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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

The art of James Marsh

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Laughing Stock (1991).

The paintings of James Marsh came to mind this week following news of the death of Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis. Marsh’s art was a feature of all the Talk Talk releases, singles as well as albums, but his work was equally prominent throughout the 1980s on a range of book covers, particularly the series he produced for Angela Carter and JG Ballard. The hard-edged, post-Surrealist style favoured by Marsh was a popular one in the 70s and 80s (among British illustrators, Peter Goodfellow and the late John Holmes worked in a similar manner), and I’ve often had to look twice to see whether a cover is one of his. But while the Magritte-like visual games may be replicated elsewhere, Marsh has a preoccupation with animals—birds and butterflies especially—that sets his paintings apart.

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The Bloody Chamber (1981).

I never saw Mark Hollis discuss Marsh’s work but the use of the paintings across all the Talk Talk releases has given the group’s output a coherent look lacking in many of their fashion-chasing contemporaries. The consistency also meant that the cover art was unlikely to overly influence prior perception of their music; there was little warning in 1988 of the musical gulf separating The Colour Of Spring from Spirit Of Eden until stylus met vinyl. Mark Hollis was remembered this week by Rob Young who interviewed him in 1998 when his one and only solo album was released. More from James Marsh’s prolific career may be seen at his website.

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The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1982).

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The Terminal Beach (1984).

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Talk Talk (laserdisc, 1984).

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Weekend links 453

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The Moon photographed by Andrew McCarthy.

• Top twenties of the week: Anne Billson on 20 of the best (recent) Japanese horror films, and Britt Brown‘s suggestions for 20 of the best New Age albums. (I’d recommend Journey To The Edge Of The Universe as the best from Upper Astral.) Related to the latter: Jack Needham on lullabies for air conditioners: the corporate bliss of Japanese ambient.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis talks with writer and ultraculture wizard Jason Louv about occult history, reality tunnels, his John Dee and the Empire of Angels book, Aleister Crowley’s secret Christianity, and the apocalyptic RPG the West can’t seem to escape.

• “It’s like someone looked at the vinyl revival and said: what this needs is lower sound quality and even less convenience.” Cassette tapes are back…again. But is anyone playing them?

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 280 by O Yuki Conjugate, Bleep Mix #53 by Pye Corner Audio, and 1980 by The Ephemeral Man.

• The fifth edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

Midian Books has a new website for its stock of occult publications and related esoterica.

Mark Sinker on three decades of cross-cultural Utopianism in British music writing.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Nastassja Kinski Day.

Utopia No. 1 (1973) by Utopia | Utopia (2000) by Goldfrapp | Utopian Facade (2016) by John Carpenter

 


Constructive Cover Designing

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Not a guide from myself but a sample book from 1923 produced by the Hampden Glazed Paper and Card Co. of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Seventy-six designs by different artists are arranged by theme—landscape, architectural and so on—the common thread being the way they all give prominent space to the paper that provides the background of the design. The restrained colour palette and use of space reminds me of some of the posters produced by Noel Rook and others for the London Underground at this time. This isn’t an isolated style, in other words, and the prevalence of the look in the 1920s may have filtered into the cover designs Edward Gorey was creating for Doubleday in the 1950s. Mark Dery’s Gorey biography mentions Japanese prints being an influence on Gorey’s covers but he would have grown up around books and poster graphics that looked like this, designs which themselves (via Aubrey Beardsley, Will Bradley and others) possess a Japanese influence.

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Weekend links 452

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Colors (1967) by Ken Nordine.

• “The Do was the thing”: a lengthy chat with Chuck Gould of the San Francisco Diggers. The second interview from Jay Babcock’s oral history of the Diggers.

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950–1980 edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre.

Adrian Shaughnessy‘s Krautrock Top Ten. (People who know me well won’t be surprised to hear that I own everything on this list.)

See “queer” as a term has become an umbrella that accommodates not only the type of sex you have and with whom, but also how you identify the sex you have, how you identify your personality, your aura, the ineffable je ne sais queer that may or may not be related in any way to your sexuality, or even the way you present yourself to the world, but simply some deeply held, internal feeling. You don’t actually need to share a common oppression or a common romantic or sexual behavior.

[...]

The reason I mind is because queer, in functioning as a catchall, serves to obscure what it is about my life, my community, my partners, that I needed to learn to be proud of in the first place. Because for me and all the other lesbians I know, figuring out your sexuality is hard enough, but the real work is in accepting yourself, demanding acceptance from others, being willing to walk away when that acceptance is denied.

Lesbians are women, and women are taught that we’re supposed to be sexually available objects of public consumption. So we spend a lot of time saying “No.” No, we won’t fuck or partner with men; no, we won’t change our minds about this; no, this body is a no-man’s land. Lesbian, straight or bi, women are punished whenever we try to assert a boundary. Queer as a catchall term makes it really hard for lesbians to assert and maintain this boundary, because it makes it impossible to name this boundary.

Jocelyn Macdonald on how the increasing dilution and commodification of “queer” as a label does little to serve the interests of the people to whom it was applied in the first place

• Two sets of live electronica from last year: Pye Corner Audio at The State51 Factory, and Tangerine Dream at Dekmantel.

• “LSD can get deep down and reset the brain—like shaking up a snow globe,” says Amanda Fielding.

• Ewan Wilson on the impossible architecture of video games.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 279 by Marcos Cabral.

• RIP Betty Ballantine, Bruno Ganz and Ken Nordine.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: They will never exist.

Cosi Fanni Tutti‘s favourite records.

She Comes In Colors (1967) by Love | Colors (1969) by Pharoah Sanders | Balthus Bemused By Color (Mix II) (1988) by Harold Budd

 


Blood And Rockets by The Claypool Lennon Delirium

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In an overburdened media landscape the words “Terry Gilliam-like animation” could easily mean some hastily-compiled film with a few nods to the collage style that Gilliam popularised in his interludes for the Monty Python TV series. Rich Ragsdale’s music video for The Claypool Lennon Delirium (Les Claypool and Sean Lennon) is much more than this, being a witty and inventive pastiche of the complete Gilliam style, replete with an abundance of sight gags, and familiar touches such as fizzing bombs, clutching hands and chattering heads.

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The subject of the song is Jack Parsons, the ill-fated Californian rocket engineer whose wild life and entanglement with the West Coast chapter of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis led to scandal and an untimely death. Parsons’ story is one of the more curious episodes in 20th-century occultism—a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard was also involved in the Crowley shenanigans—but this must be the first time the history has been recounted in the form of a psychedelic ballad. Ragsdale is no slouch with the occult symbolism either, adding a number of Thelemic touches to the inevitable Satanic iconography. As befits the sex-obsessed Parsons the video also contains a fair amount of phallic imagery and boob constellations that somehow evaded the attentions of the YouTube Penis Police. Watch it here. (Thanks to Erik Davis!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aleister Crowley: Wandering The Waste revisited
Occult gestures
Konx om Pax
Aleister Crowley: Wandering The Waste
Brush of Baphomet by Kenneth Anger
Rex Ingram’s The Magician
The Mysteries of Myra
Gilliam’s shaver and Bovril by electrocution
Aleister Crowley on vinyl

 


 



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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin