Weekend links 295

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Untitled (2014) by Lola Dupré. Via.

Announcement of the week (if not the month/year) is the news that the BFI will be releasing all of the BBC dramas directed by Alan Clarke on DVD/Blu-ray in May. In addition to the long-awaited appearance on disc of Penda’s Fen (1974) we can expect a previously unseen director’s cut of Clarke’s last TV film, The Firm (1989), the DVD premier of Baal (1982) with David Bowie, plus many other works including some from the 1960s that were believed lost. (And it should be noted that this isn’t everything of Clarke’s; he also worked occasionally for ITV and later directed feature films for Channel 4.)

The BFI attention is a tribute to an exceptional director that’s overdue. Clarke has long been a cult figure among the British actors who worked with him, and among directors such as Harmony Korine and Gaspar Noé, but the tendency of TV to give one-off dramas a single screening has meant that much of his best work has been unavailable for years outside old VHS tapes. Clarke is important for having persistently chosen difficult subjects which he directed with a flair and intensity usually only found in cinema. When he died in 1990 the BBC repeated a handful of his films but the only ones given repeated DVD release have been the violent dramas with the big names attached: Scum (1979, with Ray Winstone), Made in Britain (1982, with Tim Roth), and The Firm (with Gary Oldman). Clarke’s oeuvre is much more than a parade of nihilistic villains, as will become evident later this year.

• A psychedelic video directed by Peter Strickland for Liquid Gate (ft. Bradford Cox) by Cavern of Anti-Matter. The debut album from Cavern of Anti-Matter, Void Beats/Invocation Trex, will be out later this month.

Celebrating Dusseldorf, the city that birthed Krautrock. (Article loses points for not mentioning producer Conny Plank.)

All Rivette’s features might be regarded as different kinds of horror films; Céline et Julie vont en bateau is his first horror comedy. The anxiety and despair of Paris Nous Appartient and La Religieuse, L’Amour Fou and Spectre seem relatively absent, yet they perpetually hover just beyond the edges of the frames. We still have no privileged base of ‘reality’ to set against the fictions, each of which is as outrageous as the other; and along with Borges, we can’t really say whether it’s a man dreaming he’s a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he’s a man—although we may feel, in either case, that he and we are just on the verge of waking.

Jonathan Rosenbaum on work and play in the house of fiction: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 and Céline and Julie Go Boating

• Mixes of the week: Finders Keepers Radio Show Krautrock Special, and The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XV by David Colohan.

• At Dangerous Minds: Super strange sculptures (by Shary Boyle) only the dark and demented could love.

• Beautiful Brutalites: S. Elizabeth questions Arabella Proffer about her paintings.

KTL is a musical collaboration between Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley.

• Why study art when you can make it? The strange world of…This Heat.

Sarah Galo on the explicitly sexual female artists that feminism forgot.

Irmin Schmidt‘s favourite music (this week).

• LSD: My life-saving drug by Eric Perry.

The Occult Activity Book

Twenty Tiny Cities

Der LSD-Marsch (1970) by Guru Guru | Krautrock (1973) by Faust | Düsseldorf (1976) by La Düsseldorf

Cosmic eggs

1: The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) by Salvador Dalí.

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2: Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943) by Salvador Dalí.

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3: The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality (1971) by Joseph Chilton Pearce.

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Falk-Ulrich Rogner album covers

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All The Years Round (7-inch single, 1972).

I mentioned earlier that Falk-Ulrich Rogner’s cover art for Amon Düül II was worthy of a post so here you are. Amon Düül II were slightly ahead of the pack in the German music scene of the 1970s, starting earlier and (arguably) finishing their prime period earlier. They were also closer in musical style and group ethos to the psychedelic/early prog groups in Britain and America, especially Hawkwind with whom they shared a record label and a bass player. Other German groups were often psychedelic to some degree but Amon Düül II went all-out for a German take on psych rock, with extended guitar-heavy jams played against oil-on-water projections.

Falk-Ulrich Rogner was one of the longer lasting members of the group’s shifting personnel, playing organ and electronics, writing lyrics and creating artwork that’s a perfect match for what I always think of as Amon Düül II’s Gothic Surrealism: a blend of lyrics and themes running through songs titled like Max Ernst paintings: Flesh-Coloured Anti-Aircraft Alarm, Archangel’s Thunderbird, Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight, Green Bubble Raincoated Man. The cover art is generally a collage of photographs, old paintings and other graphics, a familiar technique for psychedelic album covers. What gives Rogner’s work an edge is the way he blends multiple collages together by either photographic exposure or the photographing of projected transparencies. This has the effect of softening hard edges and transitions, and makes the resulting images all the more hallucinatory and dream-like. Effects like this are easy to achieve today with Photoshop but in the early 1970s they required a considerable effort.

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Phallus Dei (1969).

At first glance the cover of the gloriously titled debut album looks like a painting but it’s a photograph of a tree silhouette juxtaposed against some vague collage business. This doesn’t really communicate the lysergic intensity of the music within which may explain why the cover was changed to something more typically psychedelic for its UK release.

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The back cover inaugurates a pattern of placing the band on the back of the album, a reversal of the usual state of affairs even today.

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The first CD release of Phallus Dei on the Mantra label featured what may be another Rogner photomontage, one that I’ve not seen anywhere else.

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The Kosmische Tarot

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Revelation of the weekend has been the discovery that there are two sets of (for want of a better term) Krautrock Tarot cards. The first, Walter Wegmüller’s Zigeuner Tarot, is familiar for being included in the Tarot concept album released on the Kosmischen Kuriere label in 1973. The album was credited to Wegmüller but he only advised on the symbolism and acts as MC/narrator. Wegmüller’s cards are detailed and somewhat original, but their drawing is from the enthusiasm-over-technique school which goes against the grain of the rest of the album design and the accomplishment of the musicians.

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Dreamlab (1975) by Mythos. Design by Peter Geitner.

As noted a few days ago, the designer of the Tarot album was Peter Geitner working under the direction of a pair of very hands-on label bosses, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Gille Lettmann. The story of Kaiser’s rise and fall has been recounted in some detail over the years (see here and here). Given the colourful saga, and the cast of notable musicians, writers and artists, I’m surprised to have seen no mention of the second Tarot set that Peter Geitner designed and illustrated in 1975 while the Kosmische Musik empire was imploding. One illustration (The Lovers) was even used as cover art for the Dreamlab album by Mythos.

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Card back for the Sternenmädchen’s Wahrsagespiel.

Sternenmädchen’s Wahrsagespiel (Star Girl’s Fortune Telling Game) is a specialised set of the Major Arcana presented as a spin-off from Gille Lettmann’s Sternenmädchen persona as featured on the Gilles Zeitschiff album; the back of the 22 cards features the photo of Gille from the album cover. I’ve said that Geitner illustrated the cards but some of the drawings may have originated as sketches by Gille Lettmann; information is scant but I’ve seen mention of her having been a textile or fashion designer. What’s most striking to me about these designs is how psychedelic they all are, more so than any of the Kosmische Musik album covers even though they maintain the cosmic themes of the record label. Many of those involved with the Kosmische empire were taking LSD at the time so this isn’t very surprising but psychedelia of this intensity was an outmoded thing by the mid-70s. Also of interest is the renaming of the cards which push the attributions away from medieval tradition and into the cosmos. I’ve not been able to find examples of all 22 designs but a list of the cards follows, together with examples of variable quality. The set was printed by AGM Müller but has never been reissued so it now commands high prices. (Many thanks to Jeff for drawing my attention to these!)

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Leitkegel

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Gatefold interior for Doppelalbum (1974), a double-disc compilation album by Kraftwerk.

More Kraftwerkiana. “Leitkegel” is the German name for traffic cones, and it’s immediately obvious to anyone browsing Kraftwerk’s pre-Autobahn recordings that Ralf and Florian had a fixation with these objects. The closest thing I’ve found for a rationale is in Tim Barr’s history of the group, Kraftwerk: From Dusseldorf to the Future (1998), which features some musings about the influence of Joseph Beuys and the Düsseldorf arts scene of the late 60s. Prior to Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider was a member of a short-lived art collective/music outfit with the very un-Kraftwerkian name of Pissoff. Recordings exist of the group performing with Beuys. A more straightforward explanation might be to look towards Pop Art (something that Barr also suggests), with the traffic cone serving as a symbolic objet trouvé that’s also the first inkling of the future Kraftwerk obsessions with roads, trains and cycling. Whatever the impulse behind its adoption, between 1969 and 1973 the traffic cone was turning up everywhere that Ralf and Florian went.

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Cover design by “Comus” (Roger Wooton).

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The first instance is on Tone Float (1970), the pre-Kraftwerk album by Organisation, a collection of freeform improvisations that’s very much of its time. The album wasn’t very successful, and matters weren’t helped by the poor cover artwork. That multicoloured head and Ringlet typeface are also very much of their time but if you look on the back of the sleeve you find a traffic cone beside the album credits.

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Organisation live (1970).

Before the group split they were recorded by German TV, a performance that gives a good idea of the Organisation sound and of how odd they all look together. Ralf Hütter isn’t visible but you do glimpse a traffic cone for a moment when Florian is moving his microphone stand. I suspect the proliferation of cones around Florian (see below) is an indicator that their adoption was his doing.

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