Weekend links 571

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Habit d’Astrologue (c. 1700) by Gerard Valck.

• “The Appointed Cloud begins with the high-pitched, keening sound of many bagpipes noisily playing at once—and then the music slowly coalesces, approaching a peaceful, tranquil hum. This gives way to fast-paced repetitive pulses, reminiscent of the minimalist works of composers such as Terry Riley and Philip Glass. Then the bagpipes join in once more, in a ferocious swarm of energy.” Geeta Dayal on the music of Yoshi Wada.

• “How can we conceive of the time of climate change, the time of planetary death? The House on the Borderland tried to conceive of exactly this a century ago. Yes, the narrator’s acts are fruitless. He gets haplessly carted about the universe to witness the end of time, which never really ends, is always at the edge, nearing an asymptote, on the borderland.” Namwali Serpell journeys through space and time with William Hope Hodgson.

• The Bureau of Lost Culture: DJ Food hosts a podcast discussion with Tony Bennett, founder and publisher of Knockabout Comics.

• Mixes of the week: Isolated Mix 111 (plus interview) by Ian Boddy, and a Wire mix (plus interview) by Teresa Winter.

• Fantastic visions and unknown worlds: Edwin Pouncey on Van Der Graaf Generator’s sleeve art.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Sculptor Kenichi Nakaya reconfigures ubiquitous Japanese rural crafts.

• My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields: “We wanted to sound like a band killing their songs.”

• At Wormwoodiana: More earth mysteries are explored in Northern Earth magazine.

• New music: Black Horses Of The Sun by Dave Bessell.

The Exotica Project: One Hundred Dreamland 45s

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Hans Richter Day.

Mdou Moctar‘s favourite music.

Earth Floor (1985) by Michael Brook | Earth Tribe (1993) by Transglobal Underground | Earth Lights (2012) by Belbury Poly

Sculptured Melodies by Mera Sett

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Another week, another link to the Internet Archive. It’s hard to resist reporting these discoveries when so many are either surprising, much-needed, or—as in this case—fantastically rare and obscure. Sculptured Melodies (1922) was a book of short stories published privately in Britain in an edition of 500 copies. The possibly pseudonymous author and illustrator, Mera Sett, is so off the map that almost all the available information seems to derive from a series of posts about the book by John Hirschhorn Smith of Side Real Press. (The Internet Archive scan is also from Smith’s own copy of the book.) Each story is inspired by a piece of music, and written “in a decadent style reminiscent of Pierre Louÿs”; Orientalist or Ancient World exotica is the predominant tone.

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Whoever the author was, he (it does at least seem to be a he) illustrated his stories in the post-Beardsley idiom that continued to a feature of publishing in the 1920s. The drawings are very much the work of an enthusiastic amateur, although the same might be said of Sett’s better-known contemporary, Alastair (Hans Henning Voigt), another follower in Beardsley’s wake who compensated for his uneven figure drawing with copious decoration and outrageous costumes. Sett also uses decoration to disguise his shortcomings, borrowing some of Aubrey’s Japonisme peacocks along with other motifs from Persian and Indian art. The latter details suggest an unexplored artistic avenue that blends Beardsley’s black-and-white style with the tableaux of Persian miniatures.

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Continue reading “Sculptured Melodies by Mera Sett”

Weekend links 420

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• I’ve wondered for years why there was such a difference in quality between Plight & Premonition (1988) and Flux + Mutability (1989), a pair of instrumental albums by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay. The former warrants repeated listening while the latter…doesn’t. David Sylvian‘s reminiscences about the recording sessions are enlightening.

• “There’s something evil and dangerous that is too old to comprehend.” Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, directors of The Endless, talk to Virginie Sélavy about the creepiness of recorded media, the science of the supernatural and their belated readings of HP Lovecraft.

• “I hope my site will inspire people to see the world a different way,” says Nicolas Winding Refn, writing about the forthcoming launch of byNWR.com, a home for his collection of restored cult films. Good to see Night Tide (1961) by Curtis Harrington among the titles.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2018 so far. Thanks again for the link here! Also: Laura Dern Day.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 660 by 7FO, and Light Entertainment Programme: PRExotica 1914–1952 by Jesús Bacalão.

David Bennun on thirty years of the animated masterpiece that is Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira.

Diane Mehta on the rare women in the rare book trade. Related: Pyewacket Books.

• At Greydogtales: One hundred years of Philip José Farmer.

• In Paris, an omnivorous Asian phantasmagoria.

• The Strange World of…Jon Hassell.

Night Tide (1994) by Scorn | Dark Noontide (2002) by Six Organs Of Admittance | Flowery Noontide (2004) by Espers

Exotica!

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Hypnotique by Martin Denny (1959).

In Waikiki, where I live whenever I get the chance, a bistro known as the Daggar Bar and its accompanying Bora Bora Lounge has for some time been the mecca of people who enjoy a new type of music. I’m one of the gang that gathers there to hear the fresh, clean tropical sounds of Martin Denny and his group.

By the time James Michener wrote the sleeve notes for Hypnotique, Martin Denny‘s fifth album, the composer was attempting to broaden his horizons and outpace his imitators by introducing strings and vocals to augment his “fresh, clean tropical sounds”. This perhaps explains the curious jumble of objects on the album sleeve (a rifle?), my favourite among the wonderful covers Liberty Records’ art department supplied for Denny’s work. The best of these feature model Sandy Warner who appears in a variety of guises, shown here as a cross between a Japanese temptress (if we take the paper mobiles as a cue) and a precursor of Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams. The art direction was by Bill Pate with photography by Garrett-Howard.

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top left: Exotica (1957); top right: Primitiva (1958).
bottom left: Afro-Desia (1959); bottom right: Exotica vol. III (1959).

Sandy Warner appeared on 16 album sleeves for Denny and was even persuaded to record an album of her own to capitalise on her renown as “Miss Exotica”. In design terms, these sleeves are some of the more successful products of the late Fifties’ fad for tribal kitsch. Other covers were crazier or more garish—and few could resist flaunting a bikini-clad woman—but Bill Pate showed more care with his layouts and Sandy Warner’s alluring presence went a long way towards conjuring the required mystique. Denny’s records aren’t too bad either although when it comes to tiki-fuelled easy listening I tend to prefer his rival Arthur Lyman, especially Taboo from 1958.

Large copies of the covers shown here can been seen at Shellac.org. There are many more sites with galleries devoted to this style of music and sleeve art; Space Age Pop A Go-Go and 317x are two of the better ones. And let’s not forget Dana Countryman’s Virtual Museum of Unusual LP Covers or LP Cover Lover (check the great blogroll) or the Retro Records Flickr Pool

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive