Monday, January 24, 2011


Did you know there is a class of things known as fairy chess pieces? It's true! They're pieces that don't exist in formal chess but do exist or have existed in variants or in chess problems. I searched Wikipedia tonight for "Camel" and Wikipedia asked if I meant lots of things, one of which was the camel fairy chess piece. The camel fairy chess piece moves two spaces, then one diagonal space. It's like a drunken knight.

The camel I really wanted, though, was this one, the band. I came across them originally through a weird route, that one where a friend loans you a mix CD that a significant other made for her, and then you listen to it and think Wow, that guy had pretty good/weird taste, but then you remember all the complaints your friend lodged against that guy, and you think, Wow, what a weirdo, and then you think, Wait, I'm listening to his music, so am I the weirdo?

Probably you are.

I have found some pretty great music this way, though. I found Camel's Moonmadness this way, maybe 18 months ago, and it was just strange enough to grab my attention and get me thinking in unusual ways but familiar enough in its structure to work as writing music. Sometimes there are vocals and other times there aren't. There's a lot of electric guitar and drums and organ. The album sounds like the soundtrack for a mashup of Dune, Return to Oz, Mad Max, and Krull, starring David Bowie and Sting. Listening to it triggers the same type of reaction I felt when I was a kid watching the reruns of old British science fiction shows PBS ran on Saturday nights: it hints at something both more playful and more serious than what I'm used to.

The important thing this band did for me, then, was to come into my head at a formative time in the project I was just starting and help me take it in a weirder direction than I would have otherwise. It's the same thing that happens sometimes when you read a story that pulls a novel and exciting move, or when you watch a film with some neat tricks and think, I'd like to make that happen in words. Have you found anything great like this lately?

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