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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!