Unearthly tones

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Design, as always, is by Julian House.

“…we shall only be delivered from our afflictions by sayings and doings that are altogether irrational, paradoxical, and magical: the wild songs of fairyland, sung to unearthly tones, are the only medicine for the heartache and the headache of humanity.”

Arthur Machen, A Note on Asceticism (The Academy, 27th May, 1911)

This quote from the Apostle of Wonder, which will appear on the forthcoming album from Belbury Poly, is one I hadn’t seen before; serves me right for not subscribing to Faunus where the piece was reprinted in 2017. It’s been a while since Machen’s name has appeared in association with Ghost Box even though the label originates from the same area of South Wales that was the writer’s birthplace, a detail that gave the early Ghost Box releases additional resonance. One of the attractions of the Ghost Box recordings was the intersection between quotes and titles from weird literature with electronic music derived from library albums and theme tunes from the 1960s and 70s; Witch Cults Of The Radio Age, as Broadcast & The Focus Group memorably put it. It was a beguiling mix which the label’s more recent releases have increasingly diluted: the rear-view musical themes are still in evidence but the weird quotient has been diminished, giving the listener a box without a ghost. (Pye Corner Audio, whose last album was an exploration of subterranean realms, is a notable exception.) I feel uncomfortable drawing attention to this since it’s tantamount to saying “Please don’t change!”. But it’s also the case that a label devoted solely to Basil Kirchin pastiches might never have attracted my attention in the first place.

The description of new Belbury Poly album, The Gone Away, reaffirms the label’s commitment to its weirder side:

The Gone Away’s 11 tracks are inspired by British fairy folklore, especially its recurrent themes of things that always seem on the point of leaving or vanishing. Also there’s the notion of things that can’t be seen head on but are only glimpsed from the corner of the eye. A scorned and neglected corner of folklore, beguiling and bonkers in equal measure. Of course, this being a Ghost Box record, these themes are received through the prism of old TV soundtracks, and the credulous beliefs and childhood obsessions of a pre-digital age.

Anyone who’s read Arthur Machen’s The Shining Pyramid will know that fairy folklore in his stories conceals a darker and more malevolent manifestation of the supernatural. His comment about “unearthly tones” suggests a different point of view. The Gone Away will be released on 28th August.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The White People by Arthur Machen
Ghost Box

Weekend links 507

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The next release on the Ghost Box label will be Puzzlewood by Plone, “unironically joyful and melodic electronica; informed by library music, music for children’s TV and a deep passion for the history of music technology”. The album will be available in April. Design, as always, is by Julian House.

• “With his panting breath and dripping sweat infused in each page of his memoir, Patrick Cowley describes himself on his knees, bending over and ‘worshipping Phallus.'” Maxwell Shand on Dark Entries‘ “holy trinity” of Patrick Cowley’s Mechanical Fantasy Box, Hot Rod To Hell by Roy Garrett & Man Parrish, and Maxx Mann’s gay synth-pop.

• “We’re gonna do economic activity—without money!”: Inside the criminal glamour of the San Francisco Diggers with Kent Minault. The third installment of a verbal history of the hippie anarchists by Jay Babcock.

• “Susanna Hoffs and friends remember David Roback, who stayed creative, and enigmatic, to the end.” By Randall Roberts.

My connection with [raga] was not to be able to duplicate or emulate it but to learn from it. I combined it with the electronics and the harmonizer and things like that. But I would have a line that was being drawn. You’re thinking about it like a shape that’s being drawn on a canvas. It’s a line that’s being drawn and another. You’re holding three pencils at once while you’re drawing on the wall. So, you’re able to get the shapes. This was my thing with it, because I was into the harmony that it would make. So, it was an easy and natural thing to do, was to go and move into the electronics. Then we had equipment that was doing transposition and all that kind of thing. So that’s one little part of it.

Jon Hassell talking to Aquarium Drunkard about his first album, Vernal Equinox, which is reissued later this month

• Published next month by Strange Attractor Press: Rated SavX: The Savage Pencil Skratchbook.

• They came from outer Finland: the town where everyone saw UFOs, as photographed by Maria Lax.

• Mix of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. VI – Sweden II by David Colohan.

Moonstrips Empire News (1967) by Eduardo Paolozzi.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Shelley Duvall Day.

Graham Massey‘s favourite albums.

Phallus Dei (1969) by Amon Düül II | Wrong Eye (1990) by Coil | Red Scratch (1994) by ELpH

Weekend links 501

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Cover art by Michael Ashman, 1979.

• RIP Terry Jones, not only a writer, actor and director but also a presenter of the BBC’s short-lived Paperbacks series in 1981, a programme that included Angela Carter among its guests. Related: The Box (1981), a short film directed by Micky Dolenz, based on a play by Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

• “[David] Lynch in a suit and tie that echoes the formal dress of Twin Peaks’ FBI Agent Cooper, presses a small capuchin monkey, called Jack Cruz, to confess to the murder of Max.” What Did Jack Do?

• The week in Ghost Box: Flying Lotus and Julian House collaborate on a promo for the Moog Subsequent 25 synthesizer, while at Grave Goods Jim Jupp answers questions from beyond.

Bruce Sterling: “This is an essay about lists of moral principles for the creators of Artificial Intelligence. I collect these lists, and I have to confess that I find them funny.”

• A campaign to protect and maintain Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage.

• Winners of the Wiki Loves Monuments 2019 photo competition.

• Mix of the week: Sehnsucht by The Ephemeral Man.

• Susan Schulten on Emma Willard’s Maps of Time.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Roland Topor’s Brains.

• At Strange Flowers: 20 books for 2020.

Beat Box (1984) by Art Of Noise | Glory Box (1994) by Portishead | Black Box (1995) by Scorn

Weekend links 494

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Aurora Borealis (1865) by Frederic Edwin Church.

• December is over-stuffed with enervating cultural lists, most of them reminding you of things which received enough attention earlier in the year. Better value than these—and always unpredictable—is John Waters‘ choice of favourite films; unpredictable and enlightening are the Secret Satan selections at Strange Flowers which come in two flavours: books originally published in English and books translated from other languages.

Flash Of The Spirit (1988), a collaboration between Jon Hassell and African group Farafina (with production by Hassell plus Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois), receives its first ever reissue on double-vinyl and CD next year. The last piece on the album is the 11-minute Masque (Strength).

• “In 1968, Federico Fellini decided he was going make the greatest homosexual movie ever made. What he meant by a homosexual movie, no one was quite sure, but it was going to be great.” Paul Gallagher on Federico Fellini’s delirious (and distinctly homosexual) Satyricon.

• “Here’s the typography of the next decade; the age of font minimalism is coming to a close,” says Rachel Hawley. I’ve been using Didones for the past decade so I’ll carry on happily ignoring the trends.

• More obituaries for comic artist Howard Cruse: Justin Hall at The Comics Journal; Trudy Ring at The Advocate; and Richard Sandomir at the New York Times.

• “Cowley records a kind of utopian sleaze that’s breathtaking.” Brett Josef Grubisic reviews Patrick Cowley’s sex journal of the 1970s, Mechanical Fantasy Box.

• At the BFI: Carmen Grey on where to begin with Sergei Parajanov, and Matthew Thrift on 10 essential Fritz Lang films.

A promo video by Julian House for Paul Weller’s In Another Room EP which is released in January by Ghost Box.

• At Aquarium Drunkard: San Francisco Radical Laboratory and the Mysterious Moogist of Altamont.

• Mix of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. V – France III by David Colohan.

Aurora Australis (2005) by Émilie Simon | Iceblink (Aurora Borealis Mix) (2011) by Netherworld | Aurora Liminalis (2013) by William Basinski & Richard Chartier

Weekend links 462

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The next release on the Ghost Box label, Chanctonbury Rings is “a blend of folk, electronic music, poetry, prose and environmental sound” by Justin Hopper & Sharron Kraus with The Belbury Poly. The album will be available in June. Design, as always, is by Julian House.

• Clumsy and insensitive translations can ruin the enjoyment of a foreign-language film. Don’t blame us, say the subtitlers pressing film-makers for more appreciation of their art. Anne Billson on the difficulties of translating for a medium of moving images.

• At Expanding Mind: Hypermedia researcher and author Konrad Becker talks with Erik Davis about algorithms from hell, the madness of rationality, media seances, and the martial art of freedom.

The HP Lovecraft Cat Book: a limited collection of Lovecraft’s writings about cats edited by ST Joshi and illustrated by Jason C. Eckhardt.

Amacher was also inspired by a short story she found in the 1986 cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades, edited by Bruce Sterling—a tale called Petra by Greg Bear, about a grand cathedral, possibly Notre Dame in Paris, in a ravaged, postapocalyptic landscape. Stone gargoyles and other statues mate with humans, creating new hybrids who wander the labyrinthine chambers of the battered house of worship.

Geeta Dayal on composer Maryanne Amacher

• The novel that wouldn’t leave Anthony Burgess alone: Alison Flood on the discovery of a non-fiction continuation of the themes in A Clockwork Orange.

Kristina Foster on photographs of Central Asia’s Striking Soviet Architecture.

Adrian Shaughnessy‘s ten favourite design and visual culture books.

William Joel on the process behind Helvetica’s 21st century facelift.

• The Stupid Classics Book Club by Elisa Gabbert.

The Haunted Generation by Bob Fischer.

Haunted Cocktails (1983) by Intro | Haunted Gate (1997) by David Toop | The Universe Is A Haunted House (2002) by Coil