RETURN TO DEVIL'S ISLAND
revisits themes from the 2004 album Devil's Island Discs, together with new material, to form a two-part suite, arbitrarily divided into 8 sections.
PART 1, Southern Ocean Swell [18.18], relating the story of the island's accidental discovery by intrepid 16th Century mariners, is based on Ocean Swell and Blue Sky from Devil's Island Discs, and tells of a sailing ship, blown off course while rounding the Horn and forced to enter the perilous and uncharted waters of the Antarctic Ocean. The noises which sound like thunder, heard in the second section, represent huge chunks of ice falling from icebergs and threatening to sink the ship as the crew attempt to negotiate their return to more temperate waters. Also making a brief return appearance are the whales - actually, slowed-down voices - from The Shipping Forecast (off the album Goodbye Finisterre), which is in many ways the precursor of the Devil's Island saga. The chosen instrumentation consists almost exclusively of synthesised sounds.
PART 2, Fair Weather [4.22], begins, rather more loosely based on the same themes, but with more conventional instrumentation, by describing the journey north towards the equatorial regions, and the happy discovery of land, where the exhausted sailors can eat fresh food again and haul their vessel ashore for vital repairs.
PART 3, Land Ho! [7.30], is made up of 3 layers: electronically treated music from Devil's Island Discs and elsewhere on this album; underlying this is more electronically treated material, mostly speech, from The Shipping Forecast from Goodbye Finisterre; under this is some composed material consisting of strings, voices and percussion. The ship follows an unknown and mysterious coastline of rocky cliffs and palm-fringed beaches; curious native islanders can occasionally be glimpsed among the trees.
In PART 4, Time and Space [21.14], which also includes a passage using the theme from Devil's Island Discs' UXB, the rapport built up between the sailors and the natives of the island can be heard. As the visitors reluctantly prepare to leave for home, they are invited to a party where they entertain their hosts with rousing songs of the sea and consume large quantities of the delicious but potent local brew, prepared by the womenfolk from fermented mango and snake venom. The spoken voices are provided by Bruce and Victoria.
Moving on to the early 20th Century, this disc relates the story of Polar explorers, more storms, and another unscheduled stop at Devil's Island.
PART 5, S.O.S. [5.25], takes its name from one of the pieces of Morse Code incorporated into the music.
PART 6, Becalmed [12.49], is another layered piece like Land Ho!, ending with a reprise of the theme from S.O.S.
PART 7, Drifting [11.40], opens with edited versions of Blue Sky and White Sails from the original Devil's Island album (featuring the Vocalettes), then moves on to illustrate the plight of the crew, running desperately short of food and water as they drift helplessly on the open sea, their feverish imaginings, once again mostly by means of electronically treated sounds and music from the same sources as before.
In PART 8 [17.35], they wake up safe and sound on Devil's Island - no one knows how they got there - as the 'Jazz Club' band from Flotsam and Jetsam perform 'live' versions of three Devil's Island tracks: Blue Sky, Dawn Chorus and Devil's Island. The band like to call this 'mini-suite' Voodoo Island. Listen out for the featured solo near the end by a guest theremin player.
All tracks written, arranged, performed and produced by Andy Murkin. Part 3, Land Ho!, contains some spoken extracts from The Shipping Forecast, by permission of the Met Office. Part 4, Time and Space, includes The Trumpet Hornpipe, a traditional tune, and Part 7, Drifting, includes Tobacco Fumes Away by John Ravenscroft (c.1592-c.1635), both arranged by Andy Murkin. Part 8 includes a spoken introduction by the band leader from Shakespeare's play, The Tempest.
Sound Effects by Audio Sparx. Cover by Andy Murkin. (Yes, I know Polar Bears don't live at the South Pole. Call it artistic licence . . .)
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