Weekend links 434

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Group X, No. 1, Altarpiece (1915) by Hilma af Klint.

“Like Kandinsky, and other pioneers of abstract art, af Klint was deeply immersed in theosophy and anthroposophy. But she seems to have taken that interest much further than her male counterparts, participating in (and later leading) séances with a group of women friends. Whatever the spirits said, af Klint did.” Nana Asfour on pioneering abstract painter, Hilma af Klint.

• Four electronic artists reflect on the influence of composer Laurie Spiegel. Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe (1980) is reissued by Unseen Worlds next month. Related: Laurie Spiegel in 1977 playing the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer.

• At Expanding Mind: Gurdjieffean writer and DuVersity director Anthony Blake talks with Erik Davis about dialogue, synergy, mind between brains, the trouble with teachers, and the gymnasium of beliefs in higher intelligence.

• Mixes of the week: Flashing Noise Mix by Tim Gane, Secret Thirteen Mix 268 by Bérangère Maximin, and Samhain Séance Seven: A Very Dark Place – Prologue by The Ephemeral Man.

Geeta Dayal on Broken Music (1989), a book about sound art edited by Ursula Block and Michael Glasmeier which is now available in a new edition from Primary Information.

• The Sainsbury Archive showcases the graphic design of several decades of the supermarket chain’s products.

• More of the usual suspects: Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore in 2006 discussing Moorcock’s career.

• “Karloff the Uncanny”: Joe Dante talks to Stephanie Sporn about the attraction of old film posters.

Mexico City, another preview (and a psychedelic one) of Randall Dunn’s forthcoming solo album.

• At Haute Macabre: Timeless Phantom Interludes: The Photography of Jason Blake.

Mark Valentine on the current state of Britain’s secondhand book shops.

• At I Love Typography: Unicorns, Frogs and the Sausage Supper Affair.

• “I never wanted to be a cult film-maker,” says John Waters.

• Artist Arik Roper chooses some favourite album covers.

Broken Head (1978) by Eno, Moebius, Roedelius | Broken Horse (1984) by Rain Parade | Broken Aura (2000) by Coil

Weekend links 307

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Demon (2014) from the Witch Series by Camille Chew.

• Released next month, Machines Of Desire is the first album of new music by Peter Baumann since Strangers In The Night in 1983. Baumann’s first two solo albums, Romance 76 (1976) and Trans Harmonic Nights (1979), are exceptional works of analogue electronica that frequently outmatch his former colleagues in Tangerine Dream. Both albums have been unavailable for over 20 years so it’s good to know that Cherry Red are reissuing them at the end of May (see here and here).

• RIP Jenny Diski whose death from cancer wasn’t a surprise when she’d been writing about her condition for many months. Linked here in 2013 was this pre-diagnosis meditation on death that takes in Nabokov, Beckett and Francis Bacon (philosopher, not artist). “Jenny offered a living example of how, sometimes, compassion can be born of misanthropy,” says Justin EH Smith. The LRB’s archive of Diski writings is currently free to all.

Murder by Remote Control, a graphic novel by artist Paul Kirchner and writer Janwillem van de Wetering that “resembles a Raymond Chandler-esque noir ‘whodunnit,’ viewed through the psychotropic lens of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky”.

Inspired by Gore Vidal’s 1968 satirical novel, Myra Breckinridge which was denounced as obscene by conservatives, [Boyd] McDonald embarked on a radically, offensive publication, one that avoided the sexless influence of middle class gay mores that sought to whitewash the homosexual experience in order to present a more palatable image of assimilated gays to the general society. This political strategy was successful in achieving gay marriage and more tolerance, but, in the opinion of McDonald, came at a cost. Straight to Hell was in fact the first queer zine. Utilizing erotic photos, interviews and news, McDonald saw it as a “newsletter for us,” the small group of deviates who were its earliest subscribers.

Walter Holland reviewing True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell by William E. Jones

• “HP Lovecraft’s…fascination with all things tentacular and aquatic is unmistakably imprinted on Evolution“, a new film by Lucile Hadzihalilovic. Watch the trailer.

• At Dangerous Minds: Broken, the notorious Nine Inch Nails video collection with “snuff movie” interludes by Peter Christopherson, is available online (again).

BEAK> (Geoff Barrow & Billy Fuller) make “claustrophobic, hypnotic music, drawing…on krautrock, post-punk and Interstellar-Overdrive psychedelia”.

• Mixes of the week: Bacchus Beltane 3 : The Age of Abrasax by The Ephemeral Man, and Secret Thirteen Mix 183 by December.

Tease by Jan Rattia, photographs of male strippers on display at ClampArt, NYC.

Wu Zei (2010), a sea-monster sculpture by Huang Yong Ping.

• “I was born weird,” says Robert Crumb.

Sacred Revelation by Susanna

Broken Head (1978) by Eno, Moebius & Roedelius | Broken Horse (1984) by Rain Parade | Broken Harbours (Part 1) (2001) by Stars Of The Lid

Weekend links 276

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Beautiful Void: Holy Void II (2015) by Andy Diaz Hope.

• “Feeling like a woman. Looking like a man.” Rick Poynor on the cover art for Nightclubbing by Grace Jones. Related: A One Man Show, Jean-Paul Goude’s essential film of Jones’ 1982 tour where many of the songs are better than their album versions.

• Crammed Discs’ revival of the Made To Measure series continues with the release in October of Blue Velvet Revisited by Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name, a soundtrack from the Peter Braatz documentary about David Lynch’s film.

• “We were learning from point zero; we created something that wasn’t around before…” Hans-Joachim Roedelius talking to Bruce Tantum about his work with Cluster and Harmonia.

• “In the Shangri-La pool there are no floating impurities. Apart from myself.” Iain Sinclair swims in “the highest pool in Europe” on the 52nd floor of The Shard, London.

• From 2012: “Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific” by Benjamin K. Tippett.

• After 23 years of delays and bootleg versions, Backwards by Coil is being given an official release.

• “Relaxed terror”, “perky dismay” and “unspecified uncertainty”: library music at Scarfolk.

• Mix of the week: a 4-hour collection of favourite music compiled by Autechre.

Masakazu Shirane and Reuben Young make a human-size kaleidoscope.

• “I always was a weird child,” says John Waters.

• A new version of Argent by Jane Weaver.

Chaos Magic (sic): The Fashion Trend

Void (2009) by Monolake | Void (2011) by Emptyset | Void (2014) by The Bug feat. Liz Harris

Weekend links 269

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Grosses Wasser (1979) by Cluster. Cover art by Dieter Moebius.

• RIP Dieter Moebius: one half of Cluster (with Hans-Joachim Roedelius), one third of Harmonia (with Roedelius and Michael Rother), and collaborator with many other musicians, including Brian Eno and Conny Plank. Geeta Dayal, who interviewed Moebius for Frieze in 2012, chose five favourite recordings. From 2008: Cosmic Outriders: the music of Cluster and Harmonia by Mark Pilkington. At the Free Music Archive: Harmonia playing at ATP, New York in 2008. Live recordings of Cluster in the 1970s have always been scarce but in 1977 they played a droning set at the Metz Science-Fiction Festival, a performance that was broadcast on FM radio (the Eno credit there seems to be an error).

• “I’ve since had the feeling that, if the attacks against The Satanic Verses had taken place today, these people would not have defended me, and would have used the same arguments against me, accusing me of insulting an ethnic and cultural minority.” Salman Rushdie on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo killings.

• “The effect of these memories is to make you think you know the film better than you do, and wonder what it’s like actually to sit down and watch it.” Michael Wood on rewatching Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). Related: Tipping My Fedora on the film’s source novel, Badge of Evil (1956).

“To me, it’s simple,” he says. “Fantasy became as bland as everything else in entertainment. To be a bestseller, you’ve got to rub the corners off. The more you can predict the emotional arc of a book, the more successful it will become.

“I do understand that Game of Thrones is different. It has its political dimensions; I’m very fond of the dwarf and I’m very pleased that George [R R Martin], who’s a good friend, has had such a huge success. But ultimately it’s a soap opera. In order to have success on that scale, you have to obey certain rules. I’ve had conversations with fantasy writers who are ambitious for bestseller status and I’ve had to ask them, ‘Yes, but do you want to have to write those sorts of books in order to get there?’”

Michael Moorcock talking to Andrew Harrison about fantasy, science fiction, the past and the present.

• “Architects love Blade Runner, they just go bonkers. When I was working on the film, it was all about, let’s jam together Byzantine and Mayan and Post-Modern and even a little bit of Memphis, just mash it all together.” Designer and visual futurist Syd Mead talking to Patrick Sisson.

• “Lucian of Samosata’s True History reads like a doomed acid trip,” says Cecilia D’Anastasio, who wonders whether or not the book can be regarded as the earliest work of science fiction.

• Mixes of the week: A Tribute to Dieter Moebius by Vegan Logic, and another by Totallyradio.

• The Phantasmagoria of the First Hand-Painted Films by Joshua Yumibe.

Islamic Geometric: calligraphic tessellations by Shakil Akram Khan.

Michael Prodger on The Dangerous Mind of Richard Dadd.

A chronological list of synth scores and soundtracks.

Touch Of Evil (Main Theme) (1958) by Henry Mancini | Badge Of Evil (1982) by Cabaret Voltaire | Touch Of Evil (2009) by Jaga Jazzist

A cluster of Cluster

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Harmonia somewhere in the 1970s: Michael Rother, Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius.

Continuing the occasional { feuilleton } series exploring the byways of musical culture, this month it’s the turn of German group Cluster, prompted by their current US tour. News of their re-emergence sent me back to the albums and I’ve been listening to little else for the past week or two.

cluster.jpgMark Pilkington has very conveniently saved me the trouble of summing up the wandering history of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius in their various incarnations with his introductory piece, Cosmic Outriders: the music of Cluster & Harmonia. Unlike many of their Krautrock contemporaries, Moebius and Roedelius have remained very active, Roedelius particularly has an extensive solo discography. I’ve never been very taken with their work since the early Eighties, however. I have an inordinate fondness for the analogue keyboards which contribute to their early sound; as the Eighties progressed they took to using digital keyboards and their music lost much of its previous charm as a result.

The Cluster discography is very long and confused, encompassing Kluster (pre-Cluster line-up with Conrad Schnitzler), Cluster, Harmonia (Cluster with Michael Rother from Neu!), Cluster with Brian Eno, then Moebius and Roedelius’s numerous solo works and collaborations with other artists. As a result, a guide such as this is useful for the curious. So here we go with another blog list…

ClusterCluster 71 (1971)
A timeless racket. Three long noisy slabs of synth distortion that make the first two noisy Kraftwerk albums seem positively melodic. This could easily be passed off as an unreleased Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire album.

ClusterCluster II (1972)
The second album continues the granular challenge but lets some light and music into the mix.

HarmoniaDeluxe (1975)
I prefer the second Harmonia album to the first, and prefer both to Cluster’s third opus, Zuckerzeit, recorded around the same time as this. Michael Rother’s involvement in Harmonia pushes the sound very close to Neu! in places, especially the more melodic strains of Neu! 75.

HarmoniaHarmonia 76: Tracks & Traces (1976)
Albums of studio outtakes are usually for die-hard listeners only but this one is surprisingly good with an outstanding long atmospheric piece, Sometimes In Autumn. Brian Eno was hanging out with Cluster by this point and he contributes a vocal on Luneberg Heath.

ClusterSowiesoso (1976)
The most melodic and relaxed of all the Cluster albums and the one which birthed a host of inferior copyists on the Sky label.

Cluster & Eno (1977)
Recorded at around the same time as By This River on Eno’s Before And After Science. Holger Czukay from Can is a guest on the Eno albums.

Eno, Moebius & Roedelius—After The Heat (1978)
Of the two Cluster & Eno albums this is probably the best and ends with three Eno songs which turned out to be his last vocal works until Nerve Net in 1992. Note that the CD reissue has a different (and in my view, inferior) track ordering to the vinyl original.

ClusterGrosses Wasser (1979)
Produced by ex-Tangerine Dream member Peter Baumann and recorded at his studio which gave the Cluster guys the opportunity to use his superior synth equipment. As a result a couple of the tracks here are very similar to Baumann’s solo work.

Moebius & PlankRastakraut Pasta (1980)
This album and its follow-up should be added to the list of works which influenced Eno & Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The opening track News, features sampled radio voices (as per later Eno & Byrne) mixed with a plodding rhythm that includes a recurrent synth note that’s the spit of similar sounds used on My Life.

Moebius & Plank—Material (1981)
Genius producer Conny Plank brought out the best in many of the artists he worked with and these two collaborations with Moebius are a great example of that. He had a similar effect with Roedelius on an early solo album, Durch die Wüste, moving Roedelius out of his ambient keyboards comfort zone. The tone on Material is more strident and uptempo than Rastakraut Pasta, especially on Tollkühn which is like some mad techno synth run ten years too early.

Cluster and co. on YouTube
Cluster 71
Harmonia—Deluxe (Immer Wieder)
Cluster—Sowiesoso
Cluster & Eno—Für Luise
Brian Eno—By This River

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Avant Garde Project
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode
Chrome: Perfumed Metal
Metabolist: Goatmanauts, Drömm-heads and the Zuehl Axis
The music of Igor Wakhévitch
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts