Weekend links 391

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Mass by Ron Mueck at the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial. Photo by Tom Ross.

• Thanks of the week: to In Wild Air for asking me to fill their list of six favourite things; to Hodderscape for including my cover for Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun among their choice of best book covers of the year; and to Dennis Cooper for listing this blog among his own end-of-year favourites. Ta, all!

• New/old music: The Quietus reissues, etc, of the year, new Pye Corner Audio, Soul Jazz presents Deutsche Elektronische Musik 3, and The Cleansing is a new album by Annabel (lee).

• Mixes of the week: Seeing The Forest For The Trees by Gregg Hermetech, FACT mix 631 by Zola Jesus, and Secret Thirteen Mix 240 by Restive Plaggona.

Were a normally sexed person to enter such an establishment, he might be puzzled to see so many finely dressed men sitting there with soldiers, though he would find nothing particularly offensive. The friendships between homosexuals and soldiers forged here over sausage, salad and beer frequently endure for the full term of service, and often longer. The soldier returns home, living as a married farmer far from his beloved Berlin garrison, but many a uranian still receives freshly killed quarry as a token of friendship. Sometimes these relationships are even passed on to younger brothers; I know one case where a homosexual had relations with three brothers one after the other, all of whom were with the Cuirassiers.

An extract from Berlin’s Third Sex by Magnus Hirschfeld, one of the new titles from Rixdorf Editions. Ostensibly straight soldiers supplementing their income by having sex with “uranians” was still a common thing decades later, as detailed in John Lehmann’s In The Purely Pagan Sense.

The Cremator (1968) a film by Juraz Herz, was reviewed on these pages a while ago. It’s now out on region-free blu-ray. Highly recommended.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on a map of old Dunwich, and Egypt in England.

Clive Hicks Jenkins on Mapping the Tale: image making and the narrative tradition.

Wyrd Daze returns with a free pdf, and a mix by The Ephemeral Man to download.

• At the BFI: Chris Gallant on where to begin with giallo cinema.

The Parisian Cabinet of Curiosities Loved by Wes Anderson.

Mass Production (1977) by Iggy Pop | Mass (1981) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Mass Transit Railway (1997) by Monolake

Weekend links 278

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El Hotel Satina (2006) by Oscar Sanmartin.

Andrew Kötting’s By Our Selves is “a melancholy, maverick film” says David Jays. With Toby Jones following in the footsteps of poet John Clare, Iain Sinclair in a goat mask, and Alan Moore warning about the “vision sump” of Northampton.

• “Shunga means ‘spring pictures’. They depict sometimes spectacular sexual contortions and come imbued with the power of taboo. For years they have largely been out of sight—until now.” Related: shunga prints at Ukiyoe Gallery.

• “Who else could link Smokey Robinson and JG Ballard, Iggy Pop and Josephine Baker, James Bond and Stephen Sondheim, Gary Numan and Johnny Cash, Tricky and Tom Moulton…” Grace Jones is the best, says Joe Muggs.

Ballardian space – what he called “inner space” to differentiate it from the science fiction that concerned itself with distant planets and space rockets – is in fact a fusion of inner and outer space. There is no “out there” totally separate from his characters; just as there is no exclusively private, isolated inner life. His most psychologically fulfilled characters look to transcend their physical surroundings, however hostile, by embracing them.

Chris Hall on High-Rise by JG Ballard

• “In March 1984, Jorge Luis Borges began a series of radio ‘dialogues’ with the Argentinian poet and essayist Osvaldo Ferrari, which have now been translated into English for the first time.”

• “I came up with a couple of tunes, literally in my bedroom. People think of bedroom recordings as a modern, laptop invention. It wasn’t.” Daniel Miller on the accidental success of Mute Records.

• “It was in Prague that I first awoke.” Strange Flowers on Gustav Meyrink’s life in Prague.

• At 50 Watts: Stencilled ornament and illustration by William Addison Dwiggins.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. X by David Colohan.

Wyrd Daze, Lvl2 Issue 4, is free and brimming with the weird.

Mythology, a new series of drawings by Howard Hardiman.

Spike Jones is the best, says MetaFilter.

Peacocks at National Geographic.

Warm Leatherette (1980) by Grace Jones | Warm Leatherette (1998) by Chicks On Speed | Warm Leatherette (2013) by Foetus

Weekend links 274

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Lilith Births the Djinn (2015) by Rithika Merchant. Via Phantasmaphile.

Lord of Strange Deaths: The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer, edited by Phil Baker & Antony Clayton, is a new publication from Strange Attractor. “This is the first extended attempt to do justice to Rohmer, and it ranges across the spectrum of his output from music-hall writing to Theosophy. Contributors focus on subjects including Egyptology, 1890s decadence, Edwardian super-villains, graphic novels, cinema, the French Situationists, Chinese dragon ladies, and the Arabian Nights. The result is a testimony to the enduring fascination and relevance of Rohmer’s absurd, sinister and immensely atmospheric world.”

• More weird fiction: Twisted Tales of the Weird promises “an evening of readings by some of the finest writers in the contemporary scene, a panel discussion about the mode, and a Q&A with the audience” at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, on 23rd October. Writers M. John Harrison, Helen Marshall and Timothy J. Jarvis will be reading from their works. The event is free but space is limited so tickets are required.

• More Lovecraft: “Lovecraft never said his entities were evil,” says Alan Moore discussing his new Lovecraftian comic series, Providence, with Hannah Means Shannon. At the University of Sterling, Chloe Buckley reviews the Ellen Datlow-edited anthology Lovecraft’s Monsters for The Gothic Imagination (with passing reference to my illustrations but no credit for the artist).

• One for completists or those who were there on the night: Earth playing There Is A Serpent Coming at the Columbus Theatre, Providence on 22nd August. I’d almost given up hope that someone might have recorded anything from this event so thanks to Mr Beast Rebel of the Hellscape for the upload. There’s also a song by Elder from earlier in the evening.

A Rose Veiled in Black: Art and Arcana of Our Lady Babalon edited by Robert Fitzgerald and Daniel A. Schulke.

Robin the Fog on Spectral Spools, Amplified Olympia and XPylons.

• Mix of the week: BerlinSchool Mix-A [Beginnings] by Headnoaks.

• At AnOther: Leonor Fini: Female Libertine

The lost tunnels of Liverpool

The Zymoglyphic Museum

Folk Horror Revival

Some Weird Sin (1977) by Iggy Pop | It’s So Weird (1983) by Bush Tetras | The Smallest Weird Number (2002) by Boards of Canada

Weekend links 257

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The Nine of Swords by Pamela Colman Smith, and the same card from The Ghetto Tarot, a Haitian deck created by photographer Alice Smits and Haitian art group Atis Rezistans.

Almost four months after the murders in Paris, Charlie Hebdo continues to be problematic, to use a common epithet. The “p” word occurs with such frequency in current discussions about offence—and those discussions so often seem like a secular version of old religious arguments, with Manichean forces pitted against each other, and the same schisms, heresies and witch hunts—that I’ve taken to translating “problematic” as “sinful”. Charlie Hebdo is nothing if not a heretical text even if many of those pronouncing on its heresies have never read a copy. Back in January I was confident that we’d be seeing a great deal of equivocation (if not outright victim-blaming) when people began to look closely at the magazine, or at least read hasty appraisals of its contents. You didn’t have to be a psychic to predict any of this because the equivocations are merely the current manifestation of a familiar syndrome. This week’s authorial objections about PEN America honouring Charlie Hebdo have led to a reiteration of the grumblings we heard in January: “Yes, of course, we condemn the violence but…” But, what? “But, it’s a sinful publication…”(This piece by one of the PEN objectors in the LRB is typical.) Publication liberties, which in the UK are more constrained than in the US, are apparently best championed for the virtuous (the responsible, the respectful, etc), not the sinful. In 1963 “Yes, but…” equivocations about freedom of speech were being deployed in the letters page of the Times Literary Supplement with worthies such as Victor Gollancz and Edith Sitwell wondering why it was necessary to defend a deplorable book like The Naked Lunch; in 1992 I sat in a courtroom watching a judge make similar comments when grudgingly overturning an obscenity ruling against David Britton’s Lord Horror novel. The same judge then upheld the obscenity charge against Britton & Guidio’s Meng & Ecker comic which he regarded as trashier fare, “luridly bound” and containing “pictures that will be repulsive to right-thinking people”.

So much for old arguments. Jodie Ginsberg at Index on Censorship goes into some detail about the PEN kerfuffle in a piece entitled “I believe in free expression, but…”; Justin EH Smith for Harper’s says:

I heard from [friends and equals] countless variations on the banality that “violence is always wrong.” How did I know that this judgment, though perfectly true in itself, was only a banality, the expression of a sentiment that had little to do with pacifism? By the clockwork predictability of the “but” that always followed.”

Kenan Malik, who writes a great deal about these issues (his new book is The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics) posted a statement from Jo Glanville from English PEN, and a lengthy piece by Leigh Phillips. This affair will rumble on.

• More sinful material: Samuel R. Delany’s Hogg is a novel so transgressive/offensive that it took 26 years to find a publisher. You seldom see any mention of the book when Delany’s work is being discussed, especially in prudish SF circles, but Dennis Cooper’s blog ran a retrospective feature about it this week. Caveat lector. Related: Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany is looking for crowdfunding.

• “[Judy] Oppenheimer relates that Jackson kept a library of over two hundred books on witchcraft, and her interest in the subject was not purely academic.” Martyn Wendell Jones on Shirley Jackson.

The Satyr and Other Tales, a collection by Stephen J. Clark, the title story of which is “inspired by the life and ethos of sorcerer and artist Austin Osman Spare”.

• Mixes of the week: Bacchus Beltane 2: The Mists of Avalon by The Ephemeral Man, and The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. VI by David Colohan.

Boy and his SIR: BDSM and the Queer Family, a photo series by Kevin Warth, and Xteriors II, a photo series by Desiree Dolron.

• The Quest for Stenbock: David Tibet talks to Strange Flowers about his obsession with the eccentric Count.

Dark Star: HR Giger’s World is a documentary about the artist by Belinda Sallin.

1 in 3 Impressions, a free EP of Moog music by M. Geddes Gengras.

The rise and fall of the codpiece

Blade Runner Reality

Some Weird Sin (1977) by Iggy Pop | Sin In My Heart (1981) by Siouxsie and The Banshees | It’s A Sin (1987) by Pet Shop Boys

Burroughs at 100

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Something from 1994 I found in an old sketchbook. Ink on paper with no preliminary drawing.

Happy birthday, Bill. To celebrate the Burroughs centenary I could have put together several very different mixes of Burroughs-related music—there’s been a lot of it, and he was blessed with some excellent collaborators—but in the end decided on a version of something I’ve been messing with on and off for about twenty years.

Seven Souls Resouled by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Bill Laswell’s associations with William Burroughs go back to Laurie Anderson’s Mister Heartbreak (1984) album which Laswell played bass on and co-produced. Burroughs had a guest spot on the last track, Sharkey’s Night, and that session may have led to the 1989 album by Laswell’s Material project, Seven Souls, a seven-track album based around Burroughs’s readings of passages from The Western Lands. This has always been my favourite of all the albums which set Burroughs texts to music, not least because Laswell has always surrounded himself with exceptional musicians. I liked this album so much I used to try padding it out on cassette tape with other Laswell productions, many of which feature the same musicians, and even similar riffs and instrument sounds. I could never settle on a definitive mix, however, and even the one presented here doesn’t feel absolutely right although it works far better than all previous versions. Matters aren’t helped by there being much extraneous material (so to speak): Seven Souls was reissued in 1997 with remix tracks, and there’s also a related EP, The Road To The Western Lands, with further remixes. Then there are the many tracks which match the Seven Souls sound, not least on the 1994 Material album, Hallucination Engine, which also features a Burroughs reading. Laswell’s solo albums, and much of his Axiom label, is infected by Burroughs-like titles; for a while Axiom even promoted its world- and genre-spanning ethos with the slogan “Nothing is true; everything is permitted”. The Beatles may have put Burroughs’s face on the cover of the Sgt Pepper album but Bill Laswell has done far more to spread the virus of the man’s work. Below there’s a guide to the tracks followed by another visit to the Wild Boys.

William S. Burroughs – Word Falling, Photo Falling (1960s)
One of the numerous tape recordings from the 1960s which are like audio equivalents of the books Burroughs was writing at the time. This one is from Nothing Here Now But The Recordings (1981).

Material – Ineffect (1989)
The first track from Seven Souls.

Ginger Baker – Dust to Dust (1986)
Bill Laswell produced two Ginger Baker solo albums, Horses and Trees (1986), from which this track is taken, and Middle Passage (1990). Both feature Laswell’s core group of Material musicians including Nicky Skopelitis, Bernie Worrell and Aiyb Dieng. Baker was a member of a later incarnation of Material, and appears on the Live In Japan (1993) album.

Material – Seven Souls (1989)
The second track from Seven Souls.

Material – Ruins (Submutation Dub by Bill Laswell) (1994)
From Material’s other masterwork, the mighty Hallucination Engine.

Material – Soul Killer (1989)
The third track from Seven Souls.

Ginger Baker – Under Black Skies (1990)
From Baker’s Middle Passage album.

Material – The Western Lands (1989)
The fourth track from Seven Souls.

Mandingo – Lanmbasy Dub (Kora in Hell Mix by Bill Laswell) (1993)
A slight deviation from the Seven Souls tracklist. The first four Burroughs tracks were followed by two very different pieces: Deliver, featuring the voice of Gambian musician and kora player Foday Musa Suso, and Equation which combined a rock riff with Rammellzee’s vocals. Foday Musa Suso is another floating member of Material who also released an album, New World Power (1990) on Laswell’s Axiom label under the name Mandingo. This track is an extended remix of the first track from New World Power.

Bill Laswell (with William S. Burroughs, Techno Animal, Iggy Pop) – The Western Lands (1999)
Hashisheen : The End Of Law is one of many one-off Laswell projects, this one featuring a collection of readings about Hassan i Sabbah set to music. Burroughs appears briefly two years after his death reading what may have been a Seven Souls outtake. Iggy Pop then reads a piece from The Western Lands.

Material feat. Rammellzee & phonosycographDISK – No Guts No Galaxy (1999)
In place of Equation from Seven Souls there’s this rap number from Material’s Intonarumori album.

Bill Laswell – Flash Of Panic [Pipes Of Pan / Up Above The World / Under Black Skies / Out Of The Ether] (1994)
Part of a track from the Axiom Ambient album which blends some of Laswell’s recording of the pan pipes at Jajouka with strings from a Jonas Hellborg album, and Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s ney from Under Black Skies.

Material – Soul Killer (Remote Control Mix by Terre Thaemlitz) (1997)
The reissue of Seven Souls featured three remixes of which this has always been my favourite. Terre Thaemlitz subjects Burroughs’s voice to some granular distortion then cuts-up his words.

Material – The End of Words (1989)
The seventh and final track from Seven Souls.

Continue reading “Burroughs at 100”