Miles and Miles

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I listen to music all the time when I’m working but it’s not always a good idea to give new music an airing when you’re also concentrating on new work. What often happens on these occasions is that the album will fail to make an impression and end up being laid aside in favour of more familiar sounds, which is what happened to the copy of Milestones (1958) by Miles Davis that I bought last year in a charity shop. Listening to it again this week provoked a “Wow!” response as well as making me realise that I’d heard the tune of the fourth track, Miles, somewhere before. Miles, or Milestones as it’s confusingly also known, is covered by Barry Adamson on his 1996 album, Oedipus Schmoedipus, a simpler version but still jazzier than everything else on the album. I’d always suspected that Adamson was referring to Miles Davis with the title but since I’d never looked at the writing credits until this week I didn’t make the connection. Davis had a habit of naming new pieces of music after people he knew—John McLaughlin, Billy Preston, Mtume, producer Teo Macero, etc—so Miles (as opposed to Milestones) can be taken as an early example of the habit even though it refers to him and also doubles as a reference to measurement rather than a person. The same title, but not the same piece of music, appears on a 1985 album by Sly & Robbie, Language Barrier, the track in this case being a renamed reworking of Black Satin from Miles Davis’s On The Corner album. Language Barrier in turn was produced by Bill Laswell who later remixed the original Black Satin for his excellent compilation/reconstruction of Davis’s electric period, Panthalassa, and who may have suggested that Sly & Robbie record their own version of the Davis piece. Whatever its origin, Miles (Black Satin) is credited to “B. Laswell, M. Davis, R. Shakespeare & S. Dunbar” which brings us back to Barry Adamson whose Miles has a similar credit at Discogs (but not on my CD…) although Laswell is now (bizarrely) “William Laswell”. I still don’t know what connection Laswell or Sly & Robbie have with Adamson’s track, unless it’s a Discogs error or contains a sample I’ve missed, but the ghost of M. Davis might at least be satisfied that he was influencing popular music after so many years on the outside looking in. Always miles ahead. And that’s the title of another Davis album I’ve yet to acquire…

Weekend links 510

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• Saul Bass’s cult science-fiction film, Phase IV, has received a very welcome (Region B) blu-ray release from 101 Films. Everything is a metaphor for the unavoidable just now, but a film about a group of scientists besieged by a tiny and insidious biological threat can’t help but have additional resonance. The new release includes the original (and seldom seen) cosmic ending plus another disc containing several of Bass’s short films. Previously: Directed by Saul Bass.

• Music at the Internet Archive: Live at Metro (2007) by Sora, and three rare cassette releases by French synth-rock duo Fondation: Metamorphoses (1980), Sans Etiquette (1980), and Le Vaisseau Blanc (1983).

• Mixes of the week: a Manu Dibango (RIP) mix from Aquarium Drunkard, and Industrial Synth Rave Isolation Mix by Moon Wiring Club.

We must talk about Nightwood. The novel that sits between those early and late phases of her writing life, the tale of Felix Volkbein, Robin Vote, Dr Matthew-Mighty-Grain-of-Salt-Dante-O’Connor and many others, caught between world wars and each other, in the decadent cities of Europe. The novel follows the journey of Robin Vote, who is more “earth-flesh, fungi, which smells of captured dampness” than person. Sleepwalking through life, she nonetheless wakes up her fellow characters Nora, Felix and Jenny, who each try and pin her down, to no avail. It is a novel that defies synopsis. It is unsurprising that this remarkable book has attracted a “burgeoning body of interpretations”, as Tyrus Miller here notes; yet it seems that there are still new ways to approach it. Julie Taylor offers an affective reading, for example; Joanne Winning concentrates on Nightwood’s collaborative origins, exploring the fruitful and often overlooked creative relationship between Barnes and her partner, Thelma Wood. This is not just a case of considering that relationship as source material for the novel, but unpacking what Winning describes as their “lesbian modernist grotesque”. It is particularly welcome that Winning treats Wood as a silver-point artist in her own right.

Jade French reviews Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes’s Modernism

• Ben Beaumont-Thomas on where to start with Kraftwerk, and Jennifer Lucy Allan on where to start with Alice Coltrane.

• The BBC’s Culture page discovers Tom of Finland but can’t bring itself to show much of his artwork.

• The art of Asterix: illustrator Albert Uderzo (RIP) at work.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on “a marvel of clockwork ingenuity”.

• The films Wes Anderson is watching during isolation.

Greydogtales on six more strange tales that linger.

Adrian Searle‘s favourite online art galleries.

• The Ghost Box label is now at Bandcamp.

Twin Flames (Edit) by Lustmord.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Flamboyant.

Phase By Phase (1976) by Peter Baumann | Phase 3: Agni Detonating Over The Thar Desert… (1995) by Earth | Phase Draft (2003) by Bill Laswell

Weekend links 495

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Angelus Novus (1920) by Paul Klee.

• “Compared to [László] Krasznahorkai’s earlier fiction, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is funnier and more stylistically accessible—despite its length and seemingly endless sentences—but it is also his most unremittingly ruthless work,” says Holly Case. Elsewhere: “Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming may not bring joy or consolation, but reading it is a mesmerisingly strange experience: a slab of late modernist grindcore and a fiercely committed exercise in blacker-than-black absurdity,” says Sukhdev Sandhu.

Zeitraffer (“Time-lapse“) is an exhibition devoted to Tangerine Dream which opens at the Barbican, London, in January. Also coming in January is a new album, Recurring Dreams, by the current iteration of the group which will be available on CD and double vinyl. I was impressed by the last TD release, Quantum Gate, so I’m looking forward to this even if it is only a reworking of popular pieces from the Virgin years.

• RIP Gershon Kingsley, an electronic music pioneer best known for the silly but fun albums he made with Jean-Jacques Perrey, and for being the composer of that evergreen synthesizer novelty, Popcorn.

The first major study in English of ancient Greek sexuality—especially the way relationships between men were both common and celebrated as a perfect embodiment of love—A Problem in Greek Ethics helped set the stage for the modern-day gay rights movement. But it did so surreptitiously, behind closed doors, as required by the times. Symonds printed it privately in 1883; a print run of just 10 copies reduced the risk that it would fall into the wrong hands. The typesetter complained about the content. Symonds circulated it cautiously, to people he trusted or had reason to think would be discreet. Until now, researchers believed that only five copies survived.

Rachel Wallach on the discovery of a sixth copy of John Addington Symonds’ landmark study

Contagious Magick of the Super Abundance is a book of art by the late Ian Johnstone, former partner of John Balance and cover artist for some of the last releases by Coil.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2019. Thanks again for the link here!

• At the BFI: Hannah McGill on the umbrellas of cinema, and Jasper Sharp on 10 essential films by Yasujiro Ozu.

• Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak, talks to Claire Lobenfield about creating the soundtrack for Midsommar.

Joker and Chernobyl composer Hildur Gudnadóttir: “I’m treasure hunting”.

Joshua Rothman on how William Gibson keeps his science fiction real.

Samantha Rose Hill on Walter Benjamin’s last work.

Scientific phenomena photographs of the year.

The Dream Before (1989) by Laurie Anderson | Angel Tech (1994) by The Grid feat. Sheila Chandra | Angel Tech (1994) by Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell

Weekend links 441

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Red Parrot on the Branch of a Tree (c.1771) by Ito Jakuchu.

• Reporter John Stapleton (later a fixture of BBC TV) visits the Portobello Road offices of British underground newspaper Frendz for newsreel service British Pathé. The date says 1969 but it’s probably 1971 since earlier that year the magazine had changed its name from Friends. Among the unidentified interviewees is Rosie Boycott, later the founder of Britain’s first feminist magazine, Spare Rib, and now Baroness Boycott. She may have predicted the former in 1971 but I doubt she would have expected a seat in the House of Lords.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis talks with martial artist and psilocybin explorer Kilindi Iyi about African martial arts, high dose psilocybin work, African-American psychedelia, Dr. Strange, and the metaphysics of darkness.

Bloom, the generative music app by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, is given a tenth-anniversary relaunch this month. The new app will also (finally) be available for Android as well as Apple machines.

Early on, I realized my interest in [William] Burroughs’ work was less to do with the cut-up novels and more with the documented research and investigation of the human condition, technology, control, travel, dreams, drug culture, shamanism, and Hassan-I Sabbah. Books like The Job, The Electronic Revolution and especially, The Third Mind with Brion Gysin were particularly important to me. […] As for integrating Burroughs’ work into the music, it’s not about the history of a literary collaboration, but rather the complete fusion in a praxis of two subjectivities that metamorphosize into a third. From this collusion, a new author emerges—an absent third person, invisible and beyond reach, recording the silence.

From 2017: Bill Laswell in a satisfyingly lengthy interview with Anil Prasad

Secret Satan, 2018: being the annual Strange Flowers “round-up of giftable cultural history with which you can unmistakably signal your degenerate cosmopolitan values”.

• Laurie Spiegel’s second album of electronic music, Unseen Worlds, was never given a proper release in 1990. This situation will be rectified in January.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 272 by Paulie Jan, and XLR8R Influences Podcast 12 by Ripperton.

• More Gorey: biographer Mark Dery and design historian Steven Heller discuss Edward Gorey’s life and work.

Rumsey Taylor on Roger Excoffon’s Choc, “the mystery font that took over New York”.

• More Nicolas Roeg: David Thompson on one of Britain’s greatest film directors.

John Waters picks his films of the year.

• RIP Bernardo Bertolucci

In Bloom (1991) by Nirvana | Bloom (2001) by Brian Eno & J. Peter Schwalm | Violet Bloom (2010) by John Foxx

Weekend links 408

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Kujaku (2018) by Yasuto Sasada.

• “The Ernst picture [Of This Men Shall Know Nothing] has also been interpreted as depicting sexual alchemy, which also ties in with much of Peter Grey’s writing on Babalon and the goddess’ connection to sexual magic and the three ‘Fs’: f(e)asting, flagellation and fucking!” Hawthonn’s Phil & Layla Legard talk to Folk Horror Revival about their superb new album, Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing).

• South London “Psychic Circuit”: A walk with London writer Iain Sinclair inspired by cult writer Steve Moore—from Shooter’s Hill and the Shrewsbury burial mound to Charlton House then Maryon Park and the locations used in Antonioni’s Blow Up.

• Czech filmmaker Juraj Herz, director of The Cremator (1969) and Morgiana (1972), died last week. One of his later films, The Ninth Heart (1978), featured an animated title sequence by Jan Svankmajer and Eva Svankmajerova.

• The week in psychedelic visuals: Ben Marks on Bill Ham’s San Francisco light shows (a piece from 2016), and Dangerous Minds on Astralvision’s Electric Light Voyage (1979), a light show on Betamax tape.

• “From glaciers to nuclear bunkers, photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews descends into the dark heart of the Swiss mountains that inspired Mary Shelley.”

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 250 by Sote, and XLR8R Podcast 537 by SNTS.

When The Horses Were Shorn Of Their Hooves, new music by Dylan Carlson.

Emily Temple on Edward Gorey’s illustrated covers for literary classics.

Hidden Hydrology: Coil’s Lost Rivers studio sessions.

Tube: Minimalist YouTube search

Sukhdev Sandhu is In Wild Air

• Lost Roads (1988) by Bill Laswell | Lost Sanctum (1994) by Lull | Lost Ways (2016) by Pye Corner Audio