Weekend links 234

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The Devil in the Green Coat by Andrea Dezsö, an illustration for a new, uncensored edition of the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales.

• That { feuilleton } object of cult attention, Penda’s Fen, a 1974 television film by David Rudkin directed by Alan Clarke, continues its long journey out of the shadows. To coincide with a screening in London of a 16mm print, Sukhdev Sandhu looks back at a unique drama, and examines its connections to other British films of the period. There’s still no sign of a DVD release although rumours persist. Related: Penda’s Fen at A Year In The Country.

• “One of the reasons I’m sure I found the horror genre congenial is that it’s almost always focused on the body. The body is the center of all horror films.” David Cronenberg talking to Calum Marsh about his novel, Consumed.

• Mix of the week: Antony Hegarty’s Future Feminist Playlist, and Secret Thirteen Mix 134 by James Ginzburg & Yair Elazar Glotman. Related: Nimbes by Joaniele Mercier & James Ginzburg.

• Another week, another Kickstarter: Suzanne Ciani: A Life in Waves is a planned feature-length documentary about the American synthesist and composer.

• “[Marjorie] Cameron’s connections to Scientology and powerful men once drew headlines, but now her art is getting its due,” says Tanja M. Laden.

Jay Babcock found a Hawkwind Tarot spread in International Times for 1971. Is this an overlooked Barney Bubbles design?

• “Tempered in the flames of hell”: Helen Grant on the precursors of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Bottle Imp.

Hawthonn: Phil and Layla Legard (and others) remember John Balance with a special musical project.

Derek Jarman Super 8 by James Mackay, a book of stills from Derek Jarman’s Super 8 films.

• “Coltrane’s free jazz wasn’t just ‘a lot of noise’,” says Richard Brody.

This might be the world’s first book on colour palettes.

Paris 1971 (1971) by Suzanne Ciani | The Fifth Wave: Water Lullaby (1982) by Suzanne Ciani | Blue Amiga (2014) by NeoTantrik & Suzanne Ciani

Peter Christopherson Photography & The Art of John Balance Collected

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Look at it this way / In ten years’ time / Who’ll care? / Who’ll even remember?

Coil, The Dreamer Is Still Asleep

Coil’s John Balance died ten years ago today, bringing an end to two decades of a project that, in its earliest stages, was his own solo musical venture. Ten years on, Coil and Balance have hardly been forgotten: in addition to Coil’s continuing influence in the music world, Jeremy Reed & Karolina Urbaniak recently announced Altered Balance: A Tribute to Coil, a memorial volume whose publication is followed this week by two Coil-related art books from Timeless Editions:

Peter Christopherson: Photography

The legendary unpublished photographic work of Peter Christopherson. The b/w photos featured in the book run the gamut from personal fetishes to social commentary on 1970s UK, portraits of bands, friends and strangers. There are both snapshots and highly staged scenarios. Approximately 95% of this material is published here for the first time ever. Foreword by Claus Laufenburg and a short personal reminiscence by Thighpaulsandra. B/W hardbound, 27 x 33.5 cm, 284 pages.

Bright Lights And Cats With No Mouths: The Art of John Balance Collected

The first ever extensive overview of art (drawings, paintings and sketches) created by John Balance. The artworks featured in the book are both finished elaborate hallucinatory pieces as well as quick sketches with a good sprinkling of Balance’s often underestimated humour. Homages to idols and inspirations next to idiosyncratic magical dreamscapes executed in a wide variety of styles and mediums Compiled by Liam Thomas and Thighpaulsandra. With text by Val Denham and Jeremy Reed. Full colour throughout. 29 x 29 cm, 248 pages.

Both books are limited editions, and given the obsessive nature of Coil collectors they’ll probably sell out very quickly. Both volumes are significant, albeit for very different reasons. Peter Christopherson had a long career as a photographer, famously as one-third of the Hipgnosis design partnership, but outside his professional work, and publicity shots for Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil, his personal work was always more alluded to than seen. One of the Hipgnosis books mentions his involvement with a group who staged realistic accident and trauma scenes for medical workers but little of this material has been seen until now. Elsewhere in the collection there are shots that resemble some of those that did surface occasionally, also some recurrent obsessions: thuggish youths, violent death, urban dereliction and male bodies. Still no sign of the photos of the Sex Pistols that (we’re told) Malcolm McLaren deemed too heavy.

The John Balance book fascinates simply for showing work that was even more hidden, and hardly alluded to at all. John and I did talk about his artistic endeavours once during our sporadic communications—the 3D scenes on the Musick To Play In The Dark albums were his creations using some PC program whose name I forget—but there was never a hint that he’d produced so much. The publisher sent me a link to their preview pages (here & here) so a few samples follow.

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Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire

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The current issue of The Wire has a great appraisal by Keith Moliné of the musical history of Cabaret Voltaire, a well-timed piece given the recent announcement of forthcoming reissues from Mute Records. Having been a Cabophile from the start I’m rather biased but the Wire piece has had me listening to the early albums and singles this week (between bouts of Zdenek Liska), and finding the passage of time has made those early recordings seem increasingly strange. Cabaret Voltaire were one of the few groups I liked obsessively enough to collect ephemera from newspapers and magazines. Knowing this, a friend gave me this curious fanzine/ticket from a gig the group played in Liverpool in February, 1981. The venue was Plato’s Ballroom at Pickwicks, and judging by the wording inside—”A Plato’s Publication”—it seems it was the venue’s idea to make the ticket a small (10.5 x 15 cm) booklet.

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What’s surprising about this is that the fanzine the ticket is bundled with has nothing at all to do with music (or that other perennial of 80s post-punk culture: left-wing politics) but is a glimpse of life as a gay man in Liverpool. I’ve always found this fascinating for the daring it took to foist the thing on a bunch of unwitting Cabs fans, most of whom would have been straight men and not especially sympathetic to the subject matter. In the context of 1981 forcing people to look at grainy shots of naked men with accompanying text (by another man) declaring them to be a turn-on was a transgressive act. The only representations of anything gay in the popular media were a few camp (and therefore safe) comedians; Derek Jarman was still an underground figure, and as late as 1984 a BBC play about gay men was prefaced with a warning about its “contentious” subject.

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I’ve no idea who was responsible for the fanzine, there are no credits, and it’s possible that the people involved didn’t want to be too easily identified. If the tone of the writing seems rather dramatic then, again, it’s important to see it in context of a country which wasn’t much more amenable to gay people than Russia is today. Saying things in public that most people didn’t want to hear was a challenging act; emotions often ran high.

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Looking for information about the gig turned up this newspaper ad. (Who were Jell and Aardvarks, I wonder?) By an odd coincidence only the day before I’d found this upload from the same person of a very scarce compilation tape that happens to be from the same year, and which features contributions from Cabaret Voltaire’s Chris Watson and Richard Kirk. The Men With The Deadly Dreams was compiled by Geoff Rushton, aka John Balance of Coil, and was apparently limited to 200 copies. Among the other highlights there’s a track from Eyeless in Gaza, whose early work I like a great deal, and an electronic piece by Throbbing Gristle’s Chris Carter which I think is exclusive to this collection. Two artefacts—fanzine and tape—with brown paper covers that give a snapshot of Britain’s underground culture in 1981.

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Hodgsonian vibrations

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Illustration by Frank Utpatel from the 1947 Arkham House edition of Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder.

“Presently I got hold of myself a bit, and marked out a pentacle hurriedly with chalk on the polished floor; and there I sat in it almost until dawn. And all the time, away up the corridor, the door of the Grey Room thudded at solemn and horrid intervals. It was a miserable, brutal night.”

The Gateway of the Monster (1913) by William Hope Hodgson

“Word falling – Photo falling – Time falling – Break through in Grey Room”

The Ticket That Exploded (1962) by William S. Burroughs

Among other things, 2013 is the centenary of the first book publication of William Hope Hodgson’s collection of weird tales, Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder, and while I don’t believe that William Burroughs was referring to the supernatural eruption that occurs in Hodgson’s Grey Room it would be remiss of me to ignore the connection. Listening this week to Music for Thomas Carnacki by Jon Brooks (he of The Advisory Circle) had me wondering whether there’s any other Hodgson-derived music of note. Lovecraft has inspired hours of musical endeavour while Hodgson’s weird contemporaries, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, are referenced on some of the Ghost Box releases. Hodgson is the poor relation in these celebrations, often passed over despite the sonic potential of Carnacki stories such as The Whistling Room, The Horse of the Invisible, and especially The Hog, a tale whose manifestations are almost wholly perceived through the medium of sound. Searching around turned up the following examples.

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Borderlands (1999) by Tactile.

The House on the Borderland is the big favourite in this list, this album being a series of tracks by John Everall based on Hodgson’s novel. John Balance of Coil appears on the first track, Grief, reading the poem which opens the book.

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Witkinesque

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Arriving in the post this week, a Christmas gift from Supervert, a chapbook featuring a new piece of writing that purports to be the unauthorised biography of American artist/photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. The premise is that the facts of the real Witkin’s life are far too mundane to account for his extraordinary photo tableaux so Supervert supplies details such as “Mary Witkin [his mother] worked as a bookkeeper in a DDT plant, slowly saving to enrich the unfathomable reservoirs of the absurd.” A metaphysical portrait of the artist, then, with echoes of David Lynch or Bruno Schulz. Inside the chapbook was a promo postcard bearing pictures of the delightful Ms. Stoya whose reading of Necrophilia Variations has now gained over four million YouTube views.

The Witkin book isn’t for sale but copies are available to those who enter the Supervert contest which is running throughout December. All you need do is enter an email address here then keep your fingers crossed.

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Sanitarium, New Mexico (1983) by Joel-Peter Witkin.

Witkin’s tableaux made an immediate impression circa 1993 when I bought a copy of PhotoVision, a Spanish photography journal which had devoted an entire issue to his work. This arrived at a point when I was halfway through drawing the Reverbstorm comic series, and Witkin’s parade of unorthodox humanity, crucified apes and sundry body parts seemed an ideal complement for the parade of similar grotesqueries (and sundry body parts) we were putting into the comic pages. I also liked the way Witkin worked his own variation on familiar scenes from art history, something we were doing throughout Reverbstorm (Witkin’s Vase: Study For the Base of the Crucifix just happens to combine a partly dissected human skull with Picasso’s Guernica, a recurrent motif throughout the series).

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Above and below, some of the more Witkinesque details from part seven of Reverbstorm. The main figure above was a direct reference to Witkin’s Sanitarium, New Mexico. Many figures in other drawings are given Witkin-like blindfolds.

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