Stretchpants of the year Part one (Or how did jennifer Lawrence get outacted by a dying French woman and a six-year-old Bayou child and still win an Oscar?)

Miley's year boomed when she had her tongue replaced by that of a Black lab.

Miley’s year boomed when she had her tongue replaced by that of a Black lab.

Stretchy New Year with a barrel of brown acid and Steppenwolf’s trippy oncoming to you.

In a lost year when the only thing that seemed to happen was that thinking man’s crash test dummy Miley Cyrus became increasingly uncomfortable to look at. Irlanda leader Enda Kenny surprised the Irlandese by exclaiming that we were all going to be okay, when in fact it was only he and his friends who were going to be okay. A lot of great music came out, mostly from bands that are really old in Miley’s tonguey head.

Stretch looked at Pitchfork’s top one million albums for inspiration and realised he’d forgotten to write a promised Trainspotting article. Stretch dinnae know half that shit, ken. Stretch thought to hisel. Nae be relevant man na more. ‘s the fuckin skeetles. Ah bah, wha I do knaa es that not a caboodle u that Pitchfawk shite will be anybut fuckin relevant this time next year. Tennants ya!

So, methinks like a rabid munki, I should throw out a few suggestions as to what was nice last year and there’ll be a Stretchcast out on the day whenever the fuck I finish this reportage. Like mah pissant granddaddy before me, I couldn’t but give the peoples what they wanted, especially when they hadn’t asked for it and even more so that they don’t really want it. It’s enough to make ‘mad as a box of potatoes’ Sinead O’Connor’s face tattoos cry.

Jennifer Lawrence though. What the fuck? Right?

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Bonobo: The North Borders

This is definitely not the best Bonobo album, but The North Borders provided a warmth of sound and beautiful sonic sound scape that fits perfectly with Simon Green’s back catalogue. The first song “First Fires” features strings and the mellow (nasal) voice of the brilliant Grey Reverend. From then on your mind is dropped into the album, with the snappy, choppy beats and what sounds like the hand rails of the lifts in my place of employ. In fact everyday I use that lift, I tap out the beat to Cirrus and wonder how Green managed to get into the locked down building and record without the annoyance of our marketing department. For reference, they appear as a beautiful line drawing beside the words “whatevs” and “pointless” in most modern dictionaries. There are odd sounds on this album that make my mind queasy, but end up adding to the general tone.

The soundscape makes you feel like you are wandering through a dense forest while aggressively awesome chipmunks tap out rhythms on hollowed out logs, causing the park ranger to lose her shit and give birth to some horrific synthetic baby. This feeling dies down after a while and once you get hold of yourself, the great but annoying on twitter Erykah Badu appears and starts going “ayaayahayaayahayaayahayaayah” over and over a-fucking-gain. This leaves you feeling spent and harps fly about and you feel downbeat in an upbeat kind of way.

In fact The North Borders is a perfect companion piece to Black Sands and his production values have gone stratospheric. It does take a few listens to get totally immersed and doesn’t work as background music. The album also feels like something an established super-artist would use as a backing track for a dreadful rap or ridiculously over the top gurgle-singing fest. But no pretensions exist in this music and the heady basslines that punctuate songs pull you out of your dark slumber and make you feel all sticky, but y’know sticky in a nice way.

At the end the beautiful Pieces” sung by Cornelia brings you right back down and you exit the album feeling utterly spent, but y’know in a nice way.Listen to it and then buy it.

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Mogwai: Les Revenants Soundtrack

This summer, a weird town in France inhabited by creepy dead people (are there any other kind?) and creepy cigarette smoking French peoples (are there any other kind?) became staple viewing for many. We wondered what the fuck was going on and why that kid was so fucking expressionless. Bleedin Victor wha? As Dubalinese people are fond of saying far too much. Unfortunately a great show was let down by a less than satisfactory ending due to it being a lead up to a second series. However, the title sequence is one of the best of any show and the amazing song “Hungry Face” is an instant red pill.

Anyways, the beauty of the show was the music, written by Glaswegian balding men, Mogwai. The music was a character in the story, according to producers , and it made sense. The band started writing the music after hearing a synopsis of the show and the music was played on set to give that eerie feel.  You were alerted to a scene getting batshit weird by a simple piano or eerie guitar lick. The malevolent, slow-moving cello told you something odd was going to happen and if you stayed behind the couch, well motherfucker, you were just going to miss it. The oddest and nicest song on the album is the almost country “What are they doing in heaven today?” which makes you feel really happy and doesn’t unnerve you like the rest of the album, even though they still are singing about dead people, wha?. Sorry.

Even now, when I listen to Les Revenants on the car stereo, it pulls you into that world and out of the corner of your eye, you expect fog, mad yokes and fucking Victor. I will put on record that I believe that John Carpenter’s The Fog is the only other foggy movie I have seen that has an equally creepy soundtrack for a foggy based situation. This I believe to be true. Ain’t no doubt. Even without seeing the show, this is a cracker of an album.

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Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds: Haunted Head

Kid Congo Powers is a 54-year old man whose CV includes the Cramps, the Gun Club, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Having to go up against Blixa Bargeld on Tender Prey must have been a true life experience. He seems to exist solely in a world where it is always rockabilly/psychobilly Halloween and the expectation that cast members from the Rocky Horror Picture Show would wander into the seedy club where he tends bar. Donning his leather cap he smiles and just makes everyone feel better about themselves. A true hero. I wish I was him, only that he is closer to death than I am, and that is not good.

In this bar, everyone and everybody is weird, kooky and far out, and the mad eyes of Danny Glover will make the music stop when he puts the moves on you. The only way to stop him is to slowly zip up your dress and say you have to go do a conference call. He may not believe this, so be prepared to be sodomised by that angry man throwing his arms in the air and shouting “I’m too old for this shit.” You will painfully exclaim, “Yeah, well this shit is too old for you, bustah!”

The vibe of this album follows on from Gorilla Rose and Dracula Boots, a joyous ode to the Cramps and all bluesy rockabilly done with a smile as you will see from the live show at a French folk festival below. The kind of gig you just wish you could wander into once in a while. A joyous human being. Kudos dudo.

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Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus

I was very excited about hearing this album. The powerful drums of “Brainfreeze” kick in and the world in which the two guys from Fuck Buttons  exist snaps into view. I used to think that Amon Tobin was going to be the soundtrack to the apocalypse, but maybe, just maybe these guys will be ringing in your ears as toads enter your oesophagus while your ear burns in tandem with your bellybutton fluff.

I know there is a lot of great electronica, but nothing matches the power of this. Sometimes it feels like a Michael Mann movie put through a blender; other times it seems to fit perfectly into the stratosphere of David Cronenberg’s early work. Everything is insistent and Slow Focus demands you plug it into your ears which for my munki ears after years of abuse, probably can’t even register every sound Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power are trying to force-feed my aural cavity. (Almost like an audio version of Danny Glover).

My favourite song of the year “Stalker,” is something I dream about. A slow build up and a trip through space at screaming speed until you are washed up in a melty galaxy that is trying to choke you. I know that doesn’t sound like the best situation to be haunting your dreams, but it’s thrilling. Sometimes it feels like that point in an acid trip when your brain can’t take anymore and fucks off, exits the room, leaving you unable to be happy, scared or just ready to piss yourself. Then your brain flips back and you say something mundane like, “Whoa horsey,” and then everything is just alllllllllllllright.

The album finishes with “Hidden XS,” a song that Stretch sings lyrics to. It demands these maudlin lyrics I have created. You hear me, Fuck Buttons. Shit, they’re not listening. Answer you phones!

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away

Since I was a teenage munki, Nick Cave has always been God to me. Granted, some of the Kylie and Nocturama stuff left me cold, but for a man who always sounds like himself, no album sounds like anything else he has ever done. That make sense?

After the thrilling noise-fest of the Grinderman albums, Push the Sky Away was like an antidote. Quieter, subtler, but never feeling overly melancholic like “God is in the House” or funky fun like Dig! Lazarus Dig!.

No, this is probably the most complete and tight album Cave has ever done. Not the best album, but it’s a gem. The backing vocals are both grimy and desperate. The Bad Seeds are very hairy and wear cool shirts and slacks, the kind of clothes that would make most of us look like bums. They always wear shades, because fuck it, they are cool and probably don’t see much light through the smoky nite-clubs they call home. Probably my favourite thing at Glastonbury was seeing these guys playing their set before a Mumford and Sons crowd. The fear in the Mumford children’s eyes and the nervous shuffling of their parents as Cave leered and screamed over them was hypnotic. It would be a hard thing to explain on the car journey home.

“Daddy, why was that man so angry and scary?”

“Well Felix, it’s because he is the devil incarnate and he will kill us in our beds if we don’t get home quick.”

“Mummy, what do you think of the foul-mouth devil that will have me seeing therapists until I can figure out why that bad man sang to my face, ‘I’m a bad motherfucker, don’t you know, And I’ll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get one fat boy’s asshole.’? Mummy, mummy?”

“He’s kinda hot though in those pants.”

“MARJORIE!”

Anybut, the rolling “Jubilee Street” about prostitution in London is almost cinematic and the slow burning “Higgs Boson Blues” is quietly epic. It includes this perfect verse,

“Hannah Montana does the African Savannah
As the simulated rainy season begins
She curses the queue at the Zulus
And moves on to Amazonia
And cries with the dolphins
Mama ate the pygmy
The pygmy ate the monkey
The monkey has a gift that he is sending back to you
Look here comes the missionary
With his smallpox and flu
He’s saving them savages
With his Higgs Boson Blues”

I mean, that really explains it all, doesn’t it? What more do you want? I once worked in an office where mention of Nick Cave seemed to cause apoplexy. They said people who listened to him were probably off their meds or their happy pills. They said it in a really obvious, cheesy way. So much so, I was mouthing their words back at them as they were talking. They wouldn’t shut up and kept banging on about Today FM DJ Ray fucking Foley. Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley in the morning, Ray Foley,Ray Foley,Ray Foley, Ray Foley in the evening, Ray Foley,Ray Foley,Ray Foley…..

That very clean modern room was covered in blood by the time I left…

Mazzy-Star

Mazzy Star: Seasons of your Day

When I was a spotty, greasy haired, paisley shirt wearing teenager, covered in weird and wonderful stains, I was madly in love with Hope Sandoval. I listened to She Hangs Brightly incessantly while I was in love with another girl, thinking, hey, she might be into hanging out and listening to Mazzy Star while smoking hash. Unfortunately, she was into fucking Take That and the Backstreet Boys and all the important emotions that music like that brings. Huh!

Anyway, I retreated to my room and all that that gave me and threw back on aul Mazzy. It still reinforced my belief that Hope was the damn hot woman for me. This floated me through that beautiful summer and particularly while walking slowly (baked) on the beach (baked), skimming stones (baked) and looking off into the distance with meaning (totally baked).

My love for Hope ended when I saw her being interviewed on some weird rock show. I tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried, but eventually pulled clumps of greasy hair off my head and screamed,

“Get  out of your own fucking ass, Sandoval!”

Gawd, she was hard to take. Bullet dodged, says me, wha? Sorry.

So, like waiting for a My Bloody Valentine album, Mazzy Star kicked back into action this year and released Seasons of Your Day. Sandoval’s solo stuff was nice, but uninspiring, so Stretch was very surprised to hear how good this was. It is a really good Mazzy Star album and although she seems a bit scraggy in places, David Roback’s simple bluesy guitar work and MBV’s Colm O Ciosóig’s bass blows every song into the realms of beautiousness, as Will Oldham do be saying.

I listened to “In the Kingdom” and said “Oh” quietly, “this is a really good” to nobody in particular. Then the minor chords of “California” kick in and you realise this is a proper fucking album. So for a while I fell in love with aul Hope again. I was fifteen again, not the bald munki I am now. I was skimming stones (not baked), waving at ducks and swans (not baked) and generally feeling moist. Then I saw a new interview with Mazzy Star…

For fuck sake, 24 years later and she’s still up her own arse. For the love of Jaysus and all his tiny bagel babies!

So, that’s the first part of my ridiculously late music review of 2013. The next installment will come in the next few days, if I’m lucky.

Remember, living in Europe might just make you incontinent!

Screeching for the dead…the sky broke…the sun came out

maxresdefaultOn the 10th June, 2013, Boards of Canada released “Tomorrow’s Harvest,” the duo’s fourth studio album. Like most of their albums, it’s a bitch of an affair to understand. A young but wily Stretch MacGibbon purchased the record with his very own money and listened and listened and thought that he must write a review, despite many saying ‘But Stretch, who cares?.’ Five months later after intensely battling his usual alcohol and crinkled crisp fetishes, the final words were completed. Here they are, if you must.
Broadski Shallowslope (November 8th, 2013)

 

Stretch off!!!!!!!

This funky munki is entering Gemini in the hope to understand the meaning of this record. Castor and Pollux are waiting. Pollux, yeah that guy, a cross between a bad word and a type of paint and Castor, yeah y’knaa, some kind of oily substance. The sound of a synthesised trumpet starts the trip into a universe where David Cronenberg once spawned his evil machinations. Castor, despite being dead, ended up being immortal and a constellation to boot. How did that feel Castor? “It da bomb.” He was always the quieter one (pretentious plastic bag loving prick). They both went on to appear with Demi “funny eyes” Moore and Andrew “girlyhead” McCarthy in St Elmo’s Fire, which features a horny saxophone solo by an extremely sweaty Rob Lowe. Luckily he had a cool headband which mopped up some of the expulsion.

I feel disoriented at the isolation of the Fog-like drone, as if those sailors are coming for you and this time they don’t wanna walk slow. Choppy waters envelope this munki’s mind and the journey is about to begin. Castor and Pollux have fucked off somewhere, probably behind some nebula, filthy fuckers.
A drum beat comes in and I feel wet. An industrial sound scape with a beautiful melancholic air sees me on to the next part of my journey. The bass line pushes me into the sky where I see orange and pink clouds, sorta like a gay Unionist lodge meeting. They scare me and I scream. I see a horny swan battling through the clouds, where is it going?

The beat grows strong and I can’t reach this bird. Am I reaching for the dead? Is this what that means? The funereal funk has me expectant, but it drifts and the swan is gone. Laughing, Castor and Pollux mock me. They tell me the swan is Zeus and I say, “say wha?” They say, “Aw yeah.” They explain that it is their father Zeus. He is off to try and score Leda, their mother. Apparently she has a thing for Swans, an avian perversion unknown to me. Avian! Ollie, AVIAN! I think this is pretty weird, but they say that it needs to be, as this is the how they became who they were. Zeus would rape Leda and they would be the offspring. Riiiight.

The music comes through me again and I feel like I’m looking down at a cold windy beach on a sunny day. They laugh again and tell me my journey is still long, but not as long as the Lord of the Rings which they tell me is really, really long and shouty.
I land on the earth and push through ordinary looking saplings, but one tree is different. It is patchy and I soon realise it is full of spiders, mostly small but one giant motherfucker resides in the middle. Castor tells me to be careful. “What do you want?” says the black and white big spider. It bangs a rhythm like a helicopter. I ask if those other spiders are its children. Pollux gravely announces, “No, idiot, they are its prey.” It creates spider-like shapes from its prey to camouflage itself apparently. This is pretty fucked up I think and wish I’d brought my worn pocketbook on arachnids. Alas, I didn’t and that anxious feeling returns. The whole time a choppy high-pitched beat has come through my fur and then quietly fades away.

“Where are you going” says the spider.

“To the harvest.” I say without thinking.

“Sounds good, think I’ll come.”

I say fair enough, not wanting to remind the presumptuous eight-legged freak (a cyclosa, it turns out) that he hadn’t been invited.
We marched through the trees to an open pathway, where stone mossy green walls lit up our sad evening. It was the brightest moss this munki had ever seen. I was glad to be on the ground. Heights give me the willies. Willies give me the willies, but that’s another story. I didn’t tell the others. Willies is a weird thing to say to any stranger anyway, never mind the odd company I was in.

We came to an enormous grey lake, which shined under the patchy clouds. The light changed as the speedy clouds fluttered around our heads. Castor and Polllux soared and seemed to have great fun. They fought and swooped, but with graceful ease. They shimmered. I couldn’t help admiring the twins. But what was this journey I was on? What end? Something gave me a sense of gloom. I was excited, expectant but this didn’t seem to be a happy voyage. Down the hill I walked with the spider, who seemed to be keeping an eye or two on me.

“What?” I said.

“A nuthin” he replied with a wink or three.

“We will need to cross this water by train. The man Jacquard will lead us across.” said he.

Who the fuck is this now? I thought. A two carriage diesel engined train appeared from out of nowhere. It was green and red, with gold wheels and a sliver of smoke coming from the chimney on the cab. It provoked in me the longing of a child reading a model train catalogue. I wanted it real bad.The spider saw my expression and said to me, “I know!” I looked at him and thought that was far too valley girl a way to say that, and shuffled forward keeping my eye on his Reese Witherspoon ass. He eyed me angrily.

I said, “Don’t you eyeballs me.”

A disfigured old man, younger than Mandela, older than Castro waited with a filthy cap on his head. He waved a violet flag and a mad gush of steam spilled from the chimney.
“Get in and be quicker than quick. I ‘ave littul time to be dealing with monsieurs like you.”
We climbed into one of the carriages. The cyclosa was wearing gold brogues and tapped in beat as we walked. Clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clack-clack he went. This irritating rhythm.
“Jesus this is going to be a long journey.” smirked Castor.
We all laughed, for the first time.
Jacquard did not laugh, as was his right.

The carriage was filled with jars of embryos. Every type of pickled creature you could imagine, except munkis (thank fuck me). Thank fuck me there were no munkis. Did I say that or think it? Damn parentheses! This made me feel pretty goddamn good. The train whistled in a distorted way like a stupid child trying to whistle or a stupid man on a bus trying to whistle a tune no one wants to hear. This continued as the wheels made a sound not too unreminiscint of Ivor the fucking Engine. The dark mahogany walls and surfaces gave me that gloomy funereal feeling again. Is this what death is like?
“Who is driving the train?” I asked.
“I am.” said Jacquard.
“Eh, you are here, the cab is after the next carriage.”
“Would you like me to explain?” he eyed me with a sinister curl of his lip, or eyes, no lips, eyes. Ah fuck, I think I’m hallucinating. The spider pulled out a pipe and lit it, sending sweet smoke around the carriage. The smoke was heavy, but not invasive.
“What’s in the next carriage?” he asked.
“The dead.” replied the old fucker.
“Looks like the dead are here” said the spider eyeing the glass jars.
“But they are not dead, Monsieur Araignée. They have not even lived yet.”
The old man stopped, his eyes went to the back of his head and he started chanting.
“Testing, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”

He drew out certain numbers and his raspy voice freaked us all out. The ceiling of the train became translucent and showed the sky at dusk. A dark blue base faded to cyan and then to a deep rust. It became noisy.
“There was no ceiling. You just imagined it. Many of you will die.” he cried.

He went on to explain that the remains in the other carriage were the  immigrant victims of an industrial factory fire and he was bringing them home to the their final resting place. The rest of us looked at each other and in harmony and probably thought,

BUZZ. KILL.

The train would occasionally let out loud blasts of noise not unlike screaming sirens fed through a Moog. We sat silently watching the landscape go by. The trip had stalled. There was nothing to do. Nothing to say. Nothing to eat. The embryos didn’t look pleasant and every now and then if you turned your head, it looked like one had snapped its eyes shut. I shifted uncomfortably on my hammock.

“Testing, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”

“This is quite close.”

“one, two, three, four, fiiiiiiiiiiive….”

The train stopped. Jacquard got up. Flicked a switch on an ancient looking chifforobe and the vista vanished.  A pounding tapping forced us all to close our eyes. It got cold and the steam came out of all available orifices. There was no train, no Jacquard. Yet, the jars of embryos remained. All glassy on the ground. All eyes open. They were counting in slurpy tones.

Castor and Polllux grew fearful and flew up from the scene and stood mid-air, arms folded watching the dreadful scene. The pickled fish, birds and small rodents were upright in their jars, with fins, paws, whatever scratching against the glass and were spouting those familiar numbers at us.

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Barry Adamson, Marion Cotlillard, Paul McGrath,” was all I could think to utter.

The cyclosa took his chance to sate its hunger. Dived on a jar and with one leg anchored to the ground, managed to get a jar open. You could almost see the confusion on its face as the pickled squirrel inside, jerked its head up and  dragged him into the jar.

With that all forty jars exploded and a huge airplane roared over me throwing Castor and Pollux down to the icy earth.

I helped them up and made a joke about flying to close to the sun, which they didn’t appreciate, telling me that I had got my context all wrong. Behind us forty embryos wriggled toward us.

“FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKK”!! We shouted and ran like Scooby Doos through the snow. After a minute the grey cold had the effect of making each embryo burst creating huge purple and brown splodges all over the powdery snow. We stopped.

“Neat” said Pollux.

Don’t say ‘Neat’!

The train reappeared and Jacquard reappeared, as was his right.

He looked older though, paler, wan, old wan. I asked was he okay. He told me he was dying. Wasn’t he already dead, I thought? Castor despite gaying up the place, came over and put his arms around Jacquard’s shoulders just as the man collapsed to the ground.

“We have to get him help.” shouted Castor, rather theatrically.

“Exactly where?’ I thought I thought I thought I thought.

“How should we know? This is your imagination funky munki.”

“Right back on the train then, Trinny and Susannah!” I exclaimed.  “We’re going to get ol Jackieboy fixed up right enough.”

We boarded the train, and lay Jacquard on a slab in the carriage, now devoid of weird singing embryos. An antique radio was on a wet shelf. Jacquard told me the sequence of numbers which I had push on a keypad on top. This would get the train going he said. Pollux asked me the sequence as if it was some enlightening thing. I exclaimed, yet again, as is my fucking right,

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”

“Not much of an imagination going on there, munki, wha?” shrugged Pollux.

I ignored his sarcastic lapse into Dubalin vernacular and pushed the buttons on the pad. A series of cogs and belts kicked into action, a press opened and a tin station guard rolled out of the other carriage. His tin arm moved a tin whistle up to his tin mouth and blew sharply,

“All aboard, next stop Palace Posy…”

What now? When will this end. What is the meaning of all this? What cryptic message is this all supposed to convey? The whole production feels like a code, but at what point do you stop caring and think this is just another trip. The train moved. Alongside us, a soaking wet and shivering spider ran and threw a line at the train, swung itself up and landed in our carriage.

“Missed me.” he smiled like Bruce Willis, if Bruce Willis was a spider.

“Aw Yeh, oh, eh yeah.” We murmured, collectively realising that we’d forgotten about the cyclosa’s existence almost instantly.

The landscape turned from iced earth to a fuzzy warmth and then a city rose up in the distance. I realised Jacquard could hear my thoughts. He would raise his head and stare at me, sometimes smiling, sometimes quizzically.

“PALACE POSY this stop!” announced the station guard, “Off with you know. Enjoy!”

We alighted from the train as you should in any circumstances. Getting off a train is something completely different and altogether sinister.

We were surrounded by glass buildings which reflected and refracted the blazing sun. All ice had gone and now we were steaming. Each movement would send prisms of colour around our eyes. It was uncomfortable yet soothing.

“Welcome to Uritual my new friends. We will find help for me here.” said a less sick looking Jacquard.

“There is no one here old man. Who will help you?” A tense Pollux said.

“Oh but there are many here.” Old manned Jacquard.

We walked through the city slowly watching for the slightest idea of a creature, a being, an entity which we could engage with. The spider had lost two of its legs to the squirrel, which led to it occasionally running sideways into a building. We laughed, even the old man laughed. Stupid spider.

“This is not funny.” hissed the arachnid.

“You gonna tell the folks back home you were mauled by a squirrel, spider?” Castor laughed. It was the first time we felt relaxed on the whole trip. But, a trip to where?

“Ah yez, this is a good place to die, monsieurs,” said Jacquard, bringing death back into it. Yeah I know, for fuck sake.

We nervously laughed.

“For all of us. Ha ha” he continued and laughed horribly.
“Hardy fucking har.” I retorted in my best Harvey Keitel.

“Ah, we are here.”

Amid all the glass structures stood a violently pink stone structure. A pyramid shape with five cones sticking out of it in non-symmetrical placement. The music flew through the buildings making us move our heads trying to catch it. Sometimes out of the corners of my eyes, I thought I saw children running behind structures. It must be the refracting light I thought. Castor claimed to see shadows moving just out sight. Jacquard screamed in a different language and the door opened about 30 feet above the ground.

“We must enter,” said the old man. “The meaning of your trip will be inside.”

I was glad to get out of the burning sun. All the while I could sense children. More and more of them were just out of sight, but I could not steal a proper glance at any. Castor lifted me and the spider up and flew us into the door. Pollux collected the old man and we met inside at another door with a flourescent blue rod acting as a handle. Odourless smoke billowed out of pots beside us and we all felt light-headed.

“Whatever happens to us here is not permanent.” Jacquard looked sick again.

“Enough of these riddles old man. Tell us why we are here.” demanded the spider.

Jacquard placed his hand on the blue bar. A rumble came from below us. My fur stiffened. The ground beneath seemed to be moving, but we could not tell where. Our sensations were dulled because of the smoke and we may have been going up, down, sideways, who the fuck knew? Staticy voices came from all around us and despite being unable to understand what they were saying, we knew well the fuckers were talking about us. A banging vibrating sound repeated over and over again. The sound of a stifled trumpet trying to find its next note banged the back of my brain like a frisky German surgeon.

“We are moving into infinity. You should prepare.” said Jacquard.

‘Prepare for what?’ was probably going through everyone’s fear-stricken heads. Distant drums, close voices, strange sounds, rhythms, then off-beat chatter, then the sky, the sky was getting further way. We are going down. That’s the direction. We stop at one point at a door. Through we are in a large oriental cafe. The smells of coffee and cakes revive us for a minute. It’s a busy cafe. The sounds of conversations, important and frivolous give us the first sense of belonging this whole trip. Even the spider feels calm and starts cracking jokes. He tells us this isn’t all bad and would like an eclair. The fact that despite the clamour, we couldn’t see anyone doesn’t seem to bother us. There is coffee.

“There’s coffee!!” shouted Castor.

“There’s coffee!!” shouted Pollux.

“ECLAIRS!” laughed the spider. “COFFEE.”

We stuffed our faces for ten minutes, drank hot beverages like we were cops. Jacquard sat on a creaky dark-stained chair and smiled at us like we were his children. He tells us of the city of Uritual, how many centuries ago it was a thriving, happy metropolis. Social ills didn’t exist, everyone shared the wealth, a child was as important as King…and then, inevitably, as was his right and his affectation, he stood bolt upright, looked around wide-eyed and whispered to us,

“And then they drank the coffee.”

The chatter in the room stopped. Shadows filled the walls. Darkness descended. Castor dropped the doughnut he was eating. Pollux was slack-jawed with a croissant hanging out of his mouth.

“The fucking coffee?” I muttered.

He began to laugh hysterically and slapped his thigh hard and pointed at us. Our shoulders de-tensed. We started laughing with him. Then his face changed to stone,

“It’s poisoned.” He announced.”It sends a chemical into your bloodstream that attracts ze little ones. The can smell it. Oh they can smell it. They want it and they will do anything to get it. So ravenous they are that the littul enfants came to Uritual so they got that chemical. They adore it, they need it, they will have it. There is no King here anymore, but I suspect his gnawed bones are here.”

Our shoulders re-tensed. The sun went down.

“But why would you bring us here?” asked a very upset spider.

Jacquard lit a cigarette on a silver holder and took a deep drag.

“Je…I suppose. I. I suppose I always wanted to see the place and it seemed like a good place to die. Companionship matters aussi. The station guard will bury the dead. We will remain here forever.”

The sound of a children’s choir came over a tannoy system we hadn’t seen and I’ll tell you this without hesitation, now I felt scared. The room became dark. We could hear shuffling and then we were jostled and grabbed and moved and I was hit on my littul head and I passed out.

When I awoke, it was dark. I was strapped to a very long curved maple board with my compatriots. Our mouths were gagged with a leather strap which had a special piece which pushed into our mouths resting at the back of our throats. It was activated when you tried to make a noise and I began to gag. Below me was a silver urn. Beside that a bucket with some kind of filtration system. Above my head was a huge spike and beside that a nozzle which smelled of gas. A huge door opened and we were presented with a bright hall. Beautiful ornate windows on all sides, but what made my fur crawl was the rows and rows of children, standing to attention in some kind of military exercise. They were all dressed in orange cloaks, they all had long blonde hair and all had their heads facing down.

Despite the thing in my mouth I could look around and see my friends stricken with terror. Castor and Pollux had no wings anymore, just bloody jagged stumps which moved slightly as if in pain. The spider was missing his remaining legs. he was essentially a head. Only Jacquard looked okay, serene. He had no contraption on his face. Why?

A girl shuffled out of the lineup and walked up to Jacquard speaking in that radio static voice. She seemed to have very few facial characteristics, but when she looked up, she exhibited the most evil eyes I have ever seen. Millennia of distrust, torture, violence and need flowed out of orange irises. She sniffed at Jacquard and put her hand up. In unison the entire congregation lifted their heads and they began to scream in terrible unity. The sight of their awful eyes made me look away. The board began to rumble and the spike was driven into Jacquard’s head, splitting him down the middle like a kebab. His blood flowed into the bucket and was processed, flowing through pipes and ducts into a central reservoir which shimmered out of varnished wood behind the children .

Castor and Pollux screamed and gagged, screamed and gagged. The spider, however made no noise. I couldn’t tell whether it was alive. A very speedy separation of blood from body ended and the bucket moved to the side, being replace by the urn. I started to get it now. The fire that engulfed Jacquard came from the bluest flame. He disintegrated into dust and all that was left were his leather straps.

“Come to dust.” the little one chided in that horrible voice.

I eyed my friends, hoping they would see me wishing them goodbye. But they, obviously were pre-occupied with what was to happen next. Castor went to the sounds of gurgling howls of his brother and claps of thunder in the heavens. Then Pollux. The spider didn’t take any time. I was stuck on this board, alone with these freaks, some of whom where already bathing in that bloody pond, dancing and screaming ungodly sounds. The sniffer child walked up to me, sniffed, then came closer. She sniffed again. Looked confused, then sniffed again. Ah Jesus, what manner of fucking disaster will befall me now.

She stepped back, threw both arms in the air and squealed angrily. The rest of the children turned and looked at me at the same time. Unnerved, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was there a special death for me. My straps broke and the device slid out my mouth. I fell to the ground at the feet of the child. She hunkered down and hissed at me, exposing her toothless mouth. Then, she raised her arm, a door behind me opened and I was carried out, past the glass buildings and chucked on to the icy ground at the edge of the city. I looked up and they had vanished, but I could here there screams.

That is the way to death. The old man had said as much. I started walking slowly back to where I started. At one point, the train appeared along side me. The tin station agent screamed,

“All aboard.”

I just continued past. Why was I not killed? This question bugged me for so long, until I realised with a probably too enthusiastic shout, considering what happened.

“They all had the fucking coffee, but I had fucking tea!”

As I walked on into the distance where the blue sky met the white earth punctuated by that good ol blinding sun, I felt the gloom, the knowledge that this trip would end in death. The futility of existence, even in the knowledge that a higher power may or may not exist, is a pretty grounding experience. The slow trudge toward it can only be rewarded with the finishing of your part in it all. I must go on, but the destination is clear. The bits in between are just manic bus stops filled with incident and distraction. The cruel end my new allies suffered at the hands of those horrorshow freaks were met with terror, acceptance and plain indifference.

As I pass the still wriggling embryos, I hear a change in the sound of the air and a great swan sweeps down, grabs me with its beak and flings me on its back. It starts to climb ahead toward the sun. The beautiful sun. The steady wind is met with the vibrations and echoing sounds of a synthesiser. I hug the swan, and it looks at me. It seems to smile. Wordlessly we continue towards the sun. I think about our group. Five distinct individuals. Four of us dead. Five merry travellers, four dead. Four out of five. So to the final strains of Semena Mertvykh, I decide to give the album four out of five. Four out of five. Four out of five. They would have liked that. They would.

Anyways, here’s a bonus if you got this far…

If you didn’t get this far, then FUCK YOU!