‘Colossus’: Andrew Liles’ 42-hour opus reimagines 50 years of pop, a DM premiere

Andrew Liles on the cover of his ‘Diario de un Monstruo’ LP, 2017

Sometimes it was a man that sang and sometimes it was a woman, and sometimes the one who sang it did it so well that two or three of the people who were there fell to the ground shrieking and tearing with their hands.
                                        —Arthur Machen, “The White People”

Andrew Liles—collaborator of Nurse With Wound and Current 93, remixer of the Groundhogs, producer, prolific recording artist, “regarded by some to be the funniest man” (Tony (T.S.) McPhee)—turned 49 yesterday, March 11. He marked the beginning of his 50th year by releasing 20 hours and 50 minutes of music: the first half of his new work Colossus, which will eventually comprise 50 tracks of 50 minutes each, one for every year of his life to date.

Each track is named after a song that was number one in the UK chart on Liles’ birthday, and all feature a guest narrator; on Colossus Part One (1969-1993), Liles is joined by members of Faust (Jean-Hervé Péron), the Legendary Pink Dots (Edward Ka-Spel), Renaldo & the Loaf (Brian Poole), Comus (Bobbie Watson, Jon Seagroatt), and Mayhem (Maniac), along with Benjamin Louche, James Worse, Karen Pittis and Steve Pittis. It’s a completely insane vision of 25 years of life and 25 years of pop music, and I loved every single minute.

Colossus is conceptually related to Liles’ “extensions” of classic songs, such as his 50-minute elaboration of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” his 30-minute edit of Slayer’s “Angel of Death,” and, most recently, his 47-minute mix of “When the Levee Breaks.” But, crucially, all the music on Colossus is original work. Liles’ method:

The music is either in the same key or with the same notes played but in a different order, backwards or inverted. Further music and notation has been added by myself. They are absolutely nothing like the originals.

Additionally, the words to the songs are formed from the lyrics to every Number One hit from the last 50 years. But with a twist.

I have adapted the lyrics by using the William Burroughs cut up method and further changed them to make some kind of structure, but they remain predominantly abstract and nonsensical.


via Andrew Liles
Head above the heavens, feet below the hells, Colossus spans the sublime and the abject. There are passages of exquisite beauty, and there are parts that make your bowels cramp and your teeth hurt. You really have to put in 20+ hours to appreciate its range. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine anyone’s parole officer, spiritual advisor or grandma objecting to the boys’ choir on “If,” or the tinkling music-box arpeggios that make up the gentler parts of “Chain Reaction.” On the other, the martial pomp and mortal terror of “Wuthering Heights,” the total nightmare James Worse makes of “Chanson D’Amour,” and Brian Poole’s reading of Bread’s “Everything I Own” (number one for Boy George in ‘87) in an industrial setting all demand courage (and probably headphones) on the part of the listener.

There is no useful way to categorize this monstrous, perverse work, which, Godzilla-like, lays waste to all genres, supremely indifferent to their partisans’ cries. For instance: passages in “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” suggest stately art music, the Residents, Goblin, Wendy Carlos, Krautrock, circus organ, David Lynch soundtracks, and power electronics; and yet, somehow, it’s still “Billy Don’t Be A Hero.” The feeling emerges that you’re not listening to the song so much as visiting the mental space from which it originated, skrying the Paper Lace’s stage outfits on the Tree of Life.

Or maybe you’re confronting the shambling, undead specter of the song, as is the case with “Jealous Guy.” Musically, Liles’ composition is more Bernard Herrmann than John Lennon, and the scrambled lyrics, read by Maniac, become like a soliloquy Frankenstein is delivering while he pursues you into the bathroom, arms outstretched:

I mean to hurt you
I made you past control
Beating hurt
I’m mean

I don’t know how to summarize these 21 hours of music except to say that the feeling of being haunted came up repeatedly. On “Wand’rin’ Star” (another Maniac vocal), it’s as if Lee Marvin’s shade is trying to communicate by Ouija board, and he can only use words from his Paint Your Wagon hit, and he does not bring good news.

You should let Colossus transform your life. Let its ominous chords suffuse your changeless routine with dread; let its heroic themes exalt your soul. And be grateful that, at last, there is a version of “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” Dangerous Minds readers can be proud to sing at karaoke.

Below is “99 Red Balloons,” Liles’ selection for Dangerous Minds, narrated by James Worse. Get Colossus Part One (1969-1993) on Bandcamp.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
There’s a 50-minute version of the Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ for the song’s 50th anniversary
A half-hour version of Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’ celebrates 30 years of ‘Reign in Blood’

Posted by Oliver Hall
10:13 am
Happy birthday to The Legendary Pink Dots’ Edward Ka-Spel!

We wish a very happy birthday to the leader of that durable yet obscure British/Dutch psychedelic band The Legendary Pink Dots, Edward Ka-Spel, who turns 60 today.

Possessing a distinctive singing voice that easily walks the center line between Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett and apocalyptic folkie David “Current 93” Tibet, Ka-Spel has been an astonishingly prolific artist, and not even The Fall can touch the sheer mass of his discography. Since 1981, there are over three dozen Legendary Pink Dots full-length albums—The Crushed Velvet Apocalypse and The Maria Dimension are among the greats—AND he’s released almost three dozen solo albums, of which Tanith & the Lion Tree from 1991 remains a standout. And as if he needed to run up the numbers, there are side projects, as well. He formed The Tear Garden with Skinny Puppy’s cEvin Key in 1986, and Mimir with Christoph Heemann in 1989. And I’m not even going to get started on guest appearances. Anyone trying to become a Ka-Spel completist collector has quite a lot of digging to do.

For a representative sample of one of the better LPD albums, here’s 1985’s Asylum in its entirety.

A YouTube user by the handle of Virgil Pink has seemingly made an avocation of uploading Pink Dots/Ka-Spel fan videos (Residents, as well—his channel is full of treasures). Here’s “Third Secret” from The Maria Dimension set to cut-up visuals from the wonderful animated film Fantastic Planet.

For a taste of something more recent, here’s “Cloud 6” from 2013’s Code Noir. No idea the source of the footage, but it’s a great match. One might wonder if there isn’t an experienced videographer behind the Virgil Pink curtain.

And lastly, something delightful in a totally different way. As a fairly omnivorous music collector geek, I find that a great way to get to know a person is to go record shopping with him or her. Los Angeles’ Amoeba Music seems to agree. They’ve got a Webby Award winning series called “What’s In My Bag?” which examines the purchases of notables who visit the store. Here’s The Legendary Pink Dots’ episode. And it should probably go without saying, but all of the stuff they bought is worth checking out.

Posted by Ron Kretsch
10:26 am
Legendary Pink Dots performing in Los Angeles tonight
05:22 pm

Dangerous Minds pal Jesse Merlin writes:

Southern California followers, take note! Tonight, The Legendary Pink Dots perform at the EchoPlex in Los Angeles, as part of their 30th Anniversary Tour.

Formed in 1980 and widely credited as one of the first bands now categorized as Goth/Industrial, the LPD have long resisted any genre definition, inhabiting musical terrain of the avant garde, psychedelia, electronic soundscape, experimental noise, gothic lullaby, and even pop ballads.  Their prodigious catalogue includes roughly 60 studio releases and over 200 solo or side projects, and they command a devoted underground following in the American subculture, as well as in Europe, particularly in countries of the former Eastern Bloc.

Don’t miss this spectacular tour; The Dots simply have to be experienced live.

Below, the closest the LPD ever came to doing a (very strange) traditional music video in 1987, which is interpolated with a brief interview on Belgian television.  It takes place in an insane asylum and includes the song “Echo Police” from the album Asylum.

Posted by Richard Metzger
05:22 pm