Strange Attractor Journal Three


The wonderful and essential Strange Attractor Journal will be with us again next month.
The previous number (now sold out, I think) included my essay about psychedelic artist Wilfried Sätty.


Contra Genesis—Catherine Eisner
Unusual cases of extra-genital conception, extra-uterine
gestation, and other anomalous exits.

Burmese Daze—Erik Davis
In which the author submits to the pleasures of a transgender spirit possession festival.

Adventures in the Fourth Dimension—Mike Jay
A Victorian time machine and history’s first theme park ride.

Ego in Exotica Sum—Ken Hollings
In memoriam Martin Denny, crown prince of the exotica sound.

A Psychoactive Bestiary—Richard Rudgley
The joy of zootoxins, from the ant to the giraffe.

Liberté, Légalité, Éternité—David Luke
Some notes on psychonautic misadventures in time.

Kandinsky’s Thought Forms—Gary Lachman
The occult roots of modern art.

Magic Words—Steve Moore
Virgil the Necromancer in mediæval legend.

Abu’l-Qasim al-Iraqi—Robert Irwin
12th century Arab alchemists on the edge
of knowledge.

The Electrochemical Glass—Richard Brown
A slow-evolving artwork from a living alchemist.

The Man Behind the Screen—David Rothenberg
Hans Christian Andersen’s greatest and least-known work.

The Mole of Edge Hill—John Reppion
Joseph Williamson, Liverpool’s tunnelling philanthropist.

La Maison de Poupées—Robert Ansell
A photographic study of a magnificent compulsion.

The Dirty Thirties—Alexis Lykiard
From Arthur Koestler’s Encyclopædia of Sexual Knowledge.

Paint it Black—Stewart Home
Autohagiography of an artist.

Redonda and Her Kings—Roger Dobson
The island life of early science fiction author MP Shiel.

Magic in Paris—Phil Baker
Demons of the opium den in Thirties Paris.

The Dark Man’s Dreams—Doug Skinner
An introduction to Xavier Forneret, Surrealism’s lost poet.

Ghosts: A short Story
by Lady Vervaine.

Plus original artworks by Alison Gill, Josephine Harvatt, Betsy Heistand, Katie Owens, Arik Roper.

Editor: Mark Pilkington.
Print Design: Alison Hutchinson.

Strange Attractor celebrates unpopular culture. We declare war on mediocrity and a pox on the foot soldiers of stupidity. Join Us.

Strange Attractor Journal Three available now from Strange Attractor Shoppe and all good bookshops.

£14 inc p&p by mail order or £13.99 in UK shops.

Layering Buddha by Robert Henke


Layering Buddha on CD and limited vinyl.

The Fm3 Buddha Machine is a low-fi loop playing device containing nine pre-recorded loops which cannot be changed by the user. Due to manufacturing imperfections, individual machines play the loops with a slightly different sound, pitch and duration. The built-in playback circuit, with its low sampling rate and bit resolution, produces a very rough sound, similar to ancient computer games or talking toys. Rich, spacious textures and moving echoes occur when many of these machines are played at the same time.

I recorded the sound of one single buddha machine at 96 kHz, using a state of the art A/D converter. The recording contains audio information up to 48 kHz, which makes it possible to transpose the loops down and expose otherwise inaudible hidden details. The pieces on this CD have been created by granulating, filtering, pitching and layering either the original loops, or new loops which were re-assembled out of parts of the originals. Most pieces are based on one single source loop. The pieces as they live within my computer are set up as continuously permutating structures and theoretically could go on forever, just as the loops do within the buddha machines.

I made quite long renderings of these permutations and later decided which excerpt of each structure to put on this CD. Therefore, the tracks are not closed works, but views onto a perpetual machinery.

The art of Shinro Ohtake


Shinro Ohtake is always on the attack. Whether it’s against misguided art education, against the cold treatment and economic constraints Japan puts on anyone who could dare to live differently, against the contemporary art establishment that can’t be bothered to even disguise its own incomprehension—his fight as an artist continues. Ohtake is prodigious, original, and a trouble-maker—in the sense that the work of the artist is always to create difference.

William Burroughs

Two disparate things had me looking for Shinro Ohtake‘s work this week: I’ve been doing a short interview about album cover design (more about that at a later date) in which I mentioned his collage for the cover of Seven Souls by Material (1989), then an editorial in the latest Wire describes his current retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.


The Material cover is one I picked as a favourite design. It’s difficult trying to pin-point why I think this works so well without it being at all illustrational. (I’m guessing, but it’s likely that Bill Laswell picked it out of one of Ohtake’s collage books, rather than it being specially commissioned.) It may be the collage aspect that works here. The album features readings by William Burroughs set to music and for me is the best of all the Burroughs recordings (Dead City Radio being a close second). Burroughs’ work, of course, involved literary collage via his own cut-up process, and the musical content can also be seen as a collage in the way it mixes different styles and musicians—Simon Shaheen, Shankar, Rammellzee, Foday Musa Suso, Fahiem Dandan and samples of the famous Brian Jones recordings of the Jajouka pipers. It’s a shame that when the CD was reissued in 1997 (in a superior mastering, it should be noted), the original artwork was largely junked in favour of a lot of muddy Photoshop work from the usually excellent Russell Mills. I’ve a huge respect for Mills but this treatment was a serious mistake.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
William Burroughs book covers

High Priorities


In which your humble narrator enters a contest…

Speak Up, in collaboration with New York magazine, is proud to announce the first-ever open contest to design the visually acclaimed, graphically exhilarating, by-invitation-only “High Priority” feature illustration in the magazine’s year-end, December 18, 2006 double issue.

High Priority highlights five activities, suggested by New York writers, that are not to be missed. Every week designers and illustrators from around the world are invited to create an interpretive typographic illustration to open “The Week” – the listings section of New York Magazine. New York readers place great weight on these five recommendations, and this page is a regular destination for many.

For examples of past editions of High Priority please visit:
New York‘s High Priority archive
Design Observer’s Variations on a Theme: New York‘s High Priorities

I knew about this listings feature from having read the Design Observer piece (I’ve never seen a copy of New York), and liked the idea for what amounts to the design equivalent of a “standard” in jazz, with different designers having to present a riff on the same brief in each issue. The restrictive nature of the problem is part of its appeal; only two colours are allowed (red and black), the box must be the shape it always is, and the design has to incorporate five categories—Movies, Theater (sic), Art, Nightlife and Restaurants—with the date, the words “High Priority” visible somewhere, and the accompanying critics’ recommendation for each category. Aside from that, anything goes.

My attempt can be seen above. I was going to do a couple of different designs then pick the best one but in the end I ran out of time. The initial idea was to do something along the lines of the cover for Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin (below) but—as is often the case with first ideas—making it work wasn’t so easy.


Led Zeppelin’s building is a great photograph of a New York brownstone (the original vinyl sleeve had slots cut in the windows through which the lettering and various pictures on the inner sleeves could be seen); mine had to be pieced together from separate pictures of New York in the 1930s. It doesn’t quite work because there’s not much justification for having the category lettering arranged like rows of birthday cards on the window sills. But maybe I’m being too hasty in pulling it apart when the winner won’t be announced until December 4th. Until then you can browse the 186 other entries. I have to say that the quality of these is really exceptional, if I were one of the judges I’d have a hard time choosing only one. Most of the time I wouldn’t give a second glance to an online contest but this one was fun and the high standard of the other entries has made it worthwhile.