Weekend links 619

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A Moog on the Moon by P. Praquin, 1977. And a space helmet reflection to add to the list being accumulated by 70s Sci-Fi Art.

• RIP Klaus “Quadro” Schulze. I’ve owned many of his solo albums over the years, and while they’re historically important for the part they played in developing the kosmische sound in the 1970s I’ve never been very enthusiastic about the music. The albums I prefer are the ones where he was working with others, whether as a drummer in Ash Ra Tempel, an inadvertent member of the fake Cosmic Jokers supergroup, or part of the genuine Cosmic Couriers supergroup that made Tarot. The Tonwelle album credited to “Richard Wahnfried” benefits considerably from the presence of Manuel Göttsching and Michael Schrieve (also a rumoured Carlos Santana); I recommend it. For a taste of the synth-doodling Schulze, here he is in analogue heaven.

• Next month, Luminous Procuress, a film by Steven Arnold (previously), is released for the first time on blu-ray by Second Run: “Exploding out of San Francisco’s vibrant late-60s counter-culture, Luminous Procuress is a psychedelic odyssey of unabashed hedonism. The only feature film by artist, mystic and polymath Steven Arnold, the film celebrates gender-fluidity and pan-sexuality in a voyeuristic phantasmagorical journey towards spiritual ecstasy.”

• “Whereas [Bernard] Herrmann worked predominantly with strings and [John] Carpenter with synths, Anderson wanted to evoke a similar atmosphere with guitars.” Greg “The Lord” Anderson talks to Dan Franklin about making an album of night music.

I am troubled by how often people talk about likability when they talk about art.

I am troubled by how often our protagonists are supposed to live impeccable, sin-free lives, extolling the right virtues in the right order—when we, the audience, do not and never have, no matter what we perform for those around us.

I am troubled by the word “problematic,” mostly because of how fundamentally undescriptive it is. Tell me that something is xenophobic, condescending, clichéd, unspeakably stupid, or some other constellation of descriptors. Then I will decide whether I agree, based on the intersection of that thing with my particular set of values and aesthetics. But by saying it is problematic you are saying that it constitutes or presents a problem, to which my first instinct is to reply: I hope so.

Art is the realm of the problem. Art chews on problems, turns them over, examines them, breaks them open, breaks us open against them. Art contains a myriad of problems, dislocations, uncertainties. Doesn’t it? If not, then what?

Jen Silverman on the new moralisers

• “The website is colorful and anarchic, evoking the chaotic sensory experience of exploring a crammed, dusty shop.” Geeta Dayal explores the Syrian Cassette Archives.

• New music: The Last One, 1970 by Les Rallizes Dénudés; Untitled 3 by Final; Blinking In Time (full version) by Scanner.

• Why was erotic art so popular in ancient Pompeii? Meilan Solly investigates.

• You’ve been reframed: Anne Billson explores the history of split-screen cinema.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Japanese era names illustrated as logos.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 745 by Wilted Woman.

Fun type

Split, Pt. 4 (1971) by The Groundhogs | Split Second Feeling (1981) by Cabaret Voltaire | Splitting The Atom (2010) by Massive Attack

The Late Show: Thomas Pynchon

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Among other things, I’ll remember 2021 as the year of Too Much Work, but it’s also been the year of reading several thousand pages of Thomas Pynchon’s prose. After finally getting through Gravity’s Rainbow back in June (having also read V. and The Crying of Lot 49) I continued with the rest of the Pynchon oeuvre, working my way through Vineland, Mason & Dixon, and Inherent Vice. And after reading the latter I watched the film adaptation again which I found to be much more enjoyable and less confusing the second time round. (Moral: read the novel first). I’m currently ploughing through Against the Day, not worrying too much about how all the various episodes are supposed to join together.

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The commendable inaccessibility of Pynchon the man means that documentary features about his books are scarce. Television abhors an authorial vacuum which is why so many TV documentaries about long-dead or otherwise unavailable writers resort to the cliches of a silhouette hammering away at a typewriter, or an actor in period clothing scribbling in a dimly-lit room. The BBC, in the days when it still used to make programmes about books and writers, often evaded the absurdities of docu-drama by the simple expedient of having a suitable actor read portions of prose, which is what we have in this all-too-brief Pynchon feature from 1990. The Late Show was a nightly fixture on BBC 2 at this time, with a remit to cover anything newsworthy in the cultural sphere. Vineland was about to be published in Britain so editor David Gale was called upon to explain to viewers the lure of Pynchon’s novels and their mysterious author. It’s a fascinating piece which achieves in a mere 19 minutes what Thomas Pynchon – A Journey into the Mind of [P.] barely manages in an hour and a half. As with the Dubinis documentary, there’s some discussion of the authorial enigmas but Gale keeps the novels to the fore. It’s amusing with hindsight to hear about the critical disappointment that greeted the arrival of Vineland—Pynchon’s first novel after a silence of 17 years—knowing that the monumental Mason & Dixon would be published a few years later. Commentary is supplied by publishing heavyweights Tom Maschler, Dan Franklin and John Brown (two of whom describe their meetings with the elusive author), together with critic Rhoda Koenig and critic/poet Eric Mottram, here interviewed with a picture of one of his favourite authors, William Burroughs, peering over his shoulder.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Esoterica 49
Pynchonian cinema
Going beyond the zero
Pynchon and Varo
Thomas Pynchon – A Journey into the Mind of [P.]