Weekend links 232

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Forget Me Not (no date) by Caitlin Hackett.

• Halloween brings out the articles about weird fiction: “No one would now write of [HP Lovecraft] as the critic Edmund Wilson did, in the New Yorker in 1945: ‘The only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art.’ The true horror was in fact that of judging Lovecraft by the standards of a defunct literary culture,” says John Gray. At The Atlantic there’s Jeff VanderMeer on the uncanny power of weird fiction, while Matt Seidel at The Millions explores the mysteries and attractions of Robert Aickman’s “strange stories”.

The Witching Hour is a video essay by Pam Grossman “examining the many different faces of witches in film”. Pam’s video opens with a scene from Suspiria; over at FACT, Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti talks about the creation of Suspiria‘s peerless soundtrack.

• David Rudkin and Alan Clarke’s uncanny television film, Penda’s Fen, is given a 40th anniversary screening later this month at the Horse Hospital, London. For those who can’t attend (and those who haven’t already read it) there’s my post from 2010.

Nabokov sees each day’s weather as a palette: “The weather this morning was soso: dullish, but warm, a boiled milk sky, with skin – but if you pushed it aside with a teaspoon, the sun was really nice, so I wore my white trousers”. He listens carefully to the sound of the rain, which his letters brilliantly orchestrate. He provides fantastic descriptions of puddles, some of which contain shifts in perspective reminiscent of the nearly cinematic transitions found in the novel he would write shortly afterwards, King, Queen, Knave:

“I looked out of the window and saw: a red-haired housepainter caught a mouse in his wheelbarrow and killed it with the stroke of a brush, then he tossed it in a puddle. The puddle reflected the dark-blue sky, quick black upsilons (reflections of swallows flying high) and the knees of a squatting child, who was attentively studying the little grey round corpse.”

Eric Naiman on Vladimir Nabokov’s Letters to Véra

• Occult rock: Peter Bebergal talks to Expanding Minds about his new book, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. There’s an hour-long film of Black Sabbath saving rock and roll in Paris, 1970, here.

• Mixes of the week: Burning The Existence, “a three-hour sonic exploration of the outer fringes of Goth”, and a horror soundtrack mix by Death Waltz.

• “‘Capital loathes the old,’ [Gareth] Evans said, ‘for anchoring us in the reality of the lived.'” Iain Sinclair on London’s lost cinemas.

Desirina Boskovich, co-editor of the Steampunk Users Manual, offers “7 Reasons Why Steampunk Is Totally ‘Now'”.

• Penguin has new collage covers by Julian House for The Cut-Up Trilogy by William Burroughs.

Hear a homemade synthesizer turn weather into music.

• Grotesque doodles by William Makepeace Thackeray.

full fathom five is Thom’s new blog.

Weird Dream (1976) by Harmonia 76 | Weird Caravan (1980) by Klaus Schulze | Weird Gear (1991) by Ultramarine

Weekend links 181

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Cover of Eye no. 86 vol. 22, 2013, a type special. Detail from 1970s Letratone brochure, overprinted by character from the Marsh stencil alphabet.

The new edition of Eye magazine includes my essay on the evolution and aesthetics of steampunk. In the same issue Rick Poynor’s feature on the prints of Eduardo Paolozzi mentions a forthcoming book by David Brittain about the artist’s associations with New Worlds magazine in the 1960s. I designed the Paolozzi volume which will be published by Savoy Books in a few weeks’ time. More about that later.

Still on steampunk, KW Jeter notes its popularity among the younger crowd: “If some old fogey peering through his smudged bifocals can’t discern the cool and important stuff going on, such as the tsunami of anarchic multiculturalists using the steampunk scalpel to dissect the past and reassemble it like a two-dollar watch, that’s his loss; the readers are picking up on it.”

• Musicians interviewed: Rhys Chatham: “The reason I got into trumpet playing is because I wanted to play like [Black Sabbath guitarist] Tony Iommi.” | James Ginzburg: “One of the strongest feelings I had was that the act of sitting down and making dance music was like playing a video game…I felt disconnected from it…” | Julia Holter: “I love working with the voice, I love mystery, I love creating atmosphere.” | Roly Porter: “I sit at home and listen to folk and blues from before I was born. I listen to a lot of dub and reggae and classical music. These are all genres which to me seem really interlinked and influential.”

• At Kickstarter: From the director of Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, a short film entitled Do Not Disturb. “Two men are forced to share a motel room on a dark & stormy night. One man’s snoring starts to summon creatures into our world.”

The Notting Hill of the 1960s – with Moorcock’s marriage, children, celebrity, the editorship of New Worlds, the collaboration with JG Ballard, Brian Aldiss and the rest – became the proving ground for the shape-shifting Carnaby Street dandy Jerry Cornelius. But all the numerous Moorcock characters, those undying and born-again clones, have a part to play in his “multiverse”, a concept he developed alongside the earlier model suggested by John Cowper Powys. Moorcock’s astonishing catalogue of speculative fiction works to prove his key equation, which is based on meta-temporal parallel worlds drawn from HG Wells, Chaos Theory, String Theory, the Edgar Rice Burroughs of John Carter of Mars and the William Burroughs of Nova Express and the “Interzone”. Publishing all the strange rafts and pods of Moorcock’s prodigious science fiction and fantasy output, as Gollancz have done, is like assembling a ghost fleet, under the joint command of Dr John Dee and Admiral John Ford, with which to invade that uncertain continent we know as the past.

Iain Sinclair on the new series of Michael Moorcock editions from Gollancz.

• “What does science tell us about the relative dangers of drugs? Alcohol is by far the No. 1 most dangerous drug.” Some graphs from the American Enterprise Institute who no one would accuse of being a bunch of stoners.

• “I loved Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Ann Porter, Carson McCullers. There was a feeling that women could write about the freakish, the marginal.” Alice Munro at The Paris Review.

Elena Smith on Literary Parkour: @Horse_ebooks, Jonathan Franzen, and the Rise of Twitter Fiction. Related: Boris Kachka has a list of Everything Jonathan Franzen currently hates.

• Mixes of the week: Joseph Burnett compiles Adventures in Modern Jazz while Kier-La Janisse puts together a British Horror mix for Fangoria.

Explore the planet Mars, one giant image at a time.

• At BibliOdyssey: The Turner’s Manual.

A Crimson Grail (for 400 Electric Guitars) (2007) by Rhys Chatham | Arrakis (2011) by Roly Porter | City Appearing (2013) by Julia Holter | Debris (2013) by Faint Wild Light

Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

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Black Earth by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

How to sustain the atmosphere of something you’ve enjoyed without flogging the work itself to death by repeated viewing? In the case of Twin Peaks, the subject of yesterday’s post, you can indulge yourself with spin-off merchandise like this Garmonbozia T-shirt. Or you could try playing the Twin Peaks Murder Mystery Board Game. I own the latter and while it provides some amusement the reduction of the first season’s enigmas to a set of board game rules doesn’t really work that well. Better by far are the two soundtrack CDs by Angelo Badalamenti, Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me, and the first Julee Cruise album, Floating Into The Night. And if that’s still not enough, there’s always Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

Bohren… are a German “doom jazz” outfit whose origins in the hardcore scene and their enthusiasm for Black Sabbath explains both their name and the appearance of CD covers like the one for Black Earth (2002). But the music within contradicts all expectations. I was first alerted to them a few years ago when I saw them described as being “like the Twin Peaks soundtrack”. An initial “yeah, sure…” scepticism crumbled upon hearing their third album, Sunset Mission (2000), which really does sound like a continuation of Angelo Badalamenti’s slow, dark jazz scores. The fourth album, Black Earth, is better in many ways since it sounds less derivative, further reducing the rhythms to a slow crawl in the manner of doom metal band Earth. In place of the riffs of the doom-meisters you get a sullen saxophone wailing in the dark. Black Earth was followed by the even more minimal Geisterfaust (2005) which happens to have a blue flower on its cover. Coincidence or not? Their most recent album, Dolores (2008), lets some light return with an organ and vibraphone augmenting the slow evolution of each piece. Bohren & Der Club Of Gore are a great band who deserve wider recognition. If you’re a Lynch enthusiast then Sunset Mission and Black Earth are the ones to go for, I’ve been playing them continually all week.

MySpace page
Prowler | Midnight Black Earth

Previously on { feuilleton }
Through the darkness of future pasts
Earth in Manchester

Crush Depth by Chrome Hoof

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Chrome Hoof photographed by Steve Bliss.

How to describe London’s Chrome Hoof? A difficult proposition but that hasn’t stopped people trying. The BBC labels them a “10+ piece glam clad death disco outfit” which isn’t a bad start. Their record label offers more detail:

Cathedral bassist Leo Smee started a bass and drums duo under the moniker Chrome Hoof with his brother Milo at the turn of the millennium to celebrate their shared love of mid-seventies funk and disco. Like sequined pied pipers, they recruited everywhere they played, building an army of multi-instrumentalists, including a full horn and string section, generating a devoted cult following with their legendary live shows. A veritable orchestra of musicians perform, decked out in futuristic monks’ robes, kicking it like some unholy hybrid of Sun Ra, ESG, Goblin, Parliament-Funkadelic and Black Sabbath, complete with choreographed dancers, actors taking vaudeville interludes, and a twelve-foot tall metallic ram dominating the dancefloor.

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Crush Depth (2010). Design by Fergadelic.

Crush Depth is their latest album and the cover graphic here doesn’t convey the mirrored grooviness of the metallic gatefold package. Inside you get thirteen tracks with titles such as Witch’s Instruments and Furnaces and Anorexic Cyclops. Musically it’s like a collision between Magma, Igor Wakhévitch, Acid Mothers Temple and, I dunno…X-Ray Spex? The Androids of Mu? With disco rhythms…and riffs…and Mellotrons…and squalling synths…and harps…and violins…and Cluster! (Yes, Moebius & Roedelius Cluster). The Cluster-embellished track, Deadly Pressure, even manages to make a reference to “Old Ones” waking from their sleep in the depths of the sea, so I suppose we can throw Cthulhu’s squamous bulk into the mix as well. Chrome Hoof are so far beyond the legions of characterless indie clones they’re not even on the same planet. It makes a real change finding a band with this level of musical imagination and the technical authority to deliver the goods. One of the albums of the year, without a doubt.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
A cluster of Cluster
Chrome: Perfumed Metal
Metabolist: Goatmanauts, Drömm-heads and the Zuehl Axis
The music of Igor Wakhévitch

Who designed Vertigo #6360 620?

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Autobahn by Kraftwerk; Vertigo #6360 620.

Colin Buttimer was in touch last week to let me know he’d copied my Barney Bubbles post (with my permission) to his excellent new site, Hard Format, which is devoted to the art of music design. In the intro to that piece he repeats something he’d mentioned to me earlier, namely his belief that Barney Bubbles designed the UK release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album in 1974. I thought this unlikely at first but the more I’ve been thinking about it the more possible it seems. So here’s a quick run through the evidence in the hope that someone out there may have more information to either confirm or deny the theory.

Continue reading “Who designed Vertigo #6360 620?”