Weekend links 525

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Polish poster by Franciszek Starowieyski, 1970.

• Tony Richardson’s Mademoiselle (1966) is one of those cult films that’s more written about than seen, despite having Jeanne Moreau in the lead role as a sociopathic schoolteacher, together with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras and Jean Genet, plus uncredited script-doctoring by David Rudkin. John Waters listed the film as a “guilty pleasure” in Crackpot but it’s been unavailable on disc for over a decade. The BFI will be releasing a restored print on blu-ray in September.

“While the hurdy-gurdy’s capacity to fill space with its unrelenting multi-tonal dirge is for some the absolute sonic dream, for others it is the stuff of nightmares.” Jennifer Lucy Allan on the pleasures and pains of a medieval musical instrument.

• “I truly believed”: Vicki Pollack of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for the fifth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists.

• “If you want to call yourself a composer, you follow every step of the instrumentation.” Ennio Morricone talking to Guido Bonsaver in 2006.

Dutchsteammachine converts jerky 12fps film from the NASA archive to 24fps. Here’s the Apollo 14 lunar mission: landing, EVA and liftoff.

• New music: Suddenly the World Had Dropped Away by David Toop; Skeleton and Unclean Spirit by John Carpenter; An Ascent by Scanner.

Peter Hujar’s illicit photographs of New York’s cruising utopia. Not to be confused with Alvin Batrop‘s photos of gay New York.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 651 by Dave Harrington, and Mr.K’s Side 1, Track 1’s #1 by radioShirley & Mr.K.

Simon Reynolds on the many electronic surprises to be found in the Smithsonian Folkways music archive.

The Gone Away by Belbury Poly will be the next release on the Ghost Box label.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ed Emshwiller Day.

Shirley Collins’ favourite music.

Mademoiselle Mabry (1969) by Miles Davis | Hurdy Gurdy Man (1970) by Eartha Kitt | Danger Cruising (1979) by Pyrolator

Picturing Vermilion Sands

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First UK edition, 1971. Art by Brian Knight.

Vermilion Sands (1971) is a story collection by JG Ballard which maintains a cult reputation even while being overshadowed by its author’s more popular (and notorious) novels. Most of the stories were written in the 1960s, and a couple of the pieces are among Ballard’s earliest works, but where many of his other short stories can read like the work of a writer with bills to pay, the tales of Vermilion Sands are much closer to Ballard’s core interests, filled with symbolic resonance and literary allusion.

Vermilion Sands, the place, is a near-future resort with a desert climate and an unspecified location, where the Côte d’Azur meets Southern California but the ocean is a sea of sand. The inhabitants are the idle midde-class types who populate all of Ballard’s work, and each story has a different artistic or cultural theme. Ballard was more receptive to visual art, especially painting, than many authors, particularly the SF writers of his generation for whom art was less interesting than science and technology. There is science and technology in these stories (some of the latter is now inevitably dated) but it doesn’t dominate the proceedings. The stories derive less from scientific speculation than from Ballard’s desire to create a future he would have been happy to inhabit himself, an alternative to the grim dystopias which proliferate in science fiction. The background furnishings also reflect the author’s ideal, owing much to the Surrealist landscapes of Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, a pair of artists whose works are often referenced in Ballard’s fiction. Given all of this you’d expect that cover artists might have risen to the challenge more than they have. What follows is a look at the more notable attempts to depict Vermilion Sands or its population, only a few of which are covers for the book itself.

Continue reading “Picturing Vermilion Sands”

Weekend links 427

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Inside an O’Neill Cylinder, an orbital megastructure. Painting by Don Davis, 1975.

• RIP Lindsay Kemp: dancer, actor, choreographer and (if we have to drop names) mentor to David Bowie and Kate Bush. Kemp’s work has been featured here on a number of occasions, particularly his landmark productions of an all-male Salomé, and Flowers, A Pantomime for Jean Genet. There was also considerable overlap with Kemp’s troupe and the films of Derek Jarman via appearances by Kemp himself, David Haughton and the irrepressible Jack Birkett. The Genet production was filmed in 1982, and is now available on DVD. (There’s also a rougher copy with unmatched audio and video.) From 1970: Pierrot in Turquoise, or The Looking Glass Murders, a Commedia dell’arte performance for Scottish TV featuring David Bowie. And reversing roles, Mick Rock’s video for Bowie’s John, I’m Only Dancing featuring Kemp and company.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis in conversation with activist and writer David Nickles about “the DMT Nexus, psychedelic militancy, extraction tek, the Statement on Open Science for Psychedelic Medicines, MAPS, and the trouble with for-profit psilocybin companies”.

• From the end of August to January 2019: Spellbound at the Ashmolean; “Spellbinding stories, fascinating objects…from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets”.

On Earth, as on the International Space Station, the collective misperception of a flat plane helps build community and culture. We are all equal in our geometric relationship to one another. The reality, of course, is that we do not stand parallel. Each of our bodies corresponds with a distinct radial vector on the surface of a sphere, pointing away from a common center that we can never perceive or occupy. Our vectors diverge by imperceptible angles.

In “inside-out” worlds like the Bernal Sphere and the concave Earth, the situation is reversed. Our feet all point outward, into an inaccessible, but technologically habitable void, while our heads point inward, some of us apparently “upside-down.” Standing, we rise toward a visible center, which can be reached simply by climbing a hill, strapping on wings, and jumping into the air, as low-tech as Icarus.

The Shape of Space by Fred Scharmen

Michael Moorcock again, interviewed this time by Bernard Braden in 1968. I think this one was for a Braden TV series which was never broadcast.

• “Stupid things are best”: Neil Fox on Conny Plank: The Potential of Noise, a documentary about the great music producer.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 556 by Helios, and An Ode to Eris with An Other Ode to Eris by The Ephemeral Man.

• A monstrous primer on the works of HP Lovecraft by Emma Stefansky. With illustrations by Michael Bukowski.

Silent Agents by Julius-Christian Schreiner: photographs of hostile architecture from around the world.

• Back to the Futuro: Mark Hodgkinson on the spaceship house that landed in Yorkshire.

• The Great Chinese Art Heist by Alex W. Palmer.

Rhizome: a new recording by Drew McDowall.

The Starman Tarot

Mad Pierrot (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Spellbound (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees | Sphere (2011) by Emptyset

Weekend links 356

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Im Hag by ToiToiToi will be Ghost Box 027, available from 12th May. Poster and album design, as always, by Julian House.

• The week in the electronic outer limits: The Haxan Cloak recorded a new piece of music using Moog’s Mother-32 modular synths; The Herzog Tapes is a new album by The Electric Pentacle; and Drew McDowell (ex-Coil, etc) has a new album, Unnatural Channel, out next month. (Vinyl-only, unfortunately, like his previous album.)

• More from Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue by Aubrey Powell: How to design a record cover in 1977. The feature is a duplicate of Storm Thorgerson’s account in the first Hipgnosis book but since that volume has been out of print for decades it stands repeating.

• Talismanic Bookseller: Erik Davis talks to occult-book dealer and musician Richard Bishop talks about modern grimoires, scorpion gods, Orientalist imagery, and hunting down physical books in the age of the Internet.

Arbery Books, “the UK’s leading online dealer in rare and secondhand books and ephemera of gay, lesbian and transgender interest”, is closing its website at the end of May so there’s a sale on.

Amours Secrètes: Dans L’intimité Des Écrivains, an art book about the secret loves of five French writers: Marcel Proust, Pierre Loti, Renaud Icard, Roger Peyrefitte and Jean Genet.

• Ancient Methods and Futuristic Visions: Mark Pilkington & Michael J. York of Teleplasmiste answer 15 questions.

• Mix of the week: Homer Flynn, spokesperson of The Residents, compiles a playlist for The Wire.

Adrian Searle on Queer British Art 1861–1967 at Tate Britain: “strange, sexy, heartwrenching”.

Strange Flowers on August Endell (1871–1925) and the trees of spring.

Urania (1995) by Panasonic | Pan Finale (2010) by Pan Sonic | 5′ 42” (2014) by Pan Sonic

Weekend links 293

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Red Petals by Sarah Meyohas.

• “For MMoB, I want it to be like a [Werner] Herzog movie, so at our concerts the people on stage aren’t necessarily people who are named. We’re trying to create an entity that is beyond music and relates visually and sonically with everything in a way that’s different.” Randall Dunn talks to Simona Mantarlian and Daniel Jones about the Master Musicians of Bukkake and his production work for other artists.

• “Is reel-to-reel tape the new vinyl?” asks FACT mag. It’s certainly better than cassette tape (if less convenient) but it was always a niche format for albums, even in the 1970s. Rene Chun made a similar argument for an emerging trend last October. Those expensive machines do look tempting… Early adopters should start collecting here before prices rise.

Airwaves: Songs From The Sirens is a new release of spectral audio transmissions by A Year In The Country: “…a gathering of scattered signals plucked from the ether, cryptograms that wander amongst the airwaves…” Physical versions come with the usual plethora of monochrome artefacts.

A vivid memory to his friends, Litvinoff was one of those people whose performance was their life. His most lasting achievement was the profound influence he had on Performance – the hallucinatory film directed by Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell, and starring Mick Jagger, which captured the London of the late 1960s, merging pop stardom, violent criminality, illegal drugs, gender-blurring, the occult and Jorge Luis Borges.

Jon Savage on David Litvinoff

• Virgin Prunes “are THE #1 most underrated group of the post-punk era” says Richard Metzger. I’d say that honour goes to The Passage but the Virgin Prunes were unique even if they’re too often dismissed as a freak footnote in the U2 story.

Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World is a free exhibition at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, that will run until August 2016. Related: “John Dee painting originally had circle of human skulls, x-ray imaging reveals.”

• “What I’m seeing now is an awful lot of people just following things. We tried to find our own thing and ask, ‘What else is there?'” Charles Hayward on the past and present of post-punk band This Heat.

• “I’ve never been tempted to write anything that was not essentially nightmarish.” Thomas Ligotti in a comprehensive profile (originally run in 2010) at Dennis Cooper’s blog.

• Mixes of the week: An introduction to Stereolab by Jon Dale, and Silent Radio Transmission Jan 2016 by SilentServant.

• Kicked Toward Saintliness: Max Nelson on the dark erotics of Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers.

• Reverse Engineering: Danny Hyde on Coil, Backwards and NIN.

Fuck Yeah! Anna von Hausswolff

Harry Flowers (1970) by Jack Nitzsche | Flowers In The Air (1970) by Sally Eaton | Darkness: Flowers Must Die (1972) by Ash Ra Tempel