Archive | January, 2012

The Rot of the Stars

30 Jan

Questions are being asked in Bournemouth this week as to what exactly fell in Steve Hornsby’s garden last Thursday, 26 January. Here’s a BBC report and a photo (above) via Bournemouth University.

Mr Hornsby thinks they might be some kind of atmospheric pollution; a local scientist has proposed ‘marine invertebrate eggs‘, while the most the prosaic explanation is that they gel desiccants of the sort used by local florist Mel Smith [and this – sodium polyacrylate – turned out to be the right answer].

Whatever the Bournemouth blobs turn out to be, I see them as efficiently-compressed, hi-tech descendants of the enigmatic and elegantly named ‘pwdre ser’, the rot of the stars.

Read on for more about these very fortean space jellies… [...]

I wish I could talk in technicolour

25 Jan

An American housewife, pre-selected for her ‘normality’, takes a 100ug (0.1mg) dose of LSD in the presence of UCLA researcher Dr Sidney Cohen in about 1956.

Cohen, who later wrote The Beyond Within: The L.S.D. Story (1972), was an early advocate of medical and therapeutic LSD research, but by the early 1960s began to worry about the impact its unfiltered use would have on the beatniks, and later hippies, being turned on to it by proselytisers like Timothy Leary.

As with the woman in the film above, who, at least in the brief sequence visible here seems to be having a transcendently far out time, Cohen seemed to elicit positive responses from LSD users in therapy, noting that:

under LSD the fondest theories of the therapist are confirmed by his patient. Freudian symbols come out of the mouths of patients with Freudian analysts. Those who have Jungian therapists deal with the collective unconscious and with archetypal images [two key Jungian concepts]. The patient senses the frame of reference to be employed, and his associations and dreams are molded to it. (‘The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs’, 1972 [link])


From the Akashic Jukebox

24 Jan

I’ll be speaking at The Wire magazine’s Off The Page Festival on 24 February 2012, as part of a great lineup that includes Vicki Bennett, Gavin Bryars, Tony Herrington, Frances Morgan, Anne Hilde Neset, Evan Parker, Simon Reynolds, Aura Satz, Dave Tompkins, Jonny Trunk, Rob Young and many others.

‘Off The Page 2012 takes place 24–26 February 2012 at the Playhouse Theatre, Whitstable. £40 weekend pass/£12 Friday pass/£20 Saturday pass/£15 Sunday pass. Tickets available via Ticketweb.’

From the Akashic Jukebox: Magic and Music in Britain, 1888-1978
Magic and music are as old as humanity, but organised witchcraft, a British cultural export whose influence has been felt all over the world, is younger than jazz. In this talk, illustrated with images, music and rare recordings, Mark Pilkington, writer and publisher of Strange Attractor Press, explores British occultism’s origins in the bohemian groves of late 19th century London, and charts its impact on popular music and some of its players, from the rock ‘n’ roll years through to the paradigm shift of punk. The emerging stories glow with transcendence, ripple with mystery, honk with absurdity and are all too often shadowed by tragedy.

I’ll be staying the whole weekend, which promises to be interesting fun – I’m particularly looking forward to the presentations on radiophonic women and Soviet electronic music – so hopefully see you there.

More details here

Circuit Blasting & National Grid, Newcastle 2008

24 Jan

Strange Attractor and Disinformation performed Circuit Blasting and National Grid for the AV Festival, at the invitation of The Centre for Life, Newcastle, 5 March 2008. Above are some edited highlights of our Circuit Blasting set.

Like a kind of Turing Test for electronic music fans, “Circuit Blasting” is a form of Autodestructive art performance and parody of the Circuit Bending music genre, which, instead of using subtle, intricate and delicate rewiring of electronic musical instruments to create novel forms of experimental music, cuts right to the chase and simply gives the instruments 30,000 to 40,000 electric shocks instead, triggering all kinds of spontaneous “generative” music. Ben Bad Science Goldacre described “Circuit Blasting” as like “extreme sports Circuit Bending”. [...]

Guardian of the Abyss

23 Jan

Guardian of the Abyss
‘Hammer House of Horror’ Episode 10, broadcast 15 November 1980.

An enjoyable episode of this short-lived, better-than-average revamp of the Hammer franchise, whose stories tended to be considerably darker than your average Brit-horror of the period and usually featured supernatural or magickal themes. It was also aided by Roger Webb’s fantastic title music that’s like Crossroads on bad magic.

Written by David Fisher (who penned Dr Who classics including Stones of Blood and City of Death) this one merges Dennis Wheatley black magic tropes – a powerful occult order, The Choronzon Society, operating from a posh country pile (cf Kill List), headed by a cruel, wealthy svengali with hypnotic powerswith decent historical research. The plot draws upon occult dynamic duos John Dee & Edward Kelley and Aleister Crowley & Victor Neuberg and ends up colliding The Devil Rides Out with The Wicker Man. Throw in Paul Darrow (the sinister Avon from Blake’s 7) as a (yes, sinister) antiques dealer, some good creature effects and ritual sequences, and you’ve got a recipe for cackling evil goodness.

And look, here’s a photo of the shooting script!!

If you enjoy this then do consider buying the very reasonably priced box set.

Return to the Mithraeum

20 Jan

58 years after it was dumped in a disused car park, London’s temple of Mithras, uncovered in 1954 after 1700 years or so underground, is to be returned to its rightful position, in a sunken grotto on the bank of what was once the Walbrook river. [see London's Lost Rivers by Tom Bolton for more on the Walbrook].

From the Guardian:

When the reconstruction opened [in 1962], it was hailed as a triumph, but the archaeologists knew that was far from true. The beautiful carvings went to the museum [of London], but the other stones were dumped in a churchyard without being properly recorded or numbered, then moved to a builder’s yard. When the time came to put the temple back together again – without any archaeologists involved – some of the stone was missing completely, though the builders assured they could locate extra Kentish ragstone to fill any gaps.

The temple originally had a sunken nave flanked by seven symbolic pairs of pillars leading to the altar, a ritual well and raised seating on either side. It was rebuilt all on one level. A structure where worshippers were gradually initiated into mysteries through darkness and fire lay exposed to the elements on top of a car park. And a wild decision was taken to fill in the floor with crazy paving, giving it the appearance of a suburban back garden feature.

In January 2011, the English Heretic, Andy Sharp, and I, conducted a pilgrimage to the original mithraeum site,  recording ambient sound along the way. These were then processed into the first presentation of  Magick Concrète.

Now, I’d hate to suggest that our actions somehow nudged the tracks of time onto a parallel course when the temple was never moved… but we did… or at least we soon shall have. So as a celebration of the temple’s forthcoming return to subterranean splendour, we inflatedly present –

Do They Know it’s Mithras? by Magick Concrète:

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The Mind Beyond: ‘Stones’ (1976)

19 Jan

A fine slice of British 1970s supernatural television with strong hints of Arthur Machen, Nigel Kneale and John Michell (and perhaps, a pro-European message buried at its heart).

A cynical government hopes to boost tourism revenues by moving Stonehenge to Hyde Park… but the stones and their defenders have other ideas.

This was part of the generally very good Mind Beyond Series, which, not unlike Nigel Kneale’s later Monsters, or his excellent 1975 one-off, Murrain, bring a smart, modern sensibility to folk ideas about extra-human forces. From the Youtube post:

‘The Mind Beyond’ was a six-part series in the long-running BBC series ‘BBC2 Playhouse’ (season 4) . ‘Stones’ was first broadcast on 27th October 1976. Written by Malcolm Christopher, the play was directed by Graham Evans and starred Richard Pasco, Judy Parfitt, John Wells and T.P. McKenna. The producer was Irene Shubik, who had also produced the BBC series ‘Out Of The Unknown’.

Also worth your time is Meriel The Ghost Girl, starring Donald Pleasance and a young Janet Street Porter. I haven’t seen the others in the series yet, but I certainly plan to.

Mr Janus: the spaceman who came to tea

19 Jan

Nightmare #3

…in addition to being disturbed by the realization that Janus was reading his mind, he was even more disturbed by the fact that this extraordinary man ‘knew all Britain’s top-secret nuclear secrets’…. [Horsley was convinced that] they come from another planet somewhere in the universe but not in our galaxy. They are benign, not aggressive and, like us, are explorers.

Nick Redfern on the strange case of RAF Air Marshal Sir Peter Horsley and his visitor from Outer Space, Mr Janus. Was it a high-concept prank, a test of Horsley’s sanity, or of his loyalty to Crown and Country? Or was Mr Janus really who he claimed to be?

Read all about it here

Maximal echolution

18 Jan

The beautiful, amniotic sound of 16 Dedalo ‘Maquina del Tiempo’ delay pedals in series.

Hessdalen Lights: the documentary

18 Jan

Via the Daily Grail

A refreshingly sensible documentary on the anomalous lights seen and documented for decades at Hessdalen in Norway. The lights would appear to represent a natural phenomenon that is still not fully understood.

The Hessdalen light most often is a bright, white or yellow light of unknown origin standing or floating above the ground level. Sometimes the light can be seen for more than one hour. There are several other types of unexplained lights observed in the Hessdalen valley.