Miles and Miles

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I listen to music all the time when I’m working but it’s not always a good idea to give new music an airing when you’re also concentrating on new work. What often happens on these occasions is that the album will fail to make an impression and end up being laid aside in favour of more familiar sounds, which is what happened to the copy of Milestones (1958) by Miles Davis that I bought last year in a charity shop. Listening to it again this week provoked a “Wow!” response as well as making me realise that I’d heard the tune of the fourth track, Miles, somewhere before. Miles, or Milestones as it’s confusingly also known, is covered by Barry Adamson on his 1996 album, Oedipus Schmoedipus, a simpler version but still jazzier than everything else on the album. I’d always suspected that Adamson was referring to Miles Davis with the title but since I’d never looked at the writing credits until this week I didn’t make the connection. Davis had a habit of naming new pieces of music after people he knew—John McLaughlin, Billy Preston, Mtume, producer Teo Macero, etc—so Miles (as opposed to Milestones) can be taken as an early example of the habit even though it refers to him and also doubles as a reference to measurement rather than a person. The same title, but not the same piece of music, appears on a 1985 album by Sly & Robbie, Language Barrier, the track in this case being a renamed reworking of Black Satin from Miles Davis’s On The Corner album. Language Barrier in turn was produced by Bill Laswell who later remixed the original Black Satin for his excellent compilation/reconstruction of Davis’s electric period, Panthalassa, and who may have suggested that Sly & Robbie record their own version of the Davis piece. Whatever its origin, Miles (Black Satin) is credited to “B. Laswell, M. Davis, R. Shakespeare & S. Dunbar” which brings us back to Barry Adamson whose Miles has a similar credit at Discogs (but not on my CD…) although Laswell is now (bizarrely) “William Laswell”. I still don’t know what connection Laswell or Sly & Robbie have with Adamson’s track, unless it’s a Discogs error or contains a sample I’ve missed, but the ghost of M. Davis might at least be satisfied that he was influencing popular music after so many years on the outside looking in. Always miles ahead. And that’s the title of another Davis album I’ve yet to acquire…

Weekend links 506

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• The late David Roback was a musician who would have been called “enigmatic” for his refusal of the interview treadmill, preferring instead to let his music speak for itself. I wouldn’t label myself a “fan” (a word I dislike at the best of times) but over the years I’ve collected just about everything that Roback was involved in, from the early Rain Parade albums (he co-wrote my favourite song of theirs, No Easy Way Down), to Opal (his collaboration with Kendra Smith and others), and Mazzy Star (with Hope Sandoval), the group whose songs perfected the somnolent blend of blues, country and rock that Roback had been aiming at all along. Some concerts:

Mazzy Star, The Black Sessions, Maison De La Radio, Paris, October 25, 1993
Mazzy Star at the The Metro, Chicago, November 12, 1994
Mazzy Star, KROQ Radio, Los Angeles, December 10, 1994

• “Like other early-modern architects, Lequeu’s drawings explore analogies between bodies and buildings and the erotic, multisensory dimensions of architectural design. In his annotations, he often describes in compulsive detail not only how buildings look but also how they feel, smell, and even taste.” Meredith Martin on the architecture of Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

• “She talks avidly about using pigs’ heads, plastic doll parts, fake blood, and real blood, recollecting with relish a performance where she transformed into a Statue of Liberty that projectile-vomited gore onto the audience…” Geeta Dayal on the performance art of Johanna Went.

Schütte teases out the many ambiguities in these concepts: trains, autobahns, radioactivity, men-machines. All have distinct negative connotations within Germany in particular. Yet Kraftwerk proposed a positive view. Their rigorous determination to deny autobiography forced listeners to focus on the ideas and the music, where apparent contradictions—local/global,  human/machine, past/future—were resolved in a sparkling, crystal-clear sound-world. This was not submission but interaction: as they said, “we are playing the machines, the machines play us”.

Jon Savage reviews Kraftwerk by Uwe Schütte

• “…it was clear that Miles wasn’t sure what he wanted…but he knew what he didn’t want. He didn’t want anything like what he had done before.” John McLaughlin on the recording of Bitches Brew by Miles Davis.

• “His panels are littered with figures standing on the edge of crowds, watching.” Toby Ferris on the paintings of Pieter Bruegel.

Alex Barrett on 100 years of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

A Boy Called Conjuror by Teleplasmiste.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Fires.

Smithsonian Open Access

• Picture P. Brueghel “Winter” / Solaris (1972) by Edward Artemyev | The Dream Dance Of Jane And The Somnambulist (1981) by Bill Nelson | St. Elmo’s Fire (1998) by Uilab

Weekend links 152

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Light Moves on the Water (2010), a collage by Alexis Anne Mackenzie.

“[She] stated, emphatically and more than once, that pornography cannot and should not be linked to LGBT rights…When a gay man lives somewhere where his identity is threatened, it’s clear how sex – including pornography – and sexuality are intertwined. His sexual imagination, which is criminalized, matches the sexual images of gay pornography (which are also criminalized). Since acting out his imagination through sex would be to risk his life, the access to the images is safer. The images, created by gay men wherever it’s legal to create them, provide empowerment and diminish alienation.” An important piece by Conner Habib who asks “Why are we afraid to talk about gay porn?”

• Florida’s Parallel Universe: “The abandoned Nike Missile Site, surrounded by the Everglades, is a reminder of when humans almost destroyed the world and a warning that we could still lose everything today.” By Stefany Anne Golberg.

• In Search of Divine: A Retrospective by Katherine McLaughlin. Related: Jeffrey Schwarz, director of a new documentary, I Am Divine, talks about Divine’s career, and his film to Polari Magazine.

When Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy was banned in 1958, it was said that a man in a pub asked him how much the book weighed, then offered to bring two thousand copies across the border instead of his usual smuggled butter. We might have called it the Black North, for being dark with Protestants, but when I was a child in the 1960s, Ulster was the place British sweets came from: Spangles, Buttons and, most notably, Opal Fruits. It was across this border that the feminists of “the condom train” staged a mass importation of illegal contraceptives in May 1971. When they arrived from Belfast into Connolly Station, the customs men “were mortified”, Mary Kenny, one of the participants, remembered, “and quickly conceded they could not arrest all of us, and let us through”.

Anne Enright on censorship in Ireland.

• Open Culture posts a copy of Nigel Finch’s 1988 Arena documentary about Robert Mapplethorpe.

The Fall of Communism Through Gay Pornography: A video by William E. Jones.

• Surrealism Made Fresh: Sanford Schwartz on the drawings of the Surrealists.

• Cult Classic: Defining Katherine Mansfield by Kirsten O’Regan.

Jonathan Barnbrook (again!) on David Bowie (again!).

Sydney Stanley illustrates Algernon Blackwood

20 Haunting Ghost Towns of the World

• At Pinterest: The Male Form

The Life Divine (1973) by Santana and McLaughlin | The Rhythm Divine (1987) by Yello feat. Shirley Bassey | Divine (2000) by Antony and the Johnsons

Weekend links 18

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Rogomelec (1978) by Leonor Fini. Via.

Moving Through Old Daylight: A recording of Mark Fisher, Jim Jupp and Julian House of Ghost Box Recordings and Iain Sinclair in conversation at the Roundhouse, Camden, London, 5 June 2010. Topics under discussion included Nigel Kneale, TC Lethbridge, John Foxx, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, alchemies of sound, the homogenisation of culture, imagining space and the impersistence of memory.

The Surreal House, “a mysterious dwelling infused with subjectivity and desire” at the Barbican, London.

Ars Homo Erotica at the National Museum of Warsaw. Related: “(Gothenburg) Museum stops exhibition about homosexuality in religion“.

• A lot of people still arrive here looking for art by Zack aka Oliver Frey. Bike Boy, 96 pages of Frey’s exuberantly homoerotic comic strips, is published in August by Bruno Gmünder.

• “EM Forster was a virgin until the age of thirty-nine, when he had his first ‘full’ sexual experience (a ‘hurried sucking off’, Wendy Moffat informs us) with a passing soldier on a beach in Alexandria.”

• JG Ballard’s archive is accepted by the British Library, or “saved for the nation” as they rather grandiloquently describe the process. Samples from the documents to be preserved at the BBC and the Guardian.

• Shades of Ballard’s singing sculptures, Sun Boxes is a solar-powered audio installation by Craig Colorusso. There’s more at Designboom.

• Nathalie visited the MAXXI, Rome’s new museum of contemporary art designed by Zaha Hadid.

Stephen Pinker wants everyone to stop fretting over the alleged distractions of electronic media.

• “It basically comes from love”: John McLaughlin in conversation with Robert Fripp, 1982.

• More collections of print ephemera: Agence Eureka and Ephemera Magica.

The Serpent and the Sword, an Alan Moore rarity from 1999.

Gulliverovy Cesty (1968) at A Journey Round My Skull.

Within the Without: a new Thombeau Tumblr.

The Hidden Posters of Notting Hill Gate.

The Letters of Sylvia Beach reviewed.

• It’s Kubrick Season in St Albans.

Riot In Lagos (1980) by Ryuichi Sakamoto still sounds futuristic thirty years on.