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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.]
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.