Aug ’18 – MMM: “By The Tail Of The Great Comet!” – Ulysses 35

Posted: August 25th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

Now cascading through the second half of the second disc, Agent Rob bears witness to some of the show’s finest visual moments in a star cluster of stellar episodes. Choice picks as ever those lovingly restored by Adam Adamant….


“You will experience exquisite sensual delight forever in death”

The episode begins with Yumi playing a beautiful, if haunting, melody on a flute, which she claims she heard in a dream. Suddenly an “unidentified flying object” is approaching the Odyssey. This stone coffin is from the wreckage of a space exploration vehicle and, recognising it too from her dream, Yumi uses the beautiful melody to open it. The body within is holding an electronic card and suddenly, by piloting via The Black Sun and the planet Sirena, Ulysses realises they can obtain a complete map of Olympus. However, the map is guarded by the mysterious Sirens….

On the surface of the planet Sirena they are captured by space pirates and Ulysses and Nono are sent to find the treasure, the children kept behind as collateral. And so Ulysses and Nono set sail, disappearing into the fog. Disconnecting Nono‘s hearing circuit Ulysses asks to be tied to the mast in an attempt to resist the Siren‘s call. This plan fails, however and he dives overboard. The children, having made their escape are close behind and must hope to save Ulysses, find the map and evade the angry pirates….


“Ooh! I could do with a swig of anti-freeze.”

The Odyssey orbits a planet like Earth (only of 200 million years ago) with a different polar axis. Ulysses, Nono and the children take a shuttle to the surface to investigate, narrowly escaping after being attacked by huge Black Firebirds. Taking refuge in what they believe to be a cave they happen to find a lift that takes them to a giant underground city….

As Shirka loses contact due to a “strong atmospheric disturbance” Yumi activates a hibernation chamber to revive Sauria, one of the planet’s inhabitants. It transpires that these slaves to the Gods took refuge in a huge ark to escape a great flood, waiting until it was over….

Unfortunately a second flood is now just beginning, leaving Ulysses and Nono to devise a plan to escape to the ark (and to avoid the invading Black Firebirds) in time. As Telemachus and Yumi help revive the rest of the planet’s inhabitants from their hibernation the situation worsens, a reverse polarization of the planet’s axis imminent….


“It least I know your face. I will remember you, Ulysses.”

After a another somewhat melancholy introduction – Ulysses and Telemachus thinking of their distant Penelope – our heroes fall into a deep slumber and the Odyssey enters an “unknown dimension A”….

With their spaceship held by an unknown force Ulysses takes a shuttle to investigate a planet they suspect could be Earth. Nono, meanwhile, encounters a mysterious energy cloud on board the Odyssey. Seeing the Odyssey suddenly head towards the planet surface Ulysses crashes his shuttle, meeting a forlorn character called Hermes who, so he claims, is the only member of his crew not captured and enslaved by Circe, “the enchantress who bewitches”….

With his companions turned into pig-people and set to work building Circe‘s tower of knowledge – the means by which she hopes to become more powerful than the Gods themselves – Ulysses comes to the rescue. On discovering his identity Circe promises to free everyone and to give them a video map of Olympus… on the condition that Ulysses promises to stay by her side and challenge the Gods. Ulysses agrees… only Hermes, now revealed as the messenger of the Gods, has other ideas and sets the Tridents to attack. Ulysses and his (momentarily revived) companions must try and escape, leaving poor Circe to witness the destruction of her beloved tower before the Gods pass judgement on her….


“Anyone who has gone inside the Labyrinth has never returned.”

The episode opens with Ulysses talking to Aegeus and, after consulting the Oracle, he is persuaded to follow their advice and seek Theseus, the son of Aegeus (for he alone knows the route back to Earth). Unfortunately King Minos is angered by the relationship between Theseus and his daughter, Ariadne, and so condemns him to the Labyrinth, where he will face the Minotaur. Ariadne defies her father and takes off in a spaceship, intent on following Theseus (in)to the maze….

This action puts her on a “collision course” with the Odyssey and, after a narrow escape, she is taken on board, the pursuing ships of The Kingdom of Minos duly defeated. By using her string of pearls to allow Shirka to track their “electromagnetic path”, Ariadne, Ulysses, Yumi and Nono enter the Labyrinth hoping to find Theseus….

As the walls of the maze suddenly shift, Telemachus, concerned at the loss of contact, takes a shuttle to the rescue, the ships of Mino‘s close behind him. Meanwhile Ulysses and Theseus must face the mighty Minotaur if they are to have any hope of escape….


“Ulysses, quickly! The universe is toppling over!”

The children are in the garden when Shirka announces there are “galactic ice flows directly in our flightpath.Ulysses attempts to resist the gravitational pull but Yumi, who feels the presence of something, encourages him otherwise….

Ulysses takes a shuttle into the ice flows and, with the aid of a mysterious other, is directed safely to where he can land. From there Ulysses descends a strange staircase whereby he meets Mercurius, the bubble-dwelling “grandson of the gods“. Naturally Mercurius has plans for Ulysses, hoping to use him to steal the jewel from the forehead of Atlas for the presence of any god would awaken this sleeping giant who holds up the universe….

The reward? Of course, it is a promise of the route back to Earth (and potential power over the gods for Mercurius). Ulysses and Nono climb up the huge static body of Atlas and when they reach the top Ulysses, by this time blindfolded so as to not look into the jewel for fear of death, attempts to prise the jewel free. Unfortunately Atlas begins to stir, his great heart begins to beat, and the universe is knocked off balance by the meddling of Mercurius. Can Yumi or Telemachus help Ulysses replace the crystal in time to restore the order and balance to all things….

Jul ’18 – MMM: “By The Cosmic Dust!” – Ulysses 34

Posted: July 27th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

And so we speed through the first half of the second disc, putting episodes 10 – 13 under the cosmic microscope….


A nice sedate, somewhat yearning opening to this episode, Telemachus watching the video memory of his mother. Again, an earth-like planet is detected in the Odyssey‘s path. It transpires this is a living museum and our heroes are pulled in and shrunk to suit by a magical prism. Landing the Odyssey in the sea, preferring the open water, Ulysses sets out to find the source of the mysterious transmission and is trapped in a giant clam….

The children set out in pursuit, traversing a graveyard of spaceships, in the hope of finding Ulysses. Both are separately swept up by the slaves of The Great Antipotese and end up within the museum itself, Ulysses‘s ship encrusted and mistaken for a pearl. Can our tiny heroes evade Antipotese (and his wild cat) long enough to use the prism to restore themselves and their ship…?


“…even in death you will find no peace.”

The Odyssey is passed by a remote control capsule which turns out to be an empty Trident Transporter. Ulysses follows it, hoping it will lead them to the base of the gods and provide clues as to the route back to Earth. Suddenly the Odyssey encounters and unknown energy zone and is sucked into a vortex, crossing into a new dimension, arriving at The Stairway of Olympus….

After continuing in the shuttle for some time, and having defeated the gods‘ ‘Immortal Army‘ Ulysses, separated from the children is given a choice – will he choose the armchair on the left or right, will he choose the route back to Earth over the children? The choice is an easy one, of course, the episode then ending somewhat abruptly (but not without Shirka mournfully echoing that they are “lost in the universe of Olympus. Lost. Lost….“)


“The crew. Save the crew.”

The Odyssey is drifting in deep space when it comes across a luminous object that is in fact “remnants of an old spaceship” from 2001 Earth. Hoping to find the route back to Earth on the ship’s computer our heroes stumble across a crew member in suspended animation. Before falling back into a deep sleep the captain warns Ulysses that the crew can be found on the twin planets of fire and ice….

Ulysses speeds to their rescue leaving the children to puzzle over the true identity of the surviving “captain”…. The Sign of the Trident reveals that he is, naturally, a tool of the gods and that Ulysses, his shuttle now trapped in a brilliant vortex between fire and ice – “…either way your fate is sealed…” – is in extreme danger. The children speed to his rescue while Nono tackles the creepy, Terminator-esque “captain”….


The children are playing hide and seek when Yumi suddenly declares that Zotra, “The White Planet” is coming. It is, in fact, a “meteoric object” that is approaching and Ulysses manages to just avoid it by carefully piloting the Odyssey. Yumi is convinced it is a part of Zotra and persuades Ulysses to follow it to be sure. The meteor leads them to a swamp planet and Ulysses and Umi travel down to the surface to investigate. Unfortunately they come under some sort of attack and static interference means the signal back to the Odyssey (and the anxious Telemachus and Nono) is jammed and eventually lost….

Ulysses and Yumi suddenly return to the Odyssey and order Telemachus to turn the transmitter off and to leave the planet’s orbit at full speed. Telemachus has his suspicions and, while his real father battles multiple copies of himself on the planet surface, he must evade this dangerous duplicate, switch on the radio and send a shuttle in time to save them….

Hmm, unlucky 13 for this episode as there seems to be a real dip in quality in terms of both the rendering of the characters and the animation, making for a pretty ropey experience throughout….

Jul ’18 – A Philip K. Dick In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush….

Posted: July 7th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

Clans of the Alphane Moon

(pub. 1964) – Voyager, 1996

Chuck Rittersdorf, a 21st century CIA robot programmer, decides to kill his wife by remote control. He enlists the aid of a telepathic Ganymedean slime mould called Lord Running Clam, an attrective female police officer and various others, witting or unwitting. But when Chuck finds himself in the midst of an interplanetary spy ring on an Alphane moon inhabited entirely by certified maniacs, his personal revenge plans begin to go awry in this brilliantly inventive tale of interstellar madness, murder and violence.

I doubt there’s a book that is more completely and utterly Philip K. Dick than this one…. Just imagine, a seceded (Terran) moon colony on Alpha III M2 derived from an abandoned hospital area  – over 25 years the clans of the title have separated into groups comprising the several sub-types of mental illness, the ‘Heeb’, ‘Pare’ ‘Mans’, ‘Poly’, ‘Dep’ ‘Skitz’ and ‘Ob-Com’s. (I’ll not delve any deeper into their origins as, as ever, the joy is in PKD‘s gentle drip drip approach to his terminology and world building.) Meanwhile back on Earth the somewhat directionless Chuck Rittersdorf is programming CIA simulacrums and, as his marriage crumbles – PKD again employs a young temptress in part to help usher our hapless, hopeless, clueless “Joe Blow” on his way – he slowly, via the offer of writing for television, stumbles upon conspiracy within conspiracy. Just who is actually working for who, and quite why, to what ends? There’s no pipes connecting the kitchen sink here as for once PKD opts to skip the notion of overlapping or underlying realities, but that doesn’t detract in the slightest from what is a highly accessible, imaginative and rewarding read….

… But his eyes. He had an alert yet warm quality; she rose and stood facing him. Over the TV the strength of his gaze did not register. This was not mere intelligence on Bunny’s part; this was more, a perception of – she did not know what. And – 

          All about Bunny an aura hung, an aura of suffering. His face, his body, seemed sopped with it. Yes, she thought, that’s what shows in his eyes. Memory of pain. Pain that took place long ago, but which he has never forgotten – nor will he. …


… She smiled, and once again he marvelled at her teeth; they transformed her face, made it beautiful; as long as she smiled and she was delightful to behold, and it seemed to Chuck that this told something about her. The quality of beauty arose from within; inside, she was lovely, and he realized that over the years, as she aged, it would gradually work its way outward, influence the surface. By the time she was thirty or thirty-five she would be radiant. …

Dr Bloodmoney

(pub. 1965) – Millenium, 2000

Seven years after the day of the bombs, Point Reyes was luckier than most places. Its people were reasonably normal – except for the girl with her twin brother growing inside her, and talking to her. Their barter economy was working. Their resident genius could fix almost anything that broke down. But they didn’t know they were harbouring the one who almost everyone left alive wanted killed.

An excellent Philip K. Dick novel (which I first encountered in its truncated form as ‘A Terran Odyssey‘ in the ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale‘ short story collection). This time we have everything and the kitchen sink in this tale of a post-apocalyptic California. However, the book has quite a gentle pace and a sunny, pastoral feel, the restructured society, though obviously chaotic, is still mostly beholden to the very same personal troubles that inflict us as individuals (but here it’s mixed with a whole host of the furthest-out PKD characters and scenarios). Some of PKD‘s very best ideas reside here, in what is a hugely satisfying read….

    Stuart said , “Now.” He knew it was now; he knew that the bombs were going off – he felt them. It seemed to occur inside him. Blam, blam, blam, blam, went the bombs, or perhaps it was the things sent up by the army to help, to stop the bombs; perhaps it was defense. Let me down, Stuart thought. Low as I can be. Let me into the ground. He pressed down, rolled his body to make a depression. People lay now on top of him, choking coats and sleeves, and he was glad; he did not mind – he did not want emptiness around him; he wanted solidness on every side. He did not need to breathe. His eyes were shut; they, and the other openings of his body, his mouth and ears and nose, all had shut; he had walled himself in, waiting.
Blam, blam, blam.


         He (Walt Dangerfield) struggled up, disconnected himself from the straps, saw through the port the world below. Clouds, and the ocean, the globe itself. Here and there on it matches were lit; he saw the puffs, the flares. Fright overcame him, as he sailed silently through space, looking down at the pinches of burning scattered about; he knew what they were.

          It’s death, he thought. Death lighting up spots, burning up the world’s life, second by second. 

          He continued to watch.

Jun ’18 – “By The Quantum Leaps!” – Ulysses 33

Posted: June 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

On and on we travel, drifting lifeless as stone through the second half of the first (and quite possibly the most consistent in terms of story quality) disc….


The Odyssey approaches a hospital planet belonging to a (long vanished) advanced civilisation….

While Ulysses and Telemachus investigate Yumi and Nono naturally take matters into their own hands and attempt to make use of the facilities to revive the lifeless Numinor (with predictably risky results)….


The Odyssey encounters “electromagnetic turbulence” and as such the companions of Ulysses are revived. Of course, they’re under the will of the gods and only Yumi‘s calming connection with the awakened Numinor seems able to save them from crashing into The Reefs Of Space….

An episode notable for some surprisingly moody rendering of the revived crew’s faces as well as a plethora of FX – lightsabers, Artoo Detoo and blaster sounds – nabbed wholesale (and somewhat surprisingly surviving to this release) from Star Wars….


Another great episode, as the Odyssey – I think a distinct pattern is emerging here! – is drawn to the planet of the Sphinx where Ulysses must solve a riddle to ensure our heroes successful release….

Unfortunately Hermione, the daughter of the Sphinx, has other ideas – boy does she want Ulysses for herself, and the gods are only too happy to nudge her along the way! – and tricks ‘the children’ into entering the door that leads to The Mirror That Always Speaks The Truth. Angered at the news of their (unwitting) intrusion the Sphinx allows her to subject Ulysses to her own challenge – perhaps seeing her true face reflected will help resolve matters….

Some nice atmospheric scene setting in this episode – the leery lizard strolling through the palace of the Sphinx – and the design of the Sphinx himself, being particular highlights….


“It’s time that’s the fatal trap, the sure way to death.”

The very best of them all? The Odyssey comes under attack from Trident spaceships and it seems there is nothing can be done to avoid destruction…. Only Cronus, exiled from Olympus by the gods, intervenes, transporting our heroes to The Kingdom Of Time, hoping to use Ulysses to bargain for his eventual freedom…..

‘The children’ are first placed in The Timelock then escape (accidentally) to the The Chamber Of Seasons, where they begin to age rapidly. It’s up to Ulysses to save both them and the lives of their companions from the ravages of accelerated time….

I first saw the latter half of this episode as a youngster and remember vividly the scenes of Ulysses scaling the great clock tower and, particularly, the looming, gloomy (and catchy) theme that accompanied it….

May ’18 – “By The Countless Constellations!” – Ulysses 32

Posted: May 29th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

….and onto Disc 1 of ‘The Complete Series’. Please note that TheAdamAdamant‘s episode running order differs from the UK DVD release – Agent Rob assumes it is the original French broadcast order, hence the difference in the numbering of some of the embedded titles….


In this second episode the Odyssey encounters the seventh satellite of Zotra – a ‘holiday’ planet remembered from Yumi‘s childhood – now to be found wandering in Olympus and ruled by a strange old witch. Is she as she seems…?

A good enough episode, most notable for the leery scene above (watch to find out)….


The Odyssey approaches an asteroid that is home to Heratos and Atina. Heratos tells our heroes of how, aboard Atina‘s ship – incidentally she’s a Zotran the same race as Yumi – he saw The Black Sphere of the title, itself a map of Olympus. Naturally he was then struck blind by the gods and doomed to his lonely existence….

Of course, with the gods meddling, Ulysses does not in fact head for The Galactic Glaciers as Heratos (wrongly) instructed but instead is diverted via The Graveyard Of Wrecks and Hulks where the Odyssey collides with Atina‘s original ship. Will Yumi beat the race against destruction to salvage The Black Sphere, the map back to Earth, in time….?


The Odyssey encounters a cyclonic disturbance that puts the ship’s gravitation out of control and ends up trapped by Aeolus, King of The Winds….

And thus, on his daughter’s birthday, Aeolus pits Ulysses, “the plaything of the gods”, against his guests, the NorthSouthEast and West Winds, in a series of deadly games – akin to Target, Chess, Pinball and Bowling. Will Ulysses be able to survive and rescue ‘the children’….


One of the true classic episodes where Sisyphus, doomed to a cycle of repetition following his attempt to uncover immortality, the secret of the gods, tries to cheat Ulysses into taking his place, forcing him to repeat the same thankless task while he commandeers the Odyssey to make his escape….

‘The children’, as ever, intervene with these plans and soon our heroes find themselves beneath the surface of the planet, bearing awed witness to the hidden machinery behind the downfall of  Sisyphus‘s….

An episode notable for an especially bleak opening – the reason why this disc alone of the 3 is rated Parental Guidance? – as we witness Sisyphus foraging desperately for food (before it spoils in the baking sun) as well as the general mood of despair and hopelessness that hangs over the proceedings, especially when Sisyphus discovers the truth behind his endless tasks and the gods mock him for his suspicious, selfish behaviour that prolongs his weary isolation….

May ’18 – “By The Great Galaxies” – Ulysses 31

Posted: May 16th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

It’s not massively common for anyone associated with Braw Towers to fall into or for the (ever-expanding-wallet-shrinking) nostalgia trap, but Agent Rob has to admit that his admiration for Ulysses 31 is about as close as he’ll ever get to indulging this modern phenomenon. There’s no doubt that his young imagination was well and truly fired – just as it was with the similar-ish Star Fleet and 80’s Doctor Who – by these highly imaginative and memorable animated ‘space adventures’. Over the course of this Manga Month (and perhaps into the mythical near future) we’ll hopefully cover every episode of this cartoon classic in detail….

Yumi, Ulysses, Telemachus and Nono

“It is the 31st Century. Ulysses killed the giant Cyclops when he rescued the chilrdren and his son Telemachus, but the ancient gods of Olympus are angry and threaten a terrible revenge….”

“Mortals! You defy the gods!? I sentence you to travel among unknown stars. Until you find the kingdom of hades your bodies will stay as lifeless as stone….”


In this opening episode Telemachus, the son of Ulysses, is ‘spacenapped’ from their ship, the Odyssey, and is to be sacrificed to the mighty Cyclops. In prison Telemachus meets (the other central characters) Yumi and her brother Numinor of the planet Zotra….

The ‘spacebase’ at Troy

The Odyssey

In their attempt to rescue these three, Ulysses and Nono – the obligatory comic relief robot – destroy the Cyclops, thus angering and defying the ancient Greek god of Poseidon. As such their ship is banished to a black hole where they will undergo many trials in the dominion of Olympus….

Shirka, the Odyssey’s computer

The Cyclops

At this juncture, while Ulysses repairs the ship’s Iris (its main source of power) for Shirka (its central computer), he is sentenced to “wander among worlds unknown” and his companions are frozen – “their bodies will remain as lifeless as stone” – until such a time as they eventually (hopefully) find the Kingdom of Hades….


Nestor and the lifeless companions

This first episode – and one that my little brother delighted in telling me about when I came home from playing football at the park and caught the ending, knowing I would have to wait until such a time as it was repeated to finally see it – is a good enough introductory tale, essential for the initial set-up of the overarching plot, the mighty Cyclops and his eerily faithful disciples. Worth noting that it only takes 6 minutes for one of the especially memorable and haunting themes to make an audio appearance, ‘Le Cyclope et Les Moines Aveugles‘ and that after 9 & 1/2 minutes we’re treated to yet another classic bit of the ’31 soundtrack, ‘L’Odysseus‘….

Episode 1 – Vengeance Of The Gods

Agent Rob‘s been watching these episodes on an historic 3 DVD set ‘The Complete Series‘ from 2004 but the lucky(?) readers of this blog can enjoy them courtesy of TheAdamAdamant‘s Youtube Channel. Adam has, over the past four years been diligently and lovingly restoring the entire series episode by episode. Indeed, all the beautiful, crisp screengrabs on display are sourced from said videos. I’ll be sure to link/share the very best of these restored Ulysses 31 episodes here….

Not content with his services to the obvious betterment of mankind, Adam Adamant has somehow unearthed the original 15 minute (decidedly) Japanese (looking) pilot of the show – the final 1981 series was a French-Japanese co-production – taking the time to dub it into English too. This intriguing curio is (his but) yours to view above….

Of course, for many people, myself included, much of the (enduring) appeal of Ulysses 31 is the tremendous original soundtrack – composed by Denny Crockett and Ike Egan (with Shuki Levy and Haim Saban)- comprised as it is of quietly brooding, highly atmospheric, proggy space rock. And, thanks to the dedication of French composer/musician David Colin/Parallax – who obviously knows quality when he hears it – you can listen to rerecorded excerpts here or indeed invest in a lavish variety of physical versions here. Agent Rob was lucky enough to grab a 10 track work in progress sampler of the very best tracks online many years ago and, IMO, the greatest of them all is this effort (AKA the aforementioned ‘Le Cyclope et Les Moines Aveugles‘)….

Ulysee 31 Soundtrack – La Malédiction Des Dieux

Apr ’18 – Orbsessed – Reconstructing Cydonia

Posted: April 25th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

Twin seals of approval!

So what’s the deal with The Orb’s 2001 album Cydonia? Even this frighteningly comprehensive, mightily informative and lovingly compiled discography has everything post-2000 down as the ‘crap years’ and it’s fair to say Cydonia saw them stumbling into the new millennium with something of a transitional album. It could certainly be seen as the final nail in The Orb MKI*s coffin, the departure of Andy Hughes under a less than fluffy cloud – presumably somewhere along the line between the initial Feb 1999 promo discs, the interim single CD promo efforts of Oct and Dec ’99 and the reduction of his contributions to the Feb 2001 album proper – bringing a definite end to their “layering sounds on top of each other” phase. A fairly exhaustive (and slightly salacious) account of this decidedly troubled period for all concerned (and they certainly were!) is here….

Let’s consider, er, MKI.1 to be the genesis, Paterson, Cauty et al, MKI.2 Paterson, Weston et al, MKI.3, Paterson, Hughes et al. Of course, it’s a little unfair to define the group by their high-profile departures as Thomas Fehlmann has been a near-constant throughout MKs I.2 and I.3, and is pretty much responsible, em, for the bulk of MKII‘s output thereafter which is, um, kinda suddenly unfairly damning him with, eh, faint praise indeed, innit…?

Hark! There it is! Picture from Discogs.

In order to successfully cook up the original double album you need to be in possession of the 2008 CydoniaSpecial Edition with the second cd of unreleased (re)mixes and ‘Versions‘ as well as 2006’s Orbsessions Volume One* and 2007’s Orbsessions Volume Two. By plucking select tracks from the 3 of these, and in paying particular attention to running times, we can begin….

* I own the re-release of this album, which retains the Space – Space outtake in the form of Pluto Calling (Twinkle), but omits the Cauty/PatersonMummie Don’t, replacing that with Angel 3 Dub.

Mummie Don’t! ….before she evidently upped and did.

Disc 1

1 – Terminus. Let’s kick off with Andy’s Mix from the Cydonia Bonus Disc, assuming it’s an earlier incarnation of the eventual album version.

2 – Jam On Yer Honey is taken from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it’s called Jam On Your Honey).

3 – Once More is the album track from the original Cydonia.

4 – Ralf is nabbed from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it’s called Ralph’s Cupboard).

5 – Promis is the Version from the Cydonia Bonus Disc, clocking in at a slightly longer 5:47 (and close to the 5:45 of the CD-R’s).

6 – Bicycles & Tricycles is swiped from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it’s called 2026).

The original promo tracklisting from the suporb discography.

Disc 2

1 – Turn It Down is the Long Version from the Cydonia Bonus Disc.

2 – Yungle is plucked from Orbsessions Volume One.

3 – Ghostdancing is the Version from the Cydonia Bonus Disc. It should likely be the original album version with its matching running time, but I’ve elected for this version as it does away with the middling vocals.

4 – A Mile Long Lump Of Lard is the album track from the original Cydonia, sadly shorn of about 4 minutes in comparison to the CD-R cut.

5 – Freely Wheely (“Feely Wheely“) is grabbed from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it’s called Ba’albeck).

(6 – Hamlet Of Kings. This is just a bonus you can add to kinda balance up the running times and, well, it’s probably the only other track really worth salvaging from the original Cydonia album.)

The full length 2CD-R promo version of Terminus.

So along the way way back we lose EgnableFirestarCenturiesPlum Island1,1,1 and EDMThursday’s Keeper (and Hamlet Of Kings, I suppose, if we’re playing by the absolute rules). The first 2 of these original album tracks are really just a couple of minutes of filler before we get to the twin horrors that are Centuries and Plum Island – a pair of pretty bland songy dirges that plop and plod along in the pedestrian direction of nowhere…. you’d ever really want to revisit. (Once More and Ghostdancing were more than enough of the ill-advised ‘pop song phase’ for me, thank you.) 1,1,1 – the only Orb track ever credited to Paterson alone? – is more blink-and-you’ll-miss-it filler and EDM is fairly standard in their sleep lumpen electro-stodge (that was stretched out to an almost interminable length at their 2014 25th Anniversary show) that you’d be best passing over in favour of the far better, almost-deserves-to-make-the-cut, Thursday’s Keeper….

The verdict? Well, for all my criticism of the original Cydonia album there’s no denying that over the years you do become accustomed to how it all hangs together as a piece, so by somewhat mercilessly chopping it up and shuffling it around and adding extra tracks it’s impossible not to unsettle the ingrained listening experience, especially as the newer, er, older tracks are that bit more abrasive in their execution (though I certainly prefer the reinstated tracks over those discarded). However, given this post has had a similarly long and pained period of gestation I can happily report that I am beginning to reprogramme my audio receptors to gratefully receive. The first disc – once you get past the ingrained notion that Terminus should always be the concluding track – actually hangs together pretty well. The space epic of 2026 in particular, is a definite highlight worth unearthing….

20 Bicycles & 26 Tricycles….

By disc 2 there’s no denying the first 3 or 4 minutes of Yungle are great stuff, but the descent into heavy beats with the distorted vocal sample becomes more than just a little wearing over the course of the full 10 and the following Ghostdancing sticks out like a (muted) sore thumb in the midst of this disc. Again, with the original vocals forming so much of the listening experience it does sound rather lacking when reduced to an instrumental version (which, I suppose, should really be added, if somewhat grudgingly). But, by continually exploring this set of tracks as a double album there’s a definite similarity of sound, the sonic palette featuring a strange array of, um, honks, clonks, squinks and skwonks that are unique to this period of The Orb alone….

Yungle. Er, turn it down at –:–….

There’s probably a decent enough case for living with these select tracks for a bit longer and then further reassembling them into more evenly sounding sides, perhaps a softer ambient disc to start with followed by a rougher, beat-laden effort to follow (like, y’know, the complete opposite of their frankly horrible, career trashing run through at the Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld/Chill Out World! gig in Glasgow). It might just work…. Certainly I’d much rather have had this double set in 1999 – I think it just about merits escaping the ‘crap years’ in this form – and it is infinitely preferable to the remastered and expanded special edition of Cydonia from 2008 (the second disc which, with it’s plethora of turd polishing remixes of the dreary Centuries, Plum Island and Once More, could be the worst thing farted out of The Orb‘s 00’s cash cow)….

Limmy’s Show: Dee Dee – Yoker

Apr ’18 – A Year In Orbit – Unearthly Science Fiction

Posted: April 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Rest, weary space traveller….

Can it really be a year since Agent Rob, Agent Johnny and Adam Smith watched Unearthly Science Fiction roar off into the night sky over Edinburgh never to be seen nor heard from again…?

And yet, just when Agent Rob had finally given up all hope he happened to receive a transmission from the lovely people at The Future Fire. It seems they had tuned their frequencies to ‘far out’ and successfully intercepted a communication from our lonely satellite somewhere over London in November 2017….

‘Steve Mason and ‘Olgur Zen’ by John G. Miller

‘Codename: Cosmos’ by John G. Miller and Rob Miller

….and boy did they like it! It’s hard to deny that sending an unmanned space mission out into the publishing universe is a long, lonely (and more or less) thankless task, so it was a real pleasure to read N.A. Jackson‘s in-depth review….

‘Maria 3’ by Rob Miller

“In some ways the fiction is all too earthly, collectively the stories evoke a grungy, malfunctioning world, disturbingly similar to our own in which the characters wrestle with the pointlessness of life or are consumed by ambition or bitterness.”

‘Splashdown one’ by Adam J. Smith

In particular Adam J. Smith‘s ‘Splashdown One‘ was singled out as “One of the most memorable pieces in the collection” while Ian Wark‘s ‘The Pod‘ was praised for being “one of the more resolved of the stories… benefitting from its length.”….

‘Agent X4 and The Deep Fix’ by John G. Miller

Furthermore, the “amazing illustrations”, successfully “evoking the luridly coloured science fiction mags of the sixties”, lead the reviewer to comment “It’s not often that illustrations complement fiction so well, but here they do and they help to give the magazine a unified look.”….

‘Planet Of The Jakey’ by Neil Beattie

The reviewer concludes that the collection is “an intelligent and irreverent glimpse into how humanity may grapple and grope its way onwards. In the conception of these authors, we may head for the stars but we’ll be taking along all the trappings of dysfunctional late capitalism.” 

‘Steve Mason and ‘Olgur Zen’ by John G. Miller

It’s great to see our wee book receive such a thoughtful and encouraging review, justifying Agent Rob and Adam J. Smith‘s early decision to intentionally go (if not, er, rub up somewhat) against Agent Johnny‘s (more traditional) grain – this collection couldn’t simply be another run through of well worn riffs on the favoured SF of our youth. True, it might have been a somewhat bumpy ride until we cleared the atmosphere, but a write-up like this made the frequent bends all very much worth it….

Anyone who fancies heading to the dark side of the moon with us can book a ticket >> here….

Mar ’18 – The Man With Two Philip K. Dicks

Posted: March 15th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

The Game-players Of Titan

 (pub. 1963) – Voyager, 1996

Roaming the pristine landscape of Earth, cared for by machines and aliens, the few remaining humans alive since the war with Titan play Bluff to maximise the remote chance some pairings will produce a child. When Pete Garden, a particularly suicidal member of the Pretty Blue Fox game-playing group, loses his current wife and his deed to Berkeley, he stumbles upon a far bigger, more sinister version of the game. The telepathic Vugs of Titan are the players and the stake is the Earth itself.

The first Philip K. Dick book I have read in some time. Initially I considered, as the story wasn’t really grabbing me, giving up on this novel after about 50 pages. Aside from the blip in the pacing it has all you could want from PKD. There’s the tried and tested structure of chapters jumping back and forth between multiple characters – themselves divided into two distinct social strata – and the complicated machinations of the game (of Bluff) itself to get a handle on.

Of course, as (un)expected the story suddenly takes an quite intriguing, typically Dickian twist, around page 70 and we’re off (and at last I’m well and truly in!). From then on it’s a case of bluff and double-bluff, with a tasty side portion of warring telepathic powers and puzzling shifts between planets and realities …. or is it? It transpires the Titanian Vugs of the title are caught up in their own power struggle and our unfortunate game-players are seemingly caught up within that …. or are they…? Maybe one of the talking cars will lose the attitude long enough to reveal all….

…’Mutreaux,’ she said, ‘can you turn your thoughts to – ‘ It was difficult to know what to call it. She had, in her hundred years of scanning, never run into anything quite like it. Puzzled, she passed over Mutreaux’ surface thoughts and probed into the deeper levels of his psyche, into the involuntary and repressed syndromes which had been excluded as part of his ego-character, of the conscious self-system.
Now she was in a region of ambivalent drives, and of nebulous and stillborn wishes, anxieties, doubts interwoven with regressive beliefs and libido wishes of a fantastic nature. It was not a pleasant region but each person had it; she was accustomed to it, by now. This was what made her existence so rife with difficulty, running into this hostile area of the human mind. Each perception and observation which Dave Mutreaux had rejected in himself existed here, imperishable, living on in a kind of half-life, feeding deeply on his psychic energy.
He could not be held responsible for these, and yet there they were anyhow, semi-autonomous and – feral. Opposed to everything Mutreaux consciously, deliberately believed in. In opposition to all his life aims.
Much could be learned about Mutreaux’ psyche by this examination of what he chose to – or had to – reject from consciousness.

The Simulacra

(pub. 1964) – Magnum Books, 1977

Earth in the twenty-first century was a shifting, shadowy and dangerous world. Most people were content merely to survive, and to grab what little pleasure they could. But there were others who cunningly played the game of world mastery. Among them were the outstandingly beautiful woman who had ruled the White House for nearly a centruy, the world’s last practising psychiatrist, a psychokinetic pianist, the time traveller, the ‘chuppers’, and the simulacra…

One of four(!) PKD books published in 1964, together with The Penultimate TruthMartian Time-Slip and Clans of the Alphane Moon (though it seems he wrote six(!) altogether that year!). I’d consider this to be peak period DicKiverse!(?!) and you can’t escape the feeling that he really took a bit more time with this book (if that’s at all within the realms of human possibility!) There’s everything you’d happily expect from Philip K. Dick here only rendered with just a bit more substance.

It’s hard to write a truly constructive review as part of the joy of this book (as it is with most PKD books) is the little flourishes of imagination, the bizarre turns of phrase or those canny and sublime moments, the delightful juxtapositions where countless fantastical ideas rub up against the all-too-familiar trials and tribulations of the everyday grind. It’s this honest skill – something that I think Agent Johnny himself has managed to master – that so appeals to me and, to my mind, it’s this understanding of (dare I say it) ‘humanity’ and what it is to be human (messy and frightening and confusing!) that clearly separates PKD from the usual sci-fi pack. Still, strap yourself in for a bit of time travel, Nazis, insidious advertising, futuristic audio recording techniques, an irresistible infatuation with a political simulacra and so much more….

… he was seeing, he realized, a demonstration by political extremists, the so-called Sons of Job, neo-Nazis who seemed to have sprung up everywhere, of late, even here in this god-for-saken town in California.
And yet wasn’t this actually the most likely place for the Sons of Job to show themselves? This decadent region reeked of defeat; here lived those who had failed, Bes who held no real role in the system. The Sons of Job, like the Nazis of the past, fed on disappointment, on the disinherited. Yet these backwater towns which time had bypassed were the movement’s feeding-ground … it should not have surprised him, then, to see this.

     But these were not Germans; these were Americans.

     It was a sobering thought …

Jan ’18 – Sean Hughes, 1965-2017

Posted: January 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

“Anyone got any paracetamol?”

I have to confess that here at Brawlty Towers we’re (un)fairly hardy and that the world of celebrity “departures” never really makes much of an impact, Star Men and Star Women simply blink out, here today, gone tomorrow, yours to own on CD or DVD forever…. but…. I probably wouldn’t be typing this were it not for Sean Hughes who, courtesy of an introduction via my friend Meeks, blew the bloody doors off our teenage selves when in secondary school. I can clearly remember another good pal, Warky, coming into geography one lesson and reeling off all these weird one-liners, and wondering exactly what was up. It wasn’t entirely out of character – Warky was easily the sharpest and funniest of us all – but the slightly abstract content was definitely unusual. Of course, it transpired the jokes were nabbed wholesale from the Live And Seriously Funny VHS that was presently doing the rounds, a video that myself and my brothers watched twice in a row the evening it eventually stopped by our house….

“That sock still isn’t dry….”

Then there was the charmingly chaotic and joyous Sean’s Show (courtesy of Channel X, who had brought us the equally anarchic Vic Reeves Big Night Out only a few years earlier). It’s always quite difficult to go back and watch something that made such an impression on you as a youngster, but I’m pleased to report that actually, on a recent rewatch, Sean’s Show, ahem, stands up pretty well (and far better than I had honestly expected, given its’ limited 90’s production values). Similarly the second series, which I remembered being fairly poor at the time, was equally enjoyable as the, um, first, er, the second time around…? That, plus Sean’s Shorts – he visits Mull! ….and Manchester! – can be found on Sean‘s own Youtube channel here (as for some reason S2 was never released on DVD nor added to All 4’s box sets)….

“I wish that owl would shuttup!”

To top it all off the same group of us saw him live around this (peak) period. Though, hands up, I’ll be honest and state that it wasn’t perhaps the greatest gig…. It lasted for around 2 and a half hours (on stackable poly chairs!), with the “help me, I’m a vegetarian…” routine dragging (intentionally, I’m sure) on and on (across the stage floor), while the second half’s opening salvo was a lengthy Brookside routine that was likely better appreciated if you were a regular viewer. Mind, I’ll admit that I was also probably just a bit too young (i.e. a teenage idiot) to appreciate Sean‘s more sensitive leanings, and can recall Warky‘s copy of Sean’s Book being mocked – especially the bleak poetry – just as much as it was prized….

After Sean‘s passing I read a fairly astute observation online that he made comedy look so very easy that everyone thought they could have a shot, and I’ll admit I was no exception, ambitiously penning The Potter’s Guide, my very own (it was an average idea, spread very thinly, at the time) sitcom response to Sean’s Show before wising up and, together with Warky, having a fair go at sketch writing for BBC Scotland and The Comedy Unit in the late 90’s – a career quite possibly killed by endlessly rewriting the same sketch(es) to no effect, as well as putting our best creative energies into a show that eventually parted ways with our (enthusiastic) script editor (and ourselves by association).  The pair of us tackled stand-up comedy for a spell then too, putting on a (best of the worst!) award-winning show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2000, which I then followed up with a year or so’s worth of torture, er, I mean gigging in and around Glasgow….

Sean on set with Dennis Pennis and Roland from Grange Hill….

What followed for Sean was his pair of novels – they were definitely better at the time, but slipped down the rankings considerably as I became better read – and his stint as a team captain on Never Mind The Buzzcocks (a programme about which I have positively nothing positive to say at all, sorry)*. Meanwhile my own comedy ambitions crumbled under the weight of trying to say too much and not really being all that funny – I was a simple gagster, afraid to break out and express my real self (which was too meek and weak to project anything). I suppose this lack of narrative focus is what lead me once again to trying comics, the crafty “a picture is worth a thousand words” helping to get things back on some sort of (not having to die on my arse in front of, hmm, 23 people) track (er, please sit down, Elexender Browne). Sean, on the other hand, graduated to ever loftier heights, being granted parental approval – “that Irish bloke you like….” – as Mod in The Last Detective….

*I take that back. There was a great joke of Sean‘s in the (inevitable) cash-in book – thumbed through in a charity shop, of course! – about Karen Carpenter being so thin that latterly she used to fax herself to gigs….

Then, to bring things full circle WarkyMeeks and myself caught Sean live in Glasgow for his ‘The Right Side Of Wrong’ show in 2010 and then (there were two!) again in Edinburgh in 2012 for ‘Ducks And Other Mistakes I’ve Made’. Around this time – imagine, if you can, a glorious period when Myspace was a genuinely viable social media networking platform – I was lucky enough to receive a few short messages from Sean in response to a few encouraging things I’d written on his, er, ‘wall’? Or is it ‘feed’? We certainly communicated after I picked up a copy of The National‘s High Violet (this week’s album of the, um, week) having read in an interview it was his favourite album of that year. After that (and then there was one!) I didn’t unfortunately see him live again – there must be a joke in there somewhere about the fact that it’s quite obvious that the only person who should be going to a stand up gig on their own is the act….

I’ll not lie…. These later efforts were hardly the tightest or funniest stand up shows I’ve seen simply due to the fact that Sean matured into a more rounded raconteur, his ever-present thoughtfulness, the smallness of the big picture, coming well to the fore. You’d find yourself wincing as much as laughing as he mercilessly prodded and probed, picking shamelessly at (his) life’s scabs. It would be hard to imagine him tackling something like ‘Live At The Apollo’ with his random and profound (and bleak) stream of consciousness approach, the slow-build jokes scattered here, there and everywhere. But there was something deeper there, the three of us, now bumped about by life, our school selves (and ambitions) half a lifetime ago, watching Sean rattle on down the dark path ahead of ourselves, sending back suitably grim reports….

Of course, the beauty of these shows, and Sean’s real skill, was how he would begin to slowly tie all the disparate (and often desperate) comedy threads together at the end, making for a genuinely satisfying, er, (emotional) climax. Some of the reviews I read from punters online at this time were pretty rough, but I could easily see why folk would be disappointed with an overweight (and somewhat perpetually defeated) Sean huffing and puffing his way about the stage, taking sly swipes at Stephen Fry and Michael McIntyre and getting slightly narked when punchlines failed to land. Hardly the stuff (thankfully!) we’ve come to expect/accept in today’s more easily interchangeable, quick quip, routine-based comedic climate….

Unlike Sean, however,  there’s no clever or well thought-out denouement (unless, you count my using a very fancy word just there?) to this blog. No tying things together in a way that’ll have you leaving the auditorium with a jolly spring in your step (and perhaps a slight lump in your throat…. c’mon! I said throat!). I’m not even sure I’m making much of a passionate case for what Sean meant to myself (and to Warky, to whom he probably meant just as much, if not more, but in as many different ways). I suppose that’s the trick, if I could truly pin down what made Sean Hughes “Sean Hughes” then it wouldn’t make him quite nearly so unique, so inspiring and so special would it…?

“Bye bye! Bye bye! Bye bye!”

(….and he never did adverts, so there you go….)