I shite thee not.
Featuring Lauren Osborn as Miss Helen, Psyche Chimere as Han-Mi, Rhys Owen as Henry The Alchemist, and Studly McMuffinpants as The Sheriff. Cover and extras art by Sarah DeBuck.
The album is Act 1 of The Ballad Of Lost Hollow.
Length: 1 hour and 2 minutes. Price likely to be 7 dollars, 5 pounds, or 6 euros if purchased from Bandcamp. As usual, it will go on sale at iTunes several days later.
Listen to an early preview track:
Here it is folks. There’s a second video coming that features Lauren actually singing her take.
Featuring Lauren Osborn.
Artwork by Sarah de Buck.
Out of the two genres i’m currently subsuming the most, it’s Gothic Western that has me the most excited. I knew about and have listened to Dark Cabaret, but Gothic Western is a new candyland of music i really like, really inspires me, and is basically untapped.
Oh sure, the genre has roots in things i already love, like Tom Waits and some of Johnny Cash’s (especially later) work as well as bits and dollops of things i pick up here and there. But as a whole the genre is until now just outside my radar and the artists currently working it unknown to me and i’ve been playing this in the car more than anything else. The mood is just wonderful and combining this with Dark Cabaret… the possibilities are legion.
I’m almost done with the first song of the Gothic Western Steampunk Cabaret. We’re forgoing overtures this time around. Cabarets do not have overture, they cut right to the chase. So while i putter away, here are 5 tracks from the Western Gothic genre that i particularly enjoy:
I Am Oak
Lost Hallow is in a position where the desert meets the forest. Desert runs for miles and miles, endlessly in front of the small town, but behind it runs a mountain range where dense forest grows and wild things run free and hunt in the dark nights. Strange noises come from the mountains and more than one resident has claimed they heard a call in the night which they could only resist for so long. Those who hear the call all eventually go, some after a week, some after 6 months, but one day, sure enough, off they go under the stars, into the mountain forest. It would be wrong to say they are never heard from again as some are in fact spied by a resident gone camping who can only describe the person as having gone native, reclaimed by mother nature.
The desert side is where the sun rises and the skies go on forever into the distant. There are a few ranches here and one small artist collective who takes cactus buttons and tries to paint the sky they see afterwards, to varying effect. The desert is calming to the soul, the peaceful side of town, but deadlier even than the forest. A person can survive in the forest. Wander off too far into the dessert past where you can see back to the town and they say
you will never find your way back again. And the desert offers no hope of survival. Plus you don’t want to accidentally stumble on the settlement of giant, ill tempered, sentient scorpions because the truce doesn’t count if you wander into their territory.
Still, as a frontier town, Lost Hallow has all the resources it needs to run itself. It has wood, plants and water, mud, clay, sun and rain. And for a place so isolated and difficult to come by, it has a surprisingly large assortment of characters who wander in from all sort of places and all walks of life.
It is not a particularly large place. There is of course a main street and a few side streets running parallel and perpendicular. there is an open air market to the east of main street and the nightlife street to the west where the Saloon is. The Saloon is a popular place on the weekends. It is not a rickety, wooden thing. The inside is covered in red and violet satin with candles everywhere. It is one of the few businesses that allows wolves inside, although they are expected to mind their manners and for the most part do.
It is no secret about the presence of a werewolf compound at the foot of the mountain, just outside the town. it contains all manner of lycanthrope, running the gammit from those who are human who turn into a wolf every full moon, those who turn into a wolf nightly, and those who only turn human every crescent moon. They can get loud on full moon nights but otherwise are very good neighbors and are roam freely in the town with no ill will from the non furry residents.
Other notable points of interest are:
– the town library is rather small above ground, but is said to run for quite a ways below. There are all sorts of books of interest the librarian can pull for you, and some say below ground eventually the books give way to stacks of other things that give information. The librarian never speaks and is in some ways the most feared person in town although she is nothing but quiet, well mannered and helpful.
It’s the way she looks at someone who is acting rude, rudeness being a trait she will not abide, and the access she has to forms of forbidden knowledge you don’t even want to guess at. If she decides your quest for knowledge is worthy and what you seek cannot be found above ground, she will take you down into the stacks. But DO NOT stray from her. If you are lost down there it could be years before you are seen again. Just ask Old Man Gaynor. He was in his 20s when he went running off down below. he was only gone 2 years above ground time, but he came back over 30 years older, and definitely not all there. He can be relatively lucid, particularly in the mornings, but once he starts rambling it’s best if you stop listening. Those who try to understand what he’s saying end up going off the rails of sanity themselves, although usually for only a short time. Still, Carlos Valencia once tried to follow Old Man Gaynor’s ramblings while he was well liquored up one Sunday night, and ended up in the psych ward for 3 weeks. It should be noted that the psych ward is actually a refurbished barn out in back of Doc Svendsen’s property that his wife tends to, where the horse stalls have been fitted with plenty of hay in place of rubber rooms.
– The Preacher is a mythshifter. He changes appearance mildly, but more so he changes belief system. This is not superficial, when he changes into a Mormon or a 7th Day Adventist ( or Elysianism) the theological knowledge that comes to him is deep, encyclopediatic and intense. Same for African Shamanism, Jainism, Hinduism, you name it. There might be some places where this might negatively affect Sunday service attendance, but in Lost
Hallow, Sunday service attendence is through the roof. Some of course come out of pure curiosity to see what kind of crazy dogman they’re going to get an earful of that week, and some honestly find it to be spiritually inspiring.
The Preacher was the son of a rambling tent revivalist, who was known for his snake work. He often bragged there was no snake in existence he could no subjugate, and his reputation suggested this was certainly true. He came to town seeking Sophia Suarez, the town herbalist. If it grows, Sophia can someone how get it or grow it, and she supplies Doc Svendsen with most of his medicines, none of which are in pill form. Sophia’s peyote is world famous. This Tent revivalist caught wind from multiple sources of the presence of a great multi- dimensional Snake that exists within the peyote landscape, and having bested the serpent of Satan already, wished to tame this new challenge. Thus he came to
purchase and consume Sophia’s famous peyote buttons, which he did. He tripped
his balls off and sure enough, met and battled the Great Snake.
After a week had passed and he still hadn’t come down, his son, now our current Preacher, decided he neede to go in there and rescue his fool old man. Sophia flat out refused to sell the boy peyote buttons and it took the boy another week before he convinced Feena O’Kelly, the town tarot reader, so purchase some for him. Feena wasn’t too keen on the idea, but she consulted her cards and saw that sure enough, the father was indeed locked in a heated and endless battle with the serpent and that the serpent being engaged like this for too long a time would cause terrible consequences on both the psychic and eventually the material realms. So she bought the boy the buttons and went in
with him to see that he came to no harm.
They found his father locked in a fierce battle with the Snake. The story of the negotiation session isn’t worth getting into here, but the long and short of it is: the father eventally married the Snake and stayed in the spirit realm. The boy went back, but as part of taking the Snake as his step mother, he took on the mythshifting ability which would define his long and well received preaching career. Back in the material world he was adopted by Feena O’Kelly who looked after, finished raising him and who he loves like a mother.
– The town Firestarter is a Hasidic Monk named Yitsak Isaacs. He practices a unique form of Kabbalic Tai Chi which can produce fire and otehr forms of light, including laser and subtle luminscence. He lives next to the river, and contributes to the town a number of ways, the most banal and obvious being he lights the nightly gas lamp that line the town center. He does this by doing a slow, graceful, swirling dance down the center main street every evening, the lamps lighting themselves as he passes. Many residents enjoy sitting and watching this nightly ritual.
More importantly, Yitsak was responsible for stopping the awful scorpion raids that had been the terror of the town prior to his arrival years ago. Deep in the desert is a hive of giant scorpions who would raid the town from time to time. These skirmishes these raids resulted in were brutal. Yitsak for some reason had the ability to communicate with these creatures and managed to work out a truce, although it was a long, difficult process. The scorpions were not keen on a truce, still aren’t all that thrilled with it to this day, and some nights in a saloon you can hear some talk to the effect that it’s only a matter of time til the truce breaks down.
Artist Sarah de Buck, who i mentioned will be doing a heap of art for the upcoming Gothic Western Steampunk Cabaret project, has made some preliminary sketches for the most important character, Han-Mi. It’s an odd job because there need to be some elements of cliche to the Cabaret side of the character even though the performer does not share these cliches (and in fact takes issue on occasion).
She has done wonderful work and i am immensely excited to be working with her on this project.
This is the sound of me in love.
This is one from the vaults. I made this awhile back, just after The Coffee Cellar.
I was in love. I was so in love.
It was unrequited.
When men are in love they often do big, romantic gestures to demonstrate the epicness of their feelings.
So, i did what you might think i’d do.
I wrote her an entire album.
Her absolute favorite story of all time was The Little Mermaid (the original Hans Christian Anderson version.) So i made her an album that told the original Hans Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid using music and narration.
My suggestion is if you want to skip just to the highlights, start with The Ball. That was where i poured all of my… it’s the song where i said as clearly as i could with all my young raging hormones and emotional…. AWK: “GAwdDAMMIT. i. WANT. YOU.”
In the original story, the Little Mermiad not only cannot speak, but every single step she takes with her new legs is agonizing pain. She has no way to tell the prince how she feels or that she had saved him and loves him. She walks with him although each step is tearful torture. Finally, at the big ball, when she sees how much the prince is intrigued by these dancing girls, she steps up to dance for him, her only chance in the entire story to express herself, even though each step is unbearable pain.
And DO listen to the one after it, Waiting For The Sunrise. This track was a defining moment in my learning to tell stories.
This album was important on a musician’s level because i found i could tell stories using narration, which became a big tool for me. This album was in fact key for me as for the merging of music and story ( and as a side note, clearly i was still in my electronica phase).
I would add, i must have done SOMEthing right, because she married me and our 4 year old is running about my feet as we speak.
I was asked awhile ago to some time feature some work of mine that really goes back. Something early.
Now, if we go back too early we arrive at utterly unlistenable. This is a project from some years ago, back in the 90s. It was the first album i did under the name Mocha Lab, which i came up with specifically because i needed a “band” or artist name for the album and though my own name was way to uncool.
It was the 90s. Electronica ruled the landscape along with grungy rock.
I was even looser then i was now, and that’s saying something.
So i was visiting this buddy in a college town. My car at the time was always likely to have something wrong with it, such as… you know, expired registration, unpaid tickets at various points across the US… anyway, my car got taken to the pound and i couldn’t get it out until i sorted this tickets and license issue. I ended up in this town for about 2 to 3 weeks and i lived in this coffee shop. Literally lived there. From open to close i’d be there and upon closing head to the bars. I slept on an array of couches. I fell in love with the place. I had a blast.
At some point i decided i could immortalize the place and the time in music, so i went out and bought some really cheap little hand recorder and i’d record people around the Coffee Cellar. I’d be carrying that recording around all the time for DAYS. At times i’d even just leave it quietly on a table and return and pick it up 20 minutes later.
I took all these tapes home, lifted what i liked off of them and put them to electronica-y music, using the spoken stuff in the place of sung verses and choruses.
The result was the album The Coffee Cellar.
Years later it sound a little rough and unpolished, but it should. I was rough and unpolished. The place and the people were all young and unpolished. It was however the first album i had ever made up to that point that could actually listen to and LIKE after a few months had passed. It was honestly the first truly solid work i had ever done.
So for kicks and giggles, here it is. A little taste of youth.
I feel bad about the title of today’s post. These fine women have their own styles and don’t deserve to be classified by how they stack up to this one guy. However this encompasses a major element i’m looking for in the singer who will voice Jacqueline O’Brien.
I’m never going to get the singer i want. It’s not that i have a specific singer in mind, it’s just… between the limited access i have and the pathetically paltry sum i have to pay them (if you know someone who fits the descriptions i’m about to give who wants to sing on the Dieselpunk Opera as Jacqueline for $300 please send them along) i’m going to have to work with what i can get. That’s life. But we can dream big.
Jacqueline O’Brien in a mature woman. I want her to sound between 40 and 60. The actual age of the singer is irrelevant, she should SOUND between 40 and 60. She should sound weathered. She should be an alto. She should sound cool as hell.
This is why i bring up Tom Waits. He and his music have that sound. Weathered, not young, cool as hell. The fact that he’s a genius in my book and one of my top 5 musical gods of all time probably factors in.
So today we’re going to list a number of women who embody this. Who have that thing i think Jacqueline should have. Who are cool. Who you’d sit with on a rusty fire escape smoking cigarettes passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth with while shooting the shit.
1. Rickie Lee Jones
I LUUUUV Rickie Lee Jones.Cool? The girl OOZes cool. (She also actually dated Tom Waits in the late 70s). Go check out her album Pirates.
2. Nina Simone
She is a GOD.
3. Marianne Faithful
Here is a gem i’ve plundered repeatedly over the years. Remember the movie City Of Lost Children? That was an awesome movie. Here’s Marianne Faithful singing a song from the soundtrack.
4. Thalia Zedek
5. Sandy Dillon
6. Eleni Mandell
7. PJ Harvey
8. Fiona Apple
This might sound surprising, but i’m sticking with it. She is an amazing songwriter with a deep, unique style all her own, an AWEsome alto voice and she’s got soul to spare.
I’ve taken an evening to research and listen to a bunch of ragtime. Rather then be coy about it, i’ll just come right out and explain how it’s relevant.
For the first song of the 2nd Act of the Dieselpunk Opera i need a light, upbeat song with which to introduce Constance O’Brien and in particular discuss her profession and the societal circumstances around it.
You might think another New Albion song would be the obvious choice to fit in here, but it would be utter overkill. A New Albion song at the beginning of every Act is a Steampunk Opera device. To use it at the beginning of the Dieselpunk Opera to establish continuity is great. But after that it’s overkill. We must move on. We are not a one trick pony.
So, a light upbeat song that discusses a specific aspect of a character and New Albion upper class society. What would really work is a genre song. We pick a genre from the 20s or 30s, something that fits (can’t be Oh Brother Where Art Thou type music because while correct in period, it would be wrong for discussing upper class society) and that song is our little genre piece. Kind of like The Ballad Of The Gambler And The Monk.
Now, i’ve done listening sessions based on Latin big band music that was enormously popular back then like Cuban, the Mambo, the Rhumba and other son based big band/dance styles. But i can’t use THOSE for this because in our next song when we actually get down to the plot, Constance will be at an upper class soiree, dancing with some guy. That song will be upbeat too and more energetic so the first song should not compete.
Hence something like ragtime. Upbeat, light, good for a one off number.
I haven’t decided. I’m just considering.
Ragtime actually came from John Philip Sousa marches believe it or not. They were the popular melodies going around at the time. Ragtome is a very piano based style that uses these marching rhythms: That left hand is playing a straight one two march rhythm. African American musicians like Ernest Hogan would play those marches, but add some more complex and witty syncopations to the right hand melody based off his culture’s African sense of polyrhythm which had survived the nightmarish journey to the US.
Polyrhythym, just for the record, is superimposing one rhythm over another, like a 3 count over a 4 count, or in this case favoring the beats in between the main beat.
Thus, in this crazy new ragtime style, the melody would be syncopated, notes made to be stabbed in beTWEEN the one-two beats instead of the square “always on the beat” marches.
I would love to demonstrate.
First, let’s hear a famous John Philip Sousa march. Great melody and hear how everything falls on that one-two marching beat:
Now, hear how early ragtimers like Scott Joplin are playing that essential Sousa rhythm on the low notes, but the melody is continuously stabbing the spaces in between the one two marching rhythym:
THAT is ragtime.
The style exploded. From the beginning of the century through the 20s it was epic. It was the rock and roll of its day until by the 30s its evolutionary child Jazz overtook it and laid it in the dust.
As with every single musical style pioneered by African Americans, a certain segment of white America went ballistic with outrage. There were doctors who warned of the dangerous effects of ragtime music and syncopation on the brain and body. Many march loving folks dismissed it as “coon music” and many preachers assured their flocks it was the surest way to the fiery pit with all its lustful rhythms that could only have been thought up by Satan. The rock and roll of its day indeed.
However, this did not stop its wildlfire spread and mass appeal. It was fun, great composers came up with immensely catchy melodies, you could dance to it AND it didn’t require a large band. A single piano player could belt it out.
I leave you with a modern ragtime song which you may not have realized was ragtime but i assure you, is. Once again, notice how the lower rhythm is a straight march and the upper melody jibs and jabs at those rhythms in between. ( I also adore watching the bald guy play. His smiles are wonderful. Not to mention the yin yang of the two of them playing together is awesome and at times even kind of funny.)