. It's a series of tales spanning many years of stories that sees Jake go from a very lucky stooge in a gangster story, through Olympic glory and finally to death and, kinda, beyond.
It's fairly typical Dredd / 2000ad backup story fare. It's a fun bit of stupidity that was more than an entertaining way to pass some time but in truth nothing particularly essential for spectacular.


15th April 2014

(file under tipsy typing)

To celebrate my having successfully reached my fortnight long Easter holiday without (serious) incident after this long hard term I treated myself to a little bottle of 12 year old single malt which I've just finished as I typed up the last of these book reviews (the Machen one).  I'm a little blurry and a little fuzzy but it was very tasty and I apologise for any blatant typos that have slipped past me.
Three book reviews for you today; a blast from the past and two excellent pieces of vintage horror / weird fiction.
Hope you enjoy.

(file under Books)

Gerry Davis - Doctor Who & the Tenth Planet
The BBC have started reissuing the old Target novelisations of the old Doctor shows.  This is the first of a few I picked up cheaply recently.
As is always the case with these Target books the writing is pretty poor and they are a very simplistic sort of beast due to their target (sorry) audience.  They are a bit of nostalgic fun though.
This one is the last of the first Doctor stories and he was ailing throughout so he's barely in it.  The story is fairly simplistic due to the shows limitations and also pretty daft.  The Cybermen are a great idea though but you can see why they were reworked over the years.  They were always my favourite Who villains though

Arthur Machen - The White People and Other Weird Stories
Machen has been hovering around my attention for a long time now but as I've been so busy I didn't think I had the head space for him.  Recently a gap in my schedule decided for me though that the time was right and what a treat it turned out to be.
Now, I realised long ago that my heart was in the pulps but I do like to occasionally stray into other waters as the tides takes me and of late I've been thoroughly enjoying some older work whist taking the opportunities afforded me by both free time and good weather for some outdoor reading.
There are moments of sublime beauty here, particularly the little title piece which is a perfect realisation of , entirely fictitious, Welsh folktales as filtered through the diary of a young girl who may or may not be experiencing the world they report first hand.
Alongside this are several stories relating similar sorts of Welsh related folkloric horror and some, for me less successful, World War One inspired tales.
Machen was obviously a devotee of the stories of his childhood but he was obviously not afraid of bringing these tales up to date as he does on The Terror.  Truthfully though, this was the story I found least satisfying.
What let things down though (particularly on The Terror) were the notes by S.T. Joshi.  Machen uses Welsh place names throughout which Joshi seems committed to attributing to actual places.  Now, I grew up near (and still live close to) many of the places he claims are the ones mentioned and they just do not fit the descriptions given in the stories.  For instance, Llantrisant which, in 'The Great Return' Machen describes as 'the little town by the sea [...]' is certainly not the one Joshi claims it to be due to the simple fact that it is nowhere near the sea.  Indeed the nearest sea to the town is on the other side of Cardiff (the capital city).  This was only one of several claims that drove me to distraction but equally it must be said that there were many notes that I found both interesting and essential.
The notes aside though this was a wonderful and resonant read for me as a Welsh man reading these tales sat under a tree on the Welsh coast.
Beautiful, lyrical and inspirational.

Mark Valentine (ed) - The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths
This is a pretty sweet little compilation of stories featuring  detectives of the paranormal and the occult such as Thomas Carnacki and Valentine's own Connoisseur.  The selection has been put together by the very lovely Mark Valentine of Tartarus Press and features some really wonderful tales alongside a couple of duffers.
There are moments here that had me rapt; the aforementioned Carnacki, Ray Russell's tale of Clockwork revenge gone wrong, Rosalie Parkers gorgeously frustrating haunted house tale, Mark's own Machen-esque tale of folklore and obligation and Vernon Knowles' beautifully sad and odd tale of Basil Thorpenden.
Other tales moved me not at all - Donald Campbell's tale 'The Necromancer' was particularly woeful - but on the whole this was an eminently readable selection that provides a deliciously enticing intro to this most interesting niche genre.


13th April 2014

(file under promises kept)

Well, as promised, here are, after a very long absence (explained below on the 11th), a couple of new reviews.  I can only apologise to those of you who have been waiting for me to witter on about your releases but life and its associated travails got well and truly in the way.
More soon.

(file under Music)

Daniel Blinkhorn - Terra Subfonica
(Gruenrekorder Gruen117)
A new entry into the Gruenrekorder Soundspace series and another very interesting and evocative experience of re-contextualised sounds.
I am glad that I listened to this a few times before I opened the booklet.  I'm a fairly simple soul at heart and I'm not a huge fan of over-intellectualising music or of tagging cumbersome philosophies or explanations onto things.  I just like the sounds.  I'm not saying that any of those things are in any bad or wrong, I'm just saying I dislike them.  Having now read the booklet that accompanies this album I suspect the composer would disagree with me as each track has been explained and analysed to within an inch of their lives with some quite cringeworthy text  which to my mind destroys any mystique or even the art within the composition  reducing it to a chemistry experiment or a cooking recipe.
If you'll forgive me the conceit of continuing with that latter analogy though, musically, this is a very fine dish filled with varied flavours and textures that are revealed with each bite.  Prepared with  ingredients that for the most part feel fresh and  well sourced and the overall feeling of satisfaction upon completion is delightful.  Just, whatever you do, don't ask the chef for the recipe.

Gushing Cloud - Beat Wings in Vain
(Intangible Cat CAT018)
The folks at Intangible Cat have been sending some interesting music my way for a little while now and this one is no exception although it is a little different to those others.  What we have here is an altogether more melodic and decidedly psychedelic beast that the previous experimentalisms.  With hints of krautrock, San Franciscan psyche and the crusty space dub excursions of folks such as Ozric Tentacles it makes for a fascinating listen as it wanders along its merry way .  It's been a while since I've really delved into this type of thing  although back in the early nineties when I was considerably more chemically assisted than I am now I loved me some trippy, bouncy music and this is bringing back some nice memories.  It's really well done, has just the right balance of restless energy and swirly mesmerics and is filled with colour and wonder. 

The Infant Cycle - Posthumousness Now
(The Ceiling CEIL036)
I've had a real soft spot for the music of Jim DeJong and his restless and jittery approach to composition.  His music is filled with a constant sense of propulsion as he uses rhythms in ways which others have seemingly not yet noticed.  Married to this is his grasp of the fundamentals of a damn fine drone that can both hover and also insinuate itself into the cracks in your attention span until it establishes itself at the absolute epicentre of your awareness.  But at the core of his music is a powerfully industrialised ambience that permeates through and gives the whole an addictively gritty quality.
This tiny little EP is, it seems, Jim's final word and he has chosen this opportunity to ride off into the sunset.  I wish you well Jim and hope that whatever project you point yourself at next brings you joy.

Kaze - Tornado
(Circum-Libra Records 202)
Kaze make the direction of this their second release amply clear within a couple of seconds as the lazy opening is rent by a piercing  and unexpected scream.  The flurry of sound and energy that follows however is not entirely symptomatic of the rest of the album - although it does reappear - as they seem very open to new textures and directions.
This quartet of  pianist Satoko Fujii, trumpeters Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins wander through some very interesting vistas over the five tracks.  From cascading caterwauls to trepiditious noir via delicate soundscaping to musical torrents again.
It's both exhausting and exhilarating and as such it's immense fun to grab onto the side and go along for the ride.


11th April 2014

(file under reasons and excuses)

Hello. It's the beginning of April and I've finally got enough of a gap in my busy to stop for two minutes and say hi and explain what's going on with Quiet World and Wonderful Wooden Reasons. Since Xmas I've been frankly absurdly busy chasing my tail around the seemingly never ending piles of grading and admin work thrown up by my day job (college lecturer) whilst also suffering a bit of a relapse of some health issues I had a few years back.
As I'm sure is the case with many of you being able to pay the bills takes precedence over everything else and so, with the exception of a couple of weeks where it was just to difficult to get out of bed I stuck my head into my workload and kept it there. This meant of course that other things had to, temporarily, fall by the way side. Namely QW & WWR. Neither of them are gone though, far from it in fact. In a couple of weeks time there will be a new release on QW from Scottish musician Andrew Paine.
Whenever possible I have been scribbling done some notes for what I've been listening to and there are a few half written reviews sitting in my notebook that I will try and kick into shape over the next few days and get them online.
My apologies to you all for the lack of updates and info but I haven't had much opportunity to stop by and post and on the rare occasion when I had time I didn't have the inclination and usually opted for either eating or sleeping. I'm odd like that.
Anyway, the workload has lightened a little for the next couple of weeks at least and whilst I'm not feeling 100% I am certainly feeling better so I'm hoping to take the opportunity to get some stuff done.
Peace and love to you all and I'll be back in a day or two with some postings.
Ian H