Weekend links 592

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Cover art by Gray Morrow; design by Henry Berkowitz, 1967.

• “Dial-a-Poem received more than a million calls before it lost funding and ended in 1971. There were complaints of indecency, claims that the poems incited violence. The FBI investigated…” Ralf Webb on John Giorno’s Dial-a-Poem project which is still active at the US and UK numbers on this page.

• Mixes of the week: Halloween approaches so for those who require themed mixes you can take your pick from these selections by Kaptain Carbon; at The Wire there’s a Halloween-free mix by Kuunatic.

• New music: New Moon by Laetitia Sadier, and The Reinterpretation Of Dreams (Remixed) by Tomoroh Hidari; not-so-new music: Velocity Of Sleep by Kali Malone.

The activist’s whole identity is tied up in him being denied, as opposed to him manifesting. Nobody can give you your freedom. You ARE free. It is your natural state, okay? You can give it all away if you want, but: no. I can’t GIVE you your rights. I can’t give you your freedom. And to go and beg the Man for your rights and BEG the Man for your freedom? LIVE your freedom.

One of Berg’s phrases was “life actor.” “Theatre of the streets.” All of this as theatre. As opposed to in a different arena you would call politics or activism or so on. But using theatre as a way to open doors that might not be opened if someone was approaching it in other ways. Out of that comes this whole sense of “create the reality you want to live in.” Which is a powerful, profound concept. People are trapped in the paradigm: you can’t even think there is an outside of the box. Just that notion of thinking, and living outside that paradigm, was real powerful stuff.

Claude Hayward of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for the eighth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

Joanna Moorhead on the creation of the Mae West lips sofa, a collaboration between Salvador Dalí and Edward James.

• The latest book from Rixdorf Editions is Papa Hamlet by Arno Holz and Johannes Schlaf.

• At Sweet Jane’s Pop Boutique: Op and Pop | Art Forms in Furnishing (1966).

Denis Bovell’s favourite music.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Coffins.

Love At Psychedelic Velocity (1966) by The Human Expression | Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow) (1982) by The Birthday Party | The Art Of Coffins (2002) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore

Richard H. Kirk, 1956–2021

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Q: Was the initial idea to be a music group?

Richard H. Kirk: I suppose that depends on how you define “music”. No, the initial idea was to be more of a sound group, just putting sounds together like jigsaw pieces. If the result did sound like music then it was purely coincidental.

From Cabaret Voltaire: The Art of the Sixth Sense (1984) by M Fish & D Hallberry

This was a shock, in part because I tend to think of certain artists as perpetually young even when I’ve been following them for decades. In the case of the not-so-young Cabaret Voltaire it was an easy frame of mind to slip into when Kirk and Mallinder were only photographically visible up to about 1990. After this the group resumed their former obscurity, cloaked by abstract images and Designers Republic graphics.

Oddly enough I’d been running through the early Cabs albums only a couple of weeks ago, and wondering how long Kirk was going to keep the revived group going on his own. I suppose this means that Cabaret Voltaire is now definitely finished, in which case it’s a double RIP. And just a few days ago I was reading a Mark Fisher essay on Joy Division, feeling as frustrated as I always do when Curtis and co. are praised for “channelling” (or whatever) the spirit of William Burroughs when nobody would think to connect Burroughs and Joy Division if you changed the title of the song Interzone to something else. Throbbing Gristle were closer to Burroughs personally than were Cabaret Voltaire but the influence on TG only became really overt when Industrial Records released Nothing Here Now But The Recordings, an album of Burroughs’ tape experiments. The Cabs were more important to me as a youthful reader of Burroughs’ novels for seeming to be broadcasting from inside his texts. Their early albums were disturbed and disturbing (a friend once asked me to switch off their music for this very reason), an unwholesome amalgam of dialogue taped from TV and radio, crude electronics, threatening voices, and songs that were warped into strange new shapes. This is entertainment…this is fun… I’m still amazed that their first album included a cover of No Escape, a song by psychedelic group The Seeds, which didn’t sound out of place despite the weirdness surrounding it.

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William smiles. Left to right: John Giorno, William Burroughs, Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk. Photo by Sylvia Plachy from the gatefold interior of A Diamond In The Mouth Of A Corpse (1985), a compilation album released by Giorno Poetry Systems.

Cut-up theory was a constant in the Cabaret Voltaire discography, and in many of Richard Kirk’s solo recordings, with the group starting out as Dada-inspired tape collagists* before they found a way to present their experiments in a musical form. The concept is to the fore in the title of Cabaret Voltaire’s debut album, Mix-Up, and exemplified in the track that opens side two, Photophobia, a reworked version of a Surrealist monologue that dates from the group’s days making recordings in Chris Watson’s attic. Photophobia pulls you into the same queasy dreamspace in which you find yourself when reading Burroughs’ early cut-ups, a catalogue of oneiric splicings—”they’re injecting the rivers with stainless-steel fish…a coelacanth/a body with a shrunken head…”—the phrases being increasingly overwhelmed by rising synthesizer drones and Kirk’s squeaking clarinet. Kirk’s solo debut, Disposable Half-Truths, was a cassette-only release on Industrial Records infused with the Burroughs spirit in both technique and content, offering track titles such as Information Therapy and Insect Friends Of Allah. Cabaret Voltaire continually referred to Burroughs’ speculative essay collection The Electronic Revolution in interviews but it was Kirk who extended the group’s cut-up experiments to film and video. By 1982 they’d accumulated enough of their own video material to release a VHS collection on their own music and video label, Doublevision.

If I’ve concentrated on the early recordings it’s because the post-punk period continues to seem like a miraculous moment, a space of four years when anything was possible musically, a time when Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis could record an album as uncompromisingly strange as 3R4 then have it released on 4AD and sold in racks next to albums by label-mates Bauhaus and The Birthday Party. Cabaret Voltaire took advantage of this unique period to warp expectations in their own way, and to extend the boundaries of the possible. Richard H. Kirk’s subsequent career was prolific, releasing a blizzard of albums and singles under a variety of pseudonyms (Discogs lists 42 different Kirk aliases). One of my favourite pieces from his solo recordings is White Darkness from 1993, the last track on a 12-inch single, Digital Lifeforms, credited to Sandoz. There’s a mysterious quality here that I wish he’d explored more often on his later albums instead of letting the rhythms run their course for another seven or eight minutes. The sampled voice maintains a thread of continuity with Kirk’s music before and after, as does the reference to LSD in the Sandoz name, taking us back to Mix-Up and the mescaline experiments described on Heaven And Hell. Psychedelia by other means.

* For a taste of unadorned Cabs-related tape manipulation, see The Men With The Deadly Dreams, a cassette release compiled by Geoff Rushton/John Balance which features contributions from Chris Watson and Richard H. Kirk. Note that the blog post doesn’t give an accurate description of the tape contents.

• At Vinyl Factory: An introduction to Richard H. Kirk in 10 records.
• At The Wire: two interviews with Kirk from the magazine’s archives.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Recoil and Cabaret Voltaire
Pow-Wow by Stephen Mallinder
TV Wipeout revisited
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Neville Brody and Fetish Records

Weekend links 530

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Kami #58 -bloom- (2019) by Momo Yoshino.

• “Set amid the countryside and the beaches of coastal Sussex, They depicts a world in which plundering bands of philistines prowl England destroying art, books, sculpture, musical instruments and scores, punishing those artistically and intellectually inclined outliers who refuse to abide by this new mob rule.” Lucy Scholes on They: A Sequence of Unease (1977) by Kay Dick, which she calls “a lost dystopian masterpiece”. This is revelatory in a minor way since for years I’ve remembered seeing a slim volume with the title They in a bookshop, and which I later thought might have been a Rudyard Kipling book (there’s a Kipling story with the same title). The timing is right, the sighting would have been in 1977 or 78. The combination of that short, one-word title with a stark cover image and a sinister description on the rear was hard to forget but I didn’t take note of the author’s name. (I also didn’t buy the book, opting instead for some inferior work.) A shame that it seems to be resolutely out of print.

• “The threat to civil liberties goes way beyond ‘cancel culture’,” says Leigh Phillips. It makes a change seeing this coming from Jacobin when so much of the left today can find nothing wrong with censorship so long as it’s in a good cause. (Every censor that ever lived believed they were acting in a good cause, were on “the right side of history”, etc, etc.) The piece includes a dismissal of the increasingly common riposte that “only the state can censor”: this would be news to my colleagues at Savoy Books who endured years of police harassment including the seizure and destruction of printed material; the same with the long history of police action against UK rap artists. Related: “Work that’s cancelled for being ‘of its time’ was probably objected to, at the time.” Dorian Lynskey on chronocentrism and “the narcissism of the present”.

• “Cruising baths, bars, and subway toilets, snorting poppers and ‘fist fucking with 40 guys for 14 hours’ (as he recalled in You Got to Burn to Shine, his 1993 collection of prose and poems), he found meaning in a religion of radical eros whose sacrament was anonymous sex.” Mark Dery reviewing Great Demon Kings: A Memoir of Poetry, Sex, Art, Death, and Enlightenment by John Giorno.

Aubrey Powell says his best photograph is the burning man from the cover of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

• Mixes of the week: Fact mix 770 by Lyra Pramuk, and mr.K’s Kooky Kuts Vol.4 by radioShirley & mr.K.

• The Alchemical Brothers: Brian Eno & Roger Eno interviewed by Wyndham Wallace.

• Origami-inspired optical illusion oil paintings by Momo Yoshino.

Alexander Larman on the demise of the second-hand bookshop.

• New music: Follow The Road by Yumah, and Röschen by Pole.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Lighting.

• RIP Linda Manz.

My Boyfriend’s Back (1963) by The Angels | Carnival of the Animals, R. 125: VII. The Aquarium (Camille Saint-Saëns) (1975) by the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra, Heilbronn with Marylene Dosse & Anne Petit, conducted by Jörg Faerber | Kill All Hippies (2000) by Primal Scream

Weekend links 490

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An engraving from The Geometric Landscapes of Lorenz Stoer (1567).

• Curtis Harrington’s cult horror film, Night Tide (1961), receives a lavish blu-ray reissue from Powerhouse in January. The limited edition will include an extra disc of Harrington’s early short films which encompass Poe adaptations and also Wormwood Star, his portrait of occult artist (and actor in Night Tide) Marjorie Cameron.

• “He was the first American representative of an electronic sound that was largely coming from Europe, from bands like Kraftwerk, or producers like Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte…” Jude Rogers on Patrick Cowley.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins examines Hans Poelzig’s and Marlene Moeschke’s work on Paul Wegener’s 1920 film of The Golem. Wegener’s film is released this month in a restored blu-ray edition by Eureka.

• “Conrad was uncompromising in his beliefs until the end, sticking to his ideals with tenacious fervor.” Geeta Dayal on Tony Conrad: Writings, edited by Constance DeJong and
Andrew Lampert.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 47 dead films. One of the films, Hu-Man (1975), a French science-fiction drama starring Terence Stamp, isn’t as dead as was assumed.

• The Danske Filminstitut has made a collection of Danish silent films available to watch for free online.

• The Last Time I Saw John Giorno, an Extraordinary Performance Poet by Mark Dery.

• “Like looking through butterfly wings”: Ira Cohen’s Mylar chamber—in pictures.

Callum James reviews the Early Poetical Works of Aleister Crowley.

• Drawing the Gaze: Revisiting Don’t Look Now by Jesse Miksic.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 745 by Visible Cloaks.

Mind Warp (1982) by Patrick Cowley | Go-Go Golem (1986) by Golem Orchestra | Night Tide (1995) by Scorn

Weekend links 487

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Art by Joe Mugnaini (1955).

• Mixes of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XIX by David Colohan, and The Ephemeral Man’s Teapot 2—Atmosphere insomniac by The Ephemeral Man.

• Patrick Clarke talks to Morton Subotnick and Lillevan about Subotnick’s pioneering synthesizer composition, Silver Apples Of The Moon (1967).

• A second volume of London’s Lost Rivers, a walker’s guide by Tom Bolton with photography by SF Said, is published by Strange Attractor next month.

“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

Ray Bradbury quoted by Sam Weller in an examination of Bradbury’s dark tales and autumnal horror stories

Lumberjacks In Heat is 11 minutes of music from Mechanical Fantasy Box by Patrick Cowley, the latest Cowley collection from Dark Entries.

They Poured Out Their Light Until Only Darkness Remained: new eldritch vibrations from The Wyrding Module.

• Carmen Villain on the magic of Jon Hassell’s Aka / Darbari / Java: Magic Realism.

• An Evil Medium: Elizabeth Horkley on the films of Kenneth Anger.

• Cosmic gardens and boulder boulevards by Charles Jencks.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Murray Melvin Day.

Richard Dawson‘s favourite music.

• RIP John Giorno.

My Girlfriend Is A Witch (1968) by October Country | The October Man (1982) by Bill Nelson | Late October (1984) by Harold Budd