MIND DE-CODER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2016
“Quick, Jimmy, put down your sandwich – something is amiss!”
VINCENT PRICE PROLOGUE (excerpt)
What better way to begin than the show than with the florid tones of Vincent Price who, on this 1969 release, WITCHCRAFT-MAGIC: AN ADVENTURE IN DEMONOLOGY, a double-album no less, gives a 105-minute crash-course in the occult taking in the history of witchcraft through the bible, the middle-ages, the Spanish Inquisition and through to Nazi Germany before turning to practical instruction in ye dark arts with handy hints on how ‘How to invoke spirits, demons, unseen forces’, ‘how to make a pact with the Devil’ and ‘Curses, Spells, Charms’. Not for the faint of heart.
BAUHAUS BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD
Probably the band that invented Goth, but you shouldn’t hold that against them. I was quite the fan in the day. Think of it more as Gothick-Romantick pseudo-decadence if it makes you feel better. Bela Lugosi’s Dead, all 9 minutes of it, was released in 1979 as the group’s debut single and managed to sound like nothing I’d ever heard before, and this was at a time when Public Image, Gang of Four and Joy Division were pushing the post-punk landscape into ever more expansive directions. In fact, you might argue that it was so astonishingly original, what with its dubbed up, tripped out soundscape that a scene had to build up around it just to make sense of it, which is not say that Bauhaus were in any way responsible for the likes of Alien Sex Fiend.
C.A. QUINTET A TRIP THRU HELL (PART 1)
The C.A. Quintet, from Minnesota, USA, were a psychedelic rock band active in the late 196os who failed to gain national interest during their heyday on account of their records being locally produced in Minneapolis and having no national distribution at all. Their only LP, TRIP THRU HELL, released in 1969, sold fewer than 500 copies and was virtually unheard of outside of their home town but, as is often the way of things, the record slowly gained popularity over the next twenty years among collectors and musicians. These days it’s considered something of a psych-garage-punk classic, rising above its humble roots into something truly monolithic.
ARROWWOOD GOBLIN MARKET (reversed)
Now here’s a thing – I’ve played this track on the show before, but sticking to my overall conceptual desire of never repeating the same track twice (but also, nevertheless, really wanting to play this track in this particular show) I thought I’d play it backwards, and what do I get but a proper song about cherry trees or something! It seems that Arrowwood singer Chelsea Robb had the same idea in reverse and what was once a spooky foray into woodland goings has transformed itself into acid folk loveliness. The album from which it is taken, 2013’s BEAUTIFUL GRAVE, is a call to aesthetic paganism; a tranquil, ethereal recording shrouded in atmospheric grace.
A short piece read by writer and poet Chris lambert, one part of multi-media folk horror project The Soulless Party, an ever changing collective of collaborations and ideas led by musician K.Oyston, reading from “Tales From The Black Meadow” (published 2013).
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS THE CREEPS
The Creeps skirts the boundaries of folk horror with a song about dread, premonitions, armchair time travelling and "Cretaceous childhood memories", inspired by the realisation that as soon as a day is finished it is as over as the Roman Empire, or the dinosaurs that used to roam around Bethnal Green. It has a touch of MOON SAFARI-era Air about it, with added Greek chorus choir, and BBC Radiophonic workshop sound effects and is taken from their most recent release GOLDEN OMENS, a glorious mix of psychedelia, haunted midnight ghost folk, baroque pop, gallows humour and wonky show tunes.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND THE GIFT
The Gift is a lurid little tale written by Lou Reed and intoned by John Cale, in his best BBC English, in which we hear the story of Waldo Jeffers, who posts himself to his girlfriend with darkly comic results. It is, in effect, two things going on at once: you can listen to Cale in one stereo channel and the band’s funky instrumental in the other. You can find this track on the Velvet Underground’s second album, WHITE LIGHT, WHITE HEAT, released in 1968 to an unreceptive world who wouldn’t have been ready for it had they managed to hear it, which sadly they mostly didn’t, but this remains my favourite Velvet’s album. Possible well known fact: Cale’s reading was a first take.
DEAD VOICES ON AIR SOUL CATCHER
Dead Voices On Air are an experimental/industrial project who orchestrate hissing sheets of electronics, awkward machine-generated non-techno beats, looped sounds, percussive hits, growls, grunts, and ambient, industrial noises repeated through a seemingly endless delay effects into music that sounds like lost radio transmissions finally arriving from another planet, disfigured and largely unrecognizable. Soul Catcher - long stretches of heavily echoed reverbed noise drawn into slow pulses, with ancient melodies and what definitely sounds like a song trapped just below the surface - is taken from their 1995 release NEW WORDS MACHINE, an album whose sound seems to provide the missing link between 1980s industrial and 1990s ambient. While that’s playing, I add a bit more Vincent price who includes a few tips on making your own magic wand and things of that nature.
MELMOTH THE WANDERER A TALE OF WITCHES, WOODLAND AND HALF-REMEMBERED MELODIES
This is, in fact, and entire 20 minute mix by the hugely talented Melmoth the Wanderer which I found on Mixcloud. It’s an spectral mix of hauntological wyrdness, taking in music by Broadcast, The Focus Group, The Hare and The Moon, Kemper Norton, Paper Dollhouse and Pye Audio Corner, very often mixing it up into new forms that invoke the ancient magic from the stories of Lord Dunsany and the sense of unease, dread and excitement of a moonlit walk through the woods that leaves the wanderer with a feeling of being watched. I urge you to check out his mixes, all of which are as good as this one.
JULIAN COPE JULIAN IN THE UNDERWORLD
A few years back in 2009, while researching his novel ONE THREE ONE, Cope overdosed salvia in an attempt to find the right psychedelic word-scape to correctly evoke the book’s transcendental narrative. For the next four months he was barely able to function. Of the experience he says: "This drug picked me up and threw me into the bushes. Really awful bramble bushes. I went in and disappeared from the world to such an extent that I just became salad with attitude.” The song Julian In The Underworld is his attempt to make sense of what happened. This version appears on the TRIP ADVIZER EP, a 14-minute download only affair which accompanied his last release, TRIP ADVIZER, in 2015. It’s spare and haunting mellotron ballad, with a plaintive, broken refrain ( "And I can't begin to know what's going on") that could easily have sat on FRIED, and which finds Julian once more lost and doubting in burnt-out psychic purgatory.
SCARFOLK COUNCIL DEMONS COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES
Have you visited Scarfolk yet? It’s a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. Demons Come In All Shapes And Sizes is the theme tune from ‘Clay Stool’, a popular 1970s children's daytime TV programme for 4 to 7 year olds, which was released as a single in 1973. ‘Clay Stool’ acquired its name from a form of medieval punishment for witchcraft. Originally, alleged witches were strapped to a wooden chair - a ducking stool - then plunged into a river. If they sank they were innocent, if they floated they were in league with the devil and summarily executed.
Samuel Revile, a local priest and freelance misogynist, wondered if ducking stools, which were traditionally festooned with dozens of inflated pigs' bladders, colourful helium balloons, and tethered albatrosses had something to do with the high numbers of people being found guilty. He set about inventing the heavier "clay stool". A year after its introduction 100% of accused witches, mostly women, had plummeted to the riverbed where they drowned, proving their innocence.
Revile's work also alerted communities to the dangers of balloons. It was they, he maintained, not the women, that floated and were therefore in league with Satan. To this day, people who make balloon animals are considered unholy and are barred from church jumble sales.
Though Revile revolutionalised the justice system by inventing compassionate torture, he inadvertently caused widespread redundancies in the execution sector.
THE MONOCHROME SET LOVE ZOMBIES
The Monochrome Set are one of the great un-sung bands – too clever by half and always out of step with their post-punk peers, they were an idiosyncratic blend of punk aggression and new wave suavity, a Dada string of surrealist imagery set to irregular bursts of surf -guitar jangle and wry lyrics. Love Zombies is the title track from their second album, released in 1980, an intoxicating combination of eloquence and arch humour, manicured and ironic, the house band for freaks too bizarre for punk, but also explosively chaotic.
H.P. LOVECRAFT AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS
At The Mountains Of Madness, is taken from H.P. Lovecraft’s second album, H.P. LOVECRAFT II, released in 1968, and based, of course, on the 1931 novella of the same name by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, after whom the band named themselves. It features some chaotically acrobatic vocal interplay and makes ample use of swirling, echoed reverse tape effects introduced by studio engineer Chris Huston, who allowed the band to further explore many of the kaleidoscopic influences touched upon on their first more folk driven album. It’s a genuinely disturbing sound and not one I play too often, just in case Cthulhu and the rest of the old gods use it as an opportunity to break through the membranes of reality, or something. It was also, legendarily, the first major label album to be recorded by a band on acid, a very admirable achievement given that I can barely boil a kettle in that state.
DELIA DERBYSHIRE AND BRIAN HODGSON A CHURCH IN HELL
This particular track, which may or may not be named A Church In Hell, is taken from the unreleased soundtrack to the 1973 British horror movie THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE .The only version of the soundtrack that actually exists was ripped from the video release of the film and released online a few years back for fans of Delia Derbyshire (of which there are many) and Brian Hodgson, her creative partner at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and later at their own Kaleidophon and Electrophon studios. Being a fan myself, I’ve read that this particular project was more Hodgson’s baby, with Delia only adding a few sound effects here and there, but that is to suggest that there is a meaningful distinction between music and sound effects in the film. The soundtrack pulses and throbs with menace, combining a haunting minimalistic ambient-like atmosphere, with minor amounts of stabbing organ chords with atonal electronic tones which conspire to create a rather unsettling effect. Good film, too.
THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN I PUT A SPELL ON YOU
This was the band’s fourth and final single release, the second after their major hit Fire, but the band were never to regain the giddy heights attained by that single. It’s taken from their eponymous 1968 album THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN and to be honest, I don’t think that this is best version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic that I’ve heard (in fact Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic isn’t the best version I’ve ever heard – that would be by The Druids of Stonehenge, and the only reason I’m not playing that version is because I’ve already played it in Mind De-Coder 13) because it never reaches the exhilaratingly recklessness of much the rest of the album. I believe it was added as a sup to manager Kit Lambert who wanted a much poppier affair, whereas the band were aiming at a rock opera from hell.
BROADCAST ANIMA DI CRISTO/OUR DARKEST MASS
To finish, two tracks from the soundtrack to BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO, the twisted horror film by British director Peter Strickland which is right up there with ‘A Field in England’, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, and the last album that Trish Keenan worked on before her untimely death in 2011. It’s an eerily beautiful piece that has an intense, creepy style that perfectly accompanies a film that examines the nature of fear and sound's part in it. Not enough Trish, of course, who died during the recording process but her presence is, fittingly, all over these tracks.