Weekend links 148

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Quantum Entanglement by Duda Lanna.

An hour-long electronica mix (with the Düül rocking out at the end) by Chris Carter for Ninja Tune’s Solid Steel Radio Show.

• “…a clothes-optional Rosicrucian jamboree.”: Strange Flowers on the paintings of Elisàr von Kupffer.

• A Paste review of volume 2 of The Graphic Canon has some favourable words for my contribution.

It is an entertaining thought to remember that Orlando, all sex-change, cross-dressing and transgressive desire, appeared in the same year as Radclyffe Hall’s sapphic romance The Well of Loneliness. The two novels are different solar systems. The Well is gloomy, beaten, defensive, where women who love women have only suffering and misunderstanding in their lonely lives. The theme is as depressing as the writing, which is terrible. Orlando is a joyful and passionate declaration of love as life, regardless of gender. The Well was banned and declared obscene. Orlando became a bestseller.

Jeanette Winterson on Virginia Woolf’s androgynous fantasia.

Jim Jupp discovers the mystical novels of Charles Williams.

Michael Andre-Driussi on The Politics of Roadside Picnic.

Les Softs Machines: 25 August 1968, Ce Soir On Danse.

• At 50 Watts: Illustrations and comics by Pierre Ferrero.

Soviet posters: 1469 examples at Flickr.

Oliver Sacks on drugs (again).

• At Pinterest: Altered States.

• Farewell, Kevin Ayers.

Darkest London

Why Are We Sleeping? (1969) by The Soft Machine | Lady Rachel (1969) by Kevin Ayers | Decadence (1973) by Kevin Ayers

Weekend links 124

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Couple with Clock Tower (2011) by Louise Despont.

Assuming such a thing doesn’t already exist, there’s a micro-thesis to be written about the associations between the musicians of Germany’s Krautrock/Kosmische music scene in the early 1970s and the directors of the New German Cinema. I’d not seen this clip before which shows the mighty Amon Düül II jamming briefly in Fassbinder’s The Niklashausen Journey, a bizarre agitprop TV movie made in 1970. More familiar is the low-budget short that Wim Wenders helped photograph a year earlier showing the Düül performing Phallus Dei. Wenders later commissioned Can to provide music for the final scene of Alice in the Cities. And this is before you get to Werner Herzog’s lengthy relationship with Popol Vuh which includes this memorable moment. Any others out there that I’ve missed?

Album sleeves in their original locations. And speaking of album sleeves, photo prints of some very famous cover designs by Storm Thorgerson will be on display at the Public Works Gallery, Chicago, throughout September and October.

Crazy for kittehs: the quest to find the purring heart of cat videos: Gideon Lewis-Kraus goes where few journalists dare to tread. Also at Wired, the same writer explores the Cat Cafés of Tokyo.

The City of Rotted Names, a “shamelessly Joycian cubist fantasy” by Hal Duncan, available to read in a variety of formats on a pay-as-thou-wilt basis until Monday only.

• Jailhouse rockers: How The Prisoner inspired artists from The Beatles to Richard Hawley.

How To Survive A Plague, a documentary about HIV/AIDS activism in the US.

• Deborah Harry: hippy girl in 1968, punk in 1976, and Giger-woman in 1981.

Alan Garner answers readers’ questions about his new novel, Boneland.

• For steampunk aficionados: ‘COG’nitive Dreams by Dana Mattocks.

• David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Madonna & Asparagus: Kraftwerk in 1976.

• New music videos: Goddess Eyes I by Julia Holter | Sulphurdew by Ufomammut | Warm Leatherette by Laibach.

Weekend links 92

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Untitled etching by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.

• An interview with author Paul Russell whose new novel, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, concerns the gay brother of the celebrated Vladimir.

• Joseph Cornell turns up again in a report at Strange Flowers about Locus Solus, an exhibition in Madrid devoted to the work of Raymond Roussel.

Night of Pan: 42 seconds of occult freakery by Bill Butler featuring Vincent Gallo, Twiggy Ramirez plus (blink and you miss him) Kenneth Anger.

Jan Svankmajer talks (briefly) about his new film Surviving Life. A subtitled trailer is here; the very different Japanese trailer is here.

Cormac McCarthy turns in his first original screenplay. I’d rather he turned in a new novel but any new Cormac is better than none at all.

Barnbrook show off another design for the latest CD from John Foxx & The Maths.

Melanie McDonagh asks “Where have all the book illustrators gone?”

• Congrats to Evan for getting his poetry in the New York Times.

Margaret Atwood on writing The Handmaid’s Tale.

Subliminal Frequencies: An Interview With Pinch.

The (Lucas) Cranach Digital Archive

The M.O.P. Radionic Workshop

• Music promos of the week from the Weird Seventies: All The Years Round (1972) by Amon Düül II, and Supernature (1977) by Cerrone.

Aguirre by Popol Vuh

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Design by Sawyer Studios, painting by Michael J Deas.

If you’re a music obsessive d’un certain âge it’s a common thing to get bees in your bonnet about the reissues of favourite albums. For Krautrock aficionados the reissues of Popol Vuh‘s releases have been more frustrating than most. Aguirre was the band’s seventh album released in 1976, four years after Werner Herzog’s film, Aguirre, The Wrath of God, for which the group provided a score and from which the album borrows its title.

The album isn’t quite a soundtrack—although it contains a snatch of ethnic music from the film and a recurrent theme—and it’s also less of a whole than the albums which preceded and followed it. The film’s ethereal title theme was played by Florian Fricke on a “choir-organ“, a mysterious Mellotron-like instrument which had previously been employed by Amon Düül II. The rest of the album was fleshed out with variations on tracks from earlier Popol Vuh releases, none of which are used in the film. Side 2 of the vinyl edition featured a single track entitled Vergegenwärtigung (Visualisation) which is also absent from the film and whose doomy ambience would have been more suited to Herzog’s later Nosferatu the Vampyre. This lengthy piece is a drifting slab of drone-werk which would have been recorded in the early 1970s when Florian still had his enormous Moog synth. It’s probably the most minimal thing in the whole Krautrock canon, sounding at times like a lost fifth track from Zeit, Tangerine Dream’s collection of drones which featured Florian as a guest performer. As such Vergegenwärtigung is an overlooked, if minor, piece of Kosmische electronica which has only ever been available on vinyl. And there, dear reader, is the rub.

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No designer credited but it was probably Peter Geitner.

The various CD reissues of the album added and removed tracks from the band’s catalogue seemingly at random. I have the Spalax reissue which featured the film’s title theme then nothing else from the original album, the following tracks being the entirety of Popol Vuh’s second album, In Den Gärten Pharaos, and a beautiful solo piano suite, Spirit of Peace. Yes, it’s nice to have them there but, you know…it’s not Aguirre! When a Japanese edition appeared in 2006 the track they call Vergegenwärtigung turned out to be the errant electronic piece with additional pieces of music layered over it for no apparent reason. The Japanese are usually very good with CD reissues so this was a particular disappointment. After many years of living with a ruined vinyl copy of the album it was gratifying this weekend to find an mp3 of the original of Vergegenwärtigung which can be downloaded here. For the moment you’re unlikely to find it anywhere else.

YouTube has some choice Popol Vuh moments including a Florian Fricke Moog improvisation from 1971 and the band miming to Kyrie from the Hosianna Mantra album. Most fascinating for me has always been this scene from Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser with Florian playing a blind pianist. The music is a variation on his Agnus Dei theme which he obsessively reworked on several Popol Vuh albums and which is also one of the highlights of Aguirre.

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A cluster of Cluster

Boredoms in Manchester

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Anyone who subscribes to the stereotype about Japanese people always being quiet and unassuming has never seen a Japanese rock band. Last time I returned from a gig with my ears ringing the way they are now was after seeing Acid Mothers Temple a few years ago. Tonight it was the turn of Boredoms who drummed up an absolute storm in a sweaty, airless dungeon under the Student’s Union. Boredoms have been active since the mid-Eighties in various shapes and sizes, more recently working under variations on their name. Early albums were always experimental but tended to be nastily noisy with it. They really caught my attention at the end of the Nineties with Super Ae (1998) and Vision Creation Newsun (2000), a pair of drum-powered albums that owe a great deal to the “kosmische” atmosphere of the best Krautrock, especially Amon Düül II circa Yeti.

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Tonight we had a great deal of the thundering cross-patterns of drum rhythms amended by some of the piercing extended crescendos found on VCN. Very loud and very powerful. There was some unusual instrumentation involved as well, including what appeared to be hand-held lightbulbs triggering samples and harmonised feedback, and also a rack of guitar necks (above) with what I assume must be open tunings given the way these were used as percussion devices. It was difficult to tell who was doing what (or using what) for much of the time due to the density of the crowd. But such details are beside the point, this was a tremendous performance that was overwhelmingly intense at times. It’s rare indeed to find a band still working at this peak after 21 years. Along with the very different performance by Machinefabriek in May, best gig of the year so far.