Ravi Shankar’s metempsychosis

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Transmigration Macabre is the curious title of a disc by Ravi Shankar that turned up in one of the local charity shops this week. The album is the score for a short British film, Viola, made in 1967 when Indian music was enjoying its fleeting novelty status in the West. Prior to this, Shankar had provided music for Jonathan Miller’s TV film of Alice in Wonderland, Conrad Rooks’ Chappaqua, and an obscure independent feature, The Psychedelics. Transmigration Macabre wasn’t released until 1973, however, when the sitar fad had long since expired, but it does does work well as an album in itself, albeit a short, monophonic one. I wrote something about the album in 2008 after it provided the key to a minor musical mystery. At the time I only had a collection of mp3s so it’s good to find a cheap disc of the music.

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The most notable feature of the score, also the feature that solved my musical mystery, is the appearance on several tracks of the Cristal baschet, a unique instrument made of glass rods and metal cones created by Bernard and François Baschet, and played by Structures Sonores (aka Structures Sonores Lasry Baschet), the group the Baschet brothers formed with Yvonne and Jacques Lasry. The combination of the Cristal’s weird timbres with Ravi Shankar’s sitar playing works so well I wish the ensemble had recorded more together. The presence of the Cristal also makes Viola one of the few films that features the instrument at all, something I find surprising given the otherworldliness of the Cristal sound. Viola is a supernatural story directed by Dunstan Pereira in which “a man believes that his dead wife has returned in the form of a cat to haunt him”, hence the need for uncanny sounds. The film is described as being comprised of still photos, a common technique for low-budget shorts. Producer Richard Davis adapted his own short story, The Female of the Species, which was first published in And Graves Give Up Their Dead in 1964, a book that also appears to illustrate his story on its cover. The BFI has a copy of the film that’s free to watch but it wouldn’t play for me so I’ll just have to imagine the visuals while listening to the music.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
Cristalophonics: searching for the Cocteau sound

Weekend links 392

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Art by Twins of Evil for the forthcoming blu-ray from Arrow Academy.

Images (1972), the film that Robert Altman made between McCabe and Mrs Miller and The Long Goodbye, is the closest the director came to outright horror. A disturbing portrait of mental breakdown, with Susannah York in the lead role, and photography by Vilmos Zsigmond, the film has for years been so difficult to see as to be almost invisible. Arrow Academy will remedy this situation in March next year with a new blu-ray restoration. Related: Geoff Andrew on where to begin with Robert Altman.

• “[Johnson] is a paltry, utterly conventional, upwardly mobile, morally squalid parvenu who yearns to be taken for what he isn’t.” Jonathan Meades‘ vitriol is in a class of its own, here being deployed in a review of Nincompoopolis: The Follies of Boris Johnson by Douglas Murphy.

• “These films, all preserved in the BFI National Archive, are known as Orphan Works. When the rights-holder for a film cannot be found, that film is classified as an Orphan Work.” 170 orphaned films have been added to the BFI’s YouTube channel.

Don’t romanticize science fiction. One of the questions I have been asked so many times I’ve forgotten what my stock answer to it is, ‘Since science fiction is a marginal form of writing, do you think it makes it easier to deal with marginal people?’ Which—no! Why should it be any easier? Dealing with the marginal is always a matter of dealing with the marginal. If anything, science fiction as a marginal genre is more rigid, far more rigid than literature. There are more examples of gay writing in literature than there are in science fiction.

Samuel Delany in a lengthy two-part interview with Adam Fitzgerald

• One of the books I was illustrating this year was The Demons of King Solomon, a horror anthology edited by Aaron French. The collection is out now; I’ll post the illustrations here in the next month or so.

• Mixes of the week: Routledge Dexter Satellite Systems by Moon Wiring Club, No Way Through The Woods: A Conjurer’s Hexmas by SeraphicManta, and FACT mix 632 by Priests.

• Also at the BFI: Adam Scovell on a film adaptation of MR James that predates Jonathan Miller’s Whistle and I’ll Come To You (1968) by 12 years.

• At Weird Fiction Review: Jon Padgett on absurd degenerations and totalitarian decrepitude in The Town Manager by Thomas Ligotti.

• At Larkfall: Electricity & Imagination: Karl von Eckartshausen and Romantic Synaesthesia.

• It’s the end of December so the London Review of Books has Alan Bennett’s diary for the past year.

Aquarium Drunkard‘s review of the year’s best music.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Lotte Reiniger Day.

Robin Rimbaud is In Wild Air.

• Dream Sequence (Images II) (1976) by George Crumb | Images (1977) by Sun Ra | Mirror Images (1978) by Van Der Graaf

Weekend links 343

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Sidhe, the white people of the Tuatha Dé Danann (1954) by Leonora Carrington.

• January brings a wealth of recommended-reading lists for the new year, together with the feeling that many of those lists are merely clones of each other. Not so the recommendations at Strange Flowers which also includes links to forthcoming events such as this exhibition of Symbolist art at the Guggenheim, New York.

Some Ceremonies are Better than Others, an exhibition of sound objects and drawings by Matthias König & Ibrahim R. Ineke inspired by Arthur Machen’s The White People, at The Bries Space, Borgerhout, Belgium, from 21st January. Previously: Ineke’s comic-strip adaptation of the Machen story.

• “These must-reads explore Dada, Futurism, Surrealism, and the art of opposition,” says Carol Cooper. One of the titles under discussion is the Bruce Sterling book I designed and illustrated last year, Pirate Utopia. Sterling talked to Wired about the book and its relation to the present moment.

RIP Mark Fisher, a cultural theorist whose death was announced just as extracts from his latest book, The Weird and the Eerie, were beginning to appear. One of those extracts is at The Quietus. Related: Fisher’s k-punk blog and its earlier incarnation.

James Cargill (ex of Broadcast) announces a debut release by his new group, Children of Alice. Related: Jonathan Miller’s 1966 TV film of Alice in Wonderland rescored with Broadcast songs.

We are the Martians: the Legacy of Nigel Kneale, a collection of Kneale-related essays and appreciations edited by Neil Snowdon, is finally appearing in print from PS Publishing.

• Pursuing paths hauntological, The Electric Pentacle offers “an unholy stew of library music, Kosmische, arcane ritual electronica, modular synthesisers and shortwave radio”.

• Mixes of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XVI by David Colohan, and Low Visibility Across Sunken Village by The Geography Trip.

• “With Reflection, [Brian Eno] offers generative music for a turbulent time,” says Geeta Dayal.

Anna Biller, director of The Love Witch, talks to New Jack Witch about her film.

• The story behind Gay Bob, the world’s first out-and-proud doll.

Alice (1969) by Jon Plum | Alice (1982) by The Sisters of Mercy | Alice (2009) by Sunn O)))

Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams: Part One

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Blame these things: the Jon Savage booklet, and Mojo Presents Acid Drops, Spacedust & Flying Saucers (design by Phillip Savill).

One of the commissions for the New Year is psychedelia-related so to get in the mood I’ve been listening to the six CD compilations of psychedelic songs I made some years ago. I must have spent about five years gathering everything on these discs which comprise 132 selections in all, three for UK music and three for the USA, covering the years 1966–1969. The impetus was an annotated booklet listing “100 mind-expanding masterpieces” that Jon Savage had compiled for Mojo magazine in 1994; a revised list was published in 1997 along with some debatable contemporary additions. Things came to a head (so to speak) in 2001 when Savage and fellow Mojo journalists put together a four-CD collection of prime UK psychedelia for EMI, Acid Drops, Spacedust & Flying Saucers, which included many of the songs from Savage’s list. That collection and the Rhino Records Nuggets box began the mania to accumulate everything on Savage’s list. Once I’d started burning my own compilations the Savage 100 quickly expanded when I realised that I ought to include more favourites of my own.

To start the year, then, I’m uploading all six compilations to Mixcloud beginning with the UK selection. Despite all the effort and the number of songs this still isn’t a definitive collection. As Savage observes in his notes, the late 1960s was a time of massive over-production by record companies with hundreds of singles released, especially in the UK. Many one-off releases by obscure bands are as good as those that topped the charts which is why psychedelic compilations are so numerous, and why omissions are unavoidable.

With that proviso here’s the first part of the UK collection covering the years 1966 to 1967. The tracklist below indicates in bold the songs from the Savage 100 with notes about my additions. The listing is by order of release although this isn’t strictly accurate throughout. I’ll be uploading the rest of the compilations over the next few weeks.

UK Psychedelia, Part One by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Dialogue — Alice In Wonderland (From Jonathan Miller’s BBC film, 1966.)
The Beatles — Tomorrow Never Knows
The Rolling Stones — Paint It Black
The Creation — Making Time
Craig — I Must Be Mad (A ferocious single by a band that only released one other 45 before splitting. Carl Palmer is on drums.)
Donovan — Season Of The Witch
The Yardbirds — Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
The Misunderstood — I Can Take You To The Sun (An American band who moved to London in 1966. This was their second and final single, and one of John Peel’s all-time favourites.)
Cream — I Feel Free
The Beatles — Strawberry Fields Forever
Pink Floyd — Interstellar Overdrive (Savage has the version from Tonite Let’s All Make Love In London which runs for almost 17 minutes. The version here is the shorter one from Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.)
The Smoke — My Friend Jack
The Poets — In Your Tower
The Move — I Can Hear The Grass Grow
The Troggs — Night Of The Long Grass
Traffic — Paper Sun
The Jimi Hendrix Experience — Are You Experienced?
Tomorrow — My White Bicycle (Savage has a later single, Revolution, but I much prefer this earlier 45.)
John’s Children — Midsummer Night’s Scene
Dialogue — Yellow Submarine
The Beatles — It’s All Too Much
The Attack — Colour Of My Mind
Small Faces — Green Circles

Previously on { feuilleton }
What Is A Happening?
My White Bicycle
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
Tomorrow Never Knows
The Dukes declare it’s 25 O’Clock!
Yellow Submarine comic books
A splendid time is guaranteed for all

Alice in Liverpool

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Alice and the Caterpillar (1865) by John Tenniel.

It’s perhaps surprising that an art gallery, rather than a library, is holding a huge survey exhibition about Alice, but then Carroll’s creation has been and still is the inspiration of artists, photographers, theatrical designers, animators, film-makers.

Thus Marina Warner writing about an exhibition of art based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books opening at Tate Liverpool this Friday:

Alice in Wonderland will offer visitors a rare opportunity to view Carroll’s own drawings and photographs, alongside Victorian Alice memorabilia and John Tenniel’s preliminary drawings for the first edition of the novel.

Carroll’s stories were soon adopted by other artists. Surrealist artists from the 1930s onwards were drawn towards the fantastical world of Wonderland where natural laws were suspended. From the 1960s through the 1970s, Carroll’s Alice tales also prompted conceptual artists to explore language and its relationship to perception, and the stories inspired further responses in Pop and Psychedelic art. Expect to see works by artists ranging from Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, to Peter Blake and Yayoi Kusama. (more)

The exhibition runs to January 29th, 2012, and I suppose this gives me a convenient opportunity to point again to my psychedelic Alice calendars which have been updated for the forthcoming year.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Coulthart calendars for 2012
Scenes from a carriage
Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar
Jabberwocky
Alice in Acidland
Return to Wonderland
Dalí in Wonderland
Virtual Alice
Psychedelic Wonderland: the 2010 calendar
Charles Robinson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Humpty Dumpty variations
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
The Illustrators of Alice