Weekend links 590

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Understanding Mu (1970) by Hans Stefan Santesson. Cover art by Ron Walotsky. Via.

• “I have never believed Chariots of the Gods?—it takes faith, so what I mean is that I’ve never believed in it—but it has still held my affection for decades.” Patrick Allington on ancient aliens, unidentified aerial phenomena, and the unhinged pleasures of speculative nonfiction. I still have a stash of paperbacks in what I call “The Crank Box”, a collection of the more far-out titles that proliferated in the 1970s in the wake of the bestselling (and very egregious) Erich von Däniken. There aren’t many books about ancient astronauts or flying saucers in the box because they were so plentiful, I was always on the lookout for more outlandish volumes: lost continents, yes, but not the all-too-common Atlantis; Lemuria or Mu were more like it. So too with Hollow Earths and mysterious realms as detailed in Shambhala: Oasis of Light by Andrew Tomas, or The Lost World of Agharti: The Mystery of Vril Power by Alec MacLellan. The attraction wasn’t that any of this speculation might be true, more that these books operate as bargain-basement equivalents of the Borges conceit in which metaphysics is regarded as a branch of fantastic literature. Weird fiction by other means.

Collecting these books was a fun thing to do in the 1980s when the crank publications of the previous decade had washed up on the shelves of secondhand bookshops. The shine began to wear off in the 1990s when the emergence of the internet empowered a new breed of hucksters (and worse) pushing all of this stuff as though it was “hidden knowledge”. It’s hard to get excited about a battered paperback brimming with pseudo-science and pseudo-archaeology when similar ideas proliferate on YouTube channels catering to credulous hordes.

• Absolutely elsewhere (and linked here on a regular basis): An archive of the endlessly fascinating Absolute Elsewhere, a website created by the late RT Gault in order to present “a bibliography of visionary, occult, new age, fringe science, strange and even crackpot works published between 1945 and 1988”. The listings are accompanied by an informed, sceptical and often enlightening commentary, and also include a fair amount of weird fiction. Mr Gault had the right attitude.

• New music: Raum by Tangerine Dream, a preview of the new album, Probe 6–8, which will be released next year; new/old music: a reissue of Marine Flowers (Science Fantasy) by Akira Ito.

• “He had been honest about himself, and shockingly honest about his parents, but about his work he had spun me a tale.” Carole Angier on the elusive WG Sebald.

• At The New Criterion: Two stray notes on Moby-Dick by William Logan; on contemporary reviews of Moby-Dick and Melville’s journey on the Acushnet.

• “Perhaps what’s most extraordinary about Kollaps is that it was made at all.” Jeremy Allen on Einstürzende Neubauten’s thrilling debut album.

• At Culture.pl: a podcast about Czech film director Vera Chytilová and her masterpiece of Surrealist anarchy, Daisies.

• At Perfect Sound Forever: Part 2 of a Jon Hassell tribute which talks to friends and musical collaborators.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…William S. Burroughs The Ticket That Exploded (1962).

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine unearths a medieval recipe for gingerbread.

• Mix of the week: Death’s Other Dominion by The Ephemeral Man.

MU-UR (2000) by Coil | Mu (2005) by Jah Wobble | Mu 1 (2015) by Acronym

Weekend links 518

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In Voluptas Mors (1951) by Philippe Halsman.

• “Equation to an Unknown (1980) is [Dietrich de Velsa’s] only film, and stands without a doubt as a masterpiece and the best French gay porn ever made.” Related (sort of): the US division of Amazon Prime had been showing a censored print of Francis Lee’s gay romance, God’s Own Country, until the director was informed and complained.

• “They lasted just one night as tour support for U2 before being thrown off. The outraged and hostile audience threw bottles of urine. The band responded by throwing iron bars back at them.” Daniel Dylan Wray on the wild times (and cookery) of Blixa Bargeld and Einstürzende Neubauten.

• “Japanese art evolved, in Saunders’s words, ‘from a distinctive alchemy of silk, soot, gold, fire, and fur,’ from a playful and curious fascination with the subject matter and tools provided by the natural world.” Tamar Avishai on art in isolation: the delicate paintings of Edo Japan.

To me, the Diggers were a phenomenon. I don’t know that there’s been anything like them in history—yes, history repeats itself, so there probably was somebody at some time, I’m just not aware of it—a situation where you have a group of people whose goal is to help other people, to bring them not just the basic necessities you need to survive but the things that you need for your imagination, your brain, your growth on other levels. It was like an opium dream or something.

Siena Carlton-Firestone (aka Natural Suzanne) talking to Jay Babcock for the fourth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• A psychic has been ordered to pay the costs of exhuming Salvador Dalí’s corpse for a failed paternity test.

• Feel the crushing steel: David Bennun on Grace Jones and the Compass Point Trilogy.

Sleep Tones by Six Organs Of Admittance, name-your-price music for insomniacs.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 645 by Juan MacLean.

Playing the Piano for the Isolated by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

• David Lynch Theater presents: Fire (Pozar).

Fire (1967) by Koko Taylor | Fire (1984) by 23 Skidoo | Fire (2002) by Ladytron

A mix for Halloween: Teatro Grottesco

Teatro Grottesco by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Presenting the tenth Halloween playlist, and another mix of my own. This year the compilation honours the recent Penguin collection of stories by Thomas Ligotti, hence the title and dedication. Whether a Ligotti theme can be perceived in the arrangement depends on the familiarity of the listener with Ligotti’s brand of weird fiction, but even if the mix communicates little in this direction having something to aim for helped me narrow the focus. The presence of David Lynch-related pieces is justified by Ligotti’s inclusion in a collection of fiction inspired by Lynch’s films.

As to some of the other selections: French composer Igor Wakhévitch is a {feuilleton} favourite whose orchestral works are unique, bizarre and often disturbing; Jean-Claude Eloy is another French composer who (like Tod Dockstader) has used electronics to create doom-laden dronescapes; and the piece by Sinoia Caves is an extract from the nightmarish bad-trip sequence in Beyond the Black Rainbow, a film directed by Panos Cosmatos.

Recent changes at Mixcloud mean that listeners can no longer see a tracklist before playback so here’s the detail:

Alan R. Splet, David Lynch, Ann KroeberTextured Night Wind Gently Rises And Falls (2000)
Igor WakhévitchErgon (1970)
CoilCardinal Points (1988)
Tod DockstaderMyst (2005)
Julee CruiseInto The Night (1989)
Jean-Claude EloyFushike-e (1er Extrait) (1979)
Mica LeviLonely Void (2014)
Stars Of The LidTaphead (1996)
Belbury PolyA Thin Place (2005)
Einstürzende NeubautenArmenia (1983)
Igor WakhévitchAmenthi (Attente De La Seconde Mort) (1973)
Sinoia Caves1966 – Let The New Age Of Enlightenment Begin (2014)
Angelo BadalamentiDark Mood Woods/The Red Room (2007)
Bohren & Der Club Of GoreThe Art Of Coffins (2002)

Previously on { feuilleton }
A mix for Halloween: Unheimlich Manoeuvres
A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming
A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology
A playlist for Halloween: Orchestral and electro-acoustic
A playlist for Halloween: Drones and atmospheres
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
A playlist for Halloween

Audio Arts

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Audio Arts was a British audio magazine established by Bill Furlong which appeared on vinyl LP, cassette tape and CD from 1973 to 2006. The Tate website has an archive section devoted to the magazine which allows you to listen to each of the tapes, surprisingly when much of the content on the Tate sites is fenced about with copyright restrictions. The contents are as varied as any regular arts magazine: reviews, interviews and so on. An interview with Marcel Duchamp from 1959 is one of the featured highlights. Of greater interest to this listener is an interview from 1981 with Laurie Anderson discussing her epic stage work, United States Parts 1–4. This would have been around the time that one of the songs from that show, O Superman, turned her into a UK pop star for a few weeks.

In addition to a great deal of talk some of the tapes contain recordings of sound pieces or performances. One tape from 1985 features nine works by the Bow Gamelan Ensemble: Ann Bean, Richard Wilson and PD Burwell. The Bow Gamelan Ensemble were at the arty British end of the 1980s’ vogue for making music with industrial detritus, a trend developed and popularised by Z’EV, Einstürzende Neubauten, Test Department and others. I never got to see the ensemble but their pyrotechnic live performances always looked like fun. The tape gives an idea of their uncompromising sound. (Tip via The Wire.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
ICA talks archived

Decoder, a film by Jürgen Muschalek

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The Burroughs Centenary approaches, and this month sees the 30th anniversary of this Burroughs-related item. Decoder is a low-budget feature film from 1984 written by Klaus Maeck, and directed by Jürgen Muschalek (aka Muscha). Despite the constraints of budget and casting—many of the actors are amateurs—Decoder is truer to the techno-anarchist strand of Burroughs’ fiction than anything attempted before or since, and it’s arguably truer to the spirit of his works as a whole than David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.

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Decoder was shot in Berlin during its grim post-punk years when the city was still an isolated Cold War outpost riven by riots, some of which are seen here. The narrative concerns attempts by FM (played by FM Einheit from Einstürzende Neubauten) to combat the insidious effects of muzak in shops and restaurants using home-made electronics. William Burroughs makes a couple of brief appearances as the “Old Man” with a shop full of electronic components. Among the rest of the cast there’s Christiane Felscherinow in a room filled with frogs, and Genesis P-Orridge (in Psychic TV gear) as the head of an underground pirate cult. Original music is provided by Dave Ball (from Soft Cell) and FM Einheit. The complete score is very good, featuring additional tracks by Soft Cell, Einstürzende Neubauten and Matt Johnson. Watched today, the narrative seems very much a product of its time, and somewhat outmoded. In 1984 home computing was increasingly prevalent, and cheap sound-sampling was just around the corner; Decoder is the last hurrah of an analogue struggle against the agents of the Control Virus.

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It’s a shame Jürgen Muschalek didn’t get to make anything else when he was obviously trying for some kind of cross between Burroughs’s The Electronic Revolution (1970) and Godard’s Alphaville (1965). Low-budget films often suffer visually but this one makes impressive use of vivid lighting and plenty of shadow which helps alleviate some of the weaknesses elsewhere. David Cronenberg has often acknowledged the influence of avant-garde types such as Burroughs and Warhol but his own films tend to be very conservative in their presentation. Muschalek at least tries to parallel some of Burroughs’ fragmented narrative techniques with an abrupt and disjunctive editing style. The film as a whole is much more in tune with the early Industrial Culture ethos than Peter Care’s noir pastiche, Johnny YesNo, but suffered from being more read about than seen in the 1980s. A few copies can be found online. In 2010 it finally appeared on DVD with extra material and a soundtrack disc.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Burroughs Century
Interzone: A William Burroughs Mix
Sine Fiction
The Ticket That Exploded: An Ongoing Opera
Burroughs: The Movie revisited
Zimbu Xolotl Time
Ah Pook Is Here
Jarek Piotrowski’s Soft Machine
Looking for the Wild Boys
Wroblewski covers Burroughs
Mugwump jism
Brion Gysin’s walk, 1966
Burroughs in Paris
William Burroughs interviews
Soft machines
Burroughs: The Movie
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
The Final Academy
William Burroughs book covers
Towers Open Fire