RIP Gong’s Daevid Allen

News update from the Allen family in Australia: Daevid Allen has passed on. He left today, this Friday the Thirteenth, at 1:05pm.”

The RIP list for 2015 is already stacking up (Terry Pratchett passed away yesterday) and it’s only March. Sad to see so many innovators leaving this mortal coil, breaking out the Camembert and making a pot of tea in his memory. RIP Daevid.

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Flexibition #11: Synthi: Sounds from….. EMS

Flex11_EMSsleeve1My second guest curator at the Flexibition is Jon Brooks, he of The Advisory Circle, The Pattern Forms and several other aliases, recording for Ghost Box, Clay Pipe Music and his own Café Kaput imprint. I knew about this flexi for a while but never managed to find a copy for myself so, when I was casting around for contributors to the cause Jon was one of the first I thought of who might have a copy. An enquiring tweet was sent out into the ether which was shortly answered with, “actually, yep! I do. One of my favourites of all time.” Bingo! Here’s Jon to tell you more…

“Electronic Music Studios are of course the legendary UK synthesizer company, still active under the management of one of the original employees, Robin Wood. Founded in the late 1960s by the trio of engineer / entrepreneur Peter Zinovieff, electro-acoustic genius Tristram Cary and (still vastly underrated) electronics visionary David Cockerell (the person behind the classic Electro Harmonix Small Stone phaser and Akai S900 sampler), EMS created the most celebrated UK-designed synth of all time – the VCS3. These powerful but relatively diminutive instruments were sold by EMS, primarily to fund their research studio; in particular the development of their evolving computer system, which was capable of vastly complex and advanced resynthesis methods.

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This promotional flexi, “Sounds From EMS” was produced in the early 1970s to showcase the capabilities of their Synthis and given free to prospective clients. Tristram Cary conducts the proceedings in a very charming way, but cuts a fairly unlikely figure as a salesman, it has to be said… which just adds to the charm. He tempts everyone from rock musicians, avant-garde composers to kids experimenting in classrooms (probably) into buying VCS3s, by playing selections from David Vorhaus, various Radiophonic Workshop composers (yes, Delia is included, also Malcolm Clarke and Brian Hodgson) and the EMS composers’ own work – extracts from both Tristram Cary and Peter Zinovieff are both present here. Even their famed resynthesis computer makes an appearance at the end of side two.

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I feel really lucky to have a copy. It was given to me some years ago by my friend (and multi-discipline artist) Wayne Burrows. Wayne has a real knack for finding these kinds of gems and occasionally he sends over a random package of curiosities, which is always a delight – a few of my most treasured records have come from Wayne.

It’s an extremely evocative record for me. It somehow gives me an insight into what the EMS studio at Deodar Rd may have been like to visit. Through this and a few historical photos floating around the web, I can imagine how the studio looked, sounded and perhaps smelled – the warm electronic components heating up every day as the sessions took place. I think it’s a really important little slice of electronic music history.”

For those without a copy, the audio is thankfully available here:

Jon Brooks.

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Boca 45 ‘Dig, Eat, Beats, Repeat’ LP

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Scott ‘Boca 45′ Hendy has a new LP out at the end of March, a collection of old school beats, breaks, raps plus a trio of the highest caliber soul/funk joints I’ve heard in a while featuring Stephanie McKay on vocals. The Good People also feature on one track, ‘People Are You Ready’ which I saw tear up the room when Scott dropped it in Bristol late last year. ‘Dig, Eat, Beats, Repeat’ is out on March 23rd and a very limited run of 300 LPs is available exclusively upfront from the Digga Please? Bandcamp page right now. Here’s a 5 minute taster of the album below…

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Being one of the men behind the new 45Live collective Scott also has a brand new, all 7″ mix bursting with the Funk as well as Hip hop classics and a few left turns like Pierre Henry‘s ‘Psyche Rock’.

Long Distance Dan ‘The Other Side of the Sky’ EP

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Long Distance Dan releases a new EP today, ‘The Other Side Of The Sky’, seven tracks of raw, funky, psychedelic beats on Dusted Industries. Dan has previous form, compiling the ‘Twisting The Frame’ and ‘Cosmic Dust Agenda’ compilations. It’s a digital only release via Bandcamp available as a Name Your Price with an exclusive 45 minute DJ mix to download for buyers who do pay for it.
Here’s a sampler of the EP or you can listen in full on the site.


I provided the artwork for this release because I liked it so much.

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Black Devil Disco Club / Bernard Fevre 70s LP reissues

ARC021-Cover-hi-resGreat news last week that Black Devil (Disco Club) aka Bernard Fevre is reissuing three of his 70s electronic records on May 11th. Two library LPs under his own name: Bernard Fevre ‘Suspense’ (1975) and ‘Cosmos’ 2043 (1977) plus the original six track Black Devil ‘Disco Club’ (1978), restored to its original track quota instead of the bastardised version that RePhlex reissued and remixed over several formats back in 2004.

‘Suspense’ and ‘Cosmos 2043′ are new to me, featuring 11 and 13 tracks respectively of synth-driven library cues with my favourite of the two being the later ‘Cosmos 2043′. ‘Suspense’ is a slightly misleading title being that the first half of the record is made up of tracks of the jaunty synthetic funk variety underpinned by a primitive drum machine. ‘Mister Green’ reminds me of Jake Slazenger in places and things get moodier in the second half. The disco backbeat of the Black Devil release is absent but that’s no surprise with the ‘Suspense’ album being that it’s from the mid 70s.

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‘Cosmos 2043′ is the stronger of the two library releases for me and the cover shows a golden C3-PO-esque droid that screams ‘Star Wars cash-in’. The music is way more developed and a lot looser than the slightly stiff compositions on ‘Suspense’. The drum machine is absent from half the tracks giving it that floaty, space feel like many of the futuristic releases of the time (I’m thinking, Space’s ‘Magic Fly’, Sarah Brightman‘s ‘I Lost My Heart to A Starship Trooper’ and their ilk). It sounds of its time but has aged well and several tracks would fit snugly into the Hauntological set’s playlists, I’d be surprised if The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks doesn’t know this record.

The killer release here though is Black Devil‘s ‘Disco Club’ with six tracks of flanged percussive disco electronica and those unique vocal harmonies. It’s nice to see and hear ‘We Never Fly Away Again’ – only available on the CD release from RePhlex – restored into the line up, a faster take than the rest with a definite debt to ‘I Feel Love’s bass line present. All three are released via Lo Recordings and Sound Obsession in the UK, Anthology Recordings in the US and Alter-K in France on CD, LP and Digital formats.

 

Early Simon Bisley Heavy Metal artwork

BisleyRAWcoverGoing through the archive recently for something else I chanced upon these lesser seen early Simon Bisley artworks from the late 80’s. After Simon exploded onto the comic scene with his work for 2000ad on ABC Warriors and Slaine it seemed everyone wanted a piece of him and his work inevitably started appearing outside the comic world too.

His love of Heavy Metal music is well known so it was no surprise when I spotted a cover and advert he’d done for the short-lived Kerrang! rival, RAW (Rock Action Worldwide, not the New York underground Raw publication). I’m pretty sure this is one of the first instances of The Biz drawing Batman, the Joker, Spiderman and Marshall Law, even Judge Dredd too.

Bisley_RAWad88Possibly from the same magazine a couple of years later is a full page painting of Slayer complete with horned devil and Giger-esque creature. Below that is a flyer for a Rock club night I picked up in the late 80’s in London which I’m 99% certain is a Biz doodle.

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Last here are a couple of Bisley cameos from anthology books I’ve collected over the years, sadly I’ve forgotten the actual titles of the books but one was some sort of horror anthology and also featured one-off illustrations by other comic artists of the day.

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Bernard Szajner ‘Rethinking Z’ mini album

iF3034_Rethinking_ZOne of my albums of 2014 was Z aka Bernard Szajner‘s ‘Visions of Dune’ reissue on Infiné, a 1979 electronic LP based on Frank Herbert‘s ‘Dune’ series. Now Infiné release ‘Rethinking Z’ a remix mini album that includes reworks from Scanner, Ghosting Season and more as well as Bernard himself. As with many remix albums, the results vary but there are several gems here including new collaborations by Szajner and remixes by label mates Clara Moto & Tyler Pope and Siavesh Amini.

You can listen and buy the album here (digital only) and there’s an offer on for a CD version of the remix plus a vinyl version of the original ‘Visions of Dune’ LP for just €20 + postage via Bandcamp.

There’s a documentary just previewed over on The Quietus about Szajner and he’s playing a handful of live dates in France over the next month as well as appearing in conversation with White Noise‘s David Vorhaus at Rough Trade East on Friday 13th at 6pm.

Matt Johnson ‘Hyena’ release and ‘Soul Food’ interview

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A new The The album is always a cause for celebration and today is such a day. As usual with Matt Johnson, you think he’s disappeared and then there’s a flurry of activity that confirms that he’s been very busy indeed. His brother, Gerard’s new film, ‘Hyena’, is out on general release in cinemas today after showings at selected film festivals and already winning a couple of European awards. The Brothers Johnson, as they are fast becoming known (call the lawyers!), are appearing at the Watershed in Bristol on Sunday March 8th for a Q&A with Mark Cosgrove about ‘Hyena’ and the power of the score in cinema.

the_the_CINEOLASERIESMatt’s own Cineola label is releasing the soundtrack on CD in the usual hardback book format which is slowly forming a beautiful series of releases. The 20 track album comes with an 84 page photo book and is available now from the The The shop. A vinyl version will follow shortly on Death Waltz Recordings.

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Last summer I interviewed Matt at Rough Trade East about his classic album, ‘Soul Mining’, and today you can get a free download of ‘Soul Food’, our one hour chat, newly edited by myself with added instrumental accompaniment. Also check out the previous installments of Matt’s Radio Cineola series which contain all sorts of rare and unreleased moments from The The‘s back catalogue as well as interviews with his collaborators.

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The photos above and below were taken by Gerald Jenkins, during the interview and on Brick Lane shortly after.

Matt Johnson Rough Trade Soul Mining Release

Flexibition #10: Joe Mansfield’s ‘Beatbox’ vol.1: TR-909

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March is tech month at the Flexibition and I’ll be featuring discs relating to music-making hardware over the next four weeks along with a special guest post. This week’s entry was a precursor to Joe Mansfield‘s beautiful book about drum machines, ‘Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession’, released for Record Store Day in 2013. The small 7″-sized, 20 page booklet comes with two flexi discs that feature Schoolly D tracks, ‘Gucci Time’ (Demo) and the classic, ‘PSK’, both remade on the Roland TR-909 by Mansfield.
Flex10_Beatbox_book_inside2 Flex10_Beatbox_book_insideSchoolly also narrates and highlights the various sounds of the machine in what comes across as the ultimate nerd-out instructional demo. The booklet is packed with photos, schematics and history relating to the famous drum machine in the same style as the book it accompanies and it’s one of the best designed flexis I own. The cover states that it’s volume.1 but as yet there don’t appear to be any more forthcoming aside from the 808 7″ featured with the deluxe edition of the book, let’s hope Joe at least manages to produce flexi’s of the DMX and the Linn at some stage too. You can still find copies of this beautiful item, try Rarekind Records in the UK or Turntablelab in the States.

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Trevor Jackson ‘F O R M A T’ launch

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Thursday night saw the launch of Trevor Jackson‘s first release in 14 years, ‘F O R M A T’, hosted at the Vinyl Factory space under Brewer St. car park on the heart of Soho. The release consists of 12 tracks and is initially being made available on 12 different kinds of media with 1 track per format.

These range from 12″, 10″ and 7″ vinyl, CD and mini CD, DAT, VHS, Cassette, USB card, Minidisc, 8-track cartridge and 1/4″ tape reel. The numbers of the edition drop as the format gets more obscure so while the 12″ is pressed up at 500 copies the 1/4″ reel is in an edition of only 10 available with the complete box set of all 12 formats. Prices start at £10 and slowly creep up as the numbers get more limited until you get to the full box set at an eye-watering £850. There is also a poster of all 12 formats available in an edition of 100 with each piece signed and numbered. See, hear and buy the full line up at www.formatvf.com

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At the opening last Thursday guests were directed into the car park and downstairs to a space with a free bar at one end and a table selling the various formats that make up the album at the other. A second dark, enclosed space housed a wall of 12 huge screens opposite corresponding plinths with two sets of headphones. Each format and track was represented by a different film of it being played on the corresponding equipment, not a one shot YouTube-style video but varying close ups of the act of loading the format as well as associated graphics such as time displays, VU meters, rotating spools and platters etc.


What’s different about how this album came to be is that Trevor had over 100 tracks that he’d worked on over the past 14 years but only finished last year. This isn’t an album in the conventional sense, none of the tracks were intended to work together, they’ve been cherry-picked from the archive and exist in isolation from each other at the exhibition, preview-able via the headphones. Likewise (at the moment) each track exists in isolation if you buy it physically. Even the spaced letters of the ‘F O R M A T’ title suggest a disengagement from each other or maybe that’s just the graphic designer in me reading more into it. There was no playback of the full record and it will be interesting to see how the tracks hang together when the collection is released in two months time.


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About the music, as it’s not been mentioned as much as the packaging and concept yet: everything I heard was instrumental, electronic, stark, minimal and very brittle sounding. Knowing Trevor’s methods and tastes I’d guess that a lot of this has been made using original kit rather than samples and his ‘Metal Dance’ compilations point the way to the sonic palette he’s using. Baring in mind I’ve only heard approximately two thirds of the record (it was a very busy night with only two heaphone sets per track) my description above may be a little skewed.
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The 7″ track, ‘They Came From NY’ for instance, features an unidentified voice intoning a few lines and the ending disintegrates into random background sounds that slowly coalesce into a mutant jazz ensemble before being abruptly cut off. ‘In Your Hands’ - the VHS format that also includes the video – was my favourite from what I heard, an edit of a 7 minute plus ambient piece with a film of a dancing form that had been forced through some sort of video distortion technique.

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My friend Frode Heieren pointed out that if you added up the 11 separate formats they would cost over £300 and yes, the pricing is crazy if you look at it like that. It aligns the work with the art and fashion worlds rather than the music industry, way out of proportion to the majority of similar objects sold elsewhere. The way each piece is sold is in the same manner as the art world too, these won’t be available in shops, only at the show and online, and each piece comes with a signed, numbered card that states which number you have and there’s the difference.

You’re buying part of an edition and the art world dictates that the lower the edition the higher the price. If you want to get into that side of things then you’ll spend the money – personally I bought a 7″ and cassette as well as a poster, certainly the most I’ve ever spent on either of those formats new. You’re getting 1 track per format and I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that that’s a good deal but you’re buying an artifact here on a format of your choice and it’s more about your preferred media than the track it contains.
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If you don’t want to get into that then the whole album will be released in 2 months on vinyl, CD and download. Realistically very few people are going to be able to play a DAT, tape reel or 8 track cartridge so the editions are low and the prices high. That’s going to frustrate the completists but it’s also a very clever way to stop the album leaking in full as it’s unlikely that anyone is going to buy the box set and stick it online.

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The full box set is inordinately expensive though, I thought it would be £2-300 tops and that’s the only bit where the pricing seemed out of whack to me. It puts it into the realms of the 1% and that’s something I’m personally not a fan of. But then again I have no idea how much it all cost to make, source and produce and the Vinyl Factory have never been known to be cheap which is why they’re one of the best at what they do. Trevor has said that there is no way he’s making a penny from it unless the box sets sell as sourcing things like 1/4″ reels and 8-Track cartridges aren’t exactly cheap or easy. Anyone who has experience of pressing records will also know that the lower the pressing, the higher the cost per item. From my own experience, I made 30 playable postcard records for the launch of the ‘Search Engine’ album exhibition in 2012 and, even selling them at £8 each, I only just broke even. But let’s not get into the crass subject of money and costings…

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Most of all, the whole concept and execution is excellent and has had me thinking about music packaging from a different perspective in the same way that a good exhibition or film leaves you questioning things. I found the most successful presentation of the set was actually a framed version hanging on the wall, displaying each format rather than hiding them away in a box. I’d wager that those who bought items on the night probably acquired them more as artifacts of the show and, after a cursory listen, are more likely to display them than play them, certainly with the limited numbered formats. This has been happening for a while now if you speak to record shop owners who quiz their customers on their buying habits with many physical releases.

It will be interesting to see how much makes its way to the secondary market and how they appreciate in value over time, something I don’t think we can discount in this age of investment buying and flipping. A quick web search shows nothing on eBay or Discogs which is refreshing but will these prices seem like chicken feed in years to come? I know that Trevor’s intention couldn’t have been further from any thoughts of long term fiscal appreciation and would have been focused on the concept and presentation and ‘F O R M A T’ is a love letter to the physical in a time when more and more people are interested in owning a tangible manifestation of what they’re paying for again. In terms of innovative ways to present an album Trevor has broken new ground here and, despite the elitist pricing, I think that makes it a success.

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RIP Leonard Nimoy

Spocks Music From outer SpaceI was sad to hear of Leonard Nimoy‘s death over the weekend. Although I’ve never been a Trekkie his appeal for me was always his voice and I’ve dug out three records from the collection that feature him. The classic is ‘Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space’ album, a direct cash-in LP from the TV show that made him famous. As well as a groovey version of the theme from ‘Star Trek’ it also bizarrely features covers of themes from ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Oliver’ but the gold is in the spacey spoken word tracks were Nimoy shines, especially ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Earth’ and ‘A Visit To A Sad Planet’.

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The second album is a 1987 release entitled ‘Whales Alive’ by Paul‘s Winter and Halley with narration by Nimoy. This is essentially a New Age record with voices of Humpback Whales accompanied by Leonard reading relevant spoken word passages. In the early 90’s I used to play selections from this over my ambient sets, one track in particular, ‘Queequeg and I’ extracted from ‘Moby Dick’, was a favourite. Unfortunately the record obtained a scratch at some point and you can hear it during one of my first ever Solid Steel sets from 1993. Near the end of the piece, just as it builds to a crescendo, Nimoy reads, “as he stood…” and the record jumps back to a perfect loop of the line, as I realised what was happening in the middle of the live mix you can hear me quietly fading the line out.

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Probably the best known use of Leonard in one of the mixes I’ve been involved with though is the Ray Bradbury ‘Marionettes, Inc.’ story used during the ‘Taking of Pelham 123′ section of ‘Now, Listen’. I can’t lay claim to this as it was 100% PC‘s inclusion and arrangement but it stands as one of the most memorable moments of the mix. Someone has uploaded it to the web and it starts at around the 10 minute mark. I can’t recommend this 1976 Caedmon LP enough being that it contains Nimoy reading two other classic Bradbury sci-fi stories. RIP Leonard.

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Greg Gallo in Heavy Metal magazine Jan 1992

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A 3 page story appeared in the January ’92 issue of Heavy Metal magazine, credited to Greg Gallo and made entirely out of distorted photocopies. I’ve searched for more comic work by Gallo but found nothing, can anyone enlighten me on anything else he’s done please or was this a one-off? The twisted xeroxes remind me of WKinteract‘s work that sometimes utilises a similar method.

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Flexibition #9: Salvador Dali ‘L’Apothéose du Dollar’

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I know next to nothing about this but picked it up because of the cover and Dali‘s involvement. According to Discogs it’s a “Short commercial recorded by Salvador Dalí for Crédit Commercial de France (CCF). Sponsored by Publicis. Probably issued in 1967.”
The Continuo blog however thinks it was released in 1971 and describe it thus, “In 1971, the french bank Crédit Commercial de France was selling (not offering) Salvador Dali‘s book L’Apothéose Du Dollar to its customers in CCF agencies all over the country. To promote the book and their customer-oriented financial services they had their advertising agency Publicis create this disc for which Dali wrote a remarkably cynical Dollar appraise. The first part is Dali reading the great poem above. The 2nd part is a bank PR promoting the CCF. The final part is Dali promoting his own book.”  All dialogue is in French and the Continuo post contains a transcript of the poem Dali reads.

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More Rammellzee…

Ramm1&2 colourThe Rammellzee love-in continues… finished colour versions of the Ramm(s) by Dan Lish (love that he flipped the 2nd one) and an old video popped up the other day of a performance by Rammellzee and Toxic C1 at the Rhythm Lounge in 1983. Toxic is cutting up Billy Squire‘s ‘Big Beat’ while Ramm raps but Jean Michell Basquiat also provides graphic overlays and doesn’t actually appear, the video isn’t all that but it’s all about the recording.

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Big Fish Little Fish at the Imagine Fest

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Big Fish Little Fish was amazing on Sunday, god knows how many people crammed into the Clore Ballroom at the Southbank in London. So many at one point that we had to stop the music for 10 minutes for an unscheduled break while the staff tried to calm a swell of the people trying to get in. Above is at the start as people were coming in, you can see House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ on my laptop as the opening track.

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The parachute dance (above) is a regular feature of the BFLF parties and this one was different in that they did it three times so that people got a chance to be under it, still didn’t stop a fight by two mums nearly breaking out to get underneath :). Below you can see just how much it had filled up by the end as families poured into the totally unprepared ballroom to rave inside away from the rain. Despite it being a roadblock all the staff were lovely and Hannah and Natasha from BFLF handled the whole thing like pros.

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I made a mix for them back in January that I’ve been meaning to post it on here but what with the Selected Aphex Works mix I didn’t want to push too many mixes out there. But here it is – Warning! Pop Alert! This is made as much with kids in mind as adults, probably good for a picnic or birthday party rather than the more adult-centric classic rave and jungle I played on Sunday.

‘Ordinary’ by Rob Williams & D’Israeli

Ordinarycover‘Ordinary’ was one of my comics of 2014, the story of a world where everyone wakes up with different super powers, all except Michael who’s ordinary. As the world quickly goes to pot he has to find his son in a New York city gone mad and he soon becomes a target for the government – who want him dead – and the scientists who want him alive as they believe that he may hold the key to reversing the effect.

Shot through with Rob Williams‘ dark humour and illustrated in gorgeous colour by D’Israeli, I’m not ashamed to say that the ending bought a lump to my throat. Originally published in the Judge Dredd Megazine it’s now been collected into a trade paperback by Titan Comics and buyers from OK Comics in Leeds can get an exclusive signed bookplate edition by both creators.