Weekend links 582

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Illustration by Gustave Doré from L’Espagne (1874) by Jean Charles Davillier.

• Warp Records has announced the forthcoming publication of Atmospherics by Jon Hassell, a short book collecting the diary extracts, composition notes and other ephemera that Jon compiled as an evolving appendix for his website. I was involved with the first iteration of the Atmospherics when we were working on his site in 2004, and for me this section was always the most interesting part of the project, comprising unique, personal material. The book will be published in October.

• “Almost everything in his book would be dismissed by today’s streaming behemoths as ‘too quirky, too local, too slow, too dry, too difficult, too weird’.” Sukhdev Sandhu reviewing The Magic Box, a history of British TV from the 1950s to the 1980s by Rob Young.

• New music: Cobalt Desert Oasis by Marco Shuttle, Angel’s Flight (AD 93) by Biosphere, and The Shildam Hall Tapes: The Falling Reverse by Stephen Prince, a sequel to an earlier release by A Year In The Country which includes an accompanying novella.

• Mix of the week, month and year: Sentimental Ornament: A Broadcast Rarities Mix by Aquarium Drunkard. First posted almost a year ago, I only discovered it last week; Aquarium Drunkard is now added to my RSS feed to avoid further neglect.

• I didn’t post anything for Bloomsday this year but if I’d seen these caricatures by Craig Morriss back in June I would have linked to them at the time.

• At Unquiet Things: The Eerie Moods and Pulpy Frights of Henri Lievens.

• Whole lotta rarities: the strangest Led Zeppelin artwork.

• Old music: A Willow Swept By Train by Janet Beat.

Instant Lettering Database

Atmospheres (1967) by Wimple Winch | Atmospheric Lightness (2018) by Brian Eno | Ligeti: Atmosphères (2019) by Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; Alan Gilbert

The Gate to the Mind’s Eye

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Turn a 6 on its head and you’ll see a number 9. Do the same with the psychedelic culture of the 1960s and you get the 1990s when psychedelia emerged again, after a fashion, in a profusion of new drugs (plus the same old ones), “ambient” music (a lot of which was never very ambient at all), and, of course, computer graphics. The resemblance of the overlit, weightless world of early computer graphics to the vivid inner landscapes of psychedelic hallucination prompted people like Timothy Leary to declare computers to be their new drug of choice, while also inspiring the resurrection of the kind of visual tripping aid that would have been considered dead and buried in the very un-psychedelic 1980s. (There were a few musical exceptions in that decade—the Paisley Underground, the Dukes of Stratosphear albums, Around The World In A Day by Prince & The Revolution—but all these were counter to the dominant trends of the time.)

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CD-ROMS were the hippest vehicle for far-out visuals in the mid-90s. Brian Eno was vocal in his criticism of the limitations of the point-and-click CD-ROM format but he still provided music for a thing called Headcandy in 1994, one of a series of “video kaleidoscopes” with 3-D visuals created by Chris Juul and Doug Jipson. Not so overtly druggy was a series of VHS tapes and laserdiscs released throughout the 1990s by Odyssey Productions, all of which had the words “Mind’s Eye” in their titles: The Mind’s Eye: A Computer Animation Odyssey (1990), Beyond the Mind’s Eye (1992), The Gate to the Mind’s Eye (1994) and Odyssey Into The Mind’s Eye (1996). Where Headcandy and its relations created far-out visuals using original data encoded on a CD-ROM, the Mind’s Eye laserdiscs wowed the viewer by stitching together the latest examples of CGI from a variety of sources—showreels, TV ads, music videos and so on—giving you an hour of coloured balls bouncing across crystal mountains, pulsating blobs of mercury, shiny objects zooming through corridors and vortices, together with the clumsy figure animation that’s a consistent feature of early computer graphics. Each instalment was provided with a soundtrack by a different musician, so each release is really a long music video in itself, rather like The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld (Patterns & Textures) (1992), a 50-minute collage of rave footage, dolphins, spacewalking astronauts and cheap video effects soundtracked by live music from The Orb.

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The Gate to the Mind’s Eye is highlighted here mainly for its having a soundtrack by Thomas Dolby that I hadn’t heard before. Other instalments feature original music by Jan Hammer (which may be okay), and Kerry Livgren from Kansas (which promises to be as unpalatable as Giorgio Moroder’s misconceived mauling of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). The Gate to the Mind’s Eye doesn’t feature the best of Dolby’s music, it should be said, which may explain why the soundtrack CD has only been reissued once since 1994, while the visual material looks like a combination of music video and computer game. But there’s a lot of this stuff around today, especially at the Internet Archive which now has a laserdisc section containing several uploads from Odyssey Productions and its affiliate, Miramar Productions. Closer to the psychedelic ideal is a series of discs from Japan with the uninventive name of Video Drug. The Internet Archive has five discs from this series. I might have been happy to watch these in the 1990s when late-night TV in the UK was either dull or non-existent but today I’m more taken with outmoded things like Electric Light Voyage aka Ascent 1, a video release from 1979 which featured analogue video effects of a type you don’t find at all in the digital world.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Moirage, a film by Stan VanDerBeek
Heavy-Light, a film by Adam K. Beckett
An Optical Poem by Oskar Fischinger
Moon 69, a film by Scott Bartlett
Us Down By The Riverside, a film by Jud Yalkut
Turn, Turn, Turn, a film by Jud Yalkut
Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage
Walter Ruttmann’s abstract cinema
7362, a film by Pat O’Neill
Here and There, a film by Andrzej Pawlowski
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins
Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, a film by Jud Yalkut
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney

Weekend links 555

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I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928) by Charles Demuth.

• “Reading the new edition in 2021, I’m struck by his dismissal of CD-ROMs, of VR, of interactivity; how he anticipates contemporary debates about algorithmic bias…his prescient exhaustion.” Sukhdev Sandhu reviews Brian Eno’s diary for 1995, A Year with Swollen Appendices. Meanwhile, Eno himself says “Artists like me are being censored in Germany—because we support Palestinian rights.”

• “Kink is often pathologized in popular culture: it’s shamed, used as a punchline, and, on the whole, relegated to the margins of desire.” Greg Mania interviews R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell about Kink a collection of new stories about unorthodox desires.

• “This album is the king of hauntology. From where I’m sitting, I’m going back to the past, listening to an album imagining the future, imagining the past.” Tom Herdman on the fabulous Time (1981), a science-fiction concept album by the Electric Light Orchestra.

Cavafy, the ultimate Alexandrian, gave us an Alexandria that was already not quite there in his own lifetime. It kept threatening to disappear before his eyes. The apartment where he had made love as a young man had become a business office when he went to revisit it years later; and the days of 1896, of 1901, 1903, 1908, 1909, once filled with so much eros and forbidden love, were already gone and had become distant, elegiac moments that he remembered in poetry alone. The barbarians, like time itself, were at the gates, and everything would be swept in their wake. The barbarians always win, and time is hardly less ruthless. The barbarians may come now or in a century or two, or in a thousand years, as indeed they had come more than once centuries earlier, but come they will, and many more times after that as well, while here was Cavafy, landlocked in this city that is both the transitional home he wishes to flee and the permanent demon that can’t be driven out. He and the city are one and the same, and soon neither will exist. Cavafy’s Alexandria appears in antiquity, in late antiquity, and in modern times. Then it disappears. Cavafy’s city is permanently locked away in a past that refuses to go away.

André Aciman on the poetry of Cavafy and the Alexandrias of memory

DJ Food on the package design for The Superceded Sounds of…The New Obsolescents, which uses a similar foil card to the “Héliophore” stock used by Philips in their cult series of electroacoustic compositions, Prospective 21e Siècle.

Onlyou by Can, is “A relaxed studio session, recorded on a mono taperecorder in 1976 at the Innerspace”. Released in 1982 on a 34-minute cassette sealed inside a can (geddit?), and limited to 100 copies.

Olivia Rutigliano ranks 45 films containing prison escapes. I’d put the Bresson at number one but otherwise, yes.

• “…some kind of future unrealised time…” Mix of the week is a mix for The Wire by Muqata’a.

• RIP Christopher Plummer. Never mind the musical, watch him in The Silent Partner (1978).

• At Ubuweb: short films by Erkki Kurenniemi soundtracked by his own electronic music.

• New music: Neurogenesis by Robert Rich.

Kinky Boots (1964) by Patrick McNee & Honor Blackman | David Watts (1967) by The Kinks | The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight (Dominant Mix) (1984) by Dominatrix

Harold Budd, 1936–2020

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Art and design for The Pearl by Russell Mills.

I must have listened to this album hundreds of times, maybe thousands, there having been days when I’ve allowed it to loop for hours on end. I’ll never tire of it.

There’s a lot I could write about Harold Budd: about his early electronic compositions like The Oak Of The Golden Dreams; about the way that The Pavilion Of Dreams is the slowest jazz album you’ll ever hear; about the Eno/Lanois production on The Pearl which creates music that’s simultaneously earthed and extraterrestrial, the latter quality making it a (dark-eyed) sister to Apollo—Soundtracks & Atmospheres; about the time that Budd became the fourth member of the Cocteau Twins; about the William Burroughs influence in the poems that Budd reads on By The Dawn’s Early Light; about the beautiful soundtrack he composed with Robin Guthrie for Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, a film whose subject matter isn’t beautiful at all… But it’s easier to simply say listen to this.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Made To Measure
Night Music in two parts

Weekend links 545

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Colour wheel from The Natural System of Colours (1766) by Moses Harris.

• The Vatican’s favourite homosexual, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, receives the ludicrously expensive art-book treatment in a huge $22,000 study of the Sistine Chapel frescos. Thanks, but I’ll stick with Taschen’s XXL Tom of Finland collection which cost considerably less and contains larger penises. Related: How Taschen became the world’s most famous erotic publishers.

• “In a metaphorical sense, a book cover is also a frame around the text and a bridge between text and world.” Peter Mendelsund and David J. Alworth on what a book cover can do.

The Night Porter: Nazi porn or daring arthouse eroticism? Ryan Gilbey talks to director Liliana Cavani about a film that’s still more read about (and condemned) than seen.

What is important about reading [Walter] Benjamin’s texts written under the influence of drugs is how you can then read back into all his work much of this same “drug” mind-set; in his university student days, wrangling with Kant’s philosophy at great length, he famously stated, according to Scholem, that “a philosophy that does not include the possibility of soothsaying from coffee grounds and cannot explicate it cannot be a true philosophy.” That was in 1913, and Scholem adds that such an approach must be “recognized as possible from the connection of things.” Scholem recalled seeing on Benjamin’s desk a few years later a copy of Baudelaire’s Les paradis artificiels, and that long before Benjamin took any drugs, he spoke of “the expansion of human experience in hallucinations,” by no means to be confused with “illusions.” Kant, Benjamin said, “motivated an inferior experience.”

Michael Taussig on getting high with Benjamin and Burroughs

• “Utah monolith: Internet sleuths got there, but its origins are still a mystery.” The solution to the mystery—if there is one—will be inferior to the mystery itself.

After Beardsley (1981), a short animated film about Aubrey Beardsley by Chris James, is now available on YouTube in its complete form.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXIII – An Ivy-Strangled Midwinter by David Colohan.

Charlie Huenemann on the Monas Hieroglyphica, Feynman diagrams, and the Voynich Manuscript.

Katy Kelleher on verdigris: the colour of oxidation, statues, and impermanence.

• A trailer for Athanor: The Alchemical Furnace, a documentary about Jan Svankmajer.

All doom and boom: what’s the heaviest music ever made?

• At Strange Flowers: Ludwig the Second first and last.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Krzysztof Kieslowski Day.

Ralph Steadman’s cultural highlights.

• RIP Daria Nicolodi.

Michael Angelo (1967) by The 23rd Turnoff | Nightporter (1980) by Japan | Verdigris (2020) by Roger Eno and Brian Eno