Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire

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Videocassette box insert. Design by Neville Brody.

A couple of years back I tracked down some of the releases on Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision video label, the early titles of which have never been reissued on DVD. The first Doublevision release was the Cabs’ collection of their own music videos which Mute Records reissued on DVD 2004. That reissue seems to be deleted for the moment so it’s good to find a copy of the original tape release on YouTube. As with the other Doublevision releases I was well aware of this but didn’t have a VHS player at the time so wasn’t eager to buy anything I couldn’t watch. Unlike the other releases I did get to see several of the tracks during the Cabs’ Doublevision video night at the Haçienda in 1983, an evening that ended with the group performing for an hour.

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It’s good to be reminded of these videos, however crude they appear today. As with any early use of technology you need to bear in mind the limitations of the time. The tape was released in 1982 but the group had been experimenting with video equipment from about 1979 onwards. At that time commercial music video was just getting started but most of the examples on TV were paid for by the big record companies. Cabaret Voltaire and some of their associates in the UK Industrial scene—notably Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo—were ahead of the game in acquiring equipment to make their own video recordings and promos. These videos were seldom shown on mainstream TV: I recall being thrilled to see a clip from the Nag, Nag, Nag promo on a pop programme but that was a rare one-off moment. The music industry was being forced to accommodate the awkward DIY merchants but the gates of broadcast television remained heavily policed.

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And speaking of heavy policing, you get some of that here, the Cabs’ obsessions with coercion and control being illustrated by footage of riot squads, together with religious mania, medical surgery, psychotronic films and much else, all of it processed, fragmented and distorted. Direction was by the group and by St. John Walker, with an extract from Johnny YesNo (recently reissued by Mute) directed by Peter Care. I’ve been listening to Seconds Too Late a lot this week so it’s great to see a video for that song. There’s also a slight conundrum in the tracklisting: if you’re familiar with the free four-track single that came with The Crackdown album it seems that Badge of Evil and Moscow have had their titles swapped. The Moscow video track, however, includes a shot of an Aeroflot passenger plane so it’s more likely that the tracks on one side of the single were mis-labelled when they appeared a year later, an error carried over to the CD release.

Tracklist: Diskono / Obsession / Trash (Part 1) / Badge Of Evil / Nag, Nag, Nag / Eddie’s Out / Landslide / Photophobia / Trash (Part 2) / Seconds Too Late / Extract From Johnny YesNo / Walls Of Jericho / This Is Entertainment / Moscow

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Previously on { feuilleton }
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
Network 21 TV

Weekend links 149

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It’s not cheap but it’s rather tasty: The Changing Faces of Bowie, a limited print at the V&A shop produced for the forthcoming David Bowie exhibition. One hundred artists and designers were asked to choose or create a Bowie-related type design, the collection being printed on holographic paper. Creative Review looked at some details. Related: Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, is now streaming in full at iTunes.

• Marisa Siegel reviews The Moon & Other Inventions: Poems After Joseph Cornell by Kristina Marie Darling, “a fully enchanting if somewhat mysterious collection of poems, written entirely as footnotes”. BlazeVOX has an extract here.

• “[Clement] Greenberg came round to our house in Camden Square. He started telling Bill what he should do to improve a work. Dad lost patience and kicked him out.” Alex Turbull of 23 Skidoo on sculptor father William Turnbull.

“You get the impression that a lot of these young directors have never gained much experience of life outside their film schools or their video-rental stores.”

Anne Billson met Roman Polanski in 1995 to discuss Death and the Maiden.

• Max Beerbohm’s The Happy Hypocrite, and Ronald Firbank’s Vainglory are available in new print-on-demand and ebook editions from Michael Walmer.

• “Bring Back the Illustrated Book!” says Sam Sacks. Some of us would reply that it never went away but merely remains subject to much unexamined prejudice.

The Forest and The Trees: A blog by Genevieve Kaplan about altered texts and book art by herself and other artists.

The Homosexual Atom Bomb: Sophie Pinkham on gay rights, Soviet Russia and the Cold War.

Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Zang Tumb Tuum? A blog devoted to the ZTT record label.

• Nigel Kneale’s TV ghost drama, The Stone Tape, is reissued on DVD later this month.

• The drawings of Victor Hugo.

David Bowie at Pinterest.

•  The Man Who Sold The World (1994) by Nirvana | V-2 Schneider (1996) by Philip Glass | ‘Heroes’ (2000) by King Crimson

Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo

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Along with Elemental 7 by CTI, this was another Doublevision video release that I never got to see in its original videocassette form. Seven Songs is the first and arguably the best of the 23 Skidoo albums, released in 1982 on Fetish Records in a great sleeve by Neville Brody. Production was by “Tony, Terry & David” aka Ken Thomas, Genesis P-Orridge & Peter Christopherson. The latter two were still in Throbbing Gristle at the time so there’s a further connection with the CTI release. The video director was Richard Heslop who can be seen with his Super-8 camera on the inner sleeve of 23 Skidoo’s second album. Seven Songs is his first credited film work.

The videos are very much of their time, layered and cut-up images mixing footage from numerous sources—tribal rituals, totalitarian politics, animation, medical or scientific films, shots of the group performing, and so on—with the whole mélange processed through a video synthesiser. While it may look outmoded now, thirty years ago this degree of intensity and fragmentation was still radically unlike anything being offered by broadcast television. Pop video directors and ad agencies weren’t slow to adopt similar techniques for far more commercial ends. Richard Heslop went on to work with Derek Jarman, and recently directed a feature of his own, Frank. Low-quality bits of Seven Songs have been on YouTube for a while but Heslop posted the whole thing to Vimeo a few months ago along with the Tranquiliser footage that rounded out the original cassette release. 23 Skidoo are still active, and are playing a gig in London next Sunday with the former singer from Can, Damo Suzuki. Details about that event here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Elemental 7 by CTI
Neville Brody and Fetish Records

Elemental 7 by CTI

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Design by CTI and Kevin Thorne.

Yet another of those things I’ve known about for years but have only seen recently thanks to YouTube. Elemental 7 was an early music + video release by Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti following the split of Throbbing Gristle in 1981. They’d already recorded under the Chris & Cosey name but in 1983 formed CTI—Creative Technology Institute—a side project that allowed for the release of works such as this that differed from their usual electronic output. Elemental 7 is a 50-minute video that for want of a better term might be classed as ambient, the visuals being grainy, impressionistic or semi-abstract images by John Lacey with a soundtrack that’s on the whole less rhythmic than the C&C albums. The whole thing was made for £500, and the quality isn’t supposed to compete with broadcast television. In 1983 it was still a rare thing for groups to take control of their own video production. In the UK few people were doing this aside from Factory Records, who had their own Ikon video label, and some of the Industrial groups such as Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV and 23 Skidoo. Cabaret Voltaire released the tape and soundtrack album of Elemental 7 on their Doublevision label.

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It’s a curious thing being able to see this after so long. I’m very familiar with the music (it was always good late-night listening) but, as with Cabaret Voltaire’s Johnny YesNo film and other Doublevision releases, I didn’t have any means of watching video tapes through much of the 1980s. Nothing this unusual ever appeared on TV, of course. The ritualistic sequences are reminiscent of the early films of Derek Jarman, not least In the Shadow of the Sun which had a soundtrack by Throbbing Gristle, while the opening sequence, Temple Bar, has some historical value in showing the stone gate of the City of London sitting abandoned in Theobalds Park before it was returned to the capital in 2003.

Elemental 7 has never been reissued since its tape release so this is the only way you’ll get to see it for now.

Elemental 7: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5

1. Elemental 7 0:13
2. Temple Bar (The Forgotten Ancient Gates Of London) 12:30
3. Dancing Ghosts (Midnight At Robinwood Mill) 10:37
4. Meeting Mr. Evans (A Moving Experience) 04:13
5. Invisible Spectrum (Ritual By Candlelight) 10:35
6. Sidereal (Time Measured By Movement Of The Stars) 05:23
7. Well Spring Of Life (Gathering The First Waters Of Spring) 06:39
8. The Final Calling (Physical Exorcism) 03:21
9. CTI Credit Sequence 02.17

Previously on { feuilleton }
Gristleism
A=P=P=A=R=I=T=I=O=N
In the Shadow of the Sun by Derek Jarman

Weekend links 95

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Seven Songs (1982) by 23 Skidoo. Sleeve by Neville Brody.

The first volume of The Graphic Canon will be published in May by Seven Stories Press, a collection of comic strip adaptations and illustrations edited by Russ Kick. The anthology has already picked up some attention at the GuardianWestern canon to be rewritten as three-volume graphic novel—and Publishers’ WeeklyGraphic Canon: Comics Meet the Classics. I know someone who’ll bristle at the lazy use of “graphic novel”. The Graphic Canon isn’t anything of the sort, it’s a three-volume voyage through world literature presented in graphic form with a list of contributors including Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Molly Crabapple, Rick Geary, and Roberta Gregory. My contribution is a very condensed adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray that will appear in volume 2. More about that closer to the publication date.

• LTM Records announces a vinyl reissue for Seven Songs (1982) by 23 Skidoo, an album produced by Ken Thomas, Genesis P Orridge & Peter Christopherson that still sounds like nothing else. Related: an extract from Tranquilizer (1984) by Richard Heslop, cut-up Super-8 film/video with audio collage by 23 Skidoo.

• New exhibitions: Another Air: The Czech–Slovak Surrealist Group, 1991–2011 at the Old Town City Hall, Prague (details in English here), and Ed Sanders – Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts 1962–1965 at Boo-Hooray, NYC.

• “…we have a situation where the banks seem to be an untouchable monarchy beyond the reach of governmental restraint…” Alan Moore writes for the BBC about V for Vendetta and the rise of Anonymous.

Announcing Arc: “a new magazine about the future from the makers of New Scientist“. Digital-only for the time being, as they explain here. Their Tumblr has tasters of the contents.

• From another world: Acid Mothers Temple interviewed. Also at The Quietus: Jajouka or Joujouka? The conflicted legacy of the Master Musicians.

• More from Susan Cain on introverts versus extroverts. Related: Groupthink: The brainstorming myth by Jonah Lehrer.

Ten Thousand Waves, an installation by Isaac Julien.

Afterlife: mouldscapes photographed by Heikki Leis.

• The book covers of Ralph Steadman. And more.

• “James Joyce children’s book sparks feud

Arkitypo: the final alphabet.

Book Aesthete

Kundalini (1982) by 23 Skidoo | Vegas El Bandito (1982) by 23 Skidoo | IY (1982) by 23 Skidoo