MUTANT - THE MUSIC OF EMPIRE 639 (AVA01)
This audio CD is entitled Mutant - the music of Empire 639 and contains thirteen tracks:
1. The Theme from The Dalek Chronicles
2. Children of the Revolution
3. One Moment of Peace (original composition)
4. Power Play
5. The Amaryll Challenge
6. Dalek Cutaway
7. Duel of the Daleks
8. Divine Creations (original composition)
9. Menace of the Monstrons
10. Mechanoid Fantasia (from Eve of the War documentary)
11. Collisions in Jazzspace (from the Richard Jennings tribute)
12. Rogue Planet
13. Theme for a Time Lord (original composition)
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Last updated: 25 September 2010
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Steve Swales writes:
It’s always difficult reviewing instrumentals which is probably why this one is the first, but here goes:
1. The theme from The Dalek Chronicles – You know this one - Holst moves from Mars to Skaro!
2. Children of the Revolution – not T.Rex’s but maybe the best one on it, nice industrial throbs.
3. One Moment of Peace (original composition) - quite pretty and with only a little disturbing ambience.
4. Power Play – suitably neo-imperial, nice backwards envelopes.
5. The Amaryll Challenge – I dunno, I still see those flowers when I hear this! Quite Art of Noise’s 1st album in places, really effective.
6. Dalek Cutaway – sounds like a vivisection performed under a local – which was the intention I’m sure – check out TG’s Journey Through a Body!
7. Duel of the Daleks – a long complex track that would take up a review in itself!
8. Divine Creations (original composition) – a bit of lightness amongst the darkness of the other tracks, no Daleks in sight of course, this is a new one.
9. Menace of the Monstrons – Arrrghhh that leitmotif from Death to the Daleks keeps popping up – and it’s still funny!!!
10. Mechanoid Fantasia (from Eve of the War documentary) – tasteful industrial ambience.
11. Collisions in Jazzspace (from the Richard Jennings tribute) – a more conventional structure and you could actually dance to this - with the sample at the start, this sounds more like a commercial track with a definite (if mutated) hook.
12. Rogue Planet –fairly electro-gothic, can’t wait for the VCD.
13. Theme for a Time Lord (original) - and a much better one for him than the kind of crap Murray Gold’s churning out on telly these days.
Overall, this is a collection that more than stands up by itself, outside of the VCDs. Very enjoyable and I should think surprisingly accessible for non-Who or non-electronic music fans. I didn’t find myself skipping any tracks on subsequent plays and how many albums can you say that about these days? If there is to be a volume#2 then perhaps it should be the more grating uneasy-to-impossible-listening soundscapes for us hardcore nutters...
Andy McDonald writes:
Right from the very first Altered Vistas VCD I have been impressed with the quality and high standard of the audio and incidental music which Stuart achieves. Now, after all this time, Empire 639 have released this audio CD. I have been listening to Mutant for over a week now and I am still struggling to find a way to describe why I like it, and I do like it!
It's a very atmospheric and, I believe, a very useful addition to the enjoyment of each of the VCDs. Steve Swales mentioned the difficulty with trying to review instrumental works to which I would add there are further problems when the main function of the music is to create and heighten the atmosphere of a particular scene. However, this collection works very well on its own. I love the Dalek Chronicles Theme. Reference has been made to Holst's Mars but that is precisely why it is here and why it works so well. As an aural harbinger of menace it is superb and it is so very well recorded. The other tracks are mainly ambient/techno influenced pieces, plus a little jazz, which Stuart has sequenced in a very listenable order.
The quality of the recording is excellent and Stuart’s compositional skills and musicianship are outstanding. Had I bought this album in Virgin or HMV I would have been quite happy. As it is for the price of a blank CDR and postage everyone should get one. Go on, give it a try. What have you got to lose?
You may be interested to know that I made a copy of your album for my brother who is a fan of ambient and electronic music. His interests range from Japanese Techno through to Krautrock and from artists such as Tomita, Steve Hillage, YMO, The Orb, Harold Budd, Brian Eno, Loop Guru, Dreadzone, Can and even some Stockhausen and Philip Glass. He was very impressed with Mutant, especially when I explained about Empire 639.
As for Volume 2 I would welcome it with open arms. I would even be buy one but please, Stuart, don't follow the industrial route suggested by Mr Swales.
Jonny D writes:
The music on this CD ranges from a classical feel to trance/dance music, it is full of cleverly chosen tracks which are a pleasure to listen to. The music on this CD comes from the Dalek Chronicles and the two compliment each other perfectly. For example, the Dalek Chronicles theme tune sounds very much like 'Mars: The Bringer of War' from Holst's Planet Suite and the Daleks themselves are war machines. The other tracks range from moody and menacing to atmospheric and ambient. This CD is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s AV collection. I recommend it highly.
TOTALLY SONIC - The Art Of Dalek Music And Superbular Electrobabble
At last, electronic music you Can't dance to! (regardless of Steve Swales' weird mutant rhythmical abilities)
Stuart Palmer's EMPIRE 639 scores for his Altered Vistas CD-R animations of the 1960s The Dalek Chronicles series of panel-art stories have now been given the feature exposure they really do deserve.
Along with a few other-selections, MUTANT - The Music Of EMPIRE 639 is an hour of dramatic and delightful electronica authentically reflecting the 'classic' nature of its source materiel - The Dalek Chronicles - yet incorporating slyly contemporary musicalities afforded by the flexibility of home-synthesis audio-tek and the influential inventions of today's commercial music producers.
Stuart's compositions are (mostly) in this case purpose-made as background themes to mini-movies, but they are of a quality (equal to that of his delightful animations - which are rapidly growing in popularity and renown) which passes that classic test of film scores: does the music stand well on its own, minus its image & narrative contexts?
The value of EMPIRE 639's Mutant soundscapes is readily apparent from the first audition of this Altered Vistas 1st full-audio release, whilst also providing the surprising revelation of just how well these intricate constructions have served their true purpose of supporting animated storytelling without intruding on that material.
As an audiophile I noticed these qualities when I first began collecting Altered Vistas productions. As a film-buff, aware of the principles of 'seamless editing' and the 'subliminal music' of subservient scoring, I've appreciated the professionalism of Stuart's application of music to the role of informing action and atmosphere without dominating the performance. Consequently it's a pleasing discovery to note how very New, sometimes even surprisingly Unfamiliar, these pieces can sound when elevated to the position of solo performance on a soundtrack compilation.
Also a cumulative effect of the superbly arranged selection of tracks is one of impressive dramatic dynamics and mood-building. There are truly spooky movements that benefit from the noisier pieces surrounding them (a typical Dalek 'piece-under-siege' manoeuvre) which attain a heightened tonality through the use of electronically Sonic'd-Up versions of classical instrumental tones, such as echoing 'Zitherish' strings or resonant Cathedral Organ timbres amidst the more Synthy sounds.
Similarly, moments of bombast contrasting with musical witticisms combine to deflate any impression of self-importance that exaggeratedly dramatic music can sabotage itself with. This is a particular tribute to Stuart's compositional skills because, together with the Dalek-animations they are meant to accompany, they actually create a wryly humorous edge to The Dalek Chronicles stories that is utterly appropriate to both the inherent corniness of those old tales and to the fact that they are animated versions of comics!
Stuart Palmer reveals his talents as a composer with material that could well mislead an uninformed listener ignorant of its contexts, but having been a reviewer of Altered Vistas productions for over a year now, I can attest to the range of abilities this artist demonstrates. My reviews have been critical many times on counts of animation-fudges or underdeveloped ideas & missed opportunities, but I've watched the rapid development of an independent pioneer in domestic studiowork in our obscure corner of the Entertainment Universe - never forgetting that so many of those too-easily highlighted flaws along the way are more often entirely practical Editorial Decisions by a generous Soul who is Not being paid to do all this!
I am constantly staggered by the output-rate of AV material, especially given the amazing amount of attention-to-detail, design & production values achieved on someone's personal time, and Mutant is a supreme cherry-on-the-cake of these achievements.
And all of this by a fellow who gives full credit (in the highest of Fannish tradition) to everybody associated with his work and contributing to any aspect of it without big-noting himself, even on his own beautifully designed and executed site!
All this praise is, of course, a sinister Dalek plot to make Stuart’s head explode.
Rob Peters writes:
To be honest, I’m not much of a fan of Doctor Who. I watch and quite enjoy the new series but, although I’m old enough to remember back as far as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, I never watched the old series with any great regularity. I came to this music disc, then, with something akin to trepidation. I was told to listen to it by a mate, but I couldn’t help but wonder... why would music for a series of Doctor Who-related productions appeal to me in the slightest? Oh, but it did! Because these aren’t some knock-off Doctor Who incidentals, these are cleverly crafted and beautifully composed compositions in their own right.
The sounds are carefully chosen to create rich and individual sonic palettes, the themes are lovely, frequently witty and never dull or repetitive (step forward the majority of most modern music and say “Guilty as charged”) and the mixing is perfect, which makes this collection equally enjoyable on speakers or headphones.
I’ve already thanked my mate for introducing me to this music, so now I want to thank Empire 639 for such an engaging, diverse and beautiful collection of work. I sincerely hope you produce a second volume (and a third, and a fourth) and would also dearly like you to release one of your other non-incidental albums. Any chance of that happening?
Stuart Palmer began creating 3D CGI animations based on Doctor Who in 2003, when he provided stunning animated sequences for the Loose Cannon reconstruction of The Daleks' Master Plan, and produced a feature about Terry Nation's proposed spin-off series The Destroyers. He progressed to recording shorts and eventually feature-length CGI productions under the Altered Vistas banner, including an ambitious visualisation of the entire Century 21 comic strip The Daleks. Like the fan reconstructions, these were distributed from ‘dub sites’ where fans could obtain copies for free, providing only the blank media and return postage.
This thirteen-track CD - available from the same UK and international dubbing sites as the VCDs of the dramatisations themselves - included music from the first half of The Dalek Chronicles (including one episode not-yet released); the documentary Children of the Revolution; and some new compositions ('One Moment of Peace', 'Divine Creations' and 'Theme for a Time Lord'). The artwork could be downloaded from the Altered Vistas website.
Palmer's Empire 639 tag pre-dated his AV alias by many years; having been in a band in the late 80s/early 90s, he had continued to make CDs of original compositions for his own listening pleasure, and naturally recorded his own music for the Altered Vistas dramatisations. The music served a large role in the films, covering the full durations of many of them, and on CD the tracks proved to be a mixture of generic mood-music (bombastic, creepy or comedic) and homages to the various musical sounds of Doctor Who – and particularly the Daleks. There are echoes of the soundtracks to stories as diverse as Death to the Daleks, Resurrection of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks, with a variety of synthesised sounds on display that are often at pains to imitate the special sounds of the 1960s Dalek serials.
The most effective on CD are those that conjure images out of the instruments themselves – the echoing, rolling drum crashes familiar from orchestral soundtracks, or the sampled vocal-‘aahs’ that are played in differing pitches like a Radiophonic Workshop nightmare, both produce mental images that the repetitive crashing and fanfare of other tracks do not. Yet because the music served the purpose of single-handedly producing an atmosphere for each scene of each film, playing Mutant takes the listener on as much of a journey as watching the VCDs… or even reading the comics.