Hokusai record covers

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Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes (Nuages, Fêtes, Sirènes) (1959); Orchestra Of The Cento Soli And Choir Of The Paris Opera, Louis Fourestier.

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. In the case of Katsushika Hokusai it’s all about the waves, or one wave in particular. The Great Wave off Kanegawa (1830) is not only the most well-known of all the prints in the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji series, but it occupies the unique position of representing to the rest of the world the nation from which it originates. Claude Debussy deserves much of the credit for elevating the popularity of the wave print after he used it in 1905 as an illustration on the cover of the sheet music for La Mer. Consequently, the print is an inevitable choice for art directors who require cover art for Debussy recordings. The example above is the first in a long line, many of which are omitted here in favour of other prints. The landscape format of this view, and that of many other Hokusai prints, means that the art is usually cropped to suit the square of the album cover. The results aren’t always successful.

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Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Delibes, Adam: Ballet Favourites: Highlights From The Nutcracker/Carnaval/Coppélia/Giselle (1964); Orchestra Of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Ernest Ansermet.

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Switched On East (1971) by M. Sato. Art: Fine Wind, Clear Morning, from Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.

A gatefold sleeve for one of the many “switched-on” Moog albums released to capitalise on the success of Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos. (Tomita recorded Switched On Hit & Rock a year later.) M. Sato gives a collection of Japanese folk tunes the synthesizer treatment.

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Lyrical Melodies Of Japan (1980) by András Adorján & Ayako Shinozaki.

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Sakura: Japanese Melodies For Flute And Harp (1990) by Jean-Pierre Rampal And Lily Laskine.

A reissue with collaged artwork by Paula Sher of an album first released in 1969.

Continue reading “Hokusai record covers”

Weekend links 528

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The Rhinoceros (after 1620) by Albrecht Dürer.

• “Today—Tolkien, Lovecraft, Miéville and M John Harrison!” Paul StJohn Mackintosh at Greydogtales explores HP Lovecraft’s lack of interest in fictional worldbuilding. The piece includes one of my book covers (ta!) plus a link to an earlier post I wrote about the cover designs of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium books. Since I’m connected to the thesis I’ll suggest that Lovecraft was resistant to the worldbuilding impulse in part because he was almost always writing horror stories. Having studied the genre at length he was well aware of the need to leave suggestive voids for the reader’s imagination.

• RIP Denise Johnson. All the obituaries mention the big names she worked with, notably New Order and Primal Scream, but being in the pool of Manchester session artists she also appeared on a couple of records by my colleagues at Savoy. Her voice is one of those you first hear on the PJ Proby cover of I’m On Fire, while with friend Rowetta she improvised her way through a Hi-NRG original (and a favourite of Anohni’s), the scurrilous Shoot Yer Load.

• At the BFI: Axel Madsen interviews Fritz Lang in 1967; Serena Scateni on where to begin with Nobuhiko Obayashi; and Roger Luckhurst reviews the spomenik-infested  Last and First Men by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• “Be more aware of the rest of the world!” says Jon Hassell, talking to Alexis Petridis about a life spent making music.

John Boardley on the Renaissance origins of the printed poster. Worth it for the selection of engraved details alone.

• “What Ever Happened To Chicken Fat?” Jackson Arn on a tendency to over-abundance in Jewish humour.

Erik Davis has a new writing home at Substack that he calls The Burning Shore. Bookmarked.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXII by David Colohan.

• Garry Hensey on The Strange World of John Foxx.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sergei Parajanov Day.

Romantic Rhino (1981) by Ananda Shankar | The Lone Rhinoceros (1982) by Adrian Belew | Blastic Rhino (2000) by King Crimson

Weekend links 315

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The Deluge (1920) by Winifred Knights.

Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, nonfiction, film, music, art & internet of 2016 so far. (Thanks again for the nod to this blog!)

• At Literary Hub: Jonathan Russell Clark on Jorge Luis Borges, and Jon Sealy on why indie presses [in the US] are opening bookstores.

• “It’s not just about the music.” A conversation on the occult practices in the arts between poet Janaka Stucky and Peter Bebergal.

• Daisy Woodward talks to Andreas Horvath about Helmut Berger, Actor, a documentary about Visconti’s muse and lover.

• More Fritz Leiber: Brian J. Showers on his decision to republish Leiber’s horror novel, The Pale Brown Thing.

• Mixes of the week: Sextape 4 by Drixxxe, and Radio Oscillations #96 (Richard Pinhas/Heldon) by Iron Blu.

• The 5th Young One: Pay No Attention to the Girl Behind the Sofa; John Reppion on a television mystery.

• More reading suggestions: Cheerless beach reads for gloomsters and saddies by S. Elizabeth.

• Never the same film twice: Seances by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson.

• How painter Winifred Knights became Britain’s “unknown genius”.

• The Journey & The Destination: An interview with Hawthonn.

Robert Latona goes in search of the grave of Constance Wilde.

• Invisible by Day: photos by Mikko Lagerstedt.

• A Queer Lit Q&A with Evan J. Peterson.

• RIP Michael Herr and Bernie Worrell.

Bridget Riley: The Curve Paintings.

• The typography of Blade Runner.

Japanese matchbox labels

SOS by Portishead

A Rainbow In Curved Air (1969) by Terry Riley | The Great Curve (1980) by Talking Heads | Dangerous Curves (2003) by King Crimson

Fractures

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Fractures is the latest musical anthology from A Year In The Country, and having been listening to an advance copy for the past couple of weeks I can say it’s as fine a collection as the label’s previous opus, The Quietened Village. The latter album encouraged a variety of artists to create pieces around the theme of lost or abandoned villages; the theme for Fractures fixates on a year rather than a location:

Fractures is a gathering of studies and explorations that take as their starting point the year 1973; a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards. […] Fractures is a reflection on reverberations from those disquieted times, taking as its initial reference points a selected number of conspicuous junctures and signifiers: Delia Derbyshire leaving The BBC/The Radiophonic Workshop and reflecting later that around then “the world went out of time with itself”. Electricity blackouts in the UK and the three day week declared. The Wicker Man released. The Changes recorded but remained unreleased. The Unofficial Countryside published. The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water released.

Track list:
1) The Osmic Projector/Vapors of Valtorr – Circle/Temple
2) The Land Of Green Ginger – Sproatly Smith
3) Seeing The Invisible – Keith Seatman
4) Triangular Shift – Listening Center
5) An Unearthly Decade – The British Space Group
6) A Fracture In The Forest – The Hare And The Moon ft Alaska/Michael Begg
7) Elastic Refraction – Time Attendant
8) Ratio (Sequence) – The Rowan Amber Mill
9) The Perfect Place For An Accident – Polypores
10) A Candle For Christmas/311219733 – A Year In The Country
11) Eldfell – David Colohan

This isn’t the first time a year has been isolated as a basis for a musical anthology but prior examples such as Jon Savage’s Meridian 1970 are invariably concerned with the musical scene alone. Fractures is different for trying to seize the essence of the year itself even if a number of the musicians involved may not have been alive in 1973.

The year has a resonance for me that I recounted in the memorial post for David Bowie. That summer was significant (and therefore memorable) for being warm, carefree and positioned between the end of junior school and the beginning of secondary school. The years after those few weeks were increasingly bad on a personal level so 1973 for me spells “fracture” in more ways than one. None of this can be communicated by Fractures, of course, the contents of which have more of a cultural focus: A Fracture In The Forest by The Hare And The Moon sets readings from Arthur Machen to music, while The Land Of Green Ginger by Sproatly Smith draws in part upon a TV film of the same name that was broadcast in the BBC’s Play For Today strand. As those Plays For Today recede in time they seem increasingly like a dream of Britain in the 1970s, reflecting back in a concentrated form much more of the nation’s inner life than you get from today’s Americanised fare. Another Play For Today, Penda’s Fen, was being filmed in the fields of England in the summer of 1973 so we can add the crack in the church floor to the catalogue of fractures. (And for an additional musical entry, I’d note the astonishing Fracture by King Crimson, not released until 1974 but most of the track was a live recording from Amsterdam in November of the previous year.)

Fractures is available from the usual sources such as Bandcamp but hard copies are also being distributed via the Ghost Box Guest Shop.

Weekend links 292

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The Black Sun from Splendor Solis (1582) “attributed to the legendary figure Salomon Trismosin”.

Topic B predominates this week. The Black Sun of alchemy was the first thing I thought of when the title of David Bowie’s final album was announced late last year. The Black Sun symbolises the nigredo stage of the alchemical process when putrefaction or decomposition takes place; Carl Jung in Psychology and Alchemy equates the nigredo with the dark night of the soul. At the time I didn’t seriously think that the Bowie of 2015 would have had this in mind as a primary reference even though the Bowie of the early 1970s was immersed in Golden Dawn occultism, the Kabbalah, and a reader of Pauwels & Bergier’s The Morning of the Magicians, a book that informs the lyrics of the Hunky Dory album, and which contains a great deal of discussion about alchemy and other esoteric matters. And yet… Of all the outfits that Bowie might have worn in his final video the one that he chose for Lazarus is a match for the one he wore during the Station To Station Kabbalah-drawing photo session. At Sol Ascendans Alex Sumner and his commenters explored this twilight zone.

Back in the sublunary world, Jonathan Barnbrook’s cut-out sleeve design for the Blackstar album gained additional resonance this week: the black star as the hole that’s left when a more familiar star has been removed from its setting. Hindsight also makes poignant the observation that this was the only album without a picture of the artist on the cover. Elsewhere there were speculations about the title being a reference to Black Star by Elvis Presley (who shared a birthday with Bowie) or a term from oncology, two suggestions that fit so well they’re hard to ignore.

He began to develop a science fiction sensibility, drawing on the New Wave SF movement of Michael Moorcock and JG Ballard, other writers who used the genre such as Anthony Burgess and William S Burroughs, and an older fantasy tradition found in HP Lovecraft and Edward Bulwer-Lytton (whose The Coming Race is name-checked in Oh! You Pretty Things, 1971).

Jake Arnott on David Bowie’s literary influences

• In something-else-also-happened-this-week news, 2016 may see the long-awaited release of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films on Region B Blu-ray. Fingers crossed.

• International posters for The Man Who Fell To Earth. More Nicolas Roeg (and more shiny discs): Eureka (1983) will receive a Blu-ray release in March.

• Cracking the codes of Leena Krohn: Peter Bebergal on the Finnish writer of strange stories.

• Anthems for the Moon: Jason Heller examines David Bowie’s connections to science fiction.

• From 2013: Jon Savage on Bowie’s first meeting with William Burroughs in 1974.

• Mixes of the week: Bowie-esque Vol 1 and Bowie-esque Vol 2 by Abigail Ward.

David Bowie Doing Shit: a Tumblr

“Heroes” (1978) by Blondie & Robert Fripp | “Heroes” (2003) by King Crimson | “Helden” (2007) by Apocalyptica ft. Till Lindemann