Weekend links 476

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Man’s body dish for Sashimi under the cherry blossom (2005) by Ryoko Kimura.

• Godley & Creme’s Consequences (1977) is reissued this month on CD and vinyl. Originally a three-disc concept album with a theme of climate disaster and the natural world’s revenge on humanity, Consequences was released at a time when punk and prog rock were fighting for the attention of music listeners. 1977 wasn’t the end of prog by any means (many of the vilified bands had some of their greatest successes at this time) but Godley & Creme’s transition from the smart pop songs of 10cc to extended instrumental suites was abrupt, and their concept, such as it was, lacked the drama and accessibility of Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds, even with the addition of Peter Cook providing a multi-voice comic narrative between the musical pieces. (Kevin Godley ruefully referred to the album in later years as Con Sequences.) The album flopped, and has been a cult item ever since.

• “A word of caution, though. Once you do read it, it’s hard to let it go.” Philip Hoare on Herman Melville and Moby-Dick. Related: William T. Vollmann on how a voyage to French Polynesia set Herman Melville on the course to write Moby-Dick.

Samm Deighan on The “Faraway Forest” in Peter Strickland’s Katalin Varga, The Duke of Burgundy, and The Cobbler’s Lot.

Brian Eno, Roger Eno, and Daniel Lanois discuss the recording of Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks.

John Boardley on the first fashion books, Renaissance pixel fonts and the invention of graph paper.

Melanie Xulu looks back at a time where major labels were releasing witchcraft rituals.

• “Tom Phillips’ A Humument is a completely novel project,” says Rachel Hawley.

John Foster on the evolution of Stereolab’s analogue-inspired record sleeves.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a history of le Grand Guignol by Agnes Peirron.

Casey Rae on William S. Burroughs and the cult of rock’n’roll.

• An Austin Osman Spare image archive.

Consequences (1965) by John Coltrane | Moby Dick (1969) by Led Zeppelin | Consequence (1995) by Paul Schütze

Weekend links 378

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Outward Journeys, which will be released on November 3, is the second album on the Ghost Box label by The Belbury Circle (Belbury Poly with The Advisory Circle). As before, John Foxx is a guest vocalist, and as always, Julian House provides the graphic design.

• Music non-stop: Geeta Dayal in 2012 talking to Rebecca Allen about the challenges of turning Kraftwerk into computer animations.

• At the BFI: Jon Towlson on the sublimity of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and Stephen King’s favourite films.

Bookogs is the Discogs concept applied to books. Stupid name (Bibliogs would be much better) but there it is.

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Julian House goes 8-bit. More artwork for The Belbury Circle.

Iain Sinclair‘s farewell to London. Sinclair talked to Alan Moore about his book earlier this month.

• At Dangerous Minds: Paul Gallagher on the occult art of Austin Osman Spare.

• The places where Cold War numbers stations broadcast spies’ secret codes.

• Rodney Brooks on the seven deadly sins of predicting the future of AI.

Nadja Spiegelman on the peculiar poetry of Paris’s Lost and Found.

• At Wormwoodiana: The rise of secondhand bookshops in Britain.

• RIP Grant Hart and Harry Dean Stanton. (And Dirge Magazine.)

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 618 by Tara Jane O’Neil.

• An introduction to Conny Plank in 10 records.

Reoccurring Dreams (1984) by Hüsker Dü | Canción Mixteca (1985) by Ry Cooder | You Don’t Miss Your Water (1993) by Harry Dean Stanton

Typefaces of the occult revival

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Man, Myth & Magic #1, January 1970; McCall’s, March 1970.

The announcement last week of the death of British character actor Geoffrey Bayldon prompted some discussion here about the typeface used for the titles of Bayldon’s TV series from the early 1970s, Catweazle. This was a humorous drama in which the actor portrayed a warlock transplanted by a time portal from the Norman era to the present day, a comic counterpart to another occult-themed series, Ace of Wands (1970–72). Being aimed at children, both Catweazle and Ace of Wands are at the lighter end of the great flourishing of occult-related media that runs in parallel with the rise and fall of psychedelic culture, a period roughly spanning the years 1965 to 1975. The two trends reflected and fed off each other; the hippie movement stimulated interest in the occult (Aleister Crowley is on the cover of Sgt Pepper) while giving to the commercial propagators of the supernatural a range of aesthetics lifted from the 19th century.

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Muller, 1972; TIME, June 1972.

Among the graphic signifiers is a small collection of typefaces from the Victorian or Edwardian eras, designs which vanished from sight after 1920 only to surface 50 years later in very different settings to their previous deployment. I’m always fascinated by the way context changes the perception of a typeface, and the repurposing of Art Nouveau fonts—which hadn’t previously been associated with diabolism—to signify witchcraft or sorcery is a good example of this. In the case of the occult revival this was partly opportunism: the commercial application of post-psychedelic style made the previously untouchable trendy again, decoration and elaborate stylisation was no longer taboo. But it was also a solution to the problem of signifying the sorcerous with typography when there were no off-the-peg solutions as there were for, say, Westerns or stories about the Space Race. As well as carrying with them a flavour of old books, some of the more curious letterforms were reminiscent of the glyphs of magical alphabets which no doubt explains their popularity.

What follows is a chronological selection of the more striking examples (or my favourites…) which conveniently begins with Ringlet, the Catweazle font. With the trend being towards Art Nouveau you find popular Nouveau styles such as Arnold Bocklin also being used in the 1970s but I’ve avoided these in favour of the less common choices.

Ringlet (1882) by Hermann Ihlenburg

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Pall Mall, 1971.

Jullian’s landmark study of the Symbolist movement isn’t an occult text but it is a great favourite of mine whose original title—Esthètes et Magiciens—puts it in the right sphere. Inside, the author touches on the spiritual concerns of many of the artists which included Theosophy and fashionable Satanism.

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Duckworth, 1973.

Aleister Crowley is represented here with the first reprinting of his erotic poetry, produced in a limited run by the venerable London house of Duckworth.

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Rise Above Records, 2016.

Blood Ceremony are Canadians devoted to the occult rock of previous decades. Their presentation matches songs with titles like The Great God Pan and Morning Of The Magicians.

Continue reading “Typefaces of the occult revival”

Form and Austin Osman Spare

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The University of Heidelberg‘s scanning programme continues to be a source of delight for those of us without professional or financial access to rare book collections. Having recently made the entire run of Der Ochideengarten available, they’ve added scans of another journal that was on my list of magazines I’d been hoping would eventually turn up online. Form was the first of two short-lived publications edited by Austin Osman Spare from 1916 to 1924, the second being The Golden Hind. Spare and co-editor “Francis Marsden” (Frederick Carter) published two issues of Form before Spare was conscripted in 1917. After the war, publication resumed with two further issues. Spare aficionados have long been familiar with the drawings in these publications, many of which have been reprinted over and over in collections of Spare’s art but often with no indication of their original context.

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Seeing the drawings in situ like this not only restores the context but also sets them beside the accompanying work by Spare’s fellow writers and artists. Some of the other contributors need no introduction—WB Yeats, Robert Graves—while others have been neglected or even forgotten. Most descriptions of Form mention its following in the lineage of The Yellow Book, publisher John Lane having been responsible for both publications. But looking through the first two issues I’d say the model is as much The Savoy, the magazine that Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons put together after The Yellow Book kicked out Beardsley in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial. Yeats was a contributor to The Savoy, and two other artists present in Form—Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon—were friends and publishers of Wilde.

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The samples here are mostly Spare’s work, and only a small selection at that. Enthusiasts are encouraged to download the PDFs for themselves. I had seen one of these issues before (Alan Moore has an enviable collection of Spare publications) but the rest were magazines I’d been waiting decades to see in full. I’m hoping now that the excellent staff at Heidelberg may have copies of The Golden Hind waiting for similar treatment.

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Continue reading “Form and Austin Osman Spare”

Weekend links 338

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At the mountains of madness, fragment I (2014–16) by Céli Lee.

Spirits of Place, edited by John Reppion: new writings from Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, Vajra Chandrasekera, Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kristine Ong Muslim, Dr. Joanne Parker, Mark Pesce, Iain Sinclair, Gazelle Amber Valentine and Damien Williams.

• “Are we wrong to neglect [Jean Cocteau]? We are.” Kevin Jackson reviews Jean Cocteau: A Life, a biography by Claude Arnaud that’s finally available in an English edition (translated by Lauren Elkin & Charlotte Mandell). Related: Jean Cocteau speaks to the year 2000.

Void Beats / Invocation Trex by Cavern of Anti-Matter has been one of my favourite music releases this year. Tim Gane talks about the inadvertent origin of the group, and there’s also the welcome news of a reissue for the scarce first album, Blood Drums.

• Pauline Oliveros: 1932–2016; Geeta Dayal looks back on the life of US composer Pauline Oliveros, including reflections from, amongst others, Betsey Biggs, Fred Frith, Terry Riley, and Morton Subotnick.

• The relaunched Jayde Design website is selling copious Moorcock publications and ephemera, back issues of New Worlds magazine, and much else besides, including rare works of my own.

• New from Mute Records: Richard H. Kirk #7489 (Collected Works 1974–1989) and Sandoz #9294 (Collected Works 1992–1994).

• Drawings by Austin Osman Spare are on display for the next two weeks at the Atlantis Bookshop, London.

The Architecture of the Overlap: Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, scanned in three dimensions.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 201 by Félicia Atkinson, and FACT mix 579 by Jenny Hval.

• “No one has the slightest idea what is and isn’t cultural appropriation,” says Fredrik deBoer.

• I’m never keen on end-of-year lists but I’ll read any list that John Waters writes.

• “The Driller Killer and the humanist behind the blood and sickening crunch”.

• More Lovecraft: Stories to make you say UGH! by Pete Von Sholly.

Alan Moore talks to Stewart Lee.

At The Mountains Of Madness (1968) by H.P. Lovecraft | Mountains Falling (2001) by Bluebob | Mountains Crave (2012) by Anna von Hausswolff