Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

In recent years, the word 'geek' has become very useful.

I'm talking about the way in which people now use it to justify why they are doing a thing that they fear most of the rest of the world will consider to be a waste of time. Scrutinising pop-culture. Following science fiction. Using out-of-date technology. Describing oneself with the label 'geek' is a handy time-saving way of informing someone that you're quite interested in the subject, but not one of those people who is too interested in it, because that would just be weird. I'm unique, but don't worry, I'm not that different.

Well, I do all three of the above. Always have done, ever since I was kid. In fact, my geekiness list is rather long. As a teenager, when I understand you're supposed to be spending your money on music, clothes and the opposite sex, among other things I was saving up to buy sound effects records, which I would duly sit down and listen to, all the way through, several times over. Sometimes I'd copy some of them onto cassettes. I built up quite a collection library of them. I still have it. Shame our record player doesn't work any more. What's that? Ebay? Ooh no, I could never sell them...

For my 42nd birthday this year (2013), one of the things I asked for was an LP of sound effects and synthesised music by my favourite composer Paddy Kingsland. Though he's scored countless TV series, from children's shows to comedies, he's probably best remembered for his science fiction work, specifically on the radio and TV incarnations of the BBC's Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Despite this, he's never released very much of his work domestically. If you collect Paddy Kingsland, as I do, then you're committed to collecting album after album of compilations, often containing just the one isolated track by him.

This makes The Effects Machine something of a rarity. Among his other freelance engagements, Paddy would also work on production music - stuff that didn't have a specific purpose yet. There are a few such albums of his out there, if only you can find them.

So tonight I found myself sitting down to discover a few more of his isolated pieces from that era of the 1980s.

Track #3 Micropower blew me away! Why is science fiction music all so orchestral and old-fashioned these days? Hire this guy again - he makes music that sounds like nothing on Earth!

Conversely, some of the other tracks sounded rather familiar...

Tracks #18 and #19 (different mixes of Communiqué) had me humming along, and it took me a while to recognise this as the sound bed from underneath LBC Radio's old Nightline Newsquiz... because I also retain it underneath some talking on one of my old home-made compilation tapes!

Tracks #38 and #39 Hyperspace evoke a mix of the aforementioned Hitchhiker episodes, and his contemporary work on Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead in 1983. It's all sounds so wonderfully optimistic for the future, and a dawning technological age full of promise and wondrous possibilities. Sigh, his music made distant years like 2013 sound like they were going to be so much better than they actually do sound. Oh, wait, tonight 2013 actually does sound that way. Oh, well, that's all the more to his credit then!

Also of note has just got to be the catchily named track #67.16 Computer Graphics (p) Long synth slide - up. It's probably not, but it doesn't half sound like the UK opening to that other 1980s series Fraggle Rock, specifically the effect played over the camera zooming down into the lighthouse's skylight and through the Captain / PK / BJ and Sprocket's quarters...

While many of the other sound effects on this compilation are similarly artificially composed, in a few cases Paddy appears to have simply recorded a thing happening and included it. At one point there's the sound of a radio being tuned in. Well, as explained above, those all fit in with my own personal geekiness too.

There remain several more of these releases out there for me to track down, not to mention of course that today the man himself still continues to work, and compose. Here's hoping that Paddy's realisation of the future continues to sound every bit as optimistic as it always used to.

The real future may well need it to.

Available here.

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