Following their disgraced eviction from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop following the infamous Brandy Tea Incident, the two antipodean electronic pioneers Wes Diodewski and Clement Sparks were commissioned for the science fiction film OU1J4 (1964).
Originally titled 'The Coffin Ship of Sinax 5,' the 16mm film OU1J4 is, unfortunately, lost to archival reference, and may no longer exist, unless it is in the hands of a private collector.
Fortunately, however, several reel-to-reel versions of the soundtrack are still in existence, and this release represents the known recordings for the film by the two artists now known as the Oscillator Repair Team. These have been lightly edited and mastered to remove flaws that have resulted from the age of the recordings.
The film itself, as understood from descriptions in circulars at the time of release, follows an unexpectedly inventive narrative.
A member of the gentlemen’s inner circles of the upper class in the late 1800s, the protagonist, Gordon Cooper, becomes involved with a group of worldly scholars who have developed an interest in the occult. When this group uses a Ouija board, Gordon comes into contact with his future self, who describes himself as a long-dead spectral entity who has been trapped on board a large interstellar coffin ship, held in a semiconscious state of death as a result of the misuse of astral technologies by a life support system that has developed a malevolent consciousness.
Cooper, against his will, merges with his future self and is transported to the floating mausoleum, where the ship’s computer, OU1J4, forces him to undergo a series of trials. He manages to survive the first, which is a horrifying puzzle in non-Euclidean geometry; however, he succumbs to the second, in which he has to find his true self amidst a series of simulacrums.
Cooper now knows that he is trapped in a cycle: his living self will die in the ship, then on dying his eternal self will haunt the same dead vessel, until once again moving back through time to ensnare his past self. He watches the slow turn of planet Sinax 5 as the film concludes in one long scene that (by all accounts) was a triumph for underground cinematography of the time.
There is some speculation that this film was originally intended to have a more upbeat ending. This is based on notes from Diodewski and Sparks that outlined another composition entitled 'Back in Time for Tea.' However, most biographers acknowledge that given their irreverent approach, it is likely that they’ve added this for their own speculative amusement. Certainly, the collective atmosphere of the tracks presented here has little to indicate the possibility of a lighthearted turn.
The opening track, 'The Séance of One Mssr Gordon Cooper,' paints an exemplary picture of Elizabethan gothic insanity, with a howling white noise evoking the celestial wind and the medium of radio that was to follow the séance in its celebration of the invisible message. The ORTs signature sounds are evident, even down to the robot voice that briefly emerges towards the close of the séance.
'I Am You' returns to the labyrinthine patterns and curious frequency modulated squawks that have come to be associated with their later work. The sound of a nail on the coffin makes an appearance here, and prefigures some of the darker industrial electronic work that was to emerge in Europe over the next few decades.
'Transfer(mation)' evidences a more straightforward approach to rhythmic arpeggiation, and has a more playful tone. There is a sense of wonder in this piece, which suggests that that act of transference was accompanied with a degree of curiosity rather than the dread that most scholars of this film assume. Of course, this also hints at the robotic voice of OUJ14, which is later to take a much darker turn.
The next track, 'Alone in the Mausoleum,' is, perhaps, one of the highlights of this recording. The use of clanging funereal bells, whimsical mechanical sound boxes and alarm sounds bring together a complex array of themes to herald Cooper’s lonely journey through the vast empty space vessel.
The two trial themes share a similar urgency. 'Trial 1: Logic Test,' is a brief, mind-wrenching meditation on melodic and rhythmic patterning. After around 25 seconds the listener is plunged into the center of a vortex of melody that has little release until the close of the track. The role of the final sound that emerges in the last ten seconds of the piece is unknown. Some critics argue that this indicates that the relatively short track was originally intended to be extended further, although argue the idea of corporeal animus overcoming pure logic as one of the key filmic themes, and suggest that this new sound signifies the brief emergence of the truly ‘human’.
'Trial 2: The Many Selves,' is one of the better known tracks, having existed as a cassette recording long before the soundtrack was restored in its entirety. The reasonably regular rhythmic imprint with variation here prefigures approaches to progressive rock that was to emerge later in the 60s, although more left field elements are evident here that were not to emerge until more psychedelic and technological influences began to attain social currency in the 70s and 80s.
The final piece, 'The Slow Terrestrial Turn,' marks a return of the psychic winds and psychcoelectrical sounds that accompanied the opening séance, but with a plaintive and somber organ and dark bass bringing the tonal color to a bleak and emotionally laden existential close. The sound was echoed in such seminal recordings as Mort Garson’s 'Black Mass' (recorded under the nom de plume 'Lucifer') in 1971, and although Garson has never publicly proclaimed knowledge of the two musicians, there remains some speculation as to their connection.
The dark tone of this final piece fuses science fiction and horror successfully, and its finality is further evidence that a more lighthearted end to the film was unlikely to have been intended.
The Weird Fiction collective is dedicated to bringing you these important works of experimentation, and we hope that you enjoy the Oscillator Repair Team’s soundtrack to OU1J4. Please freely download this recording. If you so desire, of course, your small donation is also very much appreciated.
released February 14, 1964
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