Switched On again (again)

stereolab.jpg

The soundtrack for this weekend is the fifth volume in Stereolab’s Switched On series of compilation albums; the subtitle this time, Pulse Of The Early Brain, is another of those titles I won’t be surprised to encounter in an unlikely place at some point in the future. These albums are always very welcome for those of us who don’t bother collecting limited single releases. The main highlight of the new set is the Nurse With Wound collaboration from 1997, Simple Headphone Mind, a 12-inch which contained over 30-minutes of music. Heard in retrospect, these recordings push the group into territory that Tim Gane would explore in Cavern Of Anti-Matter, especially on the title track, a 10-minute groove that wouldn’t be out of place on a Brain release from 1972. (Maybe this is the Brain being alluded to in that subtitle?) Elsewhere on the compilation there’s the whole of the Lo Fi EP from 1993, an odd omission from previous collections (and which I already had but thanks anyway…), plus a number of previously unreleased recordings. The hard-to-photograph mirror packaging is designed by Vanina Schmitt.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Switched On again

Weekend links 637

wong.jpg

A Risograph print by Raimund Wong for a forthcoming London concert by Suzanne Ciani. Via.

• “What makes him such an exemplary film composer is the adroitness with which he used style as a catalyst, conspiring with directors to illuminate crucial elements of character, tone, and plot through the expressive resources at his disposal.” Nate Chinen on Henry Mancini, a timely piece since I’ve been watching a lot of film noir recently, including two of the features mentioned there, Touch of Evil and Experiment in Terror. The latter is an uncharacteristic thriller from Blake Edwards with a marvellous, brooding score by Mancini. Here’s the main theme.

• “Infinitesimal as they are, phytoplankton produce more oxygen than all the world’s rainforests combined and roughly half of the oxygen on the planet—in other words, roughly half of the air we humans breathe.” David Greer on the importance of plankton.

• “Someday I’ll come into a place and someone’s playing my music and I’ll leave immediately because I don’t want to go through the editorial process again!” Diamanda Galás talking to Kevin Mccaighy about her new album, Broken Gargoyles.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 25 experimental horror films. Not sure I’d class Night of the Lepus as “experimental”—”rubbish” would be more accurate—but you may disagree.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: 69 Exhibition Road: Twelve True-Life Tales from the Fag End of Punk, Porn & Performance by Dorothy Max Prior.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Gunkanjima (aka Battleship Island) from above: exploring what was once the world’s most-densely populated city.

• Previews of pages from A Tiger in the Land of Dreams by Tiger Tateishi, newly reprinted by 50 Watts Books.

• Mix of the week: A mix for The Wire by Ali Safi of the Marionette label.

• New music: Verde Pino by Beautify Junkyards.

Mark Pawson & Disinfotainment

Tiger Rag (1929) by Duke Ellington And His Orchestra | Night Of The Tiger (1959) by The Markko Polo Adventurers | Tiger (1967) by Brian Auger & The Trinity

Corgi SF Collector’s Library

corgi02.jpg

Cover artist unknown.

“Here, for the connoisseur, for the devotee of the SF genre, and for those who like their reading to combine excitement with good writing, is the Corgi SF Collector’s Library – a series that brings, in a uniform edition, many of the Greats of SF – standard classics, contemporary prizewinners, and controversial fiction, fantasy, and fact…”

Only in the 1970s would you find a line of SF paperbacks with all the titles set in Thalia, a Victorian typeface revived by the post-psychedelia predilection for any design that was florid and ornate. Corgi’s SF Collector’s Library was published from 1973 to 1976, arriving just as my reading was moving from child-friendly SF to adult fiction. Consequently, I bought quite a few of these books, and still own a couple of them. The design was uniform but with a surprising amount of variation for such a short-lived series. The background colours ranged from deep blue to purple, while the card used for the covers was regular paperback stock for some of the titles with the majority using textured card, a treatment that further distinguished the series from its rivals on the bookshelves.

corgi12.jpg

Art by Joe Petagno.

Looking at these covers again I’ve been wondering if the idea of framing the artwork in a circle was borrowed from Penguin’s run of HG Wells reprints from 1967. Corgi had done something similar the same year with their Ray Bradbury series (all with art by Bruce Pennington) but the Wells editions went through several reprints, and the SF Collector’s Library follows their form even down to allowing the artwork to break the frame.

corgi03.jpg

Art by Bruce Pennington.

The samples here are a small selection of the series which featured a fair representation of British SF illustrators of the time. None of the artists were credited on the covers, however—a poor showing on the part of Corgi—so a few of them remain unidentified.

corgi01.jpg

Art by Tony Roberts.

corgi05.jpg

Cover artist unknown.

Continue reading “Corgi SF Collector’s Library”

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai

daughters.jpg

Another new cover of mine, this one suits the weather which today in Britain is giving us temperatures more usually found in regions further south:

From debut author Hadeer Elsbai comes the first book in an incredibly powerful new duology, set wholly in a new world, but inspired by modern Egyptian history, about two young women—Nehal, a spoiled aristocrat used to getting what she wants and Giorgina, a poor bookshop worker used to having nothing—who find they have far more in common, particularly in their struggle for the rights of women and their ability to fight for it with forbidden elemental magic.

As a waterweaver, Nehal can move and shape any water to her will, but she’s limited by her lack of formal education. She desires nothing more than to attend the newly opened Weaving Academy, take complete control of her powers, and pursue a glorious future on the battlefield with the first all-female military regiment. But her family cannot afford to let her go—crushed under her father’s gambling debt, Nehal is forcibly married into a wealthy merchant family. Her new spouse, Nico, is indifferent and distant and in love with another woman, a bookseller named Giorgina…. (more)

The design bears a superficial resemblance to the one I created for The Ingenious by Darius Hinks, one of the requests from the art director being for a similar view down a street and the sky filled with an interlaced pattern. The new artwork isn’t as fantastic, however, since the city of Almaxar in Hadeer’s novel is based on old Cairo. This was very convenient for the research process, Cairo was a popular destination for western travellers in the 19th century so there are many sketches and engravings of its narrow lanes. My street is an amalgam of several different views, with an emphasis on those mashrabiya windows which are designed to help cool buildings. (On a side note, the subject of ventilation and passive cooling in Middle-Eastern architecture is a fascinating one, as this page about windcatchers demonstrates.)

The knotwork pattern was the third design I tried after the first two turned out to be too obtrusive for the background. Both this one and the pattern used for The Ingenious were taken from templates in Les Éléments de l’Art Arabe – Le Trait des Entrelacs (1879) by Jules Bourgoin, a book which shows how to create these interlacings from scratch. I always prefer to do this when possible, rather than using stock imagery; the creation of the pattern doesn’t take too long once you’ve worked out the portion that will be repeated.

The Daughters of Izdihar will be published early next year by Harper Voyager (US) and Orbit Books (UK).

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Ingenious by Darius Hinks

Wendel Dietterlin’s Architectura

dietterlin01.jpg

While looking through my bookshelves recently for examples of Baroque architecture I was reminded of the eccentric designs of Wendel Dietterlin (c. 1550–1599), a German painter and engraver whose Architectura (1598) is less a guide to architectural form than an excuse to indulge the artist’s fervid imagination. This wasn’t really the reference material I was after—Dietterlin is pre-Baroque—but I’d not seen so much of his work in one place before. Dover Publications have reprinted all of these plates for many years as The Fantastic Engravings Of Wendel Dietterlin but it’s one Dover book I’ve never owned.

dietterlin02.jpg

“Fantastic” is an apt description. Where a similar study might present the reader with careful elaborations of Vitruvian principles, Dietterlin offers plate after plate of suggestions for portals, fountains, fireplaces and facades, many of which are festooned with bizarre and grotesque details. Wild animals are a persistent theme. Other artists of the period tended to favour mythological scenes for fountain sculpture; Dietterlin shows a series of large animals being attacked by smaller ones: bear versus dogs, dragon versus men, and so on. Similar groupings may be found on his designs for rustic arches. Ostensibly these are traditional hunting scenes but there’s a fury in Dietterlin’s renderings that pushes the representations away from the decorative towards the pathological.

dietterlin03.jpg

In other designs the wildness is transferred to the decoration itself. Examples of the traditionally sober orders of Classical architecture are shown encrusted with decorations added at the whim of the artist; Dietterlin wasn’t the only artist to do this but other artists are seldom this excessive. Strangest of all is the plate that shows a huge elephant standing before (or emerging from) a fireplace. René Passeron included a handful of engraving artists in the precursors section of his Concise Encyclopedia of Surrealism in 1975, but Dietterlin isn’t among them. I’d say that elephant alone is suitable qualification, a forerunner of Magritte’s Time Transfixed, as well as a literal (if inadvertent) representation of “the elephant in the room”.

dietterlin04.jpg

dietterlin05.jpg

Continue reading “Wendel Dietterlin’s Architectura”