Emmeline

My reading list never shrinks. Not because I don’t read – au contraire! For every book I read, I end up adding at least two more – either because I enjoyed the author so much, or because it referenced other work, and I can’t resist diving down a rabbit hole of information. So despite being an avid reader, I’m never really on the lookout for new books to read. I have enough reading lined up on my shelves to fortify me for a nuclear holocaust.

But when I saw that J R Manawa – who I worked with on the Corner of My Eye music video – had her first novel published… I simply had to read it immediately. Though to be perfectly honest…. to me, the subject was irrelevant. Manawa is a thoroughly fascinating individual. A wonderfully diverse and compassionate person who is always full of surprises… and if a person who can surprise me writes I book…. that is a doorway to crawl into that person’s head and perspective on life. How could that opportunity be passed up?

Emmeline is the story of a 21-year-old woman on a journey to discover what happened to her parents 11 years earlier and discovering that her birth was nothing more than a form of soul-harvesting. The novel was written as a 31-day challenge. Manawa was given random topics by her blog readers, and each day, she had to find a way to weave the random topics into her story. Although she had already developed the characters beforehand, the suggestions ended up hugely affecting their backstories in ways Manawa did not expect. For example, a fellow Kiwi gave her the topic “pohutukawa trees,” which is New Zealand’s Christmas tree. In Manawa’s mind, Emmeline was never supposed to be from New Zealand, but this curve ball ended up adding another wonderful dimension to the book. 

Emmeline is written for a young adult audience, but it is incredibly easy to re-envision this novel for a mature audience. In fact, as the main character discovers the mythology driven secret worlds hidden in London, the story hints of sub-stories that not only have the potential to expand the story in every direction, but to take it to extremely dark topics. One of my favourite chapters meets a slithering beauty of a character named Angula. Despite being one of the most likable characters in the novel, she is the owner/operator of a night club with a subterranean area where girls are auctioned off.

Of course, this makes for a fascinating character, but more than that, it introduces the subject of human trafficking to a young audience. Both Manawa and I feel that human trafficking is one of the most of the vile – and yet virtually unknown – horrors of the age we are living in. It’s a subject that needs to be discussed if it’s ever to end, and Manawa bringing this to the attention of the youngest generation is the highest order of an artist realised. If we can’t shine the light on darkness, what the hell use are we?

No matter your age, Emmeline is an enjoyable read, and it’s very clear that this is an author with a great deal to offer the world. Don’t wait for her to make a name for herself before you check her out…. support her now and help her get there!  You can find out more about Emmeline here.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music. BUT BE WARNED…. you can’t unhear it! Visit FreeMusic.TyLean.com

 

Label reads Best Before Never Tour

Best Before Never Tour 2016

It’s been five years, but I’m finally getting back to the American side of the Atlantic for a tour! I’ll be performing in 7 cities in the Northeast USA and Southeast Canada:

Monday, 8 August 2016 – Howlers – Pittsburgh, PA
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 – Symposium – Cleveland, OH
Thursday, 11 August 2016 – Coalition: T.O – Toronto, ON
Friday, 12 August 2016 – The Spill – Peterborough, ON
Saturday, 13 August 2016 – Swizzles – Ottawa, ON
Sunday, 14 August 2016 – La Vitrola – Montreal, QC
Sunday, 21 August 2016 – Mothers Bar – Easton, PA

The show is TyLean Version 2.0: deeper, darker and more intense…. like nothing you have seen me do before! Even if you are not in the right part of the world for this tour, join the facebook event page, where I will be posting a tour video diary, and you can follow me on the road and see clips from the show!

Did I mention that Members of the Unveiled get private access to shows?

Here is 40 Second Tour Trailer:

Cyclocosmia – Deadwood

Cyclocosmia is a relatively new project that I have had the pleasure of working on in the past. I call it a project rather than a band, because Cyclocosmia embodies a real commune approach to music making. One the band members is – in fact – a filmmaker, and an open invite on their website encourages any fans to contribute and submit material for future projects.

A woman with the top of her head cut off and her brain exposed.

Cyclocosmia’s debut album, Deadwood, features 10 tracks of mostly symphonic metal, with numerous gorgeous interludes of a minimalist approach. The album is about the darker side of the human mind, and the title refers to the parts of the mind that are not working as they should and impair the function of the mind as a whole.

The first track that stands out to me is “Ubasute,” which is the old Japanese practice of taking the elderly into the woods to die when they become a burden on the family. The violin by Pete Hartley complements the song and really takes this particular track to a new level. The following track, “Season of Regret,” continues to impress with lyrics that speak of destruction of the present based on failures of the past. My favourite line is about missed opportunities in the pursuit of perfection:

“The chance that I threw away
In search of the perfect words to say”

“Shackled” is another track that stands out as lyrically significant, with lines describing the non-anguished anguish of a walking shell of a person, simultaneously in pain and unable to feel that pain. “…y dolor en la Tierra” is, as the title implies, a song written in Spanish about singer Lorena’s native country of Venezula. Living in Spain and being a Spanish speaker myself, this song grabbed my attention as one would expect. The lyrics are beautiful, and I cannot envisage them better in any other language.

The album ends with “Under the Silent Stars,” which is – in my opinion – the most poignant track on the album. Maybe it’s the attractive minor key? Maybe it’s because it’s minimalist by comparison? (In contrast to most of the album, this track does not feature a symphonic metal interlude). Maybe it’s because of the nautical references? Maybe it’s because it is about death? In any case, it is a memorable song to end a debut album and by far my favourite on the album.

Attrition & Anni Hogan – Millions Of The Mouthless Dead

Some of you will know of my long term association with the post-punk, darkwave band Attrition. I have lent my vocals for several recordings, including The Unraveller of Angels album, and sometimes I join them on tour. I lent some vocals for Attrition’s latest album, “Millions of the Mouthless Dead,” but in the end, they didn’t quite fit the project.

Now… some people might be upset to have their entire contribution to an album dashed aside, but having worked with Martin Bowes for several years now, I knew that whatever decision he made was in the best interest of the album…. and indeed… my vocals would have ruined this masterpiece!

A knife standing in the ground amongst twigs and brush.

Whenever possible, I prefer to listen to music in a dedicated setting, where I can give it my full attention. Being a very busy woman and a mother of two, these opportunities don’t present themselves often, so when they do…. I want whatever I’m listening to to be damn good! When I finally got a chance to sit down and listen to Millions of the Mouthless Dead, I knew within the first 60 seconds that the next 50 minutes would be well spent. Not even one minute into the album, I was struck by Martin’s voice. It’s the same whispery, gravelly voice as always, but it had a particular lushness to it that really grabbed my attention. You can hear in Martin’s voice how near and dear this album is to his heart… and with good reason.

Millions of the Mouthless Dead is an album inspired by and dedicated to William Bowes (his grandfather) and the millions of people that experienced the living hell of World War I. The album was many years in the making, released to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the war as a form of memorial.

Rather than pulsating beats and operatic vocals, like most Attrition albums, Martin has created a soundscape to recreate the trench warfare, interspersed with spoken poems read by several different people – men and women – in multiple languages. Also interspersed throughout the album are Anni Hogan´s stellar pianistic skills adding both warmth and dissonance to the mix. The sound design is stunning! Martin has crafted and manufactured the sounds of war, using samples both obvious (like gunfire) and not obvious (such as the sound of a washing machine).

My favourite apsects of this album are the different perspectives from French, German and English people reading original war poetry. This creates a narrative that doesn’t so much follow the progression of the war (although there is a nice salute to America’s late-as-usual arrival), as the progression of the lives affected by the war. “A Madman’s Flash,” which occupies three tracks titled “As Quiet As,” “All The Mad Men,” and “Krieg,” is without a doubt a jewel of the album, where the soundscape starts to crumble into insanity.

The title track “The Mouthless Dead” is the most “Attrition” song on the album, in that is has the most graspable beat. For me personally, however, it isn’t the highlight, as one would often expect of the title track. For me… the most chilling moment is during the last track, “A Drawing Down Of Blinds.” The spoken words, “Goodbye Dear” followed by a fade in of church bells are a perfect reminder that nothing came of that war except death… and then more death.

This album is – in my opinion – a highlight of Martin’s career. I’m grateful for just being privy to the process and having a little ghost of a vocal on the track “Divine Providence”… but also, I’m grateful because my vocals that found no home on this album became a little masterpiece of their own.

My New Controversial Album

Best Before Never was released for less than two months when I concocted the idea for my new album. ´

It was Christmas. We were rushing around getting the meal ready…. or rather, my husband was rushing around while I was looking after the baby and the 4-year-old. In the background, we had Christmas music on… as you do. And it seemed every other song, I was jumping up to skip through a song, or two, or three. It´s not that I didn´t like those songs! Some of them were my absolute favorites! They are just so damned…. “babyjesusie.”

Video Image

Yes, we are atheists. (I was once an extremely devout evangelical Christian and have read the bible, but that´s a story for another time. I mention it only to say please, don´t waste your time if you wish to preach to me). Quite simply, I don´t want these indoctrinating influences in my children´s lives. It isn´t just religion… negative body imagery, violence, consumerism, sexism, racism… the list goes on. I can´t control these things in the world, but I can control the environment in our own home and try to steer them toward rational thought and a mindset that questions the world around them. Religious stories and songs are not welcome in my house, the same as Disney “Princess” movies, toy guns, and pro-violence franchises (such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and GI Joe). And if I had daughters… Bratz dolls over my dead fucking body!

As I was skipping through these “babyjesusie” songs, I was sad, because they are part of our culture. And they are great songs in any case! So I had a thought… what if I re-wrote secular lyrics?

And so the album idea was born, and I decided it would be this year´s musical project! I also like the idea, because I´ve always been a rebel rouser, and every year when the media starts the “War Christmas Campaign” I get extremely annoyed and launch an opposing campaign to educate the masses. Like it or not, the fact is that Christmas is an assimilated holiday, because celebrations on the equinoxes and solstices are not specific to any religion… they belong to all humanity, and everyone has a right to celebrate any holiday in any way they please, so long as they hurt no one in the process. If you look up the history of where most of our Christmas traditions come from… you´ll find most of what you do to celebrate comes from the Pagans!

The album is totally traditional… just with new lyrics. So whether you are a fellow atheist or perhaps you are not but happen to think that everyone has a right to celebrate and be merry in their own way, please donate to the campaign. The album is already written and mostly recorded, but with your support now, I can put together a beautiful CD that would make a lovely Christmas gift!

Click here to order your copy!

Dreams and Sprogs

When I was growing up, I adored my mother. My mother could do no wrong in my eyes. She worked at a hospital for 30 years; most of that time she was a receptionist and telephone switchboard operator who worked the graveyard shift. I was a born night owl, and I would ring her all night long just to chat to her.

One day, she told me about how she hadn’t always been a receptionist and switchboard operator. Before I was born, she was a nurse’s aid. “What happened? Didn’t you like it?” I asked her.
“I loved it… I had always wanted to be a nurse.”
“Why didn’t you become a nurse then?” I asked with genuine childlike inquisitiveness.
“Oh, well, I had kids instead.”

I spent many years feeling guilty that I was responsible for my mother’s unfulfilled dream of becoming a nurse. Unfortunately, as the years wore on… I discovered something about my mother: she was full of shit!

You see…. my mother was 29 when my eldest sibling was born, the same age I was when I had my first child. I managed to fulfill an awful lot of my lifetime goals and dreams before then, too.

I’m not unsympathetic to the fact that there are two entire generations that came and went in between my mother’s birth and my birth. Her opportunities and expectations of her from society were quite different to what my opportunities and societal expectations were. But it’s still bullshit… having kids did not stop her from becoming a nurse. Lack of ambition did. Being subservient to her husband did. Having her first child at the age of 29…. did not.

So why am I writing about this now? Social-fucking-media… the bane of my life. Because the mentality that children inhibit life dreams is still alive, well and often being cited by my own generation as a reason not to breed.

This notion is utter bullshit, and I’m a living testament to it. Sure, sometimes I make less progress than I would like in a given time frame or find that it is a bit more tedious than pre-Mummyhood, but it hasn’t stopped me ticking off the life goals (and inventing new ones) on a consistent basis. Not to mention that raising a child is – in itself – an adventure that you will learn from and grow as a human being.

It’s understandable why the mentality persists though…. I’m far from the only child who grew up believing that my existence ruined the fulfilled lives of my parents. It has been recycled again and again, except now it is the reason people give for not having kids rather than the reason for unfilled dreams.

Here are two requests that I would like people to consider:

1) Parents… don’t blame your children for your own shortcomings. Either admit to yourself that you valued having children over the dreams you “gave up,” or start working toward those goals that would make you more happy. There is no shame in either. If you truly DID have to walk away from a big opportunity (and I mean an actual, at-your-doorstep opportunity, not a pipe dream) that would have fulfilled you because of your family, don’t ever tell your children anything to make them think that your unhappiness is their fault. They will feel guilty for it…. right up until they resent you.

2) Childless people… stop being smug, because you made different choices in life. Your concept that life ends at childbirth is only true for people who wouldn’t have done much with their lives anyway, with very few exceptions. It is COMPLETELY possible to continue having adventures and living life to its fullest with children in tow. Just admit it: I don’t want to have kids. It’s not that hard… I said it myself for a very, very long time (quite adamantly I might add). There is nothing wrong with that. No one should bring a life into this world unless they are prepared to be completely committed to that life.

We make our own realities.
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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

 

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden

I came across a new (to me) “band” quite by accident the other week. The “band” (which I later found out is the solo project of Margaret Chardiet) is called Pharmakon.

As so often happens with amazingly different music, it was the album artwork that caught my eye and drew me in before I had heard a single note (or the opposite of a note, as the case may be). Such was the case when I first discovered Björk, when the album cover of Homogenic literally stopped me in my tracks walking down the aisle of a Gallery of Sound record shop. (Back in the day, when we bought music in stores).

A girl laying down with cuts of meat and offal arranged to look like her internal organs.

The album was inspired by the experiences Chardiet had during surgery. This meshes in deliciously with the artwork, which shows a girl (I’m guessing Chardiet), laying down with cuts of meat and offal laid across her body to suggest her internal organs. If you know me, you know how seriously I take my own album artwork – that it must be an extension of the overall work. Learning the inspiration for the album, I was drawn in even deeper accompanied by a tremendous amount of artistic respect.

The album starts with “Vacuum,” breathing to a background of electrical humming… breathing which soon becomes layered, altering the patterns in an intense trance-like way. The breathing ends – sooner than expected – and the next track, “Intent or Instinct” emerges with NIИ-esque noise and beats. Chardiet’s vocals, emerging from the background as subtle instrumentation lead up to primal screams that would make Diamanda Galas droll in envy. The second track seams itself in beautifully with “Body Betrays Itself,” which for me invokes the soundtrack to House of 1,000 Corpses.

“Primitive Struggle” starts off with a person coughing, retching and panting as the beat behind intensifies. This instantly took me to the sound-design tracks of Type O Negative’s World Coming Down – one of my favourite albums of all time.

A clean break in the noise atmosphere introduces “Autoimmune.” This is the first track on the album where I can sort of make out lyrics – which is by no means an insult. “Autoimmune” ends followed by a brief, clean break of silence that makes you appreciate just how engulfed you were in the atmosphere.

The album’s false ending is its title track, “Bestial Burden,” which returns to an invocation of Diamanda Galas, but with Chardiet’s own distinct flavour, which by this point has been well established. This track brings you an onslaught of maniacal laughter, layered until it becomes instrumentation in its own right.

Who doesn’t love a bonus track? I adore them!! And here we have a surprise version of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” which is originally a Cher song written by Sonny Bono. It’s a damned good version!

I reference other bands and artists in this post…. but they are merely anchor points to what is otherwise an incredibly unique album. Yes, it’s another noise album, but for as much as I love noise, most noise album do become tedious after awhile. One can only take so much in one sitting. (The same goes for my own albums, which are blessedly short). Music that really drives itself under your skin and challenges your perception usually does become tiresome, simply because it requires more of you – the listener – than being a passive audience member. At 32:40, I find the album length of Bestial Burden to be absolutely perfect and brilliantly planned.

Bestial Burden is available on bandcamp. To hear some of my own experimental tracks simply enter your name and email address here for a free download.

Dead Animal Foundlings

I have a strange hobby….. I collect dead animals.

I don´t actually take their little rotting corpses home with me and cuddle them at night or anything. I take photographs of them. It all started when I was living in Bristol, England, and whilst walking alongside the canal, I came across the most curious thing… the wingspan of a bird with all of the feathers attached but the rest of the body and bones picked completely clean as carrion. I had a fancy new phone that had a camera built right into it (this was circa 2008, and I´m slow to adapt to communication technology in any case). I absolutely had to take a photo!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZJhZQxOWB0

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was no stranger to coming across rotting animal corpses, but I never took much notice of them. With that first “Dead Animal Foundling” photo (which my sick little mind loving calls “KFC”) I had triggered something in my mind. I became fascinated and completely tuned into the presence of dead animals. Whenever possible, I took photos and ferreted them in various photo libraries and hard drives.

Then, when I was in Salzburg, Austria (doing my Mozart pilgrimage), I came across one of the most exquisite of my collection! Right there in Mozartplaz was a decapitated bird otherwise fully intact. More impressive, however, was the pattern of the blood splatter, which (to me) looks likes the beginnings of a treble clef.

I decided to dig out as many of these Dead Animal Foundling photos as I could find and share them with the morbidly inclined. I recently made a video for youtube set to my track “MirrorrorriM,” which I think accompanies it nicely in strangeness.

“MirrorrorriM” is from my album The Unforgivable, the Unforgettable, which was an experimental album that was recorded in one night in front of a live audience, but with all of the starts, stops and fits of a typical recording session.

The Formaldehyde Paintings

Album artwork is important to me. I consider it part of the entire album experience, and in the digital age, I believe now more than ever that the aesthetics and visuals associated with an album are extremely important.

For my fourth album, a 4-song EP, I chose songs having to do with the wretchedness of love. I decided that instead of conventional album artwork with photography of or by myself, I would do acrylic-on-canvas paintings depicting four hearts in various stages of misery, rot and decay.

A heart split in two, half perfect and half melting into a puddle.

The first song on the album is “Love Always Dies.” I did a highly textured painting achieved largely by using matchsticks instead of paintbrushes. The left half is a typical, pristine heart that the likes of Lisa Frank would conjure up. The right of the painting shows a grotesque whithering away, the flesh melting into a puddle showing its own idealised reflection. A reflection which is considerably different from the reality.

A heart standing in the desert, bent over and crying a river.

“The Dark and the Blue and the Grey” is the second song on the EP. Although it appears to be the most simplistic of the paintings, it was actually the most challenging for me. The painting shows a heart stood in a desert, bent over and crying a river. Having no training in art what-so-ever, I found portraying a heart bent over – whilst still be recognisable as a heart – to be quite difficult. The large white star was also painted using matchsticks to achieve a textured look.

A heart with a zipper in front of a black and white circular vortex image. The heart is half unzipped.

“Big Hearts” is a more Kate Bush type of track with a big somewhat cheery sound (given the context of my brand of misery). The lyrics, however, are slightly political dealing with the “givers and takers” of life. I decided that this heart, rather than being broken or damaged by another entity, would be intentionally unzipping itself in two. For me, I feel the song has a slightly retro feel to it, and being a lover of music from the 1960’s, I went with a trippy black and white background.

Gangrenous, green heart rotting inside of a chest cavity.

In my opinion, the best song on the album is “Amputation of a Heart,” which is also my favourite of the five paintings. In keeping in line with the lyrics, this heart was literally a green, gangrenous heart exposed through an open chest cavity and in the process of amputation.

I wasn’t finished with my paintings, however! I still needed one for the album cover, something to tie all of the paintings together. I envisioned a witch doctor like laboratory and a jar of formaldehyde with a heart inside…. hence the album title. The album title and the miniature heart paintings floating inside of the jar were added with Photoshop later.

A jar of the heart paintings sitting on a table. A book shelf and herb drying rack in the background.

Anyone who orders “Formaldehyde” directly through me receives high resolution jpeg files of the four Formaldehyde paintings plus the album cover with full permission to print the images for personal use or decoration.

You can get a free download that includes a Formaldehyde track here.

What is Avant-Garde Music?

A hand drawn treble clef with too many loops.

Avant-garde is one of those terms that is so esoteric that it can become rather meaningless. To add to the confusion, it is a term that is applied to theatre, literature, music, art, architecture… even politics! In this post, I am hoping to make what is – or is not – avant-garde music a little bit clearer.

Avant-garde is unique in that it is defined by not what it is but by what it isn’t. By it’s own definition of being experimental or innovative, no one can point to an overall sound quality and say, “this is what avant-garde music sounds like,” in the same way that you can describe Ragtime as being syncopated or Thrash Metal as being impossibly and impressively fast. An avant-garde piece may be a wall of electronic noise and distortion, or it may be complete silence, such as John Cage’s 4’33”.

Does this make avant-garde a catch-all genre for anything that just doesn’t quite fit into our traditional concept of genres and sub-genres? No. There are some boxes that need to be ticked in order to qualify a piece, composer or group as avant-garde.

First, and most obviously, it must be experimental or innovative. It must break tradition! This isn’t to say that there can’t be anything traditional about it at all. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented to qualify as avant-garde, but it must have some new and original quality.

Second, it must take from everywhere. Natural evolution within a genre, where all of the music is developing within the same Petri dish, does not avant garde music make. Something evolved from multiple indiscriminate and/or random Petri dishes, however, does qualify.

Third, and perhaps what is the most distinguishable hallmark, is that it must reject and challenge social and artistic values, which will automatically involve it with political, social and cultural factors. It must defy mainstream culture or even seek to change that culture. Oh yes… avant-garde music has an agenda! That agenda can often lead to complete alienation of the audience if goading the audience wasn’t – in fact – the primary objective.

If you are a fan of Avant-Garde Music or are curious to hear some examples from up and coming avant-garde artist TyLean, go here and click “download,” because as Skope once said, “the originality factor is turned up high while TyLean dares to be outrageously different…”