Weekend links 457

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Imagination of Letters by Ikko Tanaka.

Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990 is the latest compilation from Light In The Attic, and another excellent package both musically, physically and design-wise. The album was compiled by Spencer Doran of Visible Cloaks who talked to The Quietus a couple of years ago about his favourite Japanese (and other) music. Simon Reynolds reviewed Kankyo Ongaku last month, and drew attention to Spencer Doran’s Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo mixes which may be heard here and here.

Michael O’Shea playing his home-made musical instrument (an old door, paintbrushes, etc) on RTÉ in 1980. Shea’s one-and-only album has been deleted for years but was reissued in January. The story of O’Shea’s surprising involvement with Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis of Wire (which led to the recording of his album) is recounted here.

Lou Thomas suggests five reasons to watch Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man on its 30th anniversary.

…Topor generates a world in which the great unsaid realities of human life are painfully laid bare, amplified through a series of confrontations with “le sang, la merde et le sexe” (“blood, shit, and sex”). While few of his texts have been made available in English, they are nevertheless representative of his wider body of work, in which the reader constantly trips over these same themes as if stumbling upon a naked corpse in a darkened room. They predicate an oeuvre of carnivalesque and necrophilic eroticism, and draw out the pungent, animalistic core hidden within the norms of our everyday existence. Topor’s narratives are shot through with macabre irony, orgiastic scatology, and physical and psychological cruelty, which constitutes a fundamental reframing of the characteristics of human interaction with others.

Andrew Hodgson on Roland Topor’s neglected writings

An anciente mappe of Fairyland: newly discovered and set forth (1920) by Bernard Sleigh.

Maggot Brain: an impromptu Funkadelic cover by Albatross Project.

Anne Billson on purr evil: cinematic cats with hidden agendas.

Sayonara: one of the most Japanese words in the dictionary.

• Painting the Beyond: Susan Tallman on Hilma af Klint.

• RB Russell on bookseller’s labels: part one & part two.

Christopher G. Moore on The Immortals and Time.

• Fuck the Vessel,” says Kate Wagner.

• Japanese Farewell Song (Sayonara) (1957) by Martin Denny | Sayonara: The Japanese Farewell Song (1976) by Haruomi Hosono | Sayonara (1991) by Ryuichi Sakamoto

Weekend links 86

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Salammbô by Alastair (Hans Henning Voigt) from Harry Crosby‘s Red Skeletons (1927). Dover published a new collection of Alastair’s drawings in September.

A Taste of Honey showed working-class women from a working-class woman’s point of view, had a gay man as a central and sympathetic figure, and a black character who was neither idealised nor a racial stereotype.” RIP Shelagh Delaney. Related: Shelagh Delaney’s Salford (1960), directed by Ken Russell, and all 47 minutes (!) of The White Bus (1967), Lindsay Anderson’s strange, pre-If…. short, written by Shelagh Delaney, filmed in and around Manchester.

Since birth I’ve craved all things psychedelic, the energy and beauty of it. The pleasure… […] But in the US the exploration of consciousness and its powers—or really any curiosity about anything at all—is actively discouraged, because the system is so corrupt that it depends on people being virtually unconscious all the time. Burroughs cracked that code long ago. Spirituality here equals money; no one seems to be able to think, never mind explore their own consciousness.

Laurie Weeks: Making Magic Out of the Real

• Ian Albinson shows us The Title Design of Saul Bass while Ace Jet 170 has a copy of the new Bass monograph.

Kris Kool (1970) at 50 Watts, Philip Caza’s lurid, erotic, psychedelic comic strip.

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Götz Krafft by EM Lilien from a collection at Flickr.

Serious Listeners: The Strange and Frightening World of Coil.

The Octopus Chronicles, a new blog at Scientific American.

• We now live in a world where there are Ghost Box badges.

Kilian Eng interviewed at Sci-Fi-O-Rama.

Dalí Planet

Bedabbled!

A Taste of Honey (1962) by Acker Bilk | A Taste of Honey (1965) by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass | A Taste of Honey (Moog version) (1969) by Martin Denny.

Weekend links 49

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Star City by Tomislav Ceranic.

• Noted in the blogosphere this week: A Journey Round My Skull underwent a transmutation into 50 Watts; a blog devoted to artist, designer & illustrator Jessie M King; “The arts and musicks of the supranatural” at Secret Lexicon; From the Farm, Railroads, Sewing Machines & Beyond, lengthy reminiscences from a long life in America.

Barney Bubbles in Wonderland, in which the designer and his chums indulge in some Carrollian shenanigans somewhere in the 1960s. The resulting footage is now a promo video for Balloon Race by Bear Driver.

HP Lovecraft’s favourite words, the desert island books of Jorge Luis Borges, a profile of Christopher Isherwood, and Edward Gorey again.

[Arthur] Machen explicitly talks about the strength of London, as opposed to Paris, in that London is more chaotic. Although he doesn’t put it in these words, I think what partly draws him to London is this notion that, in the absence of a kind of unifying vision, like Haussmann’s Boulevards, and in a city that’s become much more syncretic and messy over time, you have more room to insert your own aestheticizing vision.

China Miéville in a great interview at BLDGBLOG.

Matryomin is “the unique, original erectronic [sic] musical instrument invented by Masami Takeuchi in 2000”. Yes, a theremin inside a Russian doll. The Mable ensemble playing Duke Ellington’s Caravan is, well…I’m still speechless. And there’s also this.

Conductor turns the New York subway system into an interactive string instrument.

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Discordia by Tomislav Ceranic.

Amazingly enough, prostitution was legal during the Victorian period. There were tons of brothels all over the major cities of England, and of all different kinds. There were lots of flagellation brothels; these were places where primarily men would go to be whipped by women or by men. There were also gay male brothels. You could go to a park in London at night, pick up what were called the “park whores” and give them a very small amount of money to have sex openly in the park. I also write about gay “cruising,” which was quite common. If you knew the right place to go and knew the right signals, you could pick up a man on the street and have sex in an alley.

Deborah Lutz is interviewed about her book Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism.

Cult-ure: Ideas can be dangerous, a book by Rian Hughes.

Chernobyl: Europe’s strangest wildlife refuge.

The Eadweard Muybridge Online Archive.

Aubrey Beardsley at Tumblr.

Caravan (1959) by Martin Denny | Caravan (1961) by 80 Drums Around The World | Caravan (1962) by Sir Julian | Caravan (1965) by The Ventures | Caravan (1973) by Enoch Light & The Light Brigade | Caravan (1997) by Jimi Tenor (I could go on and on, yes I could…)

A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!

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It’s become a tradition here to post a playlist for Halloween so here’s the one for this year, a collection of favourite “voodoo” music. Most are these pieces have as much to do with real voodoo as Bewitched does with real witchcraft but I like the atmospheres of Voodoo Exotica they evoke.

Voodoo Drums in Hi-Fi (1958).
Beginning with some ethnographic authenticity, this is one of many recordings of genuine (so they claim) voodoo drummers from Haiti, and was probably released to cash-in on the Exotica boom of the late Fifties. For the genuine article, the drums here sound less dramatic than the pounding rhythms familiar from Hollywood rituals, but that’s still a great cover. Voodoo Drums in Hi-Fi has been deleted for years but a worn copy of the vinyl release can be found on various mp3 blogs. For a more recent recording of voodoo rhythms, there’s Spirits Of Life: Haitian Vodou on the Soul Jazz label.

Voodoo Dreams (1959) by Martin Denny.
This, meanwhile, is the genuine kitsch from Denny’s Hypnotique album, a slow arrangement of a syrupy Les Baxter tune. More drums and bongos than usual for a Denny piece, and a suitably spectral chorus.

Voodoo (1959) by Robert Drasnin.
When composer Drasnin was asked by the Tops company to get hip to the Exotica craze the result was an album entitled Voodoo (with unconvincingly exotic white people on the cover), from which they released a single, Chant of the Moon, and this track as the B-side, one of the best pieces on the album.

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I Walk on Gilded Splinters (1968) by Dr John.
Mac Rebennack was working as a session musician in Los Angeles when he recorded his debut album in an atmosphere far removed from the swampy New Orleans miasma which the music conjures. Gris-Gris owes a great deal to Robert Tallant’s book, Voodoo in New Orleans (1946), a popular recounting of the city’s occult legends from which Rebennack borrowed not only his new persona (chapter 5 concerns the history of the real Dr John, a 19th century voodoo practitioner) but also many of the transcribed chants which he set to music. In chapter 3 we read this:

A song given to a reporter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was printed in that newspaper on March 16, 1924. Probably a very old one, it reflects the dominance of the queens in New Orleans Voodoo and boasts of their tremendous power. Originally sung in the patois known as Creole, it is given here in English:

They think they frighten me,
Those people must be crazy.
They don’t see their misfortune
Or else they must be drunk.

I—the Voodoo Queen,
With my lovely headkerchief
Am not afraid of tomcat shrieks,
I drink serpent venom!

I walk on pins
I walk on needles,
I walk on gilded splinters,
I want to see what they can do!

They think they have pride
With their big malice,
But when they see a coffin
They’re as frightened as prairie birds.

I’m going to put gris-gris
All over their front steps
And make them shake
Until they stutter!

Anyone familiar with Gris-Gris will recognise the lyrics of I Walk on Gilded Splinters (misspelled “Guilded” on the sleeve) which Dr John did a great job of fashioning into a classic voodoo song. The entire album might be ersatz, then, but it remains one of my favourites by anyone, and for me it’s still the best Dr John album.

Mama Loi, Papa Loi (1970) by Exuma.
Gris-Gris was too weird to be a success when it first appeared but Dr John’s music and extravagant stage presence were very distinctive and helped Blues Magoos manager Bob Wyld recast singer Tony McKay as “Obeah man” Exuma for Mercury Records. Exuma’s self-titled debut album is ersatz stuff again but manages to sound even more deliriously swampy and sorcerous than Gris-Gris, with jungle sounds, zombie gurgles and a clutch of enthusiastic voodoo-inflected songs. “Mama Loi, Papa Loi / I see fire in the dead man’s eye” he sings here, and for the duration of the album Tony McKay is Exuma.

Zu Zu Mamou (1971) by Dr. John.
After Gris-Gris Dr John gradually pared away the voodoo songs but saved one of the best until his final occult outing, The Sun, Moon & Herbs, which includes contributions from Eric Clapton and, somewhere in the bayou distance, Mick Jagger and PP Arnold on backing vocals. Zu Zu Mamou is the spooky highlight which made a fleeting appearance in Alan Parker’s 1987 Satanic noir, Angel Heart.

Voo Doo (1989) by the Neville Brothers.
Of all the songs I’ve heard which equate falling in love with a voodoo spell, this one from New Orleans’ Neville Brothers is the most evocative, a track from their marvellous Yellow Moon album.

Invocation To Papa Legba (1989) by Deborah Harry.
Yes, it’s Blondie’s Debbie Harry singing a very authentic-sounding voodoo chant, arranged by Chris Stein. This was a one-off which appeared on a Giorno Poetry Systems collection, Like A Girl, I Want You To Keep Coming, along with a William Burroughs reading (a staple of GPS albums), New Order playing Sister Ray live, and other pieces.

Litanie Des Saints (1992) by Dr. John.
Goin’ Back to New Orleans, like Gumbo before it, saw Dr John revisiting the musical history of his native city. Most of the songs are old jazz and blues covers with the notable exception of this opening number, another voodoo invocation. A great string arrangement and vocals from the Neville Brothers; I’d love to hear a whole album like this.

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Zombie’ites (1993) by Transglobal Underground.
Zombies are a voodoo staple despite their current degraded status as the cuddly monster du jour, a development which has made me tire of seeing the word “zombie” in almost any context. A shame because I used to have a lot of time for films such as White Zombie (1932), I Walked With a Zombie (1943), and the later George Romero movies. White Zombie was the first zombie film and stars Bela Lugosi in a weirder and more effective piece of horror cinema than the stagey Dracula which made his name; I Walked With a Zombie was one of Val Lewton’s superb noirish collaborations with Jacques Tourneur; both films have their voodoo chants sampled on this track by Transglobal Underground from Dream of 100 Nations, with the opening chant from White Zombie forming the pulse that drives the piece. Along the way there’s another invocation from Voodoo in New Orleans—”L’Appé vini, le Grand Zombi / L’Appé vini, pou fe gris-gris!”—samples of Criswell from Plan 9 from Outer Space, and a moment of pure bliss at the midpoint when singer Natacha Atlas rides in on a magic carpet made of Bollywood strings.

Happy Halloween! And don’t forget to feed the loas…

Vampire-hunting in New Orleans

Previously on { feuilleton }
Voo-doo: Hoochie Coochie and the Creative Spirit
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
Exotica!
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode
The Séance at Hobs Lane
Exuma: Obeah men and the voodoo groove
A playlist for Halloween
Ghost Box
Voodoo Macbeth

The Heart of the World

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In honour of the great news that a print of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has been discovered containing scenes long-believed to have been lost, here’s a link to my favourite Guy Maddin film, The Heart of the World. Maddin’s short is six minutes of frenetic genius which references Metropolis in passing although it owes far more to Expressionist cinema and the avant garde propaganda works of Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov and others. I like Maddin’s films a lot, especially the luxuriantly camp Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, but sometimes his eccentricities can be overbearing at feature length. Heart of the World by contrast is just perfect.

YouTube has a few other Maddin shorts including his BBC-commissioned The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (1995), based on a picture by Symbolist artist Odilon Redon. Also the long version of Sissy Boy Slap Party from the same year, which comes across as a crazy blend of South Pacific outtakes, Fassinbinder’s Querelle and Martin Denny exotica, in a style as frenetic as Heart of the World. Hilarious and homoerotic in equal measure.

I cast Ann Savage as my mother | Guy Maddin on his new film, My Winnepeg

(Update: Links changed to connect to Maddin’s own Vimeo channel.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Exotica!
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé
Metropolis posters