Weekend links 387

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Japanese (?) poster for Liquid Sky (1982).

• The announcement this week of the death of Carl T. Ford, former editor of Dagon magazine, prompted a handful of memorial pieces. Dagon was notable for being a small British magazine devoted to Lovecraftian and other weird fiction (and the Call of Cthulhu games) at a time when the majority of such publications were American; it was also very well-produced, its later issues being typeset and filled with quality black-and-white illustration. Dagon interviewed many notable writers, including people such as Thomas Ligotti whose work at the time was still only known to a small group of enthusiasts. Mark Valentine posted a reminiscence at Wormwoodiana; Yog-Sothoth.com has an interview with Carl from 2010.

Michael “Dik Mik” Davies, manipulator of an audio generator and tape echo for Hawkwind, also died this week. Dik Mik’s primitive background electronics, augmented by Del Dettmar’s synthesizers, were an essential component of the early Hawkwind sound.

• Erik Davies talks to writer, photographer, and curator Joanna Ebenstein about Goth obsessions, memento mori, Santa Muerta, and her extraordinary new illustrated collection Death: A Graveside Companion.

• Slava Tsukerman’s cult film Liquid Sky (1982) finally gets a blu-ray release. From 2014: Punks, UFOs, and Heroin: Daniel Genis on how Liquid Sky became a cult movie.

Geeta Dayal explores the MOMA exhibition Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age: 1959–1989.

You Should Come With Me Now is a collection of new fiction by M. John Harrison published this week.

VinylHub: “Our mission is to document every physical record shop and record event on the planet.”

Vladimir Nabokov‘s dream diary reveals experiments with “backwards timeflow”.

• Flawed Greatness: DB Jones on beauty and balance in John Ford’s The Searchers.

Irakli Kiziria on 9 synth artists who defined Eastern Europe’s post-Soviet sound.

• Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs: Mark Athitakis on Poe’s book reviews.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 627 by Oneohtrix Point Never.

• At Creative Review: The design of Mute Records.

How generative music works.

Laraaji‘s favourite albums.

We Do It (1970) by Hawkwind | Adjust Me (1971) by Hawkwind | Electronic No. 1 (1973) by Hawkwind

Weekend links 381

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States of Ecstasy 1 by K. Lenore Siner some of whose work may be seen in Witch-Ikon: An Exhibition of Contemporary Witchcraft Imagery at Mortlake & Company, Seattle.

Emily Temple compiles a list of “40 creepy book covers”. A shame that she (or Lithub) can’t also credit more of the artists and designers responsible. Searching titles at ISFDB would turn up many of the missing names.

• Blogging has suffered in recent years from the onslaught of social media but some persist in maintaining the form as a creative act. Poemas del río Wang is one such, its scope best seen in this alphabetical index.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 510 by Moodprint, Secret Thirteen Mix 232 by Alex XIII Maerbach, a mix for The Wire by Sadaf, and FACT mix 621 by NHK yx Koyxen.

Out next month: Mute: A Visual Document, being a visual history of Mute Records by Terry Burrows and Daniel Miller.

Nick Soulsby on “the myth and majesty of Vangelis’ timeless Blade Runner soundtrack”.

Compound in the new album by Yair Elazar Glotman. Stream it in full here.

Killed by Roses (1963): Eikoh Hosoe’s photographs of Yukio Mishima.

Oriental Traditional Music from LPs & Cassettes

• Hours and hours of Blue Jam. Oo ab welcome.

• 65 books of prints by Katsushika Hokusai.

Alpha (1976) by Vangelis | Rêve (1979) by Vangelis | Flamants Roses (1979) by Vangelis

Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire

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Videocassette box insert. Design by Neville Brody.

A couple of years back I tracked down some of the releases on Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision video label, the early titles of which have never been reissued on DVD. The first Doublevision release was the Cabs’ collection of their own music videos which Mute Records reissued on DVD 2004. That reissue seems to be deleted for the moment so it’s good to find a copy of the original tape release on YouTube. As with the other Doublevision releases I was well aware of this but didn’t have a VHS player at the time so wasn’t eager to buy anything I couldn’t watch. Unlike the other releases I did get to see several of the tracks during the Cabs’ Doublevision video night at the Haçienda in 1983, an evening that ended with the group performing for an hour.

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It’s good to be reminded of these videos, however crude they appear today. As with any early use of technology you need to bear in mind the limitations of the time. The tape was released in 1982 but the group had been experimenting with video equipment from about 1979 onwards. At that time commercial music video was just getting started but most of the examples on TV were paid for by the big record companies. Cabaret Voltaire and some of their associates in the UK Industrial scene—notably Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo—were ahead of the game in acquiring equipment to make their own video recordings and promos. These videos were seldom shown on mainstream TV: I recall being thrilled to see a clip from the Nag, Nag, Nag promo on a pop programme but that was a rare one-off moment. The music industry was being forced to accommodate the awkward DIY merchants but the gates of broadcast television remained heavily policed.

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And speaking of heavy policing, you get some of that here, the Cabs’ obsessions with coercion and control being illustrated by footage of riot squads, together with religious mania, medical surgery, psychotronic films and much else, all of it processed, fragmented and distorted. Direction was by the group and by St. John Walker, with an extract from Johnny YesNo (recently reissued by Mute) directed by Peter Care. I’ve been listening to Seconds Too Late a lot this week so it’s great to see a video for that song. There’s also a slight conundrum in the tracklisting: if you’re familiar with the free four-track single that came with The Crackdown album it seems that Badge of Evil and Moscow have had their titles swapped. The Moscow video track, however, includes a shot of an Aeroflot passenger plane so it’s more likely that the tracks on one side of the single were mis-labelled when they appeared a year later, an error carried over to the CD release.

Tracklist: Diskono / Obsession / Trash (Part 1) / Badge Of Evil / Nag, Nag, Nag / Eddie’s Out / Landslide / Photophobia / Trash (Part 2) / Seconds Too Late / Extract From Johnny YesNo / Walls Of Jericho / This Is Entertainment / Moscow

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire

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The current issue of The Wire has a great appraisal by Keith Moliné of the musical history of Cabaret Voltaire, a well-timed piece given the recent announcement of forthcoming reissues from Mute Records. Having been a Cabophile from the start I’m rather biased but the Wire piece has had me listening to the early albums and singles this week (between bouts of Zdenek Liska), and finding the passage of time has made those early recordings seem increasingly strange. Cabaret Voltaire were one of the few groups I liked obsessively enough to collect ephemera from newspapers and magazines. Knowing this, a friend gave me this curious fanzine/ticket from a gig the group played in Liverpool in February, 1981. The venue was Plato’s Ballroom at Pickwicks, and judging by the wording inside—”A Plato’s Publication”—it seems it was the venue’s idea to make the ticket a small (10.5 x 15 cm) booklet.

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What’s surprising about this is that the fanzine the ticket is bundled with has nothing at all to do with music (or that other perennial of 80s post-punk culture: left-wing politics) but is a glimpse of life as a gay man in Liverpool. I’ve always found this fascinating for the daring it took to foist the thing on a bunch of unwitting Cabs fans, most of whom would have been straight men and not especially sympathetic to the subject matter. In the context of 1981 forcing people to look at grainy shots of naked men with accompanying text (by another man) declaring them to be a turn-on was a transgressive act. The only representations of anything gay in the popular media were a few camp (and therefore safe) comedians; Derek Jarman was still an underground figure, and as late as 1984 a BBC play about gay men was prefaced with a warning about its “contentious” subject.

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I’ve no idea who was responsible for the fanzine, there are no credits, and it’s possible that the people involved didn’t want to be too easily identified. If the tone of the writing seems rather dramatic then, again, it’s important to see it in context of a country which wasn’t much more amenable to gay people than Russia is today. Saying things in public that most people didn’t want to hear was a challenging act; emotions often ran high.

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Looking for information about the gig turned up this newspaper ad. (Who were Jell and Aardvarks, I wonder?) By an odd coincidence only the day before I’d found this upload from the same person of a very scarce compilation tape that happens to be from the same year, and which features contributions from Cabaret Voltaire’s Chris Watson and Richard Kirk. The Men With The Deadly Dreams was compiled by Geoff Rushton, aka John Balance of Coil, and was apparently limited to 200 copies. Among the other highlights there’s a track from Eyeless in Gaza, whose early work I like a great deal, and an electronic piece by Throbbing Gristle’s Chris Carter which I think is exclusive to this collection. Two artefacts—fanzine and tape—with brown paper covers that give a snapshot of Britain’s underground culture in 1981.

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Continue reading “Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire”

Weekend links 102

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Flannery O’Connor with one of her many peacocks.

When the peacock has presented his back, the spectator will usually begin to walk around him to get a front view; but the peacock will continue to turn so that no front view is possible. The thing to do then is to stand still and wait until it pleases him to turn. When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing haloed suns. This is the moment when most people are silent.

Flannery O’Connor

Essay of the week was without a doubt Living with a Peacock by the great Flannery O’Connor, originally published in Holiday magazine in September 1961. I’d heard about Flannery’s peacocks before but had no idea she was such a pavonomane. Thanks to Jay for the tip!

• “‘He’s chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature.’ But he was more like the very hungry caterpillar, munching his way through every musical influence he came across…” Thomas Jones reviews two new books about David Bowie for the LRB.

• In June Mute Records release The Lost Tapes by Can, a 3-CD collection. Here’s hoping this doesn’t merely repeat the outtakes that’ve been circulating for years as the Canobits bootlegs. This extract is certainly new.

• Animator Suzan Pitt, director of the remarkable Asparagus (1979), discusses her new film, Visitation, inspired, she says, by reading HP Lovecraft in a cabin while wolves howled outside.

Night Thoughts: The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne, a biography by Robert Fraser reviewed by Iain Sinclair.

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The Dangerous Desire (1936) by Richard Oelze (1900–1980) at But Does It Float.

• Making the Mari: the stuff of nightmares brought into the world by Jefferson Brassfield.

• The Background to the Moorcock Multiverse: Karin L. Kross reviews London Peculiar.

Orson Welles’s lost Heart of Darkness screenplay performed for the first time.

The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome: the new BFI DVD collection reviewed.

• Page designs by Alphonse Mucha for Ilsée, Princess de Tripoli (1897).

• A Slow-Books Manifesto by Maura Kelly.

Tim Parks asks “Do we need stories?”.

Musical table by Kyouei Design.

Horror Asparagus Stories (1966) by The Driving Stupid | Peacock Lady (1971) by Shelagh McDonald | Peacock Tail (2005) by Boards of Canada.