Weekend links 519

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Cover of Minotaure no. 8 (1936) by Salvador Dalí.

• At Dangerous Minds: Irmin Schmidt talks to Oliver Hall about his new album of prepared piano, Nocturne, and also reveals more about the planned release of live recordings by Can.

• “Even the most zealous fan of the genre can learn something new from this book,” says Geeta Dayal in a review of Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop, by Nate Patrin.

• The subject of a previous post but the video was later removed: Italo Calvino in a rare documentary feature for an English audience, on the BBC’s Bookmark in 1985.

• On 9th May, carillonneur Malgosia Fiebig played The Model by Kraftwerk on the bells of the Dom Tower in Utrecht as a tribute to the late Florian Schneider.

• Film footage of Alice Coltrane in her prime is a rare thing so even 17 minutes of TV from 1970 is something special.

Dan Reynolds on the fantastic alphabets designed by Jean Midolle. See also Luc Devroye’s page.

• Mix of the week: Jon Hassell tribute, part 1: Jon and his collaborators, by Dave Maier.

Nicolas Winding Refn on some of the films he’s been watching during lockdown.

• At Haute Macabre: Surrealist décor and tiny secret drawers.

HP Lovecraft dreams of a Providence trolley car in 1927.

The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

Xerrox Voyage, a new recording by Alva Noto.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jean-Pierre Léaud Day.

The Model (1979) by Snakefinger | Model (1992) by The Balanescu Quartet | Das Modell (1997) by Rammstein

Picturing On Land

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The ruined tower of All Saints Church, Dunwich, 1919.

I became interested in inventing places for sounds. I often listen to music and get a picture of a certain time of day, a certain type of light. I did that with On Land: for each piece I had an image of a time of day. On Land is specifically dedicated to the idea of creating places in music. — Brian Eno

My recent reading has included a couple of novels by the Strugatsky Brothers, and The Rings of Saturn (1995) by WG Sebald, a book I’d been intending to read for many years. The Sebald is a semi-fictionalised account of the author’s walking tour through Suffolk in the early 1990s, an account interleaved with extended detours into personal memory, history and literature, with the text being augmented by grainy and often indistinct pictures or photographs. The book has acquired something of a cult reputation in recent years, and its digressions touch on a couple of cult areas of my own, notably Jorge Luis Borges (via his story, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius) and, less directly, the music group Coil, whose Batwings (A Limnal Hymn) is evoked via a description of Thomas Browne’s catalogue of imagined objects, the Musaeum Clausum. Coincidentally, Thomas Browne is mentioned in the Borges story although Sebald cleverly leaves this as something for the curious reader to discover.

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Suffolk is itself a curious county, in the sense of being strange, verging on the weird. The place is rich in British history—its situation on England’s eastern shore made it a site of various invasions—and weird enough to almost be considered Weird in the literary sense, even without fictional resonances from MR James (“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”, A Warning to the Curious), Robert Aickman (Ringing the Changes) and, tangentially, HP Lovecraft, who took the name of the sea-devoured town of Dunwich for one of his Massachusetts settings.

Sebald doesn’t mention weird fiction and he also doesn’t mention (and quite possibly never heard of) Brian Eno, but Eno’s fourth album in his Ambient series, On Land, was continually in my mind while reading, owing to the intersection of the places that Sebald visits with the titles of several of Eno’s pieces. The most obvious of these is the last track on the album, Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960, but equally Suffolkian are Lantern Marsh, and Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills), the latter being a wood situated between Woodbridge and Melton, two of the places that Sebald passes through. Eno was born in Woodbridge, and On Land is as much concerned with unreliable (or semi-fictional) memories as The Rings of Saturn, something that Eno compares in his notes to Fellini’s semi-fictional film about his own childhood, Amarcord. Sebald’s descriptions sent me searching for pictures of Eno’s localities, especially the less familiar ones like Lantern Marsh and Leeks Hill. (Suffolk’s Dunwich is much more familiar to Britons owing to its long history of being eaten away by coastal erosion.) This in turn gave me the idea of trying to find a collection of suitably Sebaldian pictures for each track on the album, pictures that would be generally accurate but might equally be vague enough to suggest something more than the place or (in the case of painter Pierre Tal-Coat) the person in question.

Continue reading “Picturing On Land”

Double weird

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Two of the books whose covers I was working on late last year have been announced so here they are. This is more work for PS Publishing where wraparound covers are the standard, so once again I was able to work in a pictorial, landscape format. (PS also do their design in-house so I only did the art this time. Click on the pictures below for larger views.)

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Apostles of the Weird is a collection of contemporary weird fiction edited by ST Joshi:

Weird fiction is an incredibly rich and varied genre, running the gamut from supernatural horror to imaginary-world fantasy to psychological terror. This anthology seeks to exhibit the wide range of themes, motifs, and imagery that weird fiction allows, as embodied in the work of some of the leading contemporary writers in the field. (more)

“Weird” is indeed a very broad category so rather than try and create something that represented a single genre I opted for a weird view instead. The idea was to do something like Borges’s Library of Babel in a space that was a hybrid of Piranesi and MC Escher. I was hoping originally to make this more Escher-like, with a number of gravity-defying staircases, but the underlying drawing took so long that I didn’t have time.

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His Own Most Fantastic Creation: Stories About HP Lovecraft is also edited by ST Joshi:

HP Lovecraft (1890–1937), the pioneering writer of weird fiction, has himself become an icon in popular culture. Stories, novels, and other works featuring the gaunt, lantern-jawed gentleman from Providence, Rhode Island, have proliferated. These works have been triggered by the incredible amount of knowledge we have on the writer—his family, his friends, his idiosyncrasies and eccentricities—as found in his thousands of surviving letters. (more)

This was much easier to achieve since HP Lovecraft is familiar territory. The idea here was to do a portrait of Lovecraft situated in a Lovecraftian zone, a colossal idol of a type that might be found in some of his Cyclopean ruins. Lovecraft and his Weird Tales colleagues had a habit of referring to each other in their stories and letters as though they were ancient priests or sorcerers so portraying Lovecraft in this manner is fitting. The combination of perspective and lighting worked against creating an accurate likeness, however—it doesn’t help that Lovecraft’s features are weird in themselves—so the “HPL” icon is there to affirm the identity.

Both books will be published next month if Great Cthulhu hasn’t risen from the depths by then.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Something from Below

Weekend links 486

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Magma concert poster, 2017. Art by Jofre Conjota.

The Dream Foundry is a new venture with a mission “to bolster and sustain the nascent careers of professionals working in the field of speculative literature.” This includes artists as well as writers, and to this end I was asked to answer a few questions about my work as a creator of book covers. I also offer some advice about visibility as an artist which I tried not to hedge with too many caveats. Related: my cover for The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli & Alicia Zaloga was one of the covers of the month at Muddy Colors.

• “…for a band that were so compositionally advanced, they were adept at producing primordially insistent and hypnotic rhythms.” John Doran on Magma (again), appraising the band’s music and history before presenting Christian and Stella Vander with questions from appreciative musicians.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 731 by Meemo Comma, mr.K’s Soundstripe vol 2 by radioShirley, The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XIX by David Colohan, and The Pumpkin Tide by Haunted Air.

• At Dangerous Minds: Roddy McDowall reads HP Lovecraft’s The Outsider and The Hound. Related: David McCallum reads HP Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and The Haunter of the Dark.

• “Mathematics is not unique in drawing out charlatans and kooks, of course…” David S. Richeson on cranks, past and present.

• “I plan to take psychedelics again…” Helen Joyce, the finance editor of The Economist, takes a trip.

• The City of Light and its shadows: Brassaï’s Paris.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Dennis Hopper Day.

Paris (1958) by Perez Prado And His Orchestra | Paris 1919 (1973) by John Cale | Paris 1971 (1971) by Suzanne Ciani

Something from Below

My first encounter with author, editor and Lovecraft biographer ST Joshi was in the form of an artwork request that arrived out of the blue in the late 1980s. My comic-strip adaptation of The Haunter of the Dark had just been published in a large-format edition by Caermaen Press, a small imprint run by Roger Dobson and Mark Valentine, and this prompted a flurry of interest among weird-fiction enthusiasts in Britain and the USA. Joshi was editing Lovecraft Studies for Necronomicon Press at the time, and asked if I’d be willing to contribute illustrations, something I ended up not doing for a variety of reasons. I always felt bad about this, and admitted as much when we eventually met at the Providence NecronomiCon in 2015, so my cover art for his new cosmic-horror novella may be regarded as a kind of recompense.

Something from Below is horror with an industrial setting and a Lovecraftian slant, hence the sinister coal mine dominating the artwork:

When 22-year-old Alison Mannering returns to her home in northeastern Pennsylvania after college, she finds a troubling situation. Her father, Guy Mannering, a longtime coal miner, has died recently under suspicious circumstances, and her mother refuses to provide any details of his passing. Alison feels she has no option but to investigate the matter herself, enlisting her high school sweetheart, Randy Kroeber, as well as Randy’s twin sister, Andrea called Andy, to assist her… (more)

The brief for this one was to create a wraparound cover without showing anything overtly monstrous, something I was happy to do since I dislike horror covers that reveal too much. In addition to the wrap I also produced a black-and-white piece for the inner boards. As is evident from the pictures above, the artwork was flipped around in the design but that’s okay, it works both ways. The coal mine is the central location, however.

Something from Below is published this month by PS Publishing in signed and unsigned hardcovers.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Leather Cthulhu unleashed
A Mountain Walked
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown DVD