Weekend links 249

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The Philosophers (Homage to Courbet) by Christopher Ulrich. Another great tip from Full Fathom Five.

• “Mushrooms are the only psychedelic drugs that I take, and I don’t take them very often. But I would trust them. Once you’ve done them a few times it’s very easy to feel a sense of entity. You can feel that there is a characteristic in this level of consciousness which almost seems…playful? Or aware, or sometimes a bit spooky.” Alan Moore discussing art and psychedelics in Mustard magazine. Related: “Psychedelics not linked to mental health problems or suicidal behavior: A population study.”

• “Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant-garde star,” says Boyd Tonkin. At the BBC Chris Long looks at Leonora Carrington’s journey from Lancashire to Mexico. The Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool opened on Friday.

A Savoyard’s First Brush with Censorship, Clara Casian’s proposed documentary film about Savoy Books, is looking for Kickstarter funding.

Warner suggests that there are four characteristics that define a veritable fairy tale: first, it should be short; second, it should be (or seem) familiar; third, it should suggest ‘the necessary presence of the past’ through well-known plots and characters; fourth, since fairy tales are told in what Warner aptly calls ‘a symbolic Esperanto’, it should allow horrid deeds and truculent events to be read as matter-of-fact. If, as Warner says, ‘the scope of a fairy tale is made by language’, it is through language that our unconscious world, with its dreams and half-grasped intuitions, comes into being and its phantoms are transformed into comprehensible figures like cannibal giants, wicked parents or friendly beasts.

Alberto Manguel reviewing Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner

De Natura Sonorum (1976) by Bernard Parmegiani: a free download at AGP of the original vinyl recording, something I overlooked several years ago.

• At Dangerous Minds: Real Horrorshow!: Malcolm McDowell and Anthony Burgess discuss Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange.

Meeting Bernard Szajner, a short film about the French electronic musician by Tom Colvile, Nathan Gibson & Abdullah Al-wali.

• Dismembrance of the Thing’s Past: Dave Tompkins on John Carpenter’s The Thing.

That Battle Is Over, a new song by Jenny Hval.

Mushroom (1971) by Can | The Mushroom Family (2010) by The Time And Space Machine | Growing Mushrooms Of Potency (2012) by Expo 70

Weekend links 228

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White, Red and Black (1949) by Marlow Moss.

• British television’s greatest director, Alan Clarke, rates on the cult scale here for his work on Penda’s Fen but his career was long, uncompromising and still hasn’t received the full appraisal it deserves. His more violent dramas—Scum, Made in Britain, The Firm, etc—have all appeared on DVD but many of his less notorious films can be hard to find. Paul Duane looks back at the remarkable Contact (1985), an hour-long study of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and a better film about soldiering than any number of big-budget features.

• I’ve wondered for years why one of the Daft Punk helmets seemed so familiar. It’s because they swiped the design from industrial designer and visual futurist, Syd Mead. Mark Wilson talked to Mead about wearable technology; Mr Mead, it seems, isn’t impressed by the French popsters. Related: paintings from Mead’s Sentinel (1979), and Syd Mead designs at Pinterest.

• Remembering that time in 1982 when Alan Moore interviewed Hawkwind. More interviews: Adam Bychawski talks to Jenny Hval about “sonic extremity, the violence of voyeurism and inhabiting bodies”, and Laurent Fintoni talks to (that man again) Bernard Szajner about Visions Of Dune, laser shows, and finding his way back to music.

Our attitudes towards work are extremely schizophrenic: we secretly aspire to sloth, while we loudly praise work. There isn’t an election poster that doesn’t promise more jobs. The call for more work is similar to the Stockholm syndrome, in which the victims of hostage-taking eventually develop a positive relationship with their captors.

Patrick Spaet on the universal employment fetish

• “Marlow Moss was one of Britain’s most important Constructivist artists…a radical lesbian and Drag King,” says Dal Chodha. An exhibition of Moss’s work has just opened at Tate Britain. Related: Marlow Moss: forgotten art maverick.

Yuki Koshimoto plays the Hang, aka the Spacedrum. Via Metafilter where there are more Hang links. The instrument was prominently featured in the score Cliff Martinez wrote for Solaris (2002).

• Broadcast’s Trish Keenan would have been 46 last week. James Cargill posted two demo songs for her birthday.

• At the BFI: Exclusive materials from the making of Powell and Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffmann.

• Of Tutus and Tortures: Thoughts on the Decadent and the Weird by Christopher Burke.

Faber has launched a Modern Classics imprint with some smart cover designs.

• At Dangerous Minds: Good to see big scans of the Surrealists’ playing cards.

• Mix of the week: Afrofuturist Flowering by Nigel Rampant.

• Writer and editor Russ Kick has a new website.

Infographic: Why Readers Still Prefer Paper.

Superficial Music 1–3 (1981) by Bernard Szajner | Fahrenheit 451 (1982) by Hawkwind | Black Lake (2014) by Jenny Hval & Susanna

Weekend links 221

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Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) (1946) by Joseph Cornell.

• Having been a Bernard Szajner enthusiast for many years it’s good to see his music receiving some belated reappraisal. David McKenna talked to Szajner about his Visions Of Dune album (which is being reissued by InFiné next month), laser harps, The (Hypothetical) Prophets, and working with Howard Devoto.

• Priscilla Frank posts some big views of Marjorie Cameron’s occult paintings as a preview of the forthcoming exhibition at MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles.

• Fascinating reading in light of the recent kerfuffle over True Detective, Christopher Loring Knowles on the possible sources of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Those who set up oppositions between the electronic technology and that of the printing press perpetuate Frollo’s fallacy. They want us to believe that the book—an instrument as perfect as the wheel or the knife, capable of holding memory and experience, an instrument that is truly interactive, allowing us to begin and end a text wherever we choose, to annotate in the margins, to give its reading a rhythm at will—should be discarded in favor of a newer tool. Such intransigent choices result in technocratic extremism. In an intelligent world, electronic devices and printed books share the space of our work desks and offer each of us different qualities and reading possibilities. Context, whether intellectual or material, matters, as most readers know.

Alberto Manguel, lucid as always, on the act and import of reading.

• “It’s time to give prog rock’s artist-in-residence Roger Dean his due,” says Amber Frost. No argument there, I did my bit in 2010.

• “Why do the covers of so many self-published books look like shit?” asks B. David Zarley.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 455 by Airhead, and Secret Thirteen mix 225 by Clock DVA.

• At Core77: Rain Noe chooses favourite skyscraper photos by Russian urban explorers.

• “O, Excellent Air Bag”: Mike Jay on the nitrous oxide fad of the early 19th century.

Nick Carr goes in search of Manhattan’s last remaining skybridges.

Lauren Bacall at Pinterest.

• Shaï Hulud (1979) by Zed (Bernard Szajner) | Welcome (To Death Row) (1980) by Bernard Szajner | Person To Person (1982) by The (Hypothetical) Prophets

Dune: some French connections

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French poster by Michel Landi for the ill-fated Jodorowsky film.

There’s more to French music than Air and Daft Punk, and there’s more to cosmic French music than Magma, although you wouldn’t always know it to read Anglophone music journalists. I’ve been championing the electronica recorded by Bernard Szajner for a long time, and even tried without success to get one of his albums reissued a few years ago. (Which reminds me: Gav, you’ve still got my Szajner albums!) That album (credited to “Zed”), Visions Of Dune (1979), has been out-of-print since 1999 so it’s good to know it’s being reissued on vinyl and CD next month by Finders Keepers’ Andy Votel. FACT has a mix of extracts to give the curious some idea of its buzzing analogue soundscapes.

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Visions Of Dune (1979) by Zed (Bernard Szajner). Artwork by Klaus Blasquiz.

Visions Of Dune attempts to illustrate Frank Herbert’s novel in musical form; you wouldn’t really know this without the track titles but that’s the way it often is with instrumental music. The album has gained a surprising cult reputation in recent years although it’s difficult to tell whether this is merely a consequence of its rarity or whether it’s because people like Carl Craig have taken to listing it as a favourite electronic record. It’s a decent enough album but I’ve always preferred Szjaner’s follow-up, Some Deaths Take Forever (1980), a conceptual polemic against the death penalty which is ferocious enough in places to be classed among the post-punk electronica being produced in the same year by Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. Szajner later recorded an album with Howard Devoto, Brute Reason (1983), which puts him even more firmly in the post-punk camp. I suspect Some Deaths… offends the hardcore synth-heads with its squalls of electric guitar and other traces of the rock milieu. More amenable is another Szajner album, Superficial Music (1981), which remixes the Visions Of Dune tracks into seven chunks of doom-laden ambience. I’ve never thought of the resulting sound as very superficial, “unsettling” is closer to the mark which is why I included an extract in my Halloween mix last year.

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Chronolyse (1978) by Richard Pinhas. Artwork by Patrick Jelin.

Visions Of Dune isn’t the only Dune-related synth album from France. Chronolyse (1978) is the second solo album by Richard Pinhas, another musician you won’t find many Brit writers discussing even though he’s been recording since 1974. Pinhas’s inspirations are an unusual amalgam of science fiction and contemporary French philosophy, a subject he studied at the Sorbonne; prior to going solo he was performing with Heldon, a French prog band whose name is taken from Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream. Heldon may be classed as a prog group but their first album, Electronique Guerilla (1974), has one side dedicated to William Burroughs, features a track with “lyrics by Nietzsche”, and also contains an appearance by Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze and Norman Spinrad appeared on later Pinhas solo albums although neither of them are on Chronolyse which, like Visions of Dune, is a wordless (and often tuneless) meander through synthesised soundscapes named after Dune characters. The music on the first side is much more sparse than Szajner’s, and less satisfying as a result; the second side improves with the 29-minute Paul Atreïdes, a typical Pinhas guitar-and-synth jam with extended Fripp-like soloing. As with Szajner, all the Heldon/Pinhas output tends towards the abrasive, and looking at the recent Pinhas discography the man is showing no sign of growing soft, having played shows recently with notorious noise merchants Merzbow and Wolf Eyes.

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Dune paperbacks from Robert Laffont (1975–1983). Designer unknown.

Has there been any other Dune-related music from France? Given the French enthusiasm for science fiction I wouldn’t be surprised. A search for French covers of Frank Herbert’s novels turned up these strikingly abstract examples from Robert Laffont which I’d not seen before. That combination of foil backing and lower-case Helvetica is clearly derived from the celebrated Prospective 21e Siècle series of new music albums released by Philips in the late 1960s. Many of those albums featured exclusive recordings of musique concrète or electro-acoustic compositions (and many of them featured French composers) so there’s another electronica connection. Incidentally, if you ever find one of those Philips albums going cheap in a shop, buy it! The series is very collectible and some of them command high prices. Even if you don’t like the music, they’re worth having for the shiny sleeves.

Update: Further investigation reveals another French album with Dune connections, Eros (1981) by Dün, a Magma-like band whose name is taken from Herbert’s novel. So too are some of the track titles on their sole release: L’Epice and Arrakis.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune

A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming

Ectoplasm Forming by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Presenting the eighth Halloween playlist, and this year I decided it was time to finally make a proper mix of my own. Reluctance in years past has been mainly a result of the time it takes me to put things like this together, hours spent pondering the order of the tracks, and fine-tuning transitions.

This year’s mix is rather heavy on the drones and eldritch atmospherics with little in the way of songs. There are some rhythms, however. I’ve also taken the opportunity to highlight the ongoing excellence of Emptyset, some of whose recordings I’ve been helping design recently. Their Medium album involved installing a quantity of electronic equipment in an allegedly haunted building, a process similar to that undertaken by the unfortunate doctor in The Legend of Hell House, albeit with better results.

The tracklist is on the Mixcloud page but I’m repeating it here with dates added for each recording. One likes to be thorough.

The Legend of Hell House – Dialogue (1973)
Emptyset – Demiurge: Of Blackest Grain To Missive Ruin (Paul Jebanasam Variation) (2012)
Arne Nordheim – Solitaire (1969)
David Lynch – The Air Is On Fire Pt. 7 (2007)
Ben Frost – The Carpathians (2009)
The Wyrding Module – Subtemple Session II (edit) (2013)
:Zoviet*France: – On The Edge Of A Grain Of Sand (1996)
John Zorn – Lucifer Rising (2002)
Jarboe – A Sea Of Blood And Hollow Screaming… (2009)
The Haxan Cloak – Excavation (Part 1) (2013)
Emptyset – Medium (2012)
Jon Brooks – Experiments With A Medium (2011)
Wendy Carlos – Visitors (2005)
The Advisory Circle – Eyes Which Are Swelling (2007)
Bernard Szajner – Chant Funèbre (1981)
Emptyset – Function: Vulgar Display Of Power (Roly Porter Variation) (2012)

Previously on { feuilleton }
A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology
A playlist for Halloween: Orchestral and electro-acoustic
A playlist for Halloween: Drones and atmospheres
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
A playlist for Halloween