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

Made To Measure

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When you’ve sated yourself on a group’s back catalogue there’s always the solo albums. In the case of Tuxedomoon there are a number of these to choose from, thanks to several of the band members being both multi-instrumentalists and talented songwriters. Some of the more offbeat solo outings may be found among the albums released as part of the Made To Measure series, an offshoot of the excellent Belgian record label, Crammed Discs. Crammed have been Tuxedomoon’s label for some time, and seem increasingly unique in a world where independent labels tend to cater to narrow genres and small, select audiences. Crammed’s roster of artists is extremely eclectic, ranging from the expected Euro-pop and dance releases to a wide range of traditional and contemporary music from around the world.

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Made To Measure Vol. 1 (1984). Painting by Fernand Steven.

From 1984 to 1994 the Made To Measure series released over 30 albums that represent the more esoteric side of an already fairly esoteric label. All of the early releases were numbered, and Tuxedomoon happen to be on the first release, Made To Measure Vol. 1, together with Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, and Aksak Maboul. The series title refers to all of the music being “made to measure” some pre-existing work—film, theatre, dance performance, etc—although some of the later releases were simply an excuse to put out new music by an established Crammed artist. In addition to the first release, Tuxedomoon members Blaine L. Reininger, Peter Principle and Steven Brown were regular contributors to subsequent albums. Two of the Steven Brown albums, A Propos D’Un Paysage (MTM 15, 1985) and Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L’Amour (MTM 16, 1988) are marvellous instrumental collaborations with Benjamin Lew that are very different in tone to Tuxedomoon but well worth seeking out. Brown also recorded a soundtrack album, De Doute Et De Grace (MTM 22, 1990), with readings by actress Delphine Seyrig. The series has been discontinued in recent years but the MTM numbering was resurrected for the latest Tuxedomoon album, Pink Narcissus, which is MTM 39.

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Desert Equations: Azax Attra (1986). Photography by Georg Gerster.

I’ve still not heard all of the Made To Measure series, and I don’t like everything I have heard—I have to be in the mood for Hector Zazou’s quirkier moments. Aside from those mentioned above, the notable releases for me would include Desert Equations: Azax Attra (MTM 8, 1986) by Sussan Deyhim (here credited as Deihim) & Richard Horowitz, an album that led me to acquire almost everything Sussan Deyhim has recorded; If Windows They Have (MTM 13, 1986) by Daniel Schell & Karo; Nekonotopia Nekonomania (MTM 29, 1990) by Seigen Ono; Water (MTM 31, 1992) by David Cunningham; Sahara Blue (MTM 32, 1993) by Hector Zazou; Glyph (MTM 37, 1995) by Harold Budd & Hector Zazou. Sahara Blue exemplifies in miniature the eclecticism of Crammed Discs, being a tribute to Arthur Rimbaud featuring (among others) John Cale, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Gérard Depardieu, Khaled, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Lisa Gerrard, Sussan Deyhim and Tim Simenon.

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For those wishing to explore further without shelling out on mysterious, unknown quantities, I’d recommend The Made To Measure Résumé (1987), a compilation of tracks from the first 16 MTM releases, and an ideal introduction to the series.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Tuxedomoon designs by Patrick Roques
Pink Narcissus: James Bidgood and Tuxedomoon

Bring Me the Head of Ubu Roi

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Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry.

Now here’s a marriage made in heaven (or hell, depending on your point of view): Pere Ubu plus the Brothers Quay presenting Alfred Jarry’s 1896 classic of proto-surrealist theatre, Ubu Roi. I hope someone’s filming this given that there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to get down there to see it. Pere Ubu’s David Thomas has this to say about collaborations:

Well, it’s pretty simple. If someone wants to work with me then they have the right stuff. Working with me is guaranteed career endangerment, not to be undertaken lightly. I had no idea of who the Quays were. Everybody else seems to know but I don’t watch films, tv or video unless a space ship or baseball is involved. The Quays don’t involve themselves with either. So how am I supposed to know? I don’t make the Rules. I obey. We met. We talked. We immediately understood each other and the project and how it all would fit together. I don’t trust visual information of any kind. The Quays were clearly men who were capable of taming the Eye Beast. I told them I’d be delighted to stay out of their way and let them get on with doing what they feel most. They sent me pictures. They were, as I knew they must be, perfect. No space ships. Or baseball. But perfect nevertheless. Only people who don’t understand need to talk. We have no need of talking. Talking is for the weak, the uncertain… and girls. Ha-ha! (I mean it.) We are men who stand in the moment and can deliver the goods. So down to the process: Only work with people who are Masters, and who Understand. If you choose to work with such people then don’t get in their way unless they appear to be set on a course that will break The Rules. Don’t make up the Rules. Don’t work with people who feel the need to talk to you. Don’t work with children or animals. Don’t run into the furniture.

Details from the press release follow and I feel the need to make a point of order: the famous first word of the play, “Merdre!”, doesn’t mean “shitter” as mentioned below. Rather, it’s an untranslatable combination of the French words for “shit” and “murder” which Cyril Connolly rendered unsatisfactorily as “Pschitt!” in his 1968 translation with Simon Watson Taylor.

Pere Ubu and the Brothers Quay present the WORLD PREMIERE of Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi

In two specially created performances for Southbank Centre’s ETHER 08 festival, expressionist avant-garage band Pere Ubu presents the world premiere of Bring Me The Head of Ubu Roi, an adaptation of Ubu Roi (King Ubu), Alfred Jarry’s landmark 1896 play that inspired the band’s name and is widely seen as the precursor to the Absurdist, Dada and Surrealist art movements.

At the heart of Jarry’s original production was the use of various performance media, and Pere Ubu’s show reflects this with a unique visual staging by the enigmatic Brothers Quay, featuring intriguing stop-motion animation, projections and imaginative stage designs. Singer David Thomas will feature as Père Ubu, partnering Sarah-Jane Morris (ex-Communards) in the role of Mère Ubu, and the production includes an original music score by the band Pere Ubu and 10 new songs. Gagarin, aka London-based former Ludus, Nico and John Cale drummer Graham Dowdall, will contribute minimal electronic soundscapes.

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The Brothers Quay.

With this part music, part spoken word, part animated production on the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, David Thomas of Pere Ubu realises a dream he has had since being turned on to Alfred Jarry as a 16-year-old high school student in Cleveland, Ohio.

David Thomas said: “Jarry’s ideas resonated with feelings I had about the use of abstract, concrete and synthesised sound in the narrative architecture of rock music, all tools to engage the imagination of the listener when detailing the picture told by the music and lyrics.”

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David Thomas.

Ubu Roi is a play for the mind and imagination. It is a drama of ideas and grotesqueries, and a fusion of several disparate and incongruous elements. It shocked early audiences with its blend of grotesque absurdity, wild humour and coarse language. At the premiere in 1896, the very first word of Ubu Roi (‘merdre’, translated as ‘shitter’) provoked a riot amongst the audience and fist fights broke out in the orchestra. Alfred Jarry’s plays in general were widely and wildly hated for their vulgarity, brutality, low comedy and complete lack of literary finish, and his work revealed a lack of respect for royalty, religion and society that prompted some to see his output as the theatrical equivalent of an anarchist bomb attack and an act of political subversion.

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Alfred Jarry with his weapons and bicycles, somewhere in the 1890s. (No it ain’t; see the comments.)

Prior to the Friday performance, there’s a free event in the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, entitled ‘Pataphysics in Sound. This specially curated musical journey through the history of ’pataphysics, the science of imaginary solutions, celebrates the genius of Alfred Jarry, creator of Ubu Roi and literary madman, time-travelling, absinthe-drinking, pistol-toting, and cycling maniac.

Bring Me The Head of Ubu Roi is presented at the Southbank Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Thursday 24 and Friday 25 April 2008.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Crossed destinies revisted
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD
Surrealist cartomancy