Weekend links 270

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Cover design for UFOs and Extra-Terrestrials in History (four vols, 1978) by Yves Naud.

Come To The Sabbath, “a festival of dark arts delving into the influence of Black Magick, Witchcraft, Demonology and Satanism in pop culture”, takes place at Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, London, from Tues 18th–Sun 23rd August.

• “Visitors, if there had ever been any, would have said that the little town of Mansfield was haunted.” Showdown is a previously unpublished short story by Shirley Jackson.

• “A sandbox stealthy immersive sim in a surreal, horror-y world inspired by writers like Burroughs and Ballard…” Alice O’Connor previews the forthcoming computer game, Tangiers.

Sometime in the late 1960s, the artist Robert Smithson took a trip to southwestern Ohio. He saw the Great Serpent Mound there and decided that he would make a great spiral too. […] Because the Great Salt Lake’s levels vary several feet from year to year, and also from season to season, Spiral Jetty is not always visible even if you make the trip to Utah. You could go out to Spiral Jetty and find that the entire earthwork is invisible underwater. When Robert Smithson created this earthwork in 1970, he did not care if it could be easily seen or who owned it. And so, even today, no one knows to whom Spiral Jetty really belongs. To view it requires a pilgrimage.

Stefany Anne Goldberg on earthworks, new and ancient, and the art of disappearance

• “Commercial book cover design is a minor portion of Gorey’s award-winning legacy, but not a lesser art.” Steven Heller on Edward Gorey: cover designer.

• “You are accepted,” he says, “by the genre that can accept you.” Samuel R. Delany talked to Peter Bebergal about being an outsider in the world of science fiction.

A battle of Witts: A brief look at ‘Taboos’ and the work of The Passage. Mark Griffiths on a great, if seldom-remembered, Manchester band.

• “Hispanic photomonteur Josep Renau aimed Technicolor jets of scorn at the mirage of US consumerist culture,” says Rick Poynor.

• Because the internet is really big… Kelli Anderson reworks the Eames’ The Powers of Ten using imagery found via Google searches.

Against Nature is a forthcoming musical adaptation of Huysmans’ À Rebours by Marc Almond, Jeremy Reed and Othon.

“What makes a film noir?” Adam Frost & Melanie Patrick have an infographic for you.

• Mixes of the week: Gizehcast #20 by LCC, and Jenny Hval‘s WEIRD Quietus mix.

• Mysterium Tremendum: Russell Cuzner on The Strange World of Lustmord.

• The charming march of the Penguin Books logo.

Cosey Fanni Tutti: Agent Provocateur

Dark Times (Peel Session) (1980) by The Passage | XOYO (1982) by The Passage | Revelation (1982) by The Passage

Weekend links 266

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Spine and cover art by John Schoenherr for the first American edition of Dune, 1965.

• “[Herbert] had also taken peyote and read Jung. In 1960, a sailing buddy introduced him to the Zen thinker Alan Watts, who was living on a houseboat in Sausalito. Long conversations with Watts, the main conduit by which Zen was permeating the west-coast counterculture, helped turn Herbert’s pacy adventure story into an exploration of temporality, the limits of personal identity and the mind’s relationship to the body.” Hari Kunzru on Frank Herbert and Dune, 50 years on. Related: “To save California, read Dune,” says Andrew Leonard. There’s a lot more Dune cover art at ISFDB.

• “Embedded in Adam’s footage were several dark forms, human-ish in outline, unidentifiable but unmistakable, visible within the leaves or the shadows.” Holloway is a short film by Adam Scovell based on the book by Robert Macfarlane, Dan Richards and Stanley Donwood.

The Library of the Lost: In Search of Forgotten Authors by Roger Dobson; edited and with an introduction by Mark Valentine. Roger and Mark were my first publishers in 1988 when their Caermaen Books imprint produced the large-format edition of The Haunter of the Dark.

• “…over the years he created a series of ‘Pharmacies’: rows of glass bottles filled not with medicines to cure the body…but objects to stimulate the mind.” Clare Walters reviews Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust, an exhibition at the Royal Academy, London.

• “The sound machines we build today are invariably one-offs, made from salvaged parts, with all the precariousness of a prototype.” Sarah Angliss on the art of making music machines.

Mission Desire is a new single by Jane Weaver whose video is “set to scenes from Marie Mathématique – the French 1960s mini-series about Barbarella’s younger sister”.

• Ghost signs, ginnels and hidden details: an alternative guide to Manchester by Hayley Flynn aka Skyliner.

• “I want to be despised,” says John Waters who has a new art exhibition at Sprüth Magers, London.

Sonic Praise, an album of “Krautprogbikermetal” by Ecstatic Vision.

• The Evolution of the Great Gay Novel: an overview by Rebecca Brill.

* At Bibliothèque Gay: more homoerotic drawings by Jean Cocteau.

Wyrd Daze Lvl2 Issue 3 is a free download.

Nicolas Winding Refn: vinyl collector.

Art With Naked Guys In It

Caladan (2011) by Roly Porter | Giedi Prime (2011) by Roly Porter | Arrakis (2011) by Roly Porter

Weekend links 248

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The Dreamers (2013) by Kate Baylay, from Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen.

• RIP composer and musique-concrète pioneer Tod Dockstader. “I didn’t have the money for electronic sounds…I had to have things like bottles, or anything that would make a noise. It didn’t matter what it was; if it sounded interesting, or I could make it interesting, I’d go for it.” Geeta Dayal talked to Dockstader for Wired in 2012. Dockstader’s film credits included Fellini’s Satyricon and Tom and Jerry cartoons. He also wrote the story for one of the latter, Mouse into Space, in 1962. Ubuweb has some early Dockstader recordings.

• “…anyone who has ever sat in a cafe, or in the bath, with a paperback owes a debt to Aldus and the small, cleanly designed editions of the secular classics he called libelli portatiles, or portable little books.” Jennifer Schuessler on Aldus Manutius, and the roots of the paperback.

• “At Chernobyl, we made ‘the world’s first radioactive nature preserve.’ We made black rain. We made the Red Forest, which was green when the day began, and is dead.” Mary Margaret Alvarado reviews The Long Shadow Of Chernobyl by Gerd Ludwig.

Prison was often the fate of those caught circulating samizdat in the Soviet Union—not only the “high” samizdat such as Solzhenitsyn, but the crude and lowly joke books as well. The official rationale for the prohibition was in context no less reasonable than the rationale given more recently for condemning Charlie Hebdo or R. Crumb. There is always a perception that the very serious project of perfecting society is being undermined. But society will not be perfected, and it is a last resort of desperate perfecters to go after the subtle-minded satirists who understand this.

Justin EH Smith on why satire matters

• “You have to do your research, and you’ll find treasures that you couldn’t even have begun to sit down and draw until you saw them in front of your eyes,” says Annie Atkins, graphic designer behind The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Tales of Hoffmann: exclusive materials from the making of Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece. The film will be released on Blu-ray by the BFI later this month.

• The illustrated score for Irma, the opera offshoot of Tom Phillips’ A Humument, is now available from Lulu.

Mellifluous Ichor From Sunless Regions, a free album of Hauntological electronica by The Wyrding Module.

Kraftwerk at the controls: what the group’s live instrument setup looks like today.

• Booze, Blood and Noise: The Violent Roots of Manchester Punk by Frank Owen.

• Mix of the week: 14th February 2015 by The Séance.

Vintage logo designs

Transmission (1979) by Joy Division | Radioactivity (William Orbit mix, 1991) by Kraftwerk | Bellstomp/Pond Dance (Mordant Music remix, 2012) by Tod Dockstader

Atmospherics

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Listening to Joy Division over the weekend prompted another of those idle speculations that are immediately answered these days (so to speak…) by a few seconds of web searching. While Atmosphere was playing I’d remembered a conversation with a friend about the identity of the painting of a cowled figure that appears on the original Atmosphere/Dead Souls single for the Sordide Sentimental label. Neither of us had a copy of the Holy Grail of JD collectors, nor did we know anybody who owned one, so the discussion wasn’t very fruitful.

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Licht Und Blindheit (1980) by Joy Division.

Sordide Sentimental were (and still are) a French company run by Jean-Pierre Turmel and Yves von Bontee whose speciality was limited releases of exclusive material often by bands with a cult following. The typical Sordide Sentimental release would be a 7-inch single in a numbered edition, packaged in an A4-sized sleeve with inserts and an idiosyncratic essay by Monsieur Turmel. Licht Und Blindheit, as the Atmosphere single was called, sold out immediately, and since 1980 has been one of the most collectible (and costly) releases of the era: the cheapest of two copies currently for sale at Discogs is over £1,500. (Many bootleg copies also exist: beware.)

As to the Licht Und Blindheit packaging, the cover collage was by Jean-Pierre Turmel while the enigmatic painting on the back turns out to be an untitled work by Jean-François Jamoul (1925–2002), not Caspar David Friedrich as my friend suspected, although it is very Friedrich-like. Jamoul was evidently a friend of Turmel who used more of his paintings on other Sordide Sentimental releases. During the 1970s Jamoul had been a regular contributor to French SF magazines, both as cover artist and essayist. In 2006 Sordide Sentimental released Temps Incertains, a DVD/book devoted to Jamoul’s art and writings.

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Rite de Passage (1968) by Alexei Panshin.

It’s interesting looking at some of Jamoul’s other art in light of all this: one painting on the cover of Galaxie magazine looks distinctly Lovecraftian while another piece was used by a publication named Nyarlathotep. Back in 2008 journalist Jon Savage was corresponding with my colleagues at Savoy Books prior to writing a piece for the Guardian about Ian Curtis’s reading material. (The Savoy bookshops in Manchester during the 1970s and 80s were notable for their comprehensive stock of Burroughs, Ballard and other essential material.) One of the questions was whether Curtis had read (or bought) any HP Lovecraft, something that neither Dave nor Mike could answer. These French magazines at least show one very tenuous connection (which Curtis wouldn’t have known about, of course) via Jamoul’s paintings. Savage’s Guardian piece has since been expanded into an introduction for the recent Faber book of Ian Curtis lyrics; HP Lovecraft receives a passing mention there during discussion of Licht Und Blindheit‘s B-side, Dead Souls.

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Continue reading “Atmospherics”

The Art of Gothic by Natasha Scharf

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This weekend I was at the Louder Than Words music conference in Manchester to meet Peter Bebergal, author of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, and Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor. By coincidence the event was hosting a discussion about goth music and culture based around The Art of Gothic, a new art book by Natasha Scharf. As mentioned last month, this book features some of my work but I hadn’t seen a copy until now.

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I’ve been fortunate recently to have my work appear in some impressive volumes but this outsize hardback takes some beating. It’s a very lavish production, 224 colour pages on heavy paper with gorgeous design by Paul Palmer-Edwards. Goth has been subject from the outset to mocking stereotypes, to a degree that many people would imagine they know exactly what a study such as this would contain. A recurrent theme of the Louder Than Words discussion was the growth of the goth subculture beyond its clichéd boundaries which is one reason my work is featured in the book. When Natasha was first in touch I thought it might be for the Cradle of Filth album covers but I’m in the chapter that examines the increasingly tangled goth/steampunk crossover. This is one development that’s come to seem almost inevitable given the roots of so much of the goth aesthetic in Victorian nightmares. Many steampunk novels tend towards the dark in their blend of science fiction and horror so the traffic goes in both directions.

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Elsewhere in the book there are chapters on Futuristic Goth, Japanese Goth, and Cybergoth, all of which maintain the requisite darkness while evolving away from the top hats, lace and veils (the latter are all present and correct elsewhere, of course). It’s a beautiful book, out now in the UK from Omnibus Press, and in the US from Backbeat Books. A few more page samples follow. There’s more at Amazon UK.

• See also: 13 Things That Prove Gothic Art Is Enchanting And Beautiful

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left: The Amazing Screw-On Head by Mike Mignola (2002); centre: the full-colour version of the ever-popular Steampunk Equation (2009), words by Jeff VanderMeer, graphics by John Coulthart; right: Dr Geof’s Medicine Lady, aka Steampunk Pinup #2.

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The mighty Giger again. I’ve got a framed print of that picture on the wall, a fact that will surprise nobody.

Continue reading “The Art of Gothic by Natasha Scharf”