Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2022 April 29 • Friday

Because of the movie Fight Club I've been curious about Chuck Palahniuk. I'd still like to read Fight Club—and apparently there are also Fight Club 2 and Fight Club 3—but this much more recent book, The Invention of Sound, found its way to Gutbrain Headquarters and so I read this one first.

The story follows two characters on parallel tracks that end up intersecting. One is named Gates Foster, a man haunted by the disappearance of his young daughter many years ago. Assuming her to have been abducted by traffickers or pornographers and by now murdered, he divides his time between going to a support group for parents of dead children and tracking down child pornographers and traffickers so he can become a saviour or at least avenger.

The other main character is Mitzi Ives, the greatest foley artist in Hollywood, particuarly when it comes to screams, screams of pain and horror. She's also virtuosic at providing the sounds of bodily trauma: stabbing, flaying, etc. They are very, very real-sounding.

If you think you know how these two characters converge, you're probably right.

None of this is particularly believable, as written, and eventually the book executes a quick sidestep into a kind of gruesome magical realism. No sooner have you adjusted to that then all the characters and plot points converge into what feels like a forced summation and perhaps the author's first idea and not necessarily what would have been his best.

Everything is wrapped up too neatly and also with extreme gore, coming to a far-fetched and not especially satisfying conclusion.

Perhaps the most ridiculous scene in the book takes place at the Academy Awards ceremony. While the scene itself is pretty much impossible to accept as something that would ever happen, Hollywood celebrities themselves are a tired target. I guess a lot of people care about them but I myself do not. (Similarly, the subjects that outrage the characters in Fight Club, at least in the movie, seem rather quaint today.)

It's a brisk read, not too long and pretty engaging, though there is a very odd quirk of language running throughout. Palahniuk loves structuring sentences in this way: "As for Foster, he'd only touched the little girl, a crime it was a stretch to call"; "As if she a prizefighter was".

Perhaps there's a reason for exerting that particular muscle but it wasn't apparent to me. It doesn't ruin the book but it's an odd and not very pleasant flavor.

The first line is "An ambulance wailed through the streets, and every dog howled".

2022 April 27 • Wednesday

Lots of people wanted and perhaps still want to be Cary Grant. The most famous example is Archie Leach, who did in fact become Cary Grant. But the story is a familiar one. Leach was never happy or secure and reinventing himself as Cary Grant didn't help. As miserable as it was to be Archie Leach, Leach was at least a real person while Cary Grant was not, not really.

If you want to read about Cary Grant, there's quite a lot of material to select from. I chose, more or less at random, Scott Eyman's recent biography Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise.

Golden Age of Hollywood biographies generally set the same scenes, have the same rhythms, drop the same names. Once you've read a few of them, it's up to the particularity of the subject to supply the interest. This is why Lee Server's Robert Mitchum biography was so great. Mitchum stood out from the pack, to put it mildly.

Cary Grant was a quieter case, a depressed, anxious person unsure of his own identity who worked hard at what he regarded as his trade, as opposed to an art or a craft.

Growing up poor in Bristol, running away from home to join a traveling troupe of acrobats (thus receiving both crucial physical as well as theatrical training), having a mother who was maybe mentally ill but definitely committed to an institution by her husband—something not known to Grant/Leach for a very long time. .

When the acrobats come to the US, Grant drops out and bases himself in New York City, selling hand-painted ties on the street while working in vaudeville.

He goes to Hollywood, he becomes Cary Grant. There are lots of stories about his being very stingy although he could be very generous with his time and his support. Instead of seeing himself, the star, as the most important part of a whole, he did everything he could to improve all parts. The better everyone around him looked, the better the script, the better the movie, the more succesaful the movie would be. If he kept starring in hits, he would stay a star. If his starring vehicles kept bombing, who would want him?

What about sex? Grant was married several times but it would seem that as a young man he was bisexual. There's a lot of speculation that he and Randolph Scott had an intense, intimate and sexual relationship while they both had relationships with women. There's nothing concrete but it seems likely.

Cary Grant didn't become a father until he was much older and it seems that this is the relationship for which he'd been searching his whole life. It would seem that every single time he interacted with a child he was just wonderful, at his most generous and attentive.

He was an early advocate of LSD, beginning to take it for therapy in the 1950s and tirelessly championing its virtues for the rest of his life.

The book dutifully goes through the filmography, offering critical reactions, behind the scenes stories and the inevitable march of salaries and percentages. Like every such biography, there are the long lists of famous names who congregate for parties. But what did all these people actually do when they were there? What was it like? We might never know.

Still, I wanted to know more about Cary Grant and now I do.

The first line is "Fate rarely writes the perfect ending".

2022 April 25 • Monday

For the 723rd Soundtrack of the Week we're listening to this magnificent re-recording of Dimitri Tiomkin's score for one of the only 3-D movies to use 3-D in an essential way: Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder.

"Main Title (Film Version)/Margot and Mark (Love Theme)" starts with a rousing fanfare and then swings into a sprightly energetic waltz that in turn relaxes into a swaying and romantic piece that feels like it's'in 6/8. Then there's a bit of more conventional underscore in 4/4 before a brief reprise of the waltz theme.

The atmosphere of ballroom dancesteps or perhaps ballet is continued in the blithe and perky "Green Curtains and White Gloves", which sounds like it could fit right into Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

A heavier and thicker waltz feel starts "Hidden Key/Swann The Intruder", creating a mostly romantic atmosphere before pure menace erupts in the end with obsessive ostinati from different parts of the orchestra and some ominous low brass tones blasting away.

Then there's the title track, a massive orchestral assault in which the thunderous capabilities of the ensemble are explored and the ostinati of the previous cue reprised.

"Forensics/The Stocking/Intermission Card — Version II" begins peacefully enough but with the suggestion of suspense hovering nearby. Later there's a return to the "Intruder" motif amid various inventive devices to suggest mystery and even an occasional jazzy note, culminating in a fanfare.

The next cue, "Lighter Fluid", is mostly light but again with an undercurrent of menace and a quick callback to the "Intruder" theme.

A classic "good guy" cue, "Meet Inspector Hubbard", is next, and while it does contain an abundance of major thirds and a pervasive feeling of virtue, it's still subtly constructed and implies some of the story's moral complexity.

Wistfully reaching tendrils of music begin "Interrogation/Trial?Margot's Last Chance", leading next to some beautifully lrical violin and flute playing, the "Intruder" motif and some beautifully developed underscore.

The beginning of "Confession/Margot Returns/The Truth" sounds as good to me as a lot of stuff that went straight to the concert hall. It's an airy, sinuous, exciting and emotional piece of narrative music. Next is a violin feature, the "Intruder" motif and some very energetic, "busy" music before a return to more pastoral and lighthearted elements.

"The Key" is the crux of the matter and Tiomkin directs our ears with a very specific focus by using only pizzicato strings for some of the time, before bringing in the other instruments.

The movie winds up with "Hubbard's Theory and End Title", another balletic and emotionally varied piece that draws on much of what's come before.

After that come some bonus tracks: "Suite from Strangers on a Train", "Main Title (Original Version)" and "Intermission Card — Version 1", which are all pretty self-explanatory, as well as "Dial 'M' for Me", a swing jazz version of the love theme.

2022 April 22 • Friday

Once again we've strayed from our usual reading diet of bank robbers, monsters and space aliens. Let no one say we won't try something new. Behold one of our recent conquests: The United States Envelope Company's The Envelope: Its Origin, Development and Manufacture.

If we ever run into Nicholson Baker, he might like to hear about this volume. It's actually pretty interesting.

While it's primarily promotional material for the USEC, the history of the envleope was more engaging than we'd expected.

What was the first envelope? Apparently this:

And before paper envelopes became the standard, people used to leave part of their writing pages blank and fold them in such a way as to make the letter be the envelope also.

Want to make your own envelopes at home? Of course you do! Here's how:

It really is quite an appealing artifact, quietly and crisply designed.

It might be too much to say that you'll never think of envelopes in the same way again but perhaps you'll spare a moment to think about them when otherwise you wouldn't have at all.

2022 April 20 • Wednesday

At last! We've got Peter and Maria Hoey's new book, Animal Stories!

Actually we got it a month ago and read it immediately. We love their work.

At Gutbrain Headquarters you can find Hoey comics, books, t-shirts, posters, flip books, basically anything we can get our hands on.

Their new book, which I guess is the first book-size book to contain completely new material, feels like a step in a different direction from the Coin-Op books that came before it.

There are six stories, interconnected to varying degrees. All have animals central to them and might be more accurately described as fables.

The content ranges from delicately deployed magical realism to fantasy of ambiguous tonality to Bible-tinged mini-dramas before concluding on a note of ominous admonition.

The writing has the same reserved and matter-of-fact character that the Coin-Op comics did, but the colors seem to be a little brighter and less varied, shadows and contrasts less pronounced.

The design and layout are as arresting as other, particularly in the second story, when two-page spreads are divided into two or three different diagonal slashes, the slashes themselves sometimes composed of a series of circles.

And of course the Hoeys are expert at one of my favorite things in the medium, dividing an image into multiple panels.

As usual, it gets our highest recommendation. And you can find it all over the place!

2022 April 15 • Friday

2022 April 18 • Monday

We're fans of Chelsea Wolfe here at Gutbrain Records and thrilled that she's getting into the soundtrack game! The 722nd Soundtrack of the Week is X, whose score is by Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe.

The first track is "My God", in which otherworldly, breathy and wordless vocals by Wolfe coil around ominous musical atmospheres, ambient and industrial sounds with some creepy piano work here and there.

A similar approach is used in "Maxine Meets Pearl" but the pitches are higher, the feeling slightly thicker and brighter.

The mood gets sharper and harsher for "Theda", which builds to some heavy breathing and insistent pulsing of dread.

The acoustic guitar and piano waltz of "Peter's Lullaby" are something of a relief but the vocals and instrumentation still make it sound very uneasy and sad.

It's a bit of a shock when the drums come in with a straight rock beat, joined by wailing electric guitar, for "Fucking Finally". The band fades out at the end to be replaced by textural and unsettling music, though.

"Pearl's Rapture" is a feature for just voices and it sounds like Wolfe using multiple tracks of her voice only, singing and sighing. It's a short piece but very impressive.

For "Dolls" Wolfe brings a childish sing-songy quality to her vocals and it's the kind of horror movie sound that might recall Goblin's music for Deep Red. Unexpectedly, though, guitar and drums come in with a cool rhythm, there's some electric piano playing, then a return to the feel at the beginning. Afte that there's a crescendo to some loud sounds that suggest terror.

This leads immediately into "Pumping Gas", which reprises the groove that was introduced in "Dolls" but ditches it quickly for an atmosphere with lots of space and cloudy sounds plus whispered vocals, spoken not sung.

Another funky/rock cue is in "Use Your Telephone". Since the plot of this movie involves shooting a porn movie, these groovy segments with wah-wah guitar are probably supposed to suggest the film with the film.

Ethereal tones and multi-tracked vocals start off "We Talked About This" but the second half is metallic and ambient/industrial, settling into an intriguingly melancholic mood at the end.

"Nice Girl" has a starker version of the porn movie groove and gets layered with moaning vocals and some more industrial tones.

That rusted steel sound starts out "Headlights" but about halfway through it turns into Wolfe singing the old song "Oui Oui Marie" in a ghostly funhouse mirror sort of way. A more straightforward version of this comes later on the record and was also released as a single. It's like a lot of Wolfe's best work: ghostly, heavy, industrial goth folk.

More aggravated ambient avantgarde soundscapes with some delicate utterances from other instruments and Suspiria-like sighs create "Sorry To Disturb You" while forced exhalations create a rhythm track for slight sounds and wails in "The Cellar".

Similar sighs, exhalations and mysterious noises start off "What Is It Baby?" but the second half of a cue is kind of like a stuck record mellotron drone with some subtle percussion punctuation.

"I Was Young Once" starts very quiet and minimalist but builds to a terrifying pounding and clattering in the middle before coming down to quiet but ominous tones and pulses.

The same mood continues into "Tell Me I'm Special" which also crescendoes to Suspiria-like vocalizing and deranged percussion, piano and swirls of sounds.

Restraint in the form of quiet, long tones and different layers of terse comments from various instruments is most of "Maxine Grabs the Gun" before it clusters out at the end.

Finally there's the haunting a capella "Bring Our Daughters Home", which appears to be two tracks of Wolfe's voice singing a desolate wordless melody.

2022 April 15 • Friday

Sometimes books are just really, really fun. A great time. Here's one of those: Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall.

It's got a pretty straightforward premise, basically zombie virus outbreak at a Star Trek convention. That would pretty much write itself but the authors aren't just phoning this in.

They really crafted a delightful piece of work here and made the straightforward premise not so straightforward after all. The characters are all distinct and more complex and believable than you might expect.

There are Star Trek references on every page, lots of funny jokes and an additional thread of humor running through the book that involves Star Wars.

The threat, horror, gore and action are all handled quite well without ever dragging the book outside the zone of pure entertainment.

The main character, the outrageously aptly named Jim Pike, is veteran of US forces in Afghanistan who took a job at the Botany Bay (ahem) Hotel & Conference Center in an effort to escape PTSD.

All he wants is peace, quiet, nobody depending on him, nothing serious. Well, you can't have everything!

If you're any kind of Star Trek fan and you've also seen and enjoyed Dawn of the Dead, you should absolutely read this book.

The first line is "'Space, the final frontier…'".

2022 April 13 • Wednesday

Harlan Ellison is famous for quite a number of things and high up on that list is the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever".

It is and has always been generally considered the most popular and/or best episode of the series.

But… what ended up on the tv screen isn't what Ellison wrote. This isn't unusual. Scripts for movies and television programs are frequently tinkered with or tailored to fit.

But this is the most famous episode of Star Trek ever and Star Trek is a Big Deal, mostly because of its reliability as a cash cow.

And many people involved with the show have told many stories about Mr. Ellison and this particular script, Gene Roddenberry himself being one of the chief fabulists.

In this book, The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay that Became the Classic Star Trek® Episode, Harlan Ellison sets the record straight.

The first third of the book is the best. This is the part in which Ellison addresses the reader directly in his inimitable and compelling voice. He has a case to make and he makes it powerfully. At no point are you asked merely to take his word for anything that happened. Documentation and corroborating accounts are presented in abundance as well as persuasive appeals to logic and common sense.

After that come Ellison's original treatments, scripts and rewrites for the episode in question. I was surprised that I didn't like it as much as I expected to.

Perhaps the original is too strongly impressed upon me. Perhaps I simply don't share Ellison's enthusiasm for his vision for Kirk. Certainly I don't agree with Ellison's idea for Beckwith, the villain of the piece. He's simply "evil", a plot device, not an interesting or even believable character, the kind of simplistic "television" writing that Ellison himself deplores.

And there are other things like that too. Ellison's favorite parts seem to be my least favorite parts.

But this isn't the point. That's only my opinion. The purpose of this book is to rebut lies and fallacies that have been directed at Ellison relentlessly for decades. And while I'm not crazy about his original script, it obliterates all the nonsense that various people have said against it and its author over the years.

Finally the third section presents testimonials from people such as D.C. Fontana, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Walter Koenig and other people who know a thing or two about the subject in question. Fontana's is the most interesting and a whole book about her experiences working on Star Trek would be fascinating to read.

2022 April 11 • Monday

There's a lot of Jerry Goldsmith out there. And it's ALL GOOD! For the 721st Soundtrack of the Week we're listening to one of his best, the music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The music is pretty much the only thing that doesn't disappoint about this movie. And this soundtrack has been released a bunch of times. What we're listening to right now is the most recent presentation, a two-disc set from La-La Land Records.

It starts off with the "Overture", which is basically "Ilia's Theme", and one of our favorite piecves of music.

Then there's "Main Title and Klingon Battle". The first half is the theme that would end up becoming the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The first half is a wonderful hunting theme with pizzicato strings, harp, rattly percussion, hunting horns and blaster beam.

There's a lot of blaster beam on this score. It's prominent in "Total Logic", which uses strings to create a mysterious atmosphere along with some other creaky and desolate sounds that might be coming from percussion instruments or very delicate manipulation of the blaster beam.

A Debussy-like swirl of airy strings and flutes, soon to be joined by a triumphant orchestra that gives it a nautical feel, sums upo the short "Floating Office". This cue seems to anticipate James Horner's approach to the sequel.

The main theme is brought back in a quieter, more restrained and spaced out arrangement for "The Enterprise". It sounds like a love theme, actually, and it should.

A feeling of danger and dread is introduced in the tense "Malfunction", which also manages to suggest the main theme in some of its intervalic writing.

Blaster beam kicks off "The Crew Briefing", which gradually increases the tension until it culminates in a reprise of the main theme, which is then brought out in full glory for "Leaving Drydock".

"Captain's Log—Warp One" and "No Goodbyes" are very short cues that make use of the main theme and "Ilia's Theme" while "Spock's Arrival" draws on that material very subtly for a swirling, otherworldly yet somehow classical piece with quite a few surprises.

Captain's Log—Warp Seven" includes the classic Alexander Courage theme for the original series and it's absolutely thrilling to hear, particularly in Goldsmith's calm and composed arrangement. It's followed by an energetic reprise of the film's main theme.

Then we get music for our main menace in "Meet V'Ger", alternatingly urgent and driving and myserious and atmospheric.

"The Cloud" is a favorite cue, very lush and textural and lyrical and lovely but with the blaster beam crashing in occasionally. This mood is continued in "V'Ger Flyover" and "The Force Field".

Then there's another reprise of "Ilia's Theme" for "Micro Exam", followed by the mini-suite of "Games", which has Goldsmith using church organ, creepy crawl strings, eerie percussion and blaster beam to conjure an abundance of uneasiness.

This blend of sci-fi and horror scoring gets another work out in "Spock Walk", an intense cue with lots of space and different levels of intensity.

"System Inoperative" is a moore familiar-sounding dramatic underscore type of cue, though still using the vocabulary of what we've heard in the score so far.

There's a lot of restraint in "Hidden Information", which does indeed suggest secrecy and under the table machinations with long spacious tones and quiet noises from percussion instruments in the background.

The main theme is given an electronic an ethereal going over for "Inner Workings", a mostly delicate cue that builds up some strength near the end.

A similar restraint informs "V'Ger Speaks", lots of steady, stable, long tones, no big leaps and bounds for the instruments, just keeping the audience focused.

Goldsmith then deconstructs the two main themes for "The Meld and a Good Start" and again you can hear some anticipation of what Horner would do for the second movie in a few places here.

Then for the end credits, the two main themes come charging out strong, nothing tricky.

Also on this release are several alternate takes and the original soundtrack album. But how does this differ from the previous triple CD set? Uh, not sure, but maybe we'll get arouond to finding out one of these days.

2022 April 08 • Friday

Here's the April 1964 issue of The AOPA Pilot magazine, "the voice of general aviation" and the "official magazine of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association".

That cover design isn't especially imaginative but it's still pleasing to the eye.

Inside are some wonderful examples of commercial illustration, though. If I ever came across the original art for this Cherokee ad, I'd be very tempted to buy it.

There are some interesting articles as well, including this piece about a woman who may have made history by being the first woman to use a multi-engine plane for her first solo flight.

And these twelve women who flew twelve planes solo across the country.

Finally, there's an ad for a restaurant with its own runway, so you can fly there for a meal.

2022 April 06 • Wednesday

Once again we've been reminded how good the comics medium is for non-fiction, particularly in presenting lots of information in a clear, engaging and memorable way.

The latest case in point is Adam Allsuch Boardman's An Illustrated History of UFOs.

This a "just the facts" book that delivers on its title in an even-handed, non-judgmental way.

Information that would be really unwieldy to convey in a text-only medium is just right there for you to take in with ease..

In addition to being an example of brilliant art and design, it was also fascinating reading!

2022 April 04 • Monday

The 720th Soundtrack of the Week is Mark Isham's score for Fire in the Sky.

The first track, "White Mountains, Arizona", starts slowly with low tones and regularly space string statements of varying consonance and dissonance building suspense. Sounds like there are didgeridoos in there too. Then drums kick in and the intensity shoots up for a pounding slab of music before strings cluster down and we end in a sort of spacious atmosphere with sharb stabbing sounds from the orchestra intruding every once in a while.

After that comes a plaintive piece of Americana for "Travis Walton", which also builds nicely into something strong and optimistic.

The next piece, "A Fire in the Sky", is over seven minutes long, and is a suite of various atmospheres, from dense and tense, to eerie and electronic. The drums come pounding in again and the strings cluster in and out.

The space and stabs of the first cue return for the first part of "Meanwhile, Back on Earth/Comfort and Prayers/The Search". The second part uses long tones that stack on each other for thick and colorful sonic textures and then part three is an energetic almost Philip Glass-like bit.

"Found Objects/Katie's Betrayal" begins with the sharp stabs of sound again, but this time against a more swaying and intriguing backdrop. For the second part, there's lyrical playing from the orchestra in a quieter and gentler mood.

The rhythmic pulse of "Found Objects" returns for "News Reports" while "Town Meeting/Polygraph Test" returns to the "Travis Walton" mood before bringing in the jagged string motif.

"Night Thoughts/The Return/Hospital Flashback" does start out in a thoughtful mood with strings, piano and harp creating a lovely but uneasy atmopshere. The rhythm picks up in energy and the strings play a more agitated but still lyrical melody. Finally, things get more horror movie-like with some scary and shadowy sounds and intense rhythmic tracks.

"A Man on Display" is a spare and slightly sad cue, restrained but with a lot of feeling. "Party Flashback" is a very short piece that quickly hits some of the themes and ideas that have been developed already.

Then there's the almost thirteen-minute cue "Evil Spirits from the Sky", which starts with mysterious sounds of wind and the suggestions of clouds and strange celestial sounds. It sustains this mysterious, ominous, spacey atmosphere for a very long time before solidifying into something not too far removed from avantgarde industrial music, very much not warm or sounding very human.

We return to comforting Americana-style underscore, this time with an unusual keyboard instrument added to the orchestra, for "They Didn't Like Me—A Case Unsolved" and then wrap things up with "Party Flashback (Alternate), which is just what the title suggests.

2022 April 01 • Friday

Happy birthday!

Here's a frivolous French movie that, because of its numerous international locations and Martial Solal score, kind of looks and sounds like an episode of Danger Man.

But while Danger Man was always very tightly scripted and plotted, Échappement libre (1964, a.k.a. Backfire), is a loose and shaggy trifle of a film. It's almost hard to imagine that it had a script at all.

Remember how in Goldfinger, at some point in the movie what everyone was concerned about was how Goldfinger was smuggling gold? And it turned out that his actual car was made out of gold and he would just melt it down when he brought it back into the country?

Well someone decided to make a whole movie about that and they decided to get Gert Frobe, Goldfinger himself, to be in it doing exactly that, smuggling a car made of gold. But he won't do it himself, no, he'll get Jean-Paul Belmondo and Belmondo's Breathless co-star Jean Seberg to do it.

And so you've got these two amazing movie stars driving a really cool sports car all around Europe as Belmondo hits on Seberg and people double cross each other and there are cops and robbers all over the place and I forget what else.

There are a couple of other notable things in this movie. First is this record player inside a car in the opening scene.

And then there's this bar which features a glass wall into a swimming pool.

Also Costa Gavras is credited as First Assistant Director.