Weekend links 185

rondelli.jpg

L’uomo che piantava gli alberi (2013) by Sofia Rondelli. Via Form Is Void.

• I’m looking forward to hearing the new album by Chrome Hoof, a band whose ambition and attitude makes many of their contemporaries seem lukewarm at best. Mick Middles gets to grips with Chrome Black Gold here. John Doran interviewed the group in 2010, a piece which includes a Chrome Hoof mix of tracks by other artists.

Jay Roberts: “I was a young Marine scout sniper, definitely his type. And for a single, unforgettable afternoon, Orange County’s most notorious serial killer coaxed me into a place from which many didn’t escape.”

Jonathan Meades: “Why I went postal … and turned my snaps into postcards.” “Meades isn’t your average architectural fanboy,” says Rachel Cooke who went to talk to him at his home in Marseille.

“Faced with a Nabokov novel,” Zadie Smith writes, “it’s impossible to rid yourself of the feeling that you’ve been set a problem, as a chess master sets a problem in a newspaper.” Certainly, while Humbert asks the reader “not to mock me and my mental daze”, the suspicion is that the power dynamic in his tale is a little different.

Tim Groenland on the difficulties of writing, publishing and reading Lolita.

Cosmic Machine is a double-disc collection of French electronic music from the 1970s & 1980s. Justice enthuse about the music here where you can also preview the tracks.

The Midnight Channel, Evan J. Peterson’s horror-poetry homage to the VHS era, is available now from Babel/Salvage. There’s a trailer here.

• “Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things,” says Robert Twigger.

• Another musical Chrome: Richard Metzger on newly resurrected recordings by one of my long-time cult bands.

• Hermes Trismegistus and Hermeticism: An interview with Gary Lachman.

• A stunning set of photos of London in the sweltering summer of 1976.

Pye Corner Audio live at The Outer Church, Madrid, November 2013.

Judee Sill, the shockingly talented occult folk singer time forgot.

• Designer Jonathan Barnbrook answers twenty questions.

• Don’t trust the painting: Morgan Meis on René Magritte.

Laurie Anderson’s farewell to Lou Reed.

Philippe Druillet at Pinterest.

• The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny (1968) by The Mothers of Invention | March Of The Chrome Police (1979) by Chrome | Chrome (1981) by Debbie Harry

HR Giger album covers

giger4.jpg

Walpurgis (1969) by The Shiver.

An inevitable follow-up to yesterday’s post, this continues an occasional look at album cover art by people better known for their work elsewhere. Giger’s album covers fall into two categories: those with some direct involvement from the artist and those which are merely reuses of pre-existing paintings. The former category is the one that’s of concern here.

The Shiver were a German Swiss group who Discogs label as “Krautrock”, a term with an unfortunate tendency these days to get attached to any German music that isn’t James Last. From what I’ve heard the group are a lot more ordinary than that, doing the kind of late psychedelic/early progressive rock common to many European bands in 1969.

Update: Further research reveals that The Shiver were Swiss, not German as they’re listed at Discogs. They evolved later into Island (see below) which explains why both groups released albums bearing Giger cover art.

giger5.jpg

Brain Salad Surgery (1973) by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

And speaking of prog… I’ve always loved the cover for this album which in its vinyl edition opens out to reveal the spectral woman beneath. The female face is named Isis on a poster I still have somewhere. Despite liking the cover I never really liked ELP so this is one album of the period I’ve yet to hear.

giger6.jpg

Brain Salad Surgery interior.

giger7.jpg

Pictures (1977) by Island.

And yet more prog… Island were a Swiss group. The cover painting is Necronom IIIa (1976) with some Giger lettering added.

giger8.jpg

Attahk (1978) by Magma.

Magma are (of course) Christian Vander’s ongoing jazz/prog/opera/Zeuhl/sf/freakout music project. Giger declares a taste for jazz and jazz rock in one of his books so I imagine this commission would have appealed more than others, Magma’s approach to jazz having an apocalyptic tendency. Track titles like Liriïk Necronomicus Kanht (In Which Our Heroes Ourgon & Gorgo Meet) wouldn’t have done much harm either. The safety-pin sunglasses were inspired by the safety-pin fashions of punk.

giger9.jpg

KooKoo (1981) by Debbie Harry.

And speaking of punk… Giger considered Debbie Harry to be “the Queen of the Punks” so he decided to pierce her face accordingly. The album isn’t punk, however, it’s a collection of smart and funky pop songs produced by Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards. Two singles from the album have Giger-directed videos, Backfired (which HRG also appears in), and Now I Know You Know which has Ms Harry posing against the Passagen paintings in a black wig and a biomechanical body stocking. There’s more about the KooKoo album at the Giger site.

giger10.jpg

gige11.jpg

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Giger’s Necronomicon
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
The monstrous tome

A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!

voodoo1.jpg

It’s become a tradition here to post a playlist for Halloween so here’s the one for this year, a collection of favourite “voodoo” music. Most are these pieces have as much to do with real voodoo as Bewitched does with real witchcraft but I like the atmospheres of Voodoo Exotica they evoke.

Voodoo Drums in Hi-Fi (1958).
Beginning with some ethnographic authenticity, this is one of many recordings of genuine (so they claim) voodoo drummers from Haiti, and was probably released to cash-in on the Exotica boom of the late Fifties. For the genuine article, the drums here sound less dramatic than the pounding rhythms familiar from Hollywood rituals, but that’s still a great cover. Voodoo Drums in Hi-Fi has been deleted for years but a worn copy of the vinyl release can be found on various mp3 blogs. For a more recent recording of voodoo rhythms, there’s Spirits Of Life: Haitian Vodou on the Soul Jazz label.

Voodoo Dreams (1959) by Martin Denny.
This, meanwhile, is the genuine kitsch from Denny’s Hypnotique album, a slow arrangement of a syrupy Les Baxter tune. More drums and bongos than usual for a Denny piece, and a suitably spectral chorus.

Voodoo (1959) by Robert Drasnin.
When composer Drasnin was asked by the Tops company to get hip to the Exotica craze the result was an album entitled Voodoo (with unconvincingly exotic white people on the cover), from which they released a single, Chant of the Moon, and this track as the B-side, one of the best pieces on the album.

voodoo2.jpg

I Walk on Gilded Splinters (1968) by Dr John.
Mac Rebennack was working as a session musician in Los Angeles when he recorded his debut album in an atmosphere far removed from the swampy New Orleans miasma which the music conjures. Gris-Gris owes a great deal to Robert Tallant’s book, Voodoo in New Orleans (1946), a popular recounting of the city’s occult legends from which Rebennack borrowed not only his new persona (chapter 5 concerns the history of the real Dr John, a 19th century voodoo practitioner) but also many of the transcribed chants which he set to music. In chapter 3 we read this:

A song given to a reporter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was printed in that newspaper on March 16, 1924. Probably a very old one, it reflects the dominance of the queens in New Orleans Voodoo and boasts of their tremendous power. Originally sung in the patois known as Creole, it is given here in English:

They think they frighten me,
Those people must be crazy.
They don’t see their misfortune
Or else they must be drunk.

I—the Voodoo Queen,
With my lovely headkerchief
Am not afraid of tomcat shrieks,
I drink serpent venom!

I walk on pins
I walk on needles,
I walk on gilded splinters,
I want to see what they can do!

They think they have pride
With their big malice,
But when they see a coffin
They’re as frightened as prairie birds.

I’m going to put gris-gris
All over their front steps
And make them shake
Until they stutter!

Anyone familiar with Gris-Gris will recognise the lyrics of I Walk on Gilded Splinters (misspelled “Guilded” on the sleeve) which Dr John did a great job of fashioning into a classic voodoo song. The entire album might be ersatz, then, but it remains one of my favourites by anyone, and for me it’s still the best Dr John album.

Mama Loi, Papa Loi (1970) by Exuma.
Gris-Gris was too weird to be a success when it first appeared but Dr John’s music and extravagant stage presence were very distinctive and helped Blues Magoos manager Bob Wyld recast singer Tony McKay as “Obeah man” Exuma for Mercury Records. Exuma’s self-titled debut album is ersatz stuff again but manages to sound even more deliriously swampy and sorcerous than Gris-Gris, with jungle sounds, zombie gurgles and a clutch of enthusiastic voodoo-inflected songs. “Mama Loi, Papa Loi / I see fire in the dead man’s eye” he sings here, and for the duration of the album Tony McKay is Exuma.

Zu Zu Mamou (1971) by Dr. John.
After Gris-Gris Dr John gradually pared away the voodoo songs but saved one of the best until his final occult outing, The Sun, Moon & Herbs, which includes contributions from Eric Clapton and, somewhere in the bayou distance, Mick Jagger and PP Arnold on backing vocals. Zu Zu Mamou is the spooky highlight which made a fleeting appearance in Alan Parker’s 1987 Satanic noir, Angel Heart.

Voo Doo (1989) by the Neville Brothers.
Of all the songs I’ve heard which equate falling in love with a voodoo spell, this one from New Orleans’ Neville Brothers is the most evocative, a track from their marvellous Yellow Moon album.

Invocation To Papa Legba (1989) by Deborah Harry.
Yes, it’s Blondie’s Debbie Harry singing a very authentic-sounding voodoo chant, arranged by Chris Stein. This was a one-off which appeared on a Giorno Poetry Systems collection, Like A Girl, I Want You To Keep Coming, along with a William Burroughs reading (a staple of GPS albums), New Order playing Sister Ray live, and other pieces.

Litanie Des Saints (1992) by Dr. John.
Goin’ Back to New Orleans, like Gumbo before it, saw Dr John revisiting the musical history of his native city. Most of the songs are old jazz and blues covers with the notable exception of this opening number, another voodoo invocation. A great string arrangement and vocals from the Neville Brothers; I’d love to hear a whole album like this.

voodoo3.jpg

Zombie’ites (1993) by Transglobal Underground.
Zombies are a voodoo staple despite their current degraded status as the cuddly monster du jour, a development which has made me tire of seeing the word “zombie” in almost any context. A shame because I used to have a lot of time for films such as White Zombie (1932), I Walked With a Zombie (1943), and the later George Romero movies. White Zombie was the first zombie film and stars Bela Lugosi in a weirder and more effective piece of horror cinema than the stagey Dracula which made his name; I Walked With a Zombie was one of Val Lewton’s superb noirish collaborations with Jacques Tourneur; both films have their voodoo chants sampled on this track by Transglobal Underground from Dream of 100 Nations, with the opening chant from White Zombie forming the pulse that drives the piece. Along the way there’s another invocation from Voodoo in New Orleans—”L’Appé vini, le Grand Zombi / L’Appé vini, pou fe gris-gris!”—samples of Criswell from Plan 9 from Outer Space, and a moment of pure bliss at the midpoint when singer Natacha Atlas rides in on a magic carpet made of Bollywood strings.

Happy Halloween! And don’t forget to feed the loas…

Vampire-hunting in New Orleans

Previously on { feuilleton }
Voo-doo: Hoochie Coochie and the Creative Spirit
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
Exotica!
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Exuma: Obeah men and the voodoo groove
A playlist for Halloween
Ghost Box
Voodoo Macbeth