The Outer Church

outer1.jpg

Compilation albums: on the one hand they’re in the lowest echelon of the musical world, all those cheap pop collections you see in any supermarket; on the other they provide an introduction to zones of activity which might seem too rich or too obscure to easily investigate; Soul Jazz Records is a master at this kind of collection.

There’s also another level of compilation album where the collection becomes an opus in its own right, and which can also help to define a new movement or moment. In this category I’d think of favourites such as Kevin Martin’s Isolationism set from 1994 which first identified the emergence of what we now think of as Dark Ambient music; and Devendra Banhart’s The Golden Apples of the Sun (2004) which showcased a new generation of American folk artists. To these I’d add Joseph Stannard’s The Outer Church, a 2-CD set compiled for Front & Follow which is released this month. My hand-crafted, letterpressed edition just arrived so I’ve been relishing the new music after forcing myself to avoid the preview tracks which have been available for the past couple of weeks. Regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that the emphasis is very much on the Hauntological end of things; this blog nurses a Ghost Box fetish, and there are Ghost Box connections in the presence of Pye Corner Audio, Hong Kong In The 60s, and Baron Mordant. The latter pair and another artist, Robin The Fog, all provided tracks for the recent Restligeists, the cassette compilation that came with The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale. Of the new collection, Joseph Stannard says in his notes:

Wind the tape all the way back to Brighton in 2009. The uncanny influence seeping into contemporary music from ‘elsewhere’ had become impossible to ignore. Magazine pieces I had written in my capacity as a music critic were revealed to contain subliminal memos for my own attention. Unusually vivid dreams and unsettling anonymous telephone calls imparted curious instructions. I was to establish a space in which various forms of unheimlich audio would converge with moving images of a similarly anomalous nature. Equipped only with a well-thumbed copy of The Beginner’s Guide To Psychic Architecture, I resolved to build a Church.

This compilation presents a selection of the artists who have performed at The Outer Church, with the exception of illustrious filmmaker and composer Graham Reznick, who lives in faraway Brooklyn and kindly permitted us to screen his tremendous psychedelic campfire tale, I Can See You, in Brighton and Dublin. All of the recordings here are previously unreleased. Together they advance the argument that something weird is stirring in modern music which resists categorisation, manifesting itself in unsettling cadences and temporal distortions across a wide variety of occult strategies.

outer2.jpg

Illustration by Alexander Tucker.

And they aren’t the only ones exploring this territory: Demdike Stare and the very excellent Haxan Cloak might also have been included here. I am, of course, especially partial to any kind of doom-laden timbres, whether electronic, orchestral or guitar-oriented, so I can’t be an unbiased reviewer. But it has been a relief to see contemporary electronica (in the UK at least) find a way out of the rut of abstraction into which it had fallen in the late 1990s. That’s it’s done this by delving into our nation’s long history of ghost and folk mythology is no bad thing. Not all the artists on The Outer Church are attempting to spook their audience; there are songs as well as drones. Hong Kong In The 60s produce the kind of uptempo pop you’d expect from a band with that name. It’s to Stannard’s credit that he manages to sequence things without the mix of styles being too disjunctive.

outer3.jpg

One of the mini-postcards inside the limited edition. Photo by Joseph Stannard.

The first edition of The Outer Church has been selling well so anyone looking for a copy is advised to make haste and use the links on this page. There’s a related event in Brighton this (Friday) evening, and another in Manchester on Saturday. I’m now looking forward to following some of the paths revealed by this opening of the portals.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Ghost Box Study Series
A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Ghost Box

Golden apples and silver apples

yeats.jpg

The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). Cover design by Althea Gyles.

1: The Song of Wandering Aengus by WB Yeats.

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

bradbury.jpg

Illustration by Joe Mugnaini.

2: The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), a story collection by Ray Bradbury.

judycollins.jpg

Cover design by William S. Harvey.

3: Golden Apples of the Sun (1962), the debut album by Judy Collins. The first track is her setting of The Song of Wandering Aengus.

subotnick.jpg

Cover design by William S. Harvey. Artwork by Anthony Martin.

4: The Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), an album of electronic music by Morton Subotnick.

silverapples.jpg

Artwork by Anonymous Arts.

5: Silver Apples (1968), an album of electronic music by Silver Apples.

donovan.jpg

Art Direction by Sid Maurer. Artwork by Patrick.

6: HMS Donovan (1971), a double album of poems for children set to music by Donovan. The second song on side four is The Song of Wandering Aengus.

goldenapples.jpg

Cover by Devendra Banhart.

7: The Golden Apples of the Sun (2004), a freak folk compilation selected by Devendra Banhart for Arthur magazine‘s Bastet label.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Golden Apples of the Sun

Jack Rose, 1971–2009

rose1.jpg

It was a shock this weekend to hear of the sudden death (heart attack, apparently) of American guitarist Jack Rose. I think I saw him perform four times in all, the first occasion being at Spaceland in Los Angeles, 2005, where I snapped this photo which I used for a poster design when he played in Manchester a few months later. His shimmering extemporisations on blues and folk themes that evening were simply stunning and I rushed to buy his Kensington Blues CD as soon as he’d finished. There’s no need to attempt futile descriptions of his talent when you can go to YouTube and discover it for yourself. He was only 38. A great loss to family, friends and music.

rose2.jpg

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Golden Apples of the Sun
Jack Rose returns
Jack Rose in Manchester

Poe at 200

poe.jpg

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

The Golden Apples of the Sun

gaots.jpg

The Golden Apples of the Sun, the first release on Arthur Magazine‘s Bastet label has been one of my favourite compilations of recent years. Golden Apples was/is one of those landmark music anthologies that appear from time to time and seem to fix a moment perfectly as they capture a sudden flourishing of new music, in this instance the emergence of folk/acoustic/post-Old Weird America bands and artists. Devendra Banhart is one of those artists and he compiled the anthology and produced the cover art. The first pressing sold out but it’s now being reissued and you can order a copy here.

This is more than a compilation–it’s expertly sequenced and paced, like one long, slow flow of a particularly rich vibe. Liner notes are by the artists themselves, paying tribute to each other, all handlettered by Devendra, who also provides artwork on cover, back cover, sleeve, tray and the disk itself.

“Essential.” — Mojo, September 2004

“Sparkling.” — The Wire, July 2004

“8.6 (out of 10): [Its] sprawling landscape presents a persuasive case for the depth of a scene that seemingly sprung up (like mushrooms) overnight.” — Pitchfork, July 8, 2004

Track listing:
1. Vetiver (with Hope Sandoval) – “Angel’s Share” (from the “Vetiver” LP)
2. Joanna Newsom – “Bridges and Balloons” (from “The Milk–Eyed Mender” LP)
3. Six Organs of Admittance – “Hazy SF” (previously unreleased)
4. Viking Moses – “Crosses” (from “Crosses”)
5. Josephine Foster – “Little Life” (prev. unreleased home recording)
6. ESPers – “Byss & Abyss” (from “ESPers” LP)
7. Vashti Bunyan & Devendra Banhart – “Rejoicing in the Hands” (from the “Rejoicing in the Hands of the Golden Empress” LP)
8. Jana Hunter – “Farm, CA” (prev. unreleased)
9. Currituck Co. – “The Tropics of Cancer” (from “Ghost Man on First”)
10. White Magic – “Don’t Need” (from the Drag City EP)
11. Iron and Wine – “Fever Dream” (from “Our Endless Numbered Days” LP)
12. Diane Cluck – ” Heat From Every Corner” (from “Macy’s Day Bird”)
13. Matt Valentine – “Mountains of Yaffa” (prev. unreleased)
14. Entrance – “You Must Turn” (prev. unreleased home recording)
15. Jack Rose – “White Mule” (from “Red Horse, White Mule”)
16. Little Wings – “Look at What the Light Did Now” (from “Light Green Leaves”)
17. Scout Niblett – “Wet Road” (from “Sweet Heart Fever”)
18. Troll – “Mexicana” (from “Pathless Lord”)
19. CocoRosie – “Good Friday” (from “La Maison de Mon Reve”)
20. Antony – “The Lake” (from “Live at Saint Olaye’s With Current 93”)

Previously on { feuilleton }
So Much Fire to Roast Human Flesh
Summer of Love Redux