Weekend links 328

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Feathers and Weights (2016) by Susan Jamison.

• The latest release from A Year In The Country is No More Unto The Dance, “a reflection of nightlife memories and the search for the perfect transportative electronic beat”.

Depero Futurista (1927), the bolted book showcasing the artistic work of Fortunato Depero, returns in a facsimile edition.

• This week in the occult: Sam Kean on 21st-century alchemists, and a second volume of The Occult Activity Book.

How could so many jazz critics have overlooked Davis’s powerful trumpet playing on Bitches Brew, and its continuities with his previous work? The reason for their bewilderment was, in large part, the brew, the music’s muddy electric bottom, which bore no resemblance to the jazz they knew. Davis had never been a pure bopper, but his music had always made allusion, however oblique, to the grammar of Parker and Gillespie. On Bitches Brew, Davis decisively broke with his roots in bop. As [George] Grella argues, building on the pivotal work of Greg Tate and Paul Tingen, the more revealing points of comparison were no longer to be found in jazz but in the psychedelic guitar of Jimi Hendrix, the warbled vocals of Sly Stone, and the bass lines of James Brown.

Adam Shatz on Miles Davis

Daniel Wenger on Bob Mizer, “the obsessive photographer behind America’s first gay magazine”.

The Hauntings at Tankerton Park, a book of words and very detailed drawings by Reggie Oliver.

• A 40-minute performance by Pentangle for Norwegian television in 1968.

Maisie Skidmore on ten things you may not know about René Magritte.

• Shirley Collins is the secret queen of England, says Nick Abrahams.

Eighth Climate: ethnographic recordings from the imaginal world.

Pasquale Iannone on five ways to recognise a Pasolini film.

The greatest record sleeves, as chosen by the designers.

Cosmic Horror, new comics work by Ibrahim R. Ineke.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 569 by S U R V I V E.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 47 unmade films.

Cosmic Dancer (1971) by T. Rex | Cosmic Slop (1973) by Funkadelic | Cosmic Tango (1973) by Ash Ra Tempel

The Last Angel of History: Afrofuturism, science fiction and electronic music

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There’s been a resurgence of interest recently in Afrofuturism (see this recent newspaper article, and this site), not before time when the term has been around since 1993. The concept itself goes back a long way, at least as far as the remarkable body of work produced by Sun Ra (1914–1993) whose vast discography dates from 1956 and has to be considered the first concerted attempt to craft an expansive cosmic/futuristic mythos in music.

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Sun Ra and his Arkestra make fleeting appearances in The Last Angel of History (1997), a 45-minute documentary by John Akomfrah which looks at Afrofuturism via its manifestations in fiction, contemporary music, and in space travel. The connecting tissue is a somewhat dated bit of cyperpunk fluff but it’s worth sticking around for the cast of interviewees. On the musical side there’s George Clinton, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, DJ Spooky, Goldie, and A Guy Called Gerald; on the writing side there’s Ishmael Reed (whose early novels would have been published by my colleagues at Savoy Books if the company hadn’t gone bust in the early 80s), Samuel R. Delany (Savoy did publish one of his novels), Octavia Butler, Kodwo Eshun and Greg Tate; Nichelle Nichols has a chance to talk about something other than Star Trek for once since she helped with NASA’s recruitment programme. There’s also Bernard A. Harris Jr, one of the first African-Americans in space. The techno-fetishism seems overheated now that we’ve all calmed down about computers and the internet but that doesn’t negate the important points: sf as a reflection of the present moment, and as a means to imagine a different situation or way of life. With 2014 being Sun Ra’s centenary year I’m anticipating a lot more of this.

The Last Angel of History: part 1 | part 2 | part 3

Previously on { feuilleton }
Rammellzee RIP

Rammellzee RIP

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Rammellzee.

I consider that immortality is the only goal worth striving for: immortality in space. Man is an artefact created for space travel.
William Burroughs, 1982

We have to leave this tasteless mould of a planet.
Rammellzee, 2004

It’s fitting that a post about the late Rammellzee should follow one about Brion Gysin even if the circumstances aren’t those one would wish. Before he was involved in music Rammellzee was a graffiti artist and the convoluted mythologising which he later wove around the art of the graffiti tag—and his obsession with words and their meaning—bears comparison with Gysin and Burroughs’ similar mythologising, their theories about the viral origins of language. Look at Gysin’s calligraphic paintings (which he based on Arabic script) and you’ll see an exact analogue with the stylisations of graffiti taggers.

Given all of that, it’s even more fitting that Rammellzee was one of the voices chosen by Bill Laswell to set beside William Burroughs on Material’s finest forty minutes, Seven Souls, in 1989. I knew that voice from the great 1983 single he made with K-Rob, Beat Bop, one of many highlights on the best of the Street Sounds compilations, Electro 2, so it was a pleasant surprise finding it on the album which remains the best musical work that Burroughs was involved with. Rammellzee’s subsequent recordings with Laswell and others evolved an elaborate strain of what’s now known as Afrofuturism which he extended into paintings, collages and sculptural work. When you look at his detailed, science fiction philosophies, or at the underwater mythologies of Drexciya, it’s evident that there’s a rich seam of the African-American imagination which exactly parallels Burroughs’ visionary work. Visionaries right now are in short supply; we can’t afford to lose another.

Rammellzee: The Remanipulator versus Syntactical Virus by Peter Shapiro (1997)
No Guts No Galaxy—Rammellzee & phonosycographDISK (1999)
Rammellzee: The Ikonoklast Samurai by Greg Tate (2004)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Street Sounds Electro
The art of Shinro Ohtake