Weekend links 466

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The Simulator (1936) by Dora Maar.

• Surprise of the week for me was the discovery of a new album, Kshatrya – The Eye Of The Bird, by cult French composer Igor Wakhévitch. This had been out for a while but I’d managed to miss the announcements. The music was recorded in 1999 so isn’t exactly new but it’s the first new Wakhévitch release (as opposed to a reissue or compilation) since Let’s Start in 1979. Very good it is too, almost completely electronic but not as discordant as his synth-dominated Hathor album.

• “Popol Vuh is a Mass for the heart.” Gerhard Augustin talks to Florian Fricke about Popol Vuh’s music in a “rare” (lost? previously unseen?) interview. Undated but the City Raga album is referred to as a recent release so it’s probably around 1995.

Brian Dillon on the voraciousness and oddity of Dora Maar’s pictures. Related: Rick Poynor on The Simulator by Dora Maar.

The Secret Ceremonies: Critical Essays on Arthur Machen, edited by Mark Valentine and Timothy J. Jarvis.

Juliette Goodrich on the tale of the Buchla synthesizer, the repair engineer, and a dormant drop of LSD.

Scott Tobias on Midnight Cowboy at 50: why the X-rated best picture winner endures.

• A Hidden History of Women and Psychedelics by Mariavittoria Mangini.

• Previews of Chords, the new album by composer Ellen Arkbro.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 290 by Mark Stewart.

• “Somehow I became respectable,” says John Waters.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Walerian Borowczyk Day.

• The Bandcamp Guide to Earth.

Gén #1 by Ray Kunimoto.

Secret Ceremony (Theme From Brond) (1987) by Scala (Bill Nelson & Daryl Runswick) | Healing Ceremony (1990) by African Head Charge | Ceremony Behind Screens (1995) by David Toop

Weekend links 415

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The Creation of the Birds (1957) by Remedios Varo.

• “I think my music is very modern and very old. Together.” Sandy Robertson interviewed Popol Vuh’s Florian Fricke for Sounds in 1981. The Fricke-directed Sei Still Wisse ICH BIN referred to in the feature may be viewed here. Further Vuh-ing: Popol Vuh on Beat Club, 1971; a news clip of the group from the same year; a filmed improvisation from around the same time (Florian still had his Moog); and the group miming to recorded music from a year or two later.

• More Rammellzee (see last week): Gothic Futurism, a video collage based on Rammellzee’s treatise of the same name. Probably the only place you’ll ever see Rammellzee, the late Glenn Branca and art historian Kenneth Clark thrown together.

• After releasing 5 albums, Disjointed Oddities And Other Such Things is the first EP of “odd strange electronics, psych, Radiophonics, drone and quirky folk” by Keith Seatman.

Alina Cohen on Remedios Varo, a Spanish Surrealist painter whose work has been receiving increased attention in recent years but whose life remains under-examined.

• More German music: “I grew up in total ruins”—Irmin Schmidt of Can on LSD, mourning and musical adventures.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 655 by Matthewdavid, and The Monday Is Okay mix by JQ.

Olivia Laing, Sarah Wood and Philip Hoare discuss Modern Nature by Derek Jarman.

National Geographic has digitized its collection of 6,000+ vintage maps.

• At Bandcamp: The Transcendental Sound of Moroccan Gnawa Music.

Joe Fletcher on the nightmarish dream logic of Bruno Schulz.

Levi Stahl on the mind of Donald E. Westlake.

Affenstunde (1970) by Popol Vuh | Toy Planet (1981) by Irmin Schmidt & Bruno Spoerri | Adithaim (2005) by The Cracow Klezmer Band

Aguirre by Popol Vuh

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Design by Sawyer Studios, painting by Michael J Deas.

If you’re a music obsessive d’un certain âge it’s a common thing to get bees in your bonnet about the reissues of favourite albums. For Krautrock aficionados the reissues of Popol Vuh‘s releases have been more frustrating than most. Aguirre was the band’s seventh album released in 1976, four years after Werner Herzog’s film, Aguirre, The Wrath of God, for which the group provided a score and from which the album borrows its title.

The album isn’t quite a soundtrack—although it contains a snatch of ethnic music from the film and a recurrent theme—and it’s also less of a whole than the albums which preceded and followed it. The film’s ethereal title theme was played by Florian Fricke on a “choir-organ“, a mysterious Mellotron-like instrument which had previously been employed by Amon Düül II. The rest of the album was fleshed out with variations on tracks from earlier Popol Vuh releases, none of which are used in the film. Side 2 of the vinyl edition featured a single track entitled Vergegenwärtigung (Visualisation) which is also absent from the film and whose doomy ambience would have been more suited to Herzog’s later Nosferatu the Vampyre. This lengthy piece is a drifting slab of drone-werk which would have been recorded in the early 1970s when Florian still had his enormous Moog synth. It’s probably the most minimal thing in the whole Krautrock canon, sounding at times like a lost fifth track from Zeit, Tangerine Dream’s collection of drones which featured Florian as a guest performer. As such Vergegenwärtigung is an overlooked, if minor, piece of Kosmische electronica which has only ever been available on vinyl. And there, dear reader, is the rub.

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No designer credited but it was probably Peter Geitner.

The various CD reissues of the album added and removed tracks from the band’s catalogue seemingly at random. I have the Spalax reissue which featured the film’s title theme then nothing else from the original album, the following tracks being the entirety of Popol Vuh’s second album, In Den Gärten Pharaos, and a beautiful solo piano suite, Spirit of Peace. Yes, it’s nice to have them there but, you know…it’s not Aguirre! When a Japanese edition appeared in 2006 the track they call Vergegenwärtigung turned out to be the errant electronic piece with additional pieces of music layered over it for no apparent reason. The Japanese are usually very good with CD reissues so this was a particular disappointment. After many years of living with a ruined vinyl copy of the album it was gratifying this weekend to find an mp3 of the original of Vergegenwärtigung which can be downloaded here. For the moment you’re unlikely to find it anywhere else.

YouTube has some choice Popol Vuh moments including a Florian Fricke Moog improvisation from 1971 and the band miming to Kyrie from the Hosianna Mantra album. Most fascinating for me has always been this scene from Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser with Florian playing a blind pianist. The music is a variation on his Agnus Dei theme which he obsessively reworked on several Popol Vuh albums and which is also one of the highlights of Aguirre.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A cluster of Cluster

A playlist for Halloween: Drones and atmospheres

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Cover painting by Edgar Froese.

I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim,
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge or lustre or name.

HP Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark, 1935.

It’s become traditional to do this each Halloween so here we go again with another music list, ten releases to soundtrack your way into another world. Should you be curious, a number of these works are probably difficult to find but a couple of the Discogs links have YouTube clips on the pages. Some of the selections were featured on an earlier list but this time they’re grouped with similar recordings.

Zeit (1972) by Tangerine Dream
All you need is Zeit. I was tempted to write an entire post extolling the virtues of my favourite Tangerine Dream album, to note how I’ve been listening to it for thirty years and will never tire of it, to mention how much I love Edgar Froese’s Black Sun cover painting (which ties it to another pet obsession of mine), how much I relish its pretentious subtitle “A largo in four movements” and the cello drones which open Birth Of Liquid Plejades then grade to Moog doodles by Popol Vuh’s Florian Fricke; the endless rumbling, howling minimalism of the whole enterprise… This was an enormously audacious album for its time which predicts many of the subsequent recordings on this list. One of the Kosmische masterworks, and so far out there that every move made by the group thereafter could only be a retreat.

Nature Unveiled (1984) by Current 93
Much as I respect David Tibet for his championing of esoteric culture I’ve never much liked the music he produces. The first Current 93 album was an interesting collage work, however, created by a kind of supergroup from the Industrial music scene of the time which included members of Coil, Nurse With Wound and 23 Skidoo. The second side provides an ideal Halloween piece with The Mystical Body of Christ in Chorazaim, a blending of Gregorian loops and guitar feedback over which Annie Anxiety rants in Spanish about…penises? I still don’t know. The whole thing sounds like something you’d expect to be playing over the landscapes in Wayne Barlowe’s Inferno.

Soliloquy For Lilith (1988) by Nurse With Wound
As for Nurse With Wound, this collection of eight electronic (?) drones achieves the typical NWW state of being simultaneously fascinating and irritating in equal measure.

Nunatak Gongamur (1990) by Thomas Köner
The master of what he calls “grey noise” made his first album by “miking-up gongs, then rubbing, scraping and electronically treating the sounds to the point where their origin is unrecognisable.” (More.) The result very effectively conjures the icy wastes alluded to by its title, and would make a perfect soundtrack for reading Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness or The Terror by Dan Simmons.

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How To Destroy Angels. Cover painting by Derek Jarman.

How To Destroy Angels (Remixes and Re-Recordings) (1992) by Coil
Coil created a similar effect to Köner by treating the sounds of their first 12″ release from 1984 to electronic processing, stretching metallic noises into reverberant shudders. One of the remixes is by Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound, while track title Dismal Orb will always make me think of the cover of Zeit.

The Monstrous Soul (1992) by Lustmord
Almost everything released by Lustmord could be labelled “drones and atmospheres” and choosing one doom-laden work over another is a difficult matter. I opted for this one on account of its occult track titles and the well-chosen dialogue samples from The Night of the Demon.

Treetop Drive (1994) by Deathprod
One from the 2006 list. I couldn’t say it any better than I did four years ago: Helge Sten is a Norwegian electronic experimentalist whose solo work is released under the Deathprod name. “Electronic” these days often means using laptops and the latest keyboard and sampling equipment. Deathprod music is created on old equipment which renders its provenance opaque leaving the listener to concentrate on the sounds rather than be troubled by how they might have been created. The noises on the deceptively-titled Treetop Drive are a disturbing series of slow loops with squalling chords, anguished shrieks and some massive foghorn rumble that seems to emanate from the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker. Play it in the dark and feel the world ending.

Night Passage (1998) by Alan Lamb
Not music at all but treated sounds made from recordings of a length of telegraph wire vibrated by the wind somewhere in Western Australia. Night Passage Demixed was a collection of remixes by artists including Thomas Köner and Lustmord’s Brian Williams.

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Design by Julian House.

Ouroborindra (2006) by Eric Zann
Another from the 2006 list and the most deliberately horror-oriented work on the Ghost Box label. An artist name borrowed from HP Lovecraft and track titles from Arthur Machen.

The Air Is On Fire (2007) by David Lynch
David Lynch’s friend and genius of a sound designer Alan Splet created the template for many of the works listed here with his groundbreaking soundtrack for Eraserhead in 1976. Following his death in 1994 Lynch’s films have never had quite the same feel of visceral menace despite their considerable qualities in other areas. This CD was created by Lynch himself for an exhibition of his paintings and other artwork, and if it doesn’t possess the uncanny otherness of Splet’s rumblings it still makes for some very disturbing listening. Far better than recent Lynchian musical excursions like the Blue Bob album, and well worth seeking out.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Thomas Köner
A playlist for Halloween
Ghost Box