Weekend links 543

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Adolph Sutro’s Cliff House in a Storm (c. 1900) by Tsunekichi Imai.

• Good to see a profile of Wendy Carlos, and to hear that she’s still working even though all her albums (to which she owns the rights) have been unavailable for the past two decades. I’d be wary of praising Switched-On Bach too much to avoid giving new listeners a wrong impression. The album was a breakthrough in 1968 but was quickly improved upon by The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969) and Switched-On Bach II (1973). And my two favourites, A Clockwork Orange – The Complete Original Score (1972) and the double-disc ambient album, Sonic Seasonings (1972), are superior to both.

• “[Sandy Pearlman] told me that one of the main inspirations was HP Lovecraft. I said, ‘Oh, which of his books?’ He said, ‘You know, the Cthulhu Mythos stories or At The Mountains Of Madness, any of those.'” Albert Bouchard, formerly of Blue Öyster Cult, talks to Edwin Pouncey about BÖC’s occult-themed concept album, Imaginos (1988), and his affiliated opus, Re Imaginos.

• More electronica: Jo Hutton talks to Caroline Catz, director of the “experimental documentary” Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes.

• At the V&A blog Clive Hicks-Jenkins talks to Rebecca Law about his award-winning illustrations for Hansel and Gretel: A Nightmare in Eight Scenes.

• New music: Archaeopteryx is a new album by Monolake; What’s Goin’ On is a further preview of the forthcoming Cabaret Voltaire album, Shadow Of Fear.

Celebrating A Voyage to Arcturus: details of two online events to mark the centenary year of David Lindsay’s novel.

• “Streaming platforms aren’t helping musicians – and things are only getting worse,” says Evet Jean.

• At Spoon & Tamago: the cyberpunk, Showa retro aesthetic of anime Akudama Drive.

• At A Year In The Country: a deep dive into the world of Bagpuss.

Sinister Sounds of the Solar System by NASA on SoundCloud.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Shirley Clarke Day.

Mary Lattimore‘s favourite albums.

• Solaris, Part I: Bach (1972) by Edward Artemiev | Bach Is Dead (1978) by The Residents | Switch On Bach (1981) by Moderne

Weekend links 542

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The Reverse of a Framed Painting (between 1668 and 1672) by Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts.

• New music with a cinematic flavour: Disciples Of The Scorpion (Main Theme) Heavy Mix by The Rowan Amber Mill is a taster for the group’s forthcoming imaginary soundtrack, Disciples Of The Scorpion (also a sequel of sorts to The Book Of The Lost); The Quietened Dream Palace is this year’s final themed compilation from A Year In The Country. The subject this time is abandoned cinemas, past and present.

San Francisco Moog: 1968–72 by Doug McKechnie, a collection of early synthesizer music using a modular instrument that was later bought by Tangerine Dream. “The quiescent, meditative pulse of the music has much more in common with what would come to be known as the Berlin school of German electronic music than anything coming out of the US at the time,” says Geeta Dayal.

• Sarah Davachi released a new album recently, Cantus, Descant, so The Quietus asked her to discuss her favourite albums. Related: XLR8R has a mix of the music that Davachi regards as influences. Kudos for the choice of Why Do I Still Sleep by Popol Vuh, an overlooked piece from the end of the group’s career.

When I use relevance as a filter for determining what books to read, I’m failing to make myself available for an authentic encounter with otherness, something genuine art always offers. I’m presuming that I can guess, from the barest plot summary, whether a book will be useful in my life. But how can I know what I will find relevant about a work before I have submitted myself to the experience? I don’t think we are likely to be transformed by art if we try to determine that encounter in advance. Part of the vulnerability necessary for transformation is the recognition that I am, to a great extent, a mystery to myself. How could I know what I need?

Garth Greenwell on the idea that a novel is only worthwhile if it is somehow “relevant”

• “For a long time I had been encouraged by the world of fine art to remove references to the spiritual from my work,” says Penny Slinger in a piece by Hettie Judah exploring the resurgence of interest in occult art. Good to see S. Elizabeth and her book on the subject receiving a mention.

• Arriving on Region B blu-ray later this month is Spring (2014) by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, which 101 Films describes as Richard Linklater channeling HP Lovecraft. I enjoyed Benson & Moorhead’s Resolution (2012) and The Endless (2017) so this one is on pre-order.

• Topical books dept: The Man in the High Chair and Other Tyrannies by Kurt Fawver, a benefit publication for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

• We never know exactly where we’re going in outer space: Caleb Scharf on the difficulties of aiming for distant objects in an ever-changing universe.

• Submissions open soon for the contemporary Dada journal Maintenant 15, with a theme of “Humanity: The Reboot”. Details here.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Harry Smith, Filmmaker Day.

Pandemonium – Spring (1985) by Peter Principle | Silent Spring (2006) by Massive Attack feat. Elizabeth Fraser | Spring Stars (2009) by Simon Scott

The Layering

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In Alan Moore’s recent novel, Jerusalem, the ghosts of Northampton travel to different ages of the town by pulling up the concentrated layers of time which they peel back like the pages of a book. The passage of time as an accumulation of layers was materially evident in 18th-century Rome even before geology became an established science. Piranesi’s most popular series of prints, the Vedute di Roma, show how centuries of wind-blown dust and soil had raised the level of the city several feet above its ancient ruins. Before antiquarians began to remove the soil the city was a place of curious juxtapositions, with truncated Corinthian columns growing from the earth, surrounded by—or even forming part of the structure of—the rougher buildings where contemporary Roman citizens were living or sheltering their livestock.

Layers of time and history are the subject of the new compilation from A Year In The Country:

The album explores the way that places are literally layered with history, and is an audio slicing through the layers of time. It journeys amongst the stories and characters of these layers, including, amongst other aspects, the structures built, events which took place and different era’s technologies and belief systems.

Such layering can go far back into pre-recorded history. Much of the earth is thought to have once been underwater, and it is likely that the majority of cities, towns and villages are built in former ocean areas. Current land masses have come to be formed, in part, through a layering of past marine, other life and plants, which in turn are then quarried or mined, subsequently being used to create the infrastructure of contemporary civilisation, and creating something of a cyclical, time-out-of-joint nature to the layers of time.

Track list:
1) A Year In The Country — Cross Sections Of Time
2) Circle/Temple — The Hollow Stream Buried
3) The Heartwood Institute — Beneath The City Streets
4) Sproatly Smith — Chapel Still Stands
5) Field Lines Cartographer — Layers Of Belief
6) Howlround — A Heart Shaped Forest
7) Folclore Impressionista — The Problem Of Symmetry
8) Handspan — At The End Of The Aerial Flight
9) Widow’s Weeds — Gilmerton Cove
10) Listening Center — Wattle And Daub Office Blocks
11) Vic Mars — Once There Were Houses
12) Pulselovers — Brodsworth
13) Grey Frequency — Tigguo Cobauc

As with some of the earlier releases in this series, the accompanying notes are essential to flesh out the substance of the instrumentals; so The Hollow Stream Buried follows Coil in charting the lost rivers of London, Tigguo Cobauc deals with the labyrinth of caves under the city of Nottingham, Chapel Still Stands concerns a place of worship marooned inside an industrial estate, and so on. Without a description, Howlround’s evocation of a Cumbrian landmark might be another example of stone-tape clairaudience. The tape distortions, however, turn out to be the tape feedback playing itself; if there are any ghosts here their origin is presumably rural, not mineral. Handspan combine a traditional tune from the North-East of England with outdoor percussion, a piece whose jauntiness is undermined (somewhat literally) by thoughts of the collieries of Northumberland and the “aerial flight” itself, the cable conveyor at Blackhall Rocks that makes such a memorable backdrop to the final scenes of Get Carter (1971). Relying on notes in this manner may seem like a flawed approach but it’s the nature of all programme music to be accompanied by some kind of description. Several of the more ambient pieces aren’t too far removed from Brian Eno’s On Land, an album that also concerns itself with place and memory, and which contains its own lengthy contextualising note. Delve beneath the layers here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Quietened Journey
Echoes And Reverberations
The Watchers
The Corn Mother
The Quietened Mechanisms
The Shildam Hall Tapes
Audio Albion
A Year In The Country: the book
All The Merry Year Round
The Quietened Cosmologists
Undercurrents
From The Furthest Signals
The Restless Field
The Marks Upon The Land
The Forest / The Wald
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures

The Quietened Journey

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Britain’s Labour government of the 1960s achieved a great deal with its social reforms, but the shrinking of the nation’s railway network—the so-called Beeching Cuts—was a serious mis-step, and one whose repercussions have lasted to the present day. Bus services intended to replace the rail service were less efficient than the trains they were replacing, or else they failed to materialise at all; commuters forced into cars didn’t divide their journeys as intended but switched to using their cars for the entire journey; and many of the smaller branch lines which were closed after being deemed inefficient left isolated communities without any form of public transport at all. I’m just old enough to remember a train journey in 1967 which ended at one of the branch line stations shortly before it was closed. The line itself continued to be used but only by trains taking goods to and from a chemical works that in later years always seemed irredeemably menacing, like the food production plant in Quatermass II.

The derelict lines and stations that littered the countryside following the Beeching Cuts form the subject of the final themed compilation being released this year by A Year In The Country:

The album is an exploration of abandoned and former railways, railway stations and roads, a reflection on them as locations filled with the history, ghosts and spectres of once busy vibrant times—the journeys taken via them, the stories of the lives of those who travelled, built and worked on them.

Nature is slowly reclaiming, or has already reclaimed, much of this infrastructure, with these testaments to industry and “the age of the train” being often left to quietly crumble and decay.

The Quietened Journey is both a celebration and a lament for these now faded links across the land, of the grand dreams and determination which created them and their layered histories that—as these asphalt ribbons, steel lines and stone built roads once prominently were—are threaded throughout the twentieth century and even back to Roman times.

Track list:
1) Pulselovers—Woodford Halse To Fenny Compton In Five Minutes
2) Sproatly Smith—The 19.48 From Fawley
3) The Séance—Elm Grove Portal
4) Widow’s Weeds—The Ghosts Of Salzcraggie
5) The Heartwood Institute—The Solway Viaduct
6) Depatterning—The Beets At Wellington Bridge
7) Howlround—Thrown Open Wide
8) A Year In The Country—Silent Treasure
9) Field Lines Cartographer—Ghosts Of The Wires
10) Dom Cooper and Zosia Sztykowski—Summonings
11) Keith Seatman—Along The Valley Sidings
12) Grey Frequency—An Empty Platform

The train theme is rendered immediately apparent by the opening piece from Pulselovers, a chugging electronic rhythm which suggests a network still full of life and energy. After this the mood quickly darkens, and we’re left on the platform of a station like the haunted one in Sapphire and Steel, with the sun going down and only the ghosts for company. This is another impressively strong collection, ranging from the wistful memorialising of The Ghosts of Salzcraggie by Widow’s Weeds, and A Year In The Country’s hissing roadway, to Howlaround’s Thrown Open Wide, an eruption of noise prompted, he says, by the rebellion of his machines. The machinery of the railway returns to life on Keith Seatman’s Along The Valley Sidings, another synthesised train journey, before we find ourselves on Grey Frequency’s empty platform. The Quietened Journey is a welcome exploration of a feature of the British landscape which has been given surprisingly little attention, and which is now disappearing altogether. The last train will be departing soon.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Echoes And Reverberations
The Watchers
The Corn Mother
The Quietened Mechanisms
The Shildam Hall Tapes
Audio Albion
A Year In The Country: the book
All The Merry Year Round
The Quietened Cosmologists
Undercurrents
From The Furthest Signals
The Restless Field
The Marks Upon The Land
The Forest / The Wald
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures

Echoes And Reverberations

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Echoes And Reverberations, the latest themed collection of music presented by A Year In The Country, has a title that might refer to the Hauntological idiom in general. Not so much nostalgia, more the refashioning of memories, or imagined remembrances of the past, into something new.

Echoes And Reverberations is a field recording-based mapping of real and imaginary film and television locations.

It is in part an exploration of their fictional counterparts’ themes; from apocalyptic tales to never-were documentaries and phantasmagorical government-commissioned instructional films via stories of conflicting mystical forces of the past and present, scientific experiments gone wrong and unleashed on the world, the discovery of buried ancient objects and the reawakening of their malignant alien influence, progressive struggles in a world of hidebound rural tradition and the once optimism of post-war new town modernism.

Track list:
1) Grey Frequency—King Penda
2) Pulselovers—The Edge Of The Cloud
3) Dom Cooper—What Has Been Uncovered Is Evil
4) Listening Center—From Bull Island To Avondale
5) Howlround—Smashing
6) A Year In The Country—Not A Playground
7) Sproatly Smith—Gone Away
8) Field Lines Cartographer—Mr Scarecrow
9) Depatterning—The Ogham Stones
10) The Heartwood Institute—Ribble Head Viaduct

Using field recordings as a basis for music or sound art is as old as musique concrète, but the processes of Pierre Schaeffer and his followers were cumbersome and limited, and the results were invariably placed in the frame of Serious Music. The limitations of the approach can be seen in how quickly this avenue of exploration ran its course. It’s taken the flexibility and widespread use of digital sound tools to revitalise a moribund form to a degree that an acclaimed TV series like Chernobyl can use field recordings for a score (by Hildur Gudnadóttir) that matched the power of the on-screen drama.

The first piece in Echoes And Reverberations, King Penda, immediately caught my attention for the reference to David Rudkin’s Penda’s Fen, another TV drama with notable sound design by Paddy Kingsland of the Radiophonic Workshop. I thought the industrial thuds and clangs summoned by Grey Frequency might be taken from the scene where Stephen and his mother travel into Birmingham, but the release notes reveal that the sound source is the church where Stephen plays the organ, and in a later scene experiences a different kind of summoning. Whatever the source, the suggestion of menace suits a film whose transcendent message has to rise through an atmosphere of oppressive malevolence.

The Radiophonic Workshop is the ghost at this particular feast, unsurprisingly when the majority of the pieces are based on film and TV dramas from the Workshop’s golden decade, the 1970s: Flambards (The Edge Of The Cloud by Pulselovers, a beautiful piece of solo violin and piano with birdsong accompaniment); Survivors (Gone Away, a brittle instrumental by Sproatly Smith); and No Blade of Grass (Ribble Head Viaduct by The Heartwood Institute, a lumbering theme for one of the many angry and violent apocalypse films of the 70s). Of the other pieces Dom Cooper’s What Has Been Uncovered Is Evil takes the Hammer film of Quatermass and the Pit as its focus, creating a soundscape of sinister electronics in a nod to Tristram Carey’s Martian soundtrack, while the equally sinister electronics of Field Lines Cartographer’s Mr Scarecrow follows Stephen Gallagher’s gene-splicing thriller, Chimera, to the rain-drenched Lake District. The shadows of disaster lying over this release feel uncomfortably timely when the past week in Britain saw a heatwave like something from The Day the Earth Caught Fire, while this week we’ve had a village evacuated after torrential rains have threatened a dam with collapse, and an announcement from China about “hybrid chimeras“.

Echoes And Reverberations will be released on 16th August, and is available for pre-order now.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Watchers
The Corn Mother
The Quietened Mechanisms
The Shildam Hall Tapes
Audio Albion
A Year In The Country: the book
All The Merry Year Round
The Quietened Cosmologists
Undercurrents
From The Furthest Signals
The Restless Field
The Marks Upon The Land
The Forest / The Wald
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures