"The Highbury Working: A Beat Seance" is the third of Alan Moore's mystical performance poetry monologues to be released on CD with a supporting soundscape designed by the talented Tim Perkins--this being perhaps the most musically opulent album so far. In the first of these monologues, "The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels," Moore investigated London as a phenomenological entity, a "city of the mind." For the present work he narrows his scope, focusing his unique method on the Highbury neighborhood, north of central London.
As psycho-spiritual detective, Moore's end goal is to perform "voodoo CPR" on Highbury. He begins by creating a working profile of his subject. He probes at Highbury from every possible angle: mystical, forensic, historical, and archeological. Moore, we quickly learn, is a specialist:
"This is where we come in. Think of us as Rosicrucian heating engineers. We check for pressure in the song lines, lag etheric channels, and rewire the glamour. Cowboy occultism. Cash-in-hand feng shui. First you diagnose the area in question, read the street plans' accidental creases, and decode the orbit maps left there by coffee cups. Then go to work. Slap up a wall of ectoplasm, standard Moon-and-Serpent contract, 'tables titled while you wait,' Manifestations-R-Us. Money for old brimstone. Obviously, this was all before we'd seen the patient. Highbury wasn't at Death's door; it was halfway down Death's passage hanging up it's coat, an anecdote freeze-up."
Moore's Dragnet-style intro, suffused with dazzling mystical camp, sets the stage for the seance, throwing wide the doors of perception and possibility. Just the speculations, Ma'am. We then move on to meet a long procession of characters from Highbury's past, characters both real and imagined: Epona the underworld horse goddess and her ghostly mount, a crowd of performing freaks and magicians, a team of football players high on "courage pills," Aleister Crowley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the musician Joe Meek.
We follow Moore's associations and are encouraged to make our own. Highbury may not be our place; it may be completely unknown to us. But this is no real obstacle. We can simply abstract the place, associate it with a setting we know, people it with the characters of our imaginations. Here subjective inference and free association are everything.