Weekend links 519

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Cover of Minotaure no. 8 (1936) by Salvador Dalí.

• At Dangerous Minds: Irmin Schmidt talks to Oliver Hall about his new album of prepared piano, Nocturne, and also reveals more about the planned release of live recordings by Can.

• “Even the most zealous fan of the genre can learn something new from this book,” says Geeta Dayal in a review of Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop, by Nate Patrin.

• The subject of a previous post but the video was later removed: Italo Calvino in a rare documentary feature for an English audience, on the BBC’s Bookmark in 1985.

• On 9th May, carillonneur Malgosia Fiebig played The Model by Kraftwerk on the bells of the Dom Tower in Utrecht as a tribute to the late Florian Schneider.

• Film footage of Alice Coltrane in her prime is a rare thing so even 17 minutes of TV from 1970 is something special.

Dan Reynolds on the fantastic alphabets designed by Jean Midolle. See also Luc Devroye’s page.

• Mix of the week: Jon Hassell tribute, part 1: Jon and his collaborators, by Dave Maier.

Nicolas Winding Refn on some of the films he’s been watching during lockdown.

• At Haute Macabre: Surrealist décor and tiny secret drawers.

HP Lovecraft dreams of a Providence trolley car in 1927.

The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

Xerrox Voyage, a new recording by Alva Noto.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jean-Pierre Léaud Day.

The Model (1979) by Snakefinger | Model (1992) by The Balanescu Quartet | Das Modell (1997) by Rammstein

Weekend links 492

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Cover art by Gahan Wilson for Monster (1980) by Herbie Hancock.

• RIP Gahan Wilson, a great cartoonist with a flair for horror, the macabre and grotesque. Many of his best cartoons are buried in back issues of The New Yorker, Playboy and National Lampoon but book collections of his work are worth seeking out. He also wrote regularly, and for several years was a film reviewer and columnist for The Twilight Zone Magazine, back issues of which may be found at the Internet Archive. Related: Gahan Wilson and the Comedy of the Weird, an interview with Wilson by Richard Gehr; The Beautifully Macabre Cartoons of Gahan Wilson by Michael Maslin.

• The Unanswered Question: Irmin Schmidt, the last surviving member of Can, interviewed by Duncan Seaman. The conversation is mostly about his solo work but he also mentions plans to release a collection of live Can recordings next year.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), the Surrealist fable directed by Jaromil Jires, receives a welcome region-free blu-ray release by Second Run in January.

At its best, the true psychedelic experience is an analogue of psychotherapy: you are encouraged to lean in to something potentially rupturing or even disturbing, in an attempt to achieve deep personal resolution rather than simply mind-scrambling hedonism or entertainment (which, to be fair, the group can provide as well). […] Despite clear and longstanding links with the extreme worlds of black metal, power electronics, industrial, sludge metal and doom, Sunn O))) have created a space that now stands beyond any obvious scene signifiers. This zone of pure affect—and what they hope will be a healing experience—is welcome to all.

John Doran on the vibrational power of Sunn O)))

Neuland is an electronic collaboration by two ex-members of Tangerine Dream, Peter Baumann and Paul Haslinger.

• Flying teapots and electric Camembert: the story of Gong, prog’s trippiest band by Simon Reynolds.

• Conversations with Ursula: Clive Hicks-Jenkins answers some questions about his art.

• Mix of the week: Test Transmission Archive Reel 38 by Keith Seatman.

• Limitation of Life: Tim Pelan on John Frankenheimer’s Seconds.

Anthony Madrid on the most famous coin in Borges.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jacques Tati Day.

Dutch Graphic Roots

The Magic Yard (1970) by Lubos Fiser | Valerie (2003) by Broadcast | Introduction (2007) by The Valerie Project

Weekend links 419

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Cover art by Leo & Diane Dillon, 1975.

Art is not supposed to be easier! There are a lot of things in life that are supposed to be easier. Ridding the world of heart attacks, making the roads smoother, making old people more comfortable in the winter, but not Art. Art should always be tough. Art should demand something of you. Art should involve foot-pounds of energy being expended. It’s not supposed to be easier, and those who want it easier should not be artists. They should be out selling public relations copy.

Typical of the late Harlan Ellison to describe his vocation in terms of difficulty and struggle even when his prolific output made writing seem effortless. When my colleagues at Savoy Books published a Savoy issue of New Worlds magazine in 1979 one of the features they ran was an introduction by Michael Moorcock to an Ellison story collection. (They also published two books of Ellison’s around this time.) A copy of the magazine was duly sent to the subject of the essay since Ellison always liked to keep track of his print appearances. The back page of that particular issue is blank but for a few words in bold type from singer PJ Proby: “I am an artist; and should be exempt from shit.” Ellison cut this slogan from the magazine then glued it to his typewriter, no doubt transferring it to later models since it was still visible in the 2008 Ellison documentary, Dreams With Sharp Teeth.

My first encounter with Ellison’s work was also my first encounter with what became labelled the new wave of science fiction, via a reprint of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream in a book in the school library. I was only about 12 or 13 at the time, and found Ellison’s story so shocking and disturbing that it overpowered everything else in the collection. The only other story that made an equivalent impression at the time was The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft, so it’s perhaps fitting that Ellison gave my work a favourable mention in his introduction to the huge Centipede Press collection of Lovecraft artwork, A Lovecraft Retrospective: Artists Inspired by HP Lovecraft. I still haven’t got over that one. After the initial encounter, the Ellison-edited Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions were just as important for me as the paperback reprints of stories from the Moorcock-edited New Worlds: a handful of books that showed science fiction to be a literary form of limitless possibilities, as opposed to the stereotype of space adventure and future technology. The Ellison and Moorcock anthologies led me to William Burroughs, James Joyce and all points beyond; they also soured for me the preoccupation with space adventure and future technology which persists today.

My final connection with Ellison replayed his compliment in a small way, when editor Jill Roberts and I took extra care with the typesetting of Jeffty is Five for The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2. Ellison was the only author I’ve encountered in the digital age whose corrections were still handwritten comments on printed sheets; these had to be faxed to San Francisco then scanned and emailed to me (to this day I still don’t know why the oft-reprinted story required so many adjustments). It was awkward but amusingly so, a benign taste of a legendary bloody-mindedness and insistence on precision.

• “Laughing about an acid trip with members of Can and opening up about some of the ‘scars’ left from his association with Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life In the Bush of Ghosts, [Jon] Hassell is candid in a way that comes naturally to those who’ve lived life on their own terms.”

• Drone Metal Mysticism: Erik Davis talks with music scholar and ethnographer Owen Coggins about amplifier worship, sonic pilgrimage, “as if” listening, metal humour, and his new book Mysticism, Ritual and Religion in Drone Metal.

Psychedelic Prophets: The Letters of Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond; “Letters between the men who coined the term ‘psychedelic’ and opened doors to a different way of thinking about human consciousness.”

Artaud 1937 Apocalypse: Letters from Ireland by Antonin Artaud; translated and edited by Stephen Barber.

• “I thought female sexuality was an OK thing?” says writer and porn performer, Stoya.

• “How did a major label manage to lose a John Coltrane record?” asks Ted Gioia.

• Welcome to the dollhouse: Alex Denney on a century of cinematic cutaways.

• The trailer for Mandy, a new (and much-awaited) film by Panos Cosmatos.

• Rest in Anger, Harlan Ellison (1934–2018) by Nick Mamatas.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 659 by BD1982.

Emily Gosling on library music design.

Record Label Logos

The Deathbird Song (1997) by The Forbidden Dimension | Eidolons (2017) by Deathbird Stories | Deathbird (2017) by Tempos De Morte

Weekend links 416

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Cover art and design by Arien Vallzadeh, Dan Kuehn, Mati Klarwein & Taska Cleveland.

• At Bandcamp: “Jon Hassell collages the past on his absorbing new record”. The new album, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), was released last week, and it joins the rest of Hassell’s catalogue in sounding unlike any of his other albums while still being recognisably the work of the same artist. Musical collage is a familiar technique today but was much less common thirty years ago; it’s almost a constant in Hassell’s work, however, going back to Possible Musics (1980), with its tape-looped rhythms and layered recordings, to the later Magic Realism (1983), an album which was in the vanguard of digital sampling, and which still sounds like nothing else.

• “We’re supposedly in the middle of a vinyl revival, streaming services are hoovering up all the coin, and everyone seems to have a cassette column. But, argues James Toth, it’s the humble compact disc that we should be celebrating.” No argument here, I’ve long favoured CDs over vinyl even before the current fad for overpriced antique (or not-so-antique) discs and equally overpriced new pressings.

• “Reading [Robert] Aickman’s strange stories is to glimpse a reality you would prefer to forget,” says John Gray. Among the other writers mentioned in Gray’s piece is the excellent (and under-recognised) Walter de la Mare; Wormwoodiana’s Mark Valentine reviews a previously unseen de la Mare story.

• At The Wire: Greetings Music Lover: The premiere of Steve Urquhart’s new audio documentary exploring the life and work of BBC Radio Lancashire broadcaster and Wire contributor Steve Barker.

• Out in November: k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016).

• “European cinema embraces the vagina—what’s taken Hollywood so long?” asks Anne Billson.

Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded by Jason Heller.

• “Avoid all systems”: Ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki is interviewed at Dangerous Minds.

• “A new room in the Great Pyramid”: lost 1963 John Coltrane album discovered.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 656 by Mor Elian, and 6 by The Ephemeral Man.

• An introduction by Erik Davis to The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson.

Pyramid Of The Sun (1960) by Les Baxter | The Giant Pyramid Sitting At The Bottom Of The Sea Of Bermuda And The Ancient People (1979) by Isao Tomita | The Obsidian Pyramid (2005) by Eric Zann

Weekend links 415

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The Creation of the Birds (1957) by Remedios Varo.

• “I think my music is very modern and very old. Together.” Sandy Robertson interviewed Popol Vuh’s Florian Fricke for Sounds in 1981. The Fricke-directed Sei Still Wisse ICH BIN referred to in the feature may be viewed here. Further Vuh-ing: Popol Vuh on Beat Club, 1971; a news clip of the group from the same year; a filmed improvisation from around the same time (Florian still had his Moog); and the group miming to recorded music from a year or two later.

• More Rammellzee (see last week): Gothic Futurism, a video collage based on Rammellzee’s treatise of the same name. Probably the only place you’ll ever see Rammellzee, the late Glenn Branca and art historian Kenneth Clark thrown together.

• After releasing 5 albums, Disjointed Oddities And Other Such Things is the first EP of “odd strange electronics, psych, Radiophonics, drone and quirky folk” by Keith Seatman.

Alina Cohen on Remedios Varo, a Spanish Surrealist painter whose work has been receiving increased attention in recent years but whose life remains under-examined.

• More German music: “I grew up in total ruins”—Irmin Schmidt of Can on LSD, mourning and musical adventures.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 655 by Matthewdavid, and The Monday Is Okay mix by JQ.

Olivia Laing, Sarah Wood and Philip Hoare discuss Modern Nature by Derek Jarman.

National Geographic has digitized its collection of 6,000+ vintage maps.

• At Bandcamp: The Transcendental Sound of Moroccan Gnawa Music.

Joe Fletcher on the nightmarish dream logic of Bruno Schulz.

Levi Stahl on the mind of Donald E. Westlake.

Affenstunde (1970) by Popol Vuh | Toy Planet (1981) by Irmin Schmidt & Bruno Spoerri | Adithaim (2005) by The Cracow Klezmer Band