Peculiar Shocks

bodyshocks02.jpg

My cover design for Body Shocks, the body-horror story collection edited by Ellen Datlow, appeared here back in March. Now that the book is out from Tachyon I can show some of the interior design. In the earlier post I mentioned cover drafts that featured anatomical illustrations, none of which worked as well as the eyeball collage that became the final cover. The rejected pieces were better suited to the interior which combines engraved illustrations with the kind of sans-serif typography you might find on modern medical labels.

bodyshocks03.jpg

The diagram of veins that fills out the contents spread looks like an illustration from a 19th-century edition of Gray’s Anatomy but it’s actually an illustration from a book about massage whose title I don’t seem to have made a note of. Gray’s is a thorough volume, being a complete guide to the human body, but the illustrations aren’t as large or as detailed as those you can find elsewhere. The header bands used to indicate the beginning of each story are from Gray’s, however, while many of the stories end with full-page plates from The Anatomy of Humane Bodies by William Cowper. These are mostly engravings of autopsies which I processed by inverting the images then overlaying them with parallel lines. You can still tell the pictures are medical illustrations but they’re not as obtrusive as they would be if they’d been left untreated.

bodyshocks04.jpg

Continue reading “Peculiar Shocks”

Weekend links 584

crowley.jpg

Cover for the 1970 US edition of Moonchild by Aleister Crowley. No artist credited (unless you know better…). Update: The artist is Dugald Stewart Walker, and the drawing is from a 1914 edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Thanks to Mr TjZ!

• “…a very mid-Seventies cauldron of Cold War technology, ESP, sociology, black magic and white magic, experimental science and standing stones, secret radar and satanic rituals, whirring aerials and wild moors: a seething potion of Wyndham and Wheatley.” Mark Valentine on The Twelve Maidens, a novel by Stewart Farrar.

• “The line in the song ‘feed your head’ is both about reading and psychedelics. I was talking about feeding your head by paying attention: read some books, pay attention.” Grace Slick explains why those three little words have been attached to these pages since 2006.

Freddie deBoer reposted his “Planet of Cops” polemic, a piece I linked to when it first appeared in 2017, and which used to come to mind all the time before I absented myself from the poisonous sump of negativity that we call social media.

• RIP Charlie Watts. The Rolling Stones’ last moment of psychedelic strangeness is Child Of The Moon, a promo film by Michael Lindsay-Hogg featuring an uncredited Eileen Atkins and Sylvia Coleridge.

• Old music: A live performance by John Coltrane and ensemble of A Love Supreme from Seattle in 1965 that’s somehow managed to remain unreleased until now.

• A short film about Suzanne Cianni which sees her creating electronic sounds and music for the Xenon pinball machine in the early 1980s.

• “I’ll be in another world”: A rediscovered interview with Jorge Luis Borges.

Steven Heller explains why Magnat is his font of the month.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the allure of toy theatre.

• New music: Vexed by The Bug ft. Moor Mother.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Nikola Tesla Festschrift.

Moon Child (1964) by The Ventures | Moonchild (1969) by King Crimson | Moonchild (1992) by Shakespears Sister

Cosmic music and cosmic horror

hyperborea.jpg

Track titles by Tangerine Dream (again) if they were stories or chapters in a book of weird fiction:

– Alpha Centauri
– Ultima Thule
– Origin Of Supernatural Probabilities
– Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares
– Sorcerer
– Abyss
– Stratosfear
– Choronzon
– Remote Viewing
– Hyperborea

Clark Ashton Smith’s tales of the northern continent of Hyperborea were Cthulhu Mythos fantasies with a sardonic CAS twist. The connection with Tangerine Dream is most likely coincidental, the name being one that Smith borrowed rather than invented, but I enjoy the intersection all the same. The title of TD’s first single, Ultima Thule, refers to another remote northern realm. If you’re reaching for associations, as I invariably am, then it’s also worth mentioning Haunted Island by an affiliated group, Agitation Free. The last track on their 2nd album features a partial recitation of Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe that includes the words “from some ultimate dim Thule”; the keyboard player in Agitation Free was Michael Hoenig who was briefly a member of Tangerine Dream in 1975. As for Choronzon, this was a demon that Aleister Crowley claimed to have tangled with in the Algerian desert in 1909. The malevolent and chaotic nature of the entity, together with its unavoidably Lovecraftian epithet of “the Dweller in the Abyss”, places it close to the Mythos god of “nuclear chaos”, Azathoth, although the music that bears the Dweller’s name doesn’t convey any of these qualities. Tangerine Dream’s Choronzon is an uptempo piece of electro-pop that Virgin optimistically released as a single in 1981. For a group with a long history of eccentric title choices this maybe isn’t so surprising.

soundtracks.jpg

Tangerine Dream feature on another cosmic-horror music list that I suggested as soundtracks for The Haunter of the Dark in 1999. (The Lustmord somehow lost a couple of words from its title.) Most of these are drone works, and several were released after I’d drawn most of the pages, but I was listening to Zeit and Rubycon during many late-night work sessions, the latter especially while drawing The Call of Cthulhu. Discovering weird fiction and spacey electronica simultaneously caused the two things to become inextricably connected, and besides which there wasn’t much else to be found in the music world of the late 1970s that complemented such stories to the same degree. Rubycon offered satisfying associations, from the liquid green of the cover art (Cthulhu always suggests the colour green), to the predominantly sinister, minor-key music within. When the sequencers in Rubycon: Part 2 give way to the sounds of waves breaking on a shoreline this only reinforces the suitability of the album as a Cthulhoid soundtrack.

space.jpg

The dedication from Alpha Centauri as printed in the Virgin double-disc reissue with the Atem album. It’s never been clear whether the “space” referred to is a noun or a verb.

If you’re looking for cosmic-horror soundtracks today then you’re spoiled for choice, there are numerous examples, from the general—the occulted universe of Dark Ambience—to the very specific. I enjoy the drones, obviously, but the Berlin School still has something to offer so long as the key remains a minor one and the titles avoid New Age vapidity. See this mix for further examples.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tangerine Dream in concert
Drone month
Pilots Of Purple Twilight
Synapse: The Electronic Music Magazine, 1976–1979
A mix for Halloween: Analogue Spectres
Edgar Froese, 1944–2015
Synthesizing
Tangerine Dream in Poland
Hodgsonian vibrations
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode

That old black magic: A Dark Song

adarksong1.jpg

Catherine Walker.

Among the Halloween viewing this year was A Dark Song (2016), a debut feature written and directed by Liam Gavin. I’d known about this one for some time thanks to recommendations from friends but for various reasons hadn’t seen it until now. Part of the interest was nakedly egotistical: one of the lead characters wears a T-shirt bearing a design based on the Epigenesis album cover that I created for Melechesh in 2010. The cover art—a variation on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life—suits the occult theme of the film, while Steve Oram’s character is also the kind of person who might be a metal-head.

adarksong2.jpg

Steve Oram in that shirt.

Ego matters aside, it’s the occult business that really sets this film apart. Had I known earlier that the story concerns an enactment of the famously arduous Abra-Melin ritual I’d have sought it out much sooner. Catherine Walker plays Sophia, a woman looking for supernatural vengeance following the murder of her young son. Her ritual guide, Oram’s Joseph Solomon, is evidently her last resort after attempts to hire other occultists have failed. Her determination forces her to engage the man despite his obvious unsuitability as a mentor for the Abra-Melin’s psychic assault course. Solomon is a surly recovering alcoholic; once the ritual begins he turns into a belligerent bully. With the pair locked into a remote house that neither of them can leave for fear of the occult consequences, the ensuing battle of wills makes an already hazardous ritual all the more dangerous.

adarksong3.jpg

Continue reading “That old black magic: A Dark Song”

Llewellyn occult magazine and book catalogue, 1971

llewellyn1.jpg

A table of contents that reads like a track list from an album by Blood Ceremony: Children of the Zodiac, America’s Witch Queen, Prelude to the Tarot, Sex Magick, The Wizard Way…

Are you a witch? Maybe you are but you don’t know it yet. You can find out by answering the questionnaire in the Llewellyn occult magazine and book catalogue for 1971, a publication which contains a number of witchy articles among its catalogue pages. This is one of many catalogues and publicity brochures from the Ted Nelson Junk Mail Cartons (6,856 items) at the Internet Archive, and is such a product of its time that it’s a shame there aren’t more like it. In addition to a photo of the hippyish Llewellyn staff there’s an interview with Lady Sheba, “America’s Witch Queen”, reprints of incantations by Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner, and headlines set in Davida, one of the typefaces of the occult revival. Among the artefacts for sale are a set of “Aura Goggles” from the Metaphysical Research Group, a company that sounds like something from a Charles Williams novel but which has been trading in the UK for many years, and is still active today. They no longer seem to carry Aura Goggles, however. A shame.

llewellyn2.jpg

llewellyn3.jpg

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Art of the Occult
Calendrier Magique
Typefaces of the occult revival
MMM in IT
The Book of the Lost
The Occult Explosion
Forbidden volumes
The Sapphire Museum of Magic and Occultism
Occultism for kids