Weekend links 124

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Couple with Clock Tower (2011) by Louise Despont.

Assuming such a thing doesn’t already exist, there’s a micro-thesis to be written about the associations between the musicians of Germany’s Krautrock/Kosmische music scene in the early 1970s and the directors of the New German Cinema. I’d not seen this clip before which shows the mighty Amon Düül II jamming briefly in Fassbinder’s The Niklashausen Journey, a bizarre agitprop TV movie made in 1970. More familiar is the low-budget short that Wim Wenders helped photograph a year earlier showing the Düül performing Phallus Dei. Wenders later commissioned Can to provide music for the final scene of Alice in the Cities. And this is before you get to Werner Herzog’s lengthy relationship with Popol Vuh which includes this memorable moment. Any others out there that I’ve missed?

Album sleeves in their original locations. And speaking of album sleeves, photo prints of some very famous cover designs by Storm Thorgerson will be on display at the Public Works Gallery, Chicago, throughout September and October.

Crazy for kittehs: the quest to find the purring heart of cat videos: Gideon Lewis-Kraus goes where few journalists dare to tread. Also at Wired, the same writer explores the Cat Cafés of Tokyo.

The City of Rotted Names, a “shamelessly Joycian cubist fantasy” by Hal Duncan, available to read in a variety of formats on a pay-as-thou-wilt basis until Monday only.

• Jailhouse rockers: How The Prisoner inspired artists from The Beatles to Richard Hawley.

How To Survive A Plague, a documentary about HIV/AIDS activism in the US.

• Deborah Harry: hippy girl in 1968, punk in 1976, and Giger-woman in 1981.

Alan Garner answers readers’ questions about his new novel, Boneland.

• For steampunk aficionados: ‘COG’nitive Dreams by Dana Mattocks.

• David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Madonna & Asparagus: Kraftwerk in 1976.

• New music videos: Goddess Eyes I by Julia Holter | Sulphurdew by Ufomammut | Warm Leatherette by Laibach.

The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein

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Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1967).

I made a post a while back about the work of Bob Pepper, an artist whose illustrations from the 1960s can also be described as psychedelic and who was equally visible in the music and book publishing worlds. Howard Bernstein (not to be confused with musician Howie B) wasn’t as prolific as Pepper but this post was prompted by the appearance at Sci-Fi-O-Rama of the swirling abstractions of his Roger Zelazny cover. Like Pepper, Bernstein produced album cover art as well as book covers although it’s possible the Zelazny piece may have been a one-off. This was the jacket of the first edition and a rather flagrant attempt by Doubleday to co-opt the trendiness of the psychedelic style for a science fiction readership. They tried something similar with the cover for Harlan Ellison’s landmark anthology Dangerous Visions in the same year, the art in that case being the work of Leo & Diane Dillon. The Zelazny cover caught my attention for another reason, the typography is a variation on the 19th century Kismet typeface by John F Cumming which I used for my two Alice in Wonderland calendars and which turns up regularly in psychedelic design. And while we’re considering conjunctions of music and science fiction, I ought to note that the Hawkwind song Lord of Light lifts its title from Zelazny’s novel.

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Vol. I (1965).

As for Bernstein’s music work, most of this appears to have been for Bernard Stollman’s eccentric ESP Disk label where the roster of artists included many free-jazz greats along with The Fugs, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and fringe psychedelic groups such as Pearls Before Swine, Cromagnon, The Godz and others. Bernstein’s Cromagnon cover (below) exists in both monochrome and coloured versions but the monochrome one seems to be the original. In fact much of his art looks like it was drawn in black-and-white with the colours being created by separations at the print stage. His poster for The Godz is especially striking, so much so I’m surprised to find there isn’t more of his work around. Wolfgang’s Vault has a blacklight poster and there are some other blacklight works here. If anyone knows of other posters, please leave a comment although I suspect if there was much more then Wolfgang’s Vault would have the goods.

Continue reading “The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein”

Weekend links: New Year edition

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Flower Me Gently (2010) by Linn Olofsdotter.

• “Many of Moorcock’s editorials are published here, and they still make exhilarating reading. Then, as now, Moorcock set his face against a besetting English sin: a snobbish parochial weariness, an ironic superiority to the frightful oiks who have started filling up the streets. You can almost hear, behind the languorous flutter of the pages, Sir Whatsits sniggering to Lady Doo-Dah. It still goes on, and it’s usually the same flummery in different clothes. Moorcock not only would not go to the party: he threw the literary equivalent of explosive devices into the Hampstead living rooms.” Michael Moorcock’s Into the Media Web reviewed. And also here.

• “Beefheart channeled a secret history of America, the underbelly of a continent and a culture that has now all but vanished along with one of its greatest poets.” Jon Savage on the life and work of the late Captain.

Miniatures Blog, in which musician Morgan Fisher works his way through each of the fifty one-minute tracks on his extraordinary Miniatures compilation album, with details and anecdotes about the artists and the recording of each piece.

Look at Life: IN gear (1967). A Rank Organisation newsreel about Swinging London. Sardonic commentary and some great colour photography showing how the often shabby reality differs from the caricature. Many of the shots are familiar from documentaries about the era but this is the first time I’ve seen them all in one place.

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Predator (Self-portrait) by Linn Olofsdotter.

Lewis Carroll’s new story: The Guardian‘s review of Through the Looking-Glass from December, 1871. Related: My Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass 2011 calendar is now reduced in price.

The United Kingdom and Ireland as seen from the International Space Station, December, 2010. Related: Spacelog, the stories of early space exploration from the original NASA transcripts.

The “Big Basket” Fraud, 1958: “…there seems to be a limited segment with a one-track mind interested in seeing an exaggerated masculine appendage.”

• “Ancient arena of discord”: a billboard for King’s Cross by Jonathan Barnbrook. Related: Vale Royal by Aidan Andrew Dun.

• The inevitable Ghost Box link, Jim Jupp is interviewed at Cardboard Cutout Sundown.

• Amazon is still playing the random moral guardian at the Kindle store.

Antwerpian Expressionists at A Journey Round My Skull.

Salami CD and vacuum packaging by Mother Eleganza.

Paris 1900: L’Architecture Art Nouveau à Paris.

Bill Sienkiewicz speaks about Big Numbers #3.

Philippe Druillet illustrates Dracula, 1968.

Aesthetic Peacocks at the V&A.

Well Did You Evah! (1990), Deborah Harry & Iggy Pop directed by Alex Cox.

A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!

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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.

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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.

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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

Poe at 200

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Poe by Harry Clarke.

Happy birthday Edgar Allan Poe, born two hundred years ago today. I nearly missed this anniversary after a busy weekend. Rather than add to the mountain of praise for the writer, I thought I’d list some favourites among the numerous Poe-derived works in different media.

Illustrated books
For me the Harry Clarke edition of 1919 (later reworked with colour plates) has always been definitive. Many first-class artists have tried their hand at depicting Poe’s stories and poems, among them Aubrey Beardsley, Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham, W Heath Robinson and Edmund Dulac; none complements the morbid atmosphere and florid prose as well as Clarke does. And if it’s horror you need, Clarke’s depiction of The Premature Burial could scarcely be improved upon.

Honourable mention should be made of two less well-known works, Wilfried Sätty’s The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe (1976) and Visions of Poe (1988) by Simon Marsden. I wrote about Sätty’s collage engravings in Strange Attractor 2, and Sätty’s style was eminently suited to Poe’s work. Marsden’s photographs of old castles and decaying mansions are justly celebrated but in book form often seem in search of a subject beyond a general Gothic spookiness or a recounting of spectral anecdotes. His selection of Poe stories and poems is a great match for the photos, one of which, a view of Monument Valley for The Colloquy of Monos and Una, was also used on a Picador cover for Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

Recordings
These are legion but among the outstanding one-off tracks I’d note two poems set to music, Dream Within a Dream from Propaganda‘s 1985 album, A Secret Wish, and The Lake by Antony & The Johnsons. The latter appeared on the landmark Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and also on Antony’s own The Lake EP.

Among the full-length works, Hal Willner’s 1997 2-CD collection Closed on Account of Rabies features lengthy readings set to music from a typically eclectic Willner line-up: Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Walken, Iggy Pop, Diamanda Galás, Gavin Friday, Dr John, Deborah Harry, Jeff Buckley (one of the last recordings before his untimely death) and Gabriel Byrne. Byrne’s reading of The Masque of the Red Death is tremendous and the whole package is decked out in Ralph Steadman graphics.

Antony Hegarty appears again on another double-disc set, Lou Reed’s The Raven (2003), a very eccentric approach to Poe which I suspect I’m in the minority in enjoying as much as I do. An uneven mix of songs and reading/performances, Reed updates some Poe poems while others are presented straight and to often stunning effect by (among others) Willem Defoe, Steve Buscemi, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Amanda Plummer and Elizabeth Ashley.

Films
Once again, there’s too many films but The Masque of the Red Death (1964) has always been my favourite of the Roger Corman adaptations, not least for the presence of Jane Asher, Patrick Magee and (behind the camera) Nicolas Roeg. I wrote last May about the animated version of The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA. That adaptation, with narration by James Mason, is still on YouTube so if you haven’t seen it yet you can celebrate Poe’s anniversary by watching it right now.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA
William Heath Robinson’s illustrated Poe
The art of Harry Clarke, 1889–1931