On a lighter note…

As I mentioned previously, having a new writing project means having a new playlist.  Nearly all of the Bridgetown trilogy music leaned more towards darker atmospheric moods, so the hard switch to a new musical style has felt a bit like whiplash.

Meet the Lidwells! features a family band that plays what some would call power pop: quirky and upbeat, often guitar-oriented, sometimes a bit odd, but never an uncomfortable listen.

Well-known examples would be Fountains of Wayne…

or Veruca Salt…

or Matthew Sweet…

or Belly…

….you get the picture.

So why power pop?  Well, the story of the Lidwells is partly set in the late 80s-early 90s; they’re a band heavily influenced by the Beatles (thanks to their parents) as well as late 80s college rock (thanks to their elder siblings).  Much like the Beatles, they started out writing simple poppy love songs aimed towards the young teen market.  Over the course of five chart-topping albums and numerous hit singles, their sound evolves from that catchy pop to more adventurous alternative rock.  And just like the Beatles, weary of the ups and downs of fame and tiring of the game, they decide to go out on a big note with their strongest album.

Right now, while I’m working on notes and piecing together a coherent story, I’m also making it a point to look for more music to listen to that would fit this project.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be explicitly power pop, of course…as long as it’s somewhere in the neighborhood.  And I’m specifically looking for both male and female singers, as it’s important to the story.

So yeah…if you have any suggestions/recommendations for bands and songs, please feel free to let me know in the comments!  I’m always open to new tunage. 🙂

The Official Eden Cycle Soundtrack

Or: Albums Wot I Listened to Incessantly While Writing the Trilogy in the Belfry, 1996-2004. It’s by no means a complete list, as I’ve left out a ton of albums that didn’t get nearly as much play but may have shown up in heavy rotation for a shorter time. I also didn’t list the albums that popped up during the revision years, which would probably be another long list in itself.

I’ve put them in semi-chronological order of release. These are still some of my favorite albums; I would highly suggest checking many of them out, perhaps finding a copy or two for your collection if you don’t have them already. It’s a wide mix; there’s electronica, alternative metal, alternative rock, and even a classical album or two. A lot of these albums still pop up on rotation when I’m working.

To be honest, it does feel kind of odd to finally be listening to a different style of music for my latest project. [Meet the Lidwells! is full of power-pop goodness, so there’s a lot of Matthew Sweet and Fountains of Wayne involved, and a lot of listening to The Power Pop Show on KSCU.]  But I highly doubt I’ll stop listening to Fantastic Planet or Sea Change any time soon…

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Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 4

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I love listening to this mix. It was made in September 1998, when I was finishing up the original first draft of The Phoenix Effect.  I was in full-tilt mode on my writing habits by this time: write a few pages during the day, transcribe and revise it at home.  [I believe my comic collecting habit had gone full swing as well — driving halfway across the state on Wednesday afternoons to pick up my weekly list over in Hadley.  Not that that stopped me from working later that night anyway!]

There were a hell of a lot of great albums that came out in 1998, and many of them ended up on heavy rotation during these sessions.  [That’s another post entirely, maybe next week!]  Many of the tracks from those albums ended up on this mix.

Side A

  1. Massive Attack, “Teardrop”
    Every now and again, there’s a song that just blows you away upon first listen, and this is one of them for me.  I bought the import version of Mezzanine because I loved this track so much.  It doesn’t exactly fit in with any scenes or characters in particular, but Liz Fraser’s always-angelic vocals and the band’s sparse-yet-intense music fit the mood of my story perfectly.
  2. VAST, “Touched”
    The WEA rep handed this band’s promo cd to me and stated it would be right in my wheelhouse, and they weren’t wrong.  Not quite goth, not quite darkwave, not quite alternative, but somewhere in between.  Another mood piece I could use when I needed to write a scene full of bite.
  3. Mistle Thrush, “Shine Away”
    [Sorry for the quality…this is the only video of the song I could find.]  In a bit of serendipity, the lead singer of this band was good friends with my then-manager Tom, and he handed me their Silt album to check out.  It’s full of that heavy guitar-laden dreampop I love so much.
  4. Dishwalla, “Until I Wake Up”
    When their second album And You Think You Know What Life’s About dropped in August, I was all over it…it had their excellent songwriting of 1995’s Pet Your Friends but a much louder and heavier sound, and much darker lyrics.  This is my favorite track of theirs, and it fit the mood of frustration a lot of my characters were feeling.
  5. Primal Scream, “Higher Than the Sun”
    Their Screamadelica album remains one of my favorite albums of the 90s (really, you should own it if you don’t already).  I always loved the dreamlike trippiness of this track.  This was another track that influenced my idea of what it felt like for my characters to visit Trisanda: excitement and fascination…but also a little disorienting.
  6. Radiohead, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
    The Bends got a ton of play out of me even during the sessions for True Faith, because it’s that good of an album.  I liked how the track seemed to hint at community but was really more about trying to escape its stifling grip.  In a roundabout way this became another theme in the trilogy: trying to avoid the grip of outside influence.
  7. Hooverphonic, “Eden”
    Their Blue Wonder Power Milk was released the same day as the Dishwalla album and was another big favorite of mine; they’d moved past their synthetic-sounding first album and become more of an organic band here.  This track was one of the inspirations for my wanting to pair Alec and Akaina together; they knew they were different in so many ways, but their spiritual connection transcended that.
  8. Portishead, “Roads”
    I listened to Dummy quite a bit in the summer of 1995 when I was writing True Faith, and this track just stayed in my head for a long time afterwards.  By 1998 I was a big fan of triphop and catching up with all those bands that I’d missed the first time out; it’s a perfect subgenre for setting a mood.
  9. Information Society, “The Ridge”
    This track is a long way from their 1988 “What’s On Your Mind”, that’s for sure.  Essentially a Kurt Harland solo album under the InSoc banner, Don’t Be Afraid is a creepy darkwave affair with a bit of X-Files-ish conspiracy weirdness thrown in.  I used this track as a base for Denni and her trials in trying to balance being a goddess and being a teenage girl.

Side B

  1. Global Communication, “Epsilon Phase”
    I picked up both their 76:13 and Pentamerous Metamorphosis cds at the same time, after being blown away by that Pulusha track (see Vol 3).  Bonus points when I realized the latter was an ambient remix album of a Chapterhouse album!  This is a lovely transcendent track that fits in nicely with the spiritual side of the story.
  2. Portishead, “Half Day Closing”
    A track from 1997’s self-titled second album.  That record was a harder listen, though tracks like this fit in with the trippy headspace stuff I was trying to come up with.
  3. Tin Star, “Raincheck”
    The Thrill Kisser was a surprise favorite of mine (and another album where I grabbed the import before it was issued in the US).  It was a great mix of synth and guitar with quirky lyrics and music.  Another mood choice, this time for those scenes where the characters need to make unfortunate desicions.
  4. theaudience, “I Got the Wherewithal”
    You might know Sophie Ellis-Bextor for her solo dance hits in the UK, but this was her pre-solo band, and I absolutely adored their self-titled album.  It’s perky, snarky, and Very British.  I really wanted them to break in the US, but alas, they surfaced with exactly one American sampler EP before the whole Polygram/Uni shake-up ditched a crapton of good bands.
  5. U2, “Love Is Blindness”
    This was another track that I used for Alec and Akaina.  I hadn’t listened to Achtung Baby for a few years until I found a cheap cd copy at a used record store and it ended up on medium rotation for a year or so.
  6. Radiohead, “Fake Plastic Trees”
    Another single from The Bends.  Put here partly because I like the song, but I think I as also thinking about how what seems shiny and awesome on the surface is quite less so when one looks past all that.  It doesn’t show up so much in TPE or the trilogy, but it shows up in a future Mendaihu Universe story: the enlightenment of the Mendaihu and the Shenaihu may be worth celebrating years after the events in the trilogy…but there’s an ugly undercurrent that never quite went away.
  7. Hooverphonic, “2Wicky”
    I was a latecomer to Hooverphonic’s first album, but I knew this track from hearing it all over the place.  It’s a simple sci-fi sounding track that I thought would fit in with the rest of the mix.  I may have thought about a side story using this song, but I never really got anywhere with it.
  8. Rob Dougan, “Clubbed to Death [Kurayamino Variation]”
    Yes, that song from The Matrix.  I was completely sold on that film, because I’d always been frustrated by Hollywood’s inability to make an SF movie that wasn’t basically a horror or disaster movie with SF elements.  This was a true science fiction film, even if it was filled to the brim with all kinds of action film tropes; it had a story you had to think about and figure out as you were watching it.  It didn’t so much influence my own writing, as much as it confirmed that I was on the right path with my own story.  This, of course, was my favorite track from the film.

…And that concludes the original four-volume Songs from the Eden Cycle mix!  Hope you enjoyed it.  I made a few ‘sequel’ mixes during the trilogy writing years, but I’ll share those at a later time.  These four are the originals, the ones that I’d play on my tape deck in the car during the long commutes, the ones I’d listen to downstairs in the basement when writing.  I’ll still throw them on now and again; sometimes I’ll even have them on my mp3 player that I use when I go to the gym.

More Mendaihu Universe tunage coming soon!

 

 

 

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 3

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Volume 3 of the Eden Cycle mixtapes was put together in November of 1997, right in the midst of the fourth quarter at HMV.  I had a significant portion of The Phoenix Effect finished and a good handle on it all, so this mix was less about trying to figure out the characters as it was about trying to narrow down what kind of mood and setting I wanted.  I was quite aware that I was writing a story where the actions had big circumstances.  I understood that I didn’t want my characters to be acting in a void; whatever action took place, it was affecting more than the leads.  The rest of the city had to respond as well, even if it was passive.  The only way I could do this is to slowly but surely change the mood and the actions taking place within Bridgetown.

Volume 3, then, ended up being a study in trying to capture that idea; this time the mix wasn’t about the characters, but the setting itself.  Thus it’s darker and more introspective than the previous two.  The flow is a bit rough, and this was probably the mix I listened to least (unless I was listening to all four mixes chronologically), but there’s some excellent music on this one regardless.

Side A

  1. Rabbit in the Moon, “OBE”
    Originally a dance club hit back in 1994 (due in part to its brilliant use of sampling Tori Amos’ “Precious Things”), it got a second life as a track on the Urbal Beats Vol 1 techno compilation that came out in 1997.  This was probably the height of the 90s electronica wave, and provided me a bit of moody futurism.
  2. Shaï No Shaï, “Better with White”
    This was an obscure French band I’d discovered via one of our many cd promos and listened to this quite a bit in the back room.  This was also the height of the new age/Celtic folk boom (thank you, Riverdance), which gave me a lot of mystical background music for the more spiritual parts of my story.
  3. Mansun, “Wide Open Space”
    One of my coworkers handed me a copy of Attack of the Grey Lantern and I was completely hooked on the band.  Latter-era Britpop, when all the party sheen has worn off to reveal that darker edge.
  4. Whiskeytown, “Not Home Anymore”
    Ryan Adams’ band before he went solo, Whiskeytown was part of the wave of alt-country bands like Wilco.  I loved the creepiness of this song, the feeling of ghosts long departed.  This would be part of a theme with spiritual travel in the book (such as characters traveling to Trisanda).  Even though I had an idea of a soul’s transcendence from the body, I wanted a darker edge to it — there was always a reminder that things could go horribly wrong.
  5. Lauren Christy, “Breed (Coda)”
    A much slower, dirge-like version of her single that closes out the Breed album, this was another hint at that darker edge of spirit travel — the never-ending hunger to be connected to the body, no matter how far one wanted to transcend.  I’d use a variation of this as a major plot point in The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light.
  6. U2, “Please”
    Another dark song…this time a feeling of displacement, of being somewhere you don’t want to be.  The frustration of being aware of a situation you may not be able to handle alone.  This was a reminder to myself that it wasn’t just about the main characters.
  7. The Chemical Brothers, “Elektrobank”
    Dig Your Own Hole was crazy popular in 1997, and it’s no surprise, as it’s one hell of a great electronica album.  My favorite track off it was partly due to its excellent Spike Jonze video, but I also loved how twitchy this song is — the extant energy within a spirit barely contained, begging to be let out.  This theme was used a few times in TPE and once or twice in the trilogy, but I have more plans for it in future Mendaihu Universe stories!
  8. Cocteau Twins, “The Thinner the Air”
    One of my favorite CT album tracks, and one of their most dreamlike tracks.  Another song inspiring the state of the soul: at rest, but always aware.  I’d use that theme with Caren’s oft-spoken mantra throughout the trilogy, hra khera, hra mehra (to be here, to be at peace).
  9. Seal, “Crazy [Acoustic/Instrumental Mix]”
    One of my favorite tracks of the 90s, I chose this version as it flows better with the previous track…for me, it’s the moment when the already aware spirit finally chooses to take action.  This happens numerous times in TPE as well as in the trilogy; sometimes the characters are forced into action, other times its out of desperation, but each time it’s a pivotal moment.

Side B

  1. Jocelyn Pook, “Oppenheimer”
    One of my favorite promos from this time is a compilation called Invocation that features spiritual songs from all different cultures and genres.  This was my introduction to Jocelyn Pook, as well as the full speech from Robert Oppenheimer about the atomic bomb; many find ‘Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds’ is an ominous line, but I felt that ‘…I suppose we all thought that, one way or another’ really brings it home, chillingly, in terms of humanity taking responsibility for its actions.  The theme of responsibility became a very strong one in the trilogy.
  2. Forest for the Trees, “Dream”
    Time to lighten the mood just a bit.  This is the opposite of the previous track; this is celebrating what the responsible human spirit can do.  I always made it a point to balance the two within the trilogy as much as I could.  [And yes, I’m well aware that the main verse is stylistically incorrect.]
  3. The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony [James Lavelle Remix]”
    This track was ubiquitous in 1997, and their biggest hit.  I loved this version, having found it as a b-side to one of their other singles.  Like the track before it, it’s a wish for the soul to reach out, to branch out, to move, even when all around is stasis.  (James Lavelle would pop up later in 1998 as the leader of one of my favorite bands, UNKLE.)
  4. Orbital, “The Box [Single Version]”
    Another excellent electronica single of the era, this particular track’s twitchiness and minor key works with my theme of balance: even though the soul wants to reach out, it also needs to be aware of what it’s reaching for and what the outcome will be.
  5. Dubstar, “Stars”
    Another promo I fell in love with, Goodbye is a lovely synthpop album with some damn fine songs on them.  This particular track resonated with me as feeling like the opening credits theme to a romantic anime series; I was still obsessed with anime then (it was still hard as hell to find through normal avenues) and the album was a good reminder of this story’s origins and how I wanted to portray it.
  6. Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt”
    Interestingly, The Downward Spiral is an album I listened to constantly in the mid-90s, but I find it a hard listen to now, given how raw it is emotionally. This track is a perfect ending song for the album, though, considering it’s a song of, well, maybe not redemption, but acceptance.  It’s dark as hell, but there’s hope at the end.
  7. Pulusha, “Isolation, Pt 1”
    Another track off the Invocation compilation, and the track that introduced me to Global Communication (whose member Mark Pritchard is behind this track).  This is an especially important track for me, as it inadvertently helped me figure out a plot line I’d been fighting for a long time: when a character’s soul departs a body, what takes its place if the person is still alive?  I’d been listening to this track when I finally figured out the answer: balance.  Even as all the characters were seeing their world as Mihari or Misuteru, they were refusing to see that, deep down, they were in fact both; it’s just that culture has forced people to chose one or the other as dominant and the other as weakness.  If one leaves, the other stays.  This realization broke down a hell of a huge wall for me and cleared the way for the rest of the novel and the trilogy.  In essence, this is when I came up with the cho-nyhndah theme.

Hope you enjoyed the mix!  Volume 4 will come up soon, and I think you’ll like that one…there’s a hell of a lot of great tracks on that one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 2

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This next mixtape was made a few months after Volume 1, when I had a little more of an idea of where I wanted to go with the story.  The songs on this mix, then, were not about trying to evoke a specific mood; this was more about trying to figure out who my characters were.

There was a reason for this: in my previous projects, the characters were always based on someone.  In the pre-1993 projects, they were usually inspired by certain traits of people I knew personally.  For True Faith, I’d based characters on certain actors that I could see playing that role.  For The Phoenix Effect, however, I wanted to do my homework.  These characters would be true creations and not cameos.

Side A

  1. George Harrison, “Isn’t It a Pity”
    I’d always loved this track of George’s, and that summer while listening to All Things Must Pass, I realized this encapsulated some of Alec Poe’s views of humanity: so much potential, yet falling so short, so often.  You don’t see it as much in the first two books of the trilogy, but it really comes to the fore in The Balance of Light.
  2. The Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight”
    Their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album had been a big seller at HMV during the winter of 1996 and this track had gotten a lot of airplay everywhere.  [I particularly loved the Georges Méliès homage in the video, having studied A Trip to the Moon in college.]  In reference to my story, this kind of hinted at how the Mihari (aka the Mendaihu) would approach being spiritually awakened; excited and curious.
  3. Depeche Mode, “Home”
    Another song connected to Alec Poe; the song, like a lot of Depeche Mode’s love songs, is deeply emotional yet extremely self-conscious.  Poe has a hard time dealing with people sometimes, but his initial meeting with Akaina (even in TPE) changed all that.
  4. Beck, “The New Pollution”
    Back when the Mihari and Misuteru (aka the Mendaihu and Shenaihu) were awakened in AI bodies, this track fit pretty well as a simple yet effective ‘alone in a new world’ feel.
  5. Tori Amos, “Little Earthquakes”
    I’d been a passive Tori fan, but one day back in 1994 I’d heard a college station play this track, and I realized just how intensely beautiful the track was.  I’d initially thought about using this as character development for Akaina, but soon realized it fit Saone Lehanna’s character so much better.  A character who’d been changed against her will and had to deal with the consequences.
  6. U2, “Gone”
    This would be a song for a bunch of the characters who had to deal with those new changes they’d gone through.  This song in particular reminded me of those like Alec and Caren who had to come to terms with the fact that they were no longer exactly who they’d been just a short time ago.  While some would accept it, others like Saone and Caren were angry.
  7. Live, “White, Discussion”
    And there are those who refused to give in so easily.  This song inspired me to think of how to deal with the tension; conflict between the Mihari and Misuteru, conflict between the awakened and the unawakened.  Even conflict in how ‘pure’ some people had become in spirit.  The spiritual awakening of my story was not going to be a peaceful one.
  8. Delirium, “Silence [feat. Sarah McLachlan]”
    I’d gotten into a lot of new agey music around 1994-6, which partly influenced the worldbuilding of the Mendaihu Universe.  There were also a wave of chillout electronica bands at the time (like Delerium, Enigma, and so on) that helped set the mood for various characters’ spiritual mindsets.  Tracks like this one (which got a lot of airplay then) got me to think about how recently awakened characters would handle their situation.  How would they see the world and those around them?  How would they balance what they were sensing psychically versus using their other five senses?

Side B

  1. Sneaker Pimps, “Post-Modern Sleaze”
    Becoming X is another album on my platinum album playlist, especially for its gloomy triphop sound.  I didn’t use this track for any character in particular, but it did fit both Akaina’s and Saone’s situations.
  2. Republica, “Ready to Go [US Mix]”
    One of the first cds I bought from HMV when I started!  I liked the energy in this track; fast forward and unrelenting.  This was more a mindset of who I would see living in the McCleever and Waterfront Districts.  This is what I meant by the original opening of TPE, with Nehalé witnessing the unbridled, directionless energy that evening.
  3. Stabbing Westward, “What Do I Have to Do?”
    Their second album Wither Blister Burn & Peel got a lot of play during my post-Boston, pre-HMV era, when I was still trying to figure out what to write next.  This ended up being a good balance with the previous track; while the former is positive and uplifting, this one is negative and angry.  The spirits Nehalé felt that he was afraid of.
  4. Sarah Brightman, “Cape Horn/A Salty Dog”
    I knew this was a cover of a Procol Harum track about sailing, but Sarah Brightman’s classy, poppy version made me think of an anime I’d seen a few years previous (I’d forgotten the name) that had a wonderfully exciting (and a bit cheesy) sequence of a giant spaceship setting out towards the stars.  This brought to mind an image of the Meraladians making their way to Earth, and the Earthers making their way back to Trisanda eons later.
  5. The The, “Good Morning Beautiful”
    It was around this time that I realized that spiritual balance was an interesting theme worth investigating in my new universe.  Matt Johnson’s devastating warning about being a passive believer raised a hell of a lot of questions for me, questions that would become central to the Bridgetown trilogy.
  6. Elton John, “Believe”
    That same theme is brought up here, though in a much more positive way; the question here isn’t whether one wants to let belief take over; it’s now what it is that they’re letting take over.  In this case, it’s love and compassion.  That would be the Mihari/Mendaihu tenet from here on in.
  7. Soul Asylum, “Black Gold”
    This one is a holdover from the 1993 Vigil story.  The lyrics ‘this flat land used to be a town’ gave me the idea of setting a story in the far future; not just with sciencey gadgets and everything, but with the disintegration and disappearance of the old historical parts of the world.  I’d use this later with True Faith (with NewCanta as an enclosed circular city) and especially with the trilogy (with Bridgetown as a megacity and the idea of small towns becoming Wilderland outposts).
  8. Joy Askew, “Corrine”
    A sort of rewrite of “Dear Prudence” in a way, and a track that had popped up on a promo compilation I’d gotten from the record store.  I liked the idea of having a character who’d kept themselves shut up for a length of time — not out of mental instability but because they were afraid of what they’d become — and I later realized this is what Caren Johnson would be like.
  9. Phish, “Free”
    I’d known about Phish since my college years when my freshman year roommate played Lawn Boy incessantly, but it wasn’t until Billy Breathes that I finally got into them.  This is one of their rare tracks that ended up getting a lot of radio airplay, but it’s a great track nonetheless.  I used this to balance out the previous track; while the former was about hiding from oneself, this was about celebrating it.  This is what Caren so desperately wanted to be.

 

Hope you enjoyed this mixtape!  As you can tell, I was still trying to figure out not just the story but who was involved in it, and how they’d evolve.  The next volume is a bit similar in that regard, but the themes are a little more stable and less meandering.  By Volume 4 (my favorite of them), I knew exactly what I wanted.

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 1

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The TDK D90 blank cassette. My tape of choice for almost all of my 90s mixtapes.

One thing I’d always done during the course of a writing project is to give it a soundtrack.  Whether it’s a playlist, a list of specific albums, or a mixtape, it serves to create a specific mood that I’m looking for.  With The Phoenix Effect, having envisioned this as a multi-book project even then, I’d given the series the name The Eden Cycle (referencing both obvious religious imagery and EdenTree, a megacorporation that would be a part of the plot).  It seemed fitting to give the mixtapes the same title.

At the time, my idea had been of souls inhabiting AI cybernetic bodies — which in hindsight created a lot more trouble than it was worth — so the imagery I was looking for was much darker and creepier.  That said, however, I chose not to focus on dystopian pessimism; instead I wanted my story to ascend past that into something positive.

This is the first of four mixtapes I made during 1997-8; this one was made in mid-April of 1997, just before I went on a road trip out to Ohio to visit a friend of mine.  One of the major reasons for making it was so I could listen to it during my commute and think about what I was going to write.  Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the other three original volumes from this era.  The links are to their YouTube/Vimeo videos (they’ll open in a separate tab), and I’ll also provide a brief background as to why I chose the song for the mix.

Side A

  1. Poe, “Hello [Band Version]”
    I liked Poe’s Hello album, but the kickass single remake of the song felt like a perfect opening to a mix tape.  It fit in with the cyberpunk feel of TPE that I was originally aiming for as well.  An ‘opening credits’ song, if you will.
  2. Failure, “Heliotropic”
    Fantastic Planet was getting a crapton of play on my cd players, both at work and at home during my writing sessions.  This track’s spaciness, loudness and extremely heavy, crunchy bass evoked the exact amount of tension I was looking for.  It had that feeling of being outside on the brightest day with the heaviest of hangovers.
  3. U2, “Mofo”
    Pop was still getting a lot of play as well, and I loved how twitchy this one was.  I used this track as a kind of gauge to remind me of how Bridgetown felt on a spiritual energy level: a sprawl of millions of people, each with different levels and directions of this energy, all dissonant and discordant.
  4. David Bowie, “Dead Man Walking”
    I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest of Bowie collectors — I think I only owned maybe five or six releases, tops — but Earthling (released earlier in 1997) connected with me big time.  I loved its techno influences and its paranoia.  This track fit my image of Nehalé: a man who was destined to take a specific action that would affect a vast number of people, and he had to force himself to come to terms with that.
  5. Psykosonik, “Need to Die”
    There was a brief surge of darkwave techno in the mid to late 90s (super-generalization: darkwave = gothy electronica) that I got into, and Psykosonik’s Unlearn was handed to me by one of my HMV coworkers (Thanks, Doug!).  I put this here mostly as a mood piece, but I did like how it fit in with one of the TPE themes: people didn’t necessarily have to die to be reborn spiritually.
  6. Live, “Lakini’s Juice”
    Another mood piece, this one suggesting (to me) discomfort in a situation one could find themselves in.  I believe I used this as inspiration for Poe’s constant irritation at not being able to complete tasks put before him.
  7. Elysian Fields, “Lady in the Lake”
    Their Bleed Your Cedar album was handed to me as a promo, and I liked its swampy feel.  The album (and this track) helped me focus on how a recently awakened character would have to deal with their situation; both feeling disconnected from everyone (I’m the only one like this) and superconnected (I can intimately sense everyone around me) at the same time.
  8. Moby, “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver”
    As a Masshole, I had to appreciate Moby covering the Mission of Burma classic (as well as putting out a punk album, considering he’s more known as an electronic musician).  Just like the original, this song was a perfect example of dedicated and determined nonconformity that fit in with Vigil.
  9. The Verve Pipe, “Veneer”
    Not that long before this, I’d seen this band live in Boston, and they did a beautiful and transcendent version of this track (which, as it happens, is about a long road trip through Michigan while high).  To me, it evoked a sensation of being elsewhere; in the process it inspired how I had my characters react when they first visited Trisanda.

Side B

  1. Richard Einhorn, Anonymous 4, “Exclamavit”
    I’d heard Einhorn’s Voices of Light on NPR one evening when I was driving into Boston in the summer of 1995, and I was completely floored by the gorgeousness of it.   [It was inspired by Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc and can be heard as its soundtrack on the Criterion dvd.]  I wasn’t the biggest orchestral music fan at the time, but this slowly set me on my way.  This particular opening felt like another good ‘opening credits’ piece, and thus opens Side B of the tape.
  2. Pulp, “Common People”
    The album version of their classic single is a much more sinister affair than the single version (there’s an additional verse that truly reveals the disgust he holds back in the rest of the song).  While the plot of the song doesn’t quite fit the plot of my story, it does reflect the bigoted view of The Other that was part of my story’s plot.
  3. Sponge, “Isolation”
    There’s a great Lennon tribute album called Working Class Hero from 1995 that I listened to a lot then, and I loved this version of the Plastic Ono Band track.  This ties in with the previous Pulp track, a forced cultural disconnect that one can only accept for so long before one has to fight back.
  4. The Offspring, “Gone Away”
    Part of the reason this one was on here is that I heard it so many times during that Ohio road trip!  Again, tension and discord.  This time because something’s been taken away and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
  5. Filter, “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
    This track inspired my love for the Slow Build:  starting off quiet and sparse, but gradually growing louder and more intense in energy.  The original Chapter 1 of The Phoenix Effect used this song as a template, which carried all the way to the opening of A Division of Souls.  The ADoS opening is supposed to feel like someone slowly turning the volume louder and louder until it climaxes in an intense burst of energy.
  6. Failure, “Daylight”
    Okay, how many times is this track on one of my mixtapes?  One of my favorite songs of all time, and even at the start of the project I knew it would be the Ending Credits track to my story.  [NOTE: I’m planning on writing a script of the ‘director’s cut’ for the ending of A Division of Souls and posting it over at the Bridgetown blog later this month, which uses this song as its soundtrack.]  The story is done, everyone’s exhausted, and the day has been saved…but the fight is far from over…and roll credits.  [Seriously, folks…go buy Fantastic Planet.  It’s a fucking phenomenal record.]
  7. U2, “Wake Up Dead Man”
    A denouement track after the epic ending track preceding.  I knew TPE was going to end on an unresolved note, leaving it wide open for its sequel.  The day has been saved, but the work’s not over.  Relationships between certain characters have been strained or broken; others have refused to give in so easily.  For me, this song is a plea for the war to cease before it goes too far. [I never forgot this idea and eventually used it in The Balance of Light.]
  8. The Tragically Hip, “Grace, Too”
    Canada’s favorite band with one of their favorite hits, which I remember seeing on MuchMusic back in 1994 (partly because I loved that the video was created using monitor feedback).   A lift from the previous song, in which we shift viewpoint to someone who knows they’re in the lower classes but still has high hopes for themselves.  This idea would later become the gathering of the Mendaihu at the Moulding Warehouse in A Division of Souls.
  9. Jamiroquai, “Virtual Insanity”
    …and after all that, ending on a slightly more positive note (somewhat), the final track brings a kind of…well, not hope, but an awareness.  This was a big plot point even in TPE: the characters had to become completely aware of their situation, where the conflict wasn’t in trying to figure it out, but in coming to terms with it and choosing either use it, abuse it, or avoid it as long as they could.

 

Hope you enjoyed my little bit of tunage sharing there!  I’ll be following up with the other three volumes in the original series soon!

Music from the Eden Cycle: U2’s Pop

Say what you will about U2’s Pop, it’s an interesting album to say the least.  It’s not quite an extension of their electronica-influenced albums Achtung Baby and Zooropa (or their foray into deliberate non-commercial territory under the Passengers moniker, Original Soundtracks 1) as it’s a deliberate side-step.  It’s twitchy in places, barren in others.  They freely admit that it was an unfinished album, a record they should have spent more time on, had they not had a major tour to prepare for.

It’s not their strongest, but I still enjoy it.  It kind of reminds me of 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire in a way, as it sounds like a band in the middle of evolving.  I remember when it was about to come out while I was at HMV; the PGD sales rep (back when U2 was distributed by PolyGram) was obviously trying to upsell it because hey — Big Name Band, right?  But he knew he couldn’t quite pull it off.  He was let down by it, having felt it was one of their weakest albums.  Well…in the context of their career path, when you hit the stratosphere with The Joshua Tree and you keep getting more ridiculously popular, any move aside from UP seems like a step down.  And to most critics, this one felt like a severe misstep.

To be honest, I felt the exact opposite about it.  I was actually let down by Zooropa, having felt that album was more like Achtung Baby Outtakes Wot Weren’t B-SidesPop felt a lot stronger and more cohesive to me.  It ended up being one of the first albums that received heavy rotation during my first round of writing sessions when I started The Phoenix Effect.  I kind of liked its similarity to the Beatles’ White Album…it starts off pretty strong with “Discotheque” and “Do You Feel Loved”…and progressively gets stranger and darker as the album goes on.  The final track, “Wake Up Dead Man” is the polar opposite of its opening track; one is dense and trippy, the other is wiry and exhausted.  The whole flow of the album works perfectly for me.

This was precisely what I needed for my writing session soundtracks!  I wanted to hear something that was a little left of commercial, something strong but not singles-oriented, something that had ambience.  Something that inspired the tension that I’d need in the new novel I was writing.

My writing nook down in my parents’ basement (it wasn’t called the Belfry yet…that name wouldn’t come for another few years) was right near the bottom of the stairs, using one of my uncles’ old desks and one of my dad’s dusty rolling desk chairs.  I had my Windows 3.1 PC that I’d bought with my own tax return money and a big heavy CRT monitor donated by my sister.  I didn’t even have Word 97 at that time, as I don’t think it would have fit on the system…I wrote everything using the Write program instead, and that worked just fine for me.

When I brought my longhand work home from the Day Job, I’d sit down at the PC and start transcribing what I’d written.  This is pretty much where I taught myself how to revise; I knew I’d have to flesh out a lot of what I’d written, so I figured that was the perfect time for it.  I’d figure out what tone I was trying to capture with the prose and expand on it.  And sometimes, the instant revision would give me an idea of what I’d need to write the following day.

It was a learning process the entire time, and I knew I’d want a writing soundtrack to go with it.  Pop was one of the first, and pretty much stayed with me for a good number of years until the single novel morphed into the Bridgetown Trilogy.