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 hundred-year Voyage

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Today’s post at Wormwoodiana reminds me that David Lindsay’s unique novel of philosophical fantasy, A Voyage to Arcturus, was published a hundred years ago today. I designed a lavish reprint for Savoy Books in 2002, an edition which unfortunately used the re-edited text from earlier reprints instead of going to the original publication. This wasn’t done for lack of a first edition, it was more out of ignorance—nobody bothered to look into the history of the text—as well as convenience; Savoy’s earlier reprinting of Anthony Skene’s Monsieur Zenith the Albino had involved many weeks of text preparation, scanning pages from a photocopy of Skene’s very scarce novel, then running the copy through rudimentary OCR software and proofing the result. In Savoy’s slight defence, the reprint of Arcturus did correct a couple of typos that everyone else had missed.

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I still think the best feature of my design was the selection of Jean Delville’s remarkable Symbolist painting, The Treasures of Satan (1895), a picture used with the permission of the Brussels Museum of Fine Art. (They supplied us with a print of the painting together with a photo of Delville’s Angel of Splendour (1894) for the back cover.) With the exception of Bob Pepper’s artwork for the 1968 Ballantine paperback, previous reprints of the novel seldom reflected the contents on their covers. I’m no longer happy with the type layout on the rest of the dust-jacket, however, although the front cover looks okay. The Savoy edition included an introduction by Alan Moore, an afterword by Colin Wilson, a collection of philosophical aphorisms by David Lindsay, plus a couple of photos of the author which I don’t think had been published before. Despite its flaws, the book was well-received. The paper was heavier stock than is generally used for hardback fiction which made for a heavy and expensive volume but the edition still sold out.

Penguin are reprinting the novel next year in an edition which continues the tradition of unsuitable cover art. According to Lindsay site The Violet Apple the figure on the cover is from an illustration for a Dostoevsky novella, so what is it doing on Lindsay’s book? Cover art aside, the novel is in a class of its own, and very highly recommended.

Previously on { feuilleton}
The art of Bob Pepper
Masonic fonts and the designer’s dark materials

The Blake Video

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More from the website update. One of the pages buried in the site is an appendix to my design for Angel Passage, a William Blake-themed CD by Alan Moore and Tim Perkins that was released on Steven Severin’s Re: label in 2001. In addition to designing the CD I also created a video accompaniment for the sole performance of the piece at the Purcell Room in London in February of that year. The old web page showed screen shots of the video, and very small ones at that, so as well as updating the page itself I’ve replaced the thumbnails with the original shots.

The video was created in a rush five days before the performance, and only finished the night before I departed for London, so was rather lazily done in places. I’d just taken delivery of a new G4 Power Mac without which I wouldn’t have been able to do any video editing at all. Raw material was artwork scanned from books plus a stack of VHS tapes, including a TV documentary about Blake that provided a few relevant shots of contemporary London. Another essential component was a borrowed video player that could play both VHS and MiniDV cassettes, as well as connect to the computer. The assembled footage was recorded to a MiniDV master cassette which I still have somewhere although I’ve no idea whether it’s still viewable, and have no way to watch it in any case. Those MiniDV players had a tendency to mysteriously render their tapes unplayable which I think may have happened to my tape when I came to try and archive it after the performance. This is fitting in a way, Alan was always adamant that the music-based readings he was doing at this time were one-off events, and the video was only intended to augment the reading, not be watched away from the performance. Copies of the CD still circulate so the work hasn’t vanished altogether. Alan and Tim collaborated on three readings in this series, together with two earlier outings, The Birth Caul and (with David J) The Moon And Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre Of Marvels. We’re overdue a reissue of the entire Moon and Serpent discography.

Previously on { feuilleton }
William Blake in Manchester

Weekend links 480

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Tadanori Yokoo (1974) by Tadanori Yokoo and Will van Sambeek. A poster from the Colourful Japan exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

• The first decade of space-rock pioneers Hawkwind is explored by Joe Banks in Hawkwind: Days of the Underground — Radical Escapism in the Age Of Paranoia, coming soon from Strange Attractor Press. I created the wraparound cover for this one, and will be talking about it here in a later post. Those interested in the book should note that the special edition hardback will include an extra book, plus a print and postcards. Limited to 500 copies so don’t wait around.

• “What we look for in our formative years can be very different from the demands we make later as analytical adults, and it was certainly more important to me that representations of gayness were complex or colourful than that they were positive, whatever that meant.” Ryan Gilbey on 50 years of Midnight Cowboy.

• Mixes of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. II – France I by David Colohan, and As Imperceptibly As Grief The Summer Lapsed Away by Haunted Air.

If we imagine the material world about us having a concealed component of the fictional and the fantastic, visions buried in its stones and mortar waiting for their revelation, then we may suppose that 18th-century Lambeth was a teeming hub of such imaginal biodiversity. Bedlam alone could account for this ethereal population boom, but then nearby was the Hercules Buildings residence of William Blake, which can have only added to the sublime infestation.

Alan Moore on the visionary art of William Blake

• At the Internet Archive: Ten issues of Ed Pinsent’s The Sound Projector Music Magazine (1996–2002), with bonus Krautrock Kompendium.

• “Like many dictators Franco considered himself an artist.” Jonathan Meades on how fascism disfigured the face of Spain.

Occulting Disk is a new album from the master of unnerving doomscapes, Deathprod, which will be released in October.

• Making MAD: Chris Mautner on the beginning and end of MAD magazine.

John Margolies’ photographs of roadside America.

Fair Sapphire by Meadowsilver.

Jarboe‘s favourite music.

Theme from Midnight Cowboy (1969) by John Barry | Astral Cowboy (1969) by Curt Boettcher | Dayvan Cowboy (2005) by Boards Of Canada

Weekend links 464

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13 Circles by Julien Picaud.

• The 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing is only two months away so it’s no surprise that Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks is being reissued. The latest release will include an additional disc of new music by Eno with his collaborators from the original sessions, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno. Related: the Apollo 11 Command Module as an explorable (and printable) 3D model.

• From the real Moon to the presence of the satellite in myth and history, the next book from Strange Attractor will be Selene: The Moon Goddess & The Cave Oracle, a volume which is also the final work by the late Steve Moore. With a foreword by Bob Rickard, and an afterword by Alan Moore.

• Guitar-noise maestro Caspar Brötzmann released a handful of thrilling albums in the 1990s then disappeared from view. Spyros Stasis talked to Brötzmann about his hiatus and his recent resurfacing on the Southern Lord label.

• A year late, but I didn’t know Paul Schrader had written an updated introduction to his 1972 study of Ozu, Bresson and Dreyer, Transcendental Style in Film. I love the idea of “The Tarkovsky Ring” as a directorial event horizon.

• “Nothing written is utterly without value, as I proved to myself by reading two random works.” Theodore Dalrymple on the lasting worth of “worthless” books.

Cinemagician: Conversations with Kenneth Anger, a documentary by Carl Abrahamsson about the director/writer/magus.

• Mirror, Mirror: When Movie Characters Look Back at Themselves by Sheila O’Malley.

• From Susan Sontag to the Met Gala: Jon Savage on the evolution of camp.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 289 by Mondkopf.

• Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer: Anne Billson.

• A video by IMPATV for Religion by Teleplasmiste.

Obscure Sound ~ Cosmic: a list.

Mira Calix‘s favourite records.

Transcendental Overdrive (1980) by Harald Grosskopf | Transcendental Moonshine (1991) by Steroid Maximus | The Transcendent (1999) by Jah Wobble