Pow-Wow by Stephen Mallinder

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The debut solo album by Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire received an overdue reissue on the Ice Machine label a few weeks ago; my CD turned up yesterday. Pow-Wow was one of the last albums released by Fetish Records in 1982, and it’s always been one I preferred to the solo recordings by Mallinder’s much more prolific colleague, Richard H. Kirk. Away from Cabaret Voltaire, Kirk and Mallinder’s music is mostly instrumental but the latter had a very different sound, dubbier and much more rhythmic than Kirk’s abrasive distortions. The longer pieces on Pow-Wow work variations on the energetic industrial funk developed by the Cabs and 23 Skidoo, benefiting a great deal from Mallinder’s dominant bass and insistent rhythms for which he was aided by Cabaret Voltaire’s regular percussionist, Alan Fish. Last Few Days, the most mysterious of Britain’s early Industrial groups, receive a credit for “chance element”. Mallinder sings on a couple of the tracks (if his whispered growl can be described as singing) while taped voices fill out the spaces elsewhere: a ménage à trois on Three Piece Swing, a voice from an assassination drama (Executive Action?) identifying the speaker as “Lee Harvey Oswald”, and so on. A handful of shorter pieces that run for less than two minutes are little more than looped sketches, but the unidentifiable analogue sources still sound unusual and original today, unlike synth-heavy albums from the same period.

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Mallinder’s other solo recordings from this time were just as good: a 12-inch single, Temperature Drop/Cool Down, and Del Sol, his uptempo contribution to the Fetish compilation/memorial album, The Last Testament. Cabs-affiliated groups like Hula and Chakk aimed for a similar blend of industrial menace and danceable grooves but the results were seldom as successful. Mallinder’s greater experience shows on these recordings, the best of which are the equal of anything that Cabaret Voltaire was doing at the time.

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A Fetish ad from the Neville Brody-designed event booklet for The Final Academy, 1982.

The sleeve design by Neville Brody is another plus, vying with his cover art for Thirst by Clock DVA for being the most cryptic design among the many covers he produced for Fetish Records. The designer revealed his rationale in The Graphic Language of Neville Brody (1988):

This sleeve was about human ritual and human slaughter. In the media world of newscasters and advertisers everybody becomes a viewer; conditioned to regard other people’s sufferings as no more than a form of entertainment. The bullring is a metaphor for this.

A good example, then, of a cover that means more to the designer than to the record owner.

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All design by Neville Brody.

The new edition of Pow-Wow improves on the original and the scarce reissues by bundling the album with Del Sol, both tracks from the 12-inch single and an edit of Cool Down from a Japanese release. It also includes one of the shorter tracks which for some reason was missing from previous reissues (this and the long version of Cool Down are from vinyl sources). I’ve had all of this material for many years so didn’t really need the CD, but my records are a little worn through over-use, and besides which, these are cult works.

Previously on { feuilleton }
TV Wipeout revisited
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Neville Brody and Fetish Records

Weekend links 523

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One of Ian Miller‘s drawings from the illustrated edition of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, 1979.

• “I always said we were kind of an electronic punk band, really. We were never New Romantics, I don’t like it when we get lumped in with that.” Dave Ball of Soft Cell and The Grid talking to Duncan Seaman about his autobiography, Electronic Boy: My Life In and Out of Soft Cell. I’ll now be waiting impatiently for the unreleased Robert Fripp/Grid album to appear.

• “[Patricia] Highsmith’s writing—often eviscerating, always uncomfortable—has never been more relevant,” says Sarah Hilary.

• Ron Peck’s debut feature, Nighthawks (1978), is “a nuanced look at gay life in London,” says Melissa Anderson.

And then there are those figures who seem to flit around the edges of movements without ever being fully involved in any of them, who pursue their own eccentric paths no matter what is going on around them. These are the writers who make up the secret history of literature, the hidden history that’s not easily reduced to movements or trends, and who always waver on the verge of invisibility until you stumble by accident onto one of their books and realize how good they actually are, and wonder, Why wasn’t I told to read this before? But of course you already know the answer: You were not told because it doesn’t fit smoothly into the story those in authority made up about what literature is—it disrupts, it can’t be reduced to the literary equivalent of a meme.

That’s the kind of writer Pierre Klossowski (1905–2001) is. He is not a joiner. He has his own particular and often peculiar concerns, and pursues them. He does not particularly welcome you in. The content of his writing, too, has the feel of a gnostic text, as if you are reading something that, if only you were properly initiated, you would understand in a different way. In that sense his work has an esoteric or occult quality to it—and likewise in the sense that it returns again and again to the intersection of religion and pornography, the sacred and the profane.

Brian Evenson on The Suspended Vocation by Pierre Klossowski

• Chad Van Gaalen creates a psychedelic animation for Seductive Fantasy by the Sun Ra Arkestra.

• More sneak peeks from the forthcoming The Art Of The Occult by S. Elizabeth.

• More Robert Fripp: Richard Metzger on Fripp’s sui generis solo album, Exposure.

Pamela Hutchinson on the pleasures of David Lynch’s YouTube channel.

• Mix of the week: a second Jon Hassell tribute mix by Dave Maier.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ferdinand presents…Dark Entries Day.

15 fascinating art documentaries to watch now.

Soft Power by Patten.

• RIP Milton Glaser.

hauntología

Aquarium (1992) by The Grid (with Robert Fripp) | Soft Power (2005) by Ladytron | The Martian Chronicles (2007) by Dimension X

Être Dieu: Dalí versus Wakhévitch

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Or should that be Wakhévitch versus Dalí? The so-called “Dalí opera”, recorded in 1974, is more an opera by Igor Wakhévitch (music) and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (libretto) which is interrupted from time to time by Salvador Dalí’s shouts, squeaks, impromptu lectures and even occasional snatches of song. (Dalí couldn’t sing.)

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Être Dieu has always been the least accessible of the Wakhévitch compositions, difficult to find and an uneven listening experience that sprawls over three discs. But the (deleted) Eurostar reissue looks very nice: three gold CDs and a thick booklet with a translation of the rambling cosmic scenario, all packaged in a blue felt box. I’ve been rewatching the best of the Dalí documentaries over the past couple of weeks so I’ve felt more accommodating towards Être Dieu than usual; I’m a Wakhévitch cultist, so any Wakhévitch is good Wakhévitch, but I still need to be in the mood for this one. The immediate pleasures are mostly peripheral: Igor’s synthesizers, Delphine Seyrig as one of the celestial components of Dalí’s “divine” character, plus Didier Batard and François Auger from Richard Pinhas’s rock outfit, Heldon, on bass and drums. The Heldon duo get to rock-out properly on the third disc. Buried somewhere in the intersection between this recording, Jean-Christophe Averty’s Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dalí (1970) and José Montes-Baquer’s Impressions de la Haute Mongolie (1976) is an intimation of how Dalí might have appeared (or misbehaved) as the Emperor in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unmade film of Dune.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Dalí’s discography
The music of Igor Wakhévitch

Lockdown elevation

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The post this week included a poster print by Toby Melville-Brown, an artistic response to the lockdown of April and May. Toby has a colourful graphic style that favours architectural views in the mode of Archigram and other futurists, past and present; at the end of February I featured one of his invented book covers (below) in a weekend post. The title of the cover—Notes from a Troubled Rock—seemed darkly humorous at a time of political turmoil and a growing pandemic. Four months on it reads like a summary of 2020.

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The lockdown poster, Life Indoors: A Cross-Section, is more positive, a cutaway elevation of a high-rise block, with each apartment showing the response of a real person or group of people to the viral situation. To fill out the rooms Toby sent an email to 175 households asking for a photographic reflection of lockdown life. I’m in one of the rooms but if you want to know where you’ll have to buy a copy of the poster which is available here. All profits go to Refuge, a charity supporting those at risk from domestic violence. When I first moved to Manchester I spent four years in a Brutalist flatblock that would have had JG Ballard’s wealthy high-rise denizens fleeing for the suburbs. Toby’s elevation looks like a better place to be.

(And I’ve just been informed that the poster sale will end at midnight [UK time] on Friday 12th June.)