Weekend links 349

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• Before Stanley Kubrick fixed an image of Alex and his droogs in the popular imagination, artists could get away with playing on the threat of biker gangs as Wilson McLean does in this vaguely psychedelic cover from 1969. (McLean’s interpretation may possibly derive from a 1965 edition.) LibraryThing has a collection of Clockwork Orange covers from around the world which run the gamut of cogs, orange hues and variations on David Pelham’s famous Penguin design from 1972. Meanwhile, AL Kennedy celebrates 100 years of Anthony Burgess by examining the writer’s career as a whole, although the web feature still manages to get a photo of Malcolm McDowell in there.

• “Even bad books can change lives,” says Phil Baker reviewing The Outsider by Colin Wilson and Beyond the Robot, a Wilson biography by Gary Lachman. I wouldn’t call The Outsider a bad book but Wilson’s more wayward opinions (and later works) are best treated with scepticism.

• “Murtaugh refers to his subject’s ‘pervasive sense of doom’ and Welch himself speaks of ‘the extraordinary sadness of everything.'” David Pratt reviewing Good Night, Beloved Comrade: The Letters of Denton Welch to Eric Oliver, edited by Daniel J. Murtaugh.

• At The Quietus this week: Tinariwen bassist Eyadou Ag Leche is interviewed by Richie Troughton, Jane Weaver unveils a new song from her forthcoming album, Modern Kosmology, and Danny Riley explores the strange world of Ben Chasny.

• “A micro-history of cultural gatekeeping: once told by the censors what we may read, then by critics what we should, we are now told merely what we can read.” Ben Roth writing against the use of “readability” as a literary value.

• Yayoi Kusama’s amazing infinity rooms are at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, until May. For the rest of us, Peter Murphy’s panoramic photo is still online.

• More music: my friends Watch Repair have become visible enough to be interviewed by an Argentinian website. The group’s Bandcamp page recently made three new releases available.

• Yet more music: They Walk Among Us, a new song and video by Barry Adamson, and Anymore, a new song and video by Goldfrapp.

• Earth and The Bug announce Concrete Desert, a collaborative album inspired by Los Angeles and the fiction of JG Ballard.

• Bad Books for Bad People: Episode 7: The Incal – Epic French Space-Opera Comics.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 589 by Aisha Devi, and Secret Thirteen Mix 212 by Qual.

Eduardo Paolozzi‘s forays into fashion and furnishings.

Cooking with Vincent [Price]

Moroccan Tape Stash

• Tin Toy Clockwork Train (1986) by The Dukes Of Stratosphear | Clock (1995) by Node | Clockwork Horoscope (2009) by Belbury Poly

A mix for Halloween: Analogue Spectres

Presenting the eleventh Halloween playlist, and another mix of my own. Previous mixes have been wide-ranging and not a little nerve-jangling so this year the focus has been narrowed to a synth-only mix. The theme is the analogue synthesizer music of the 1970s, particularly the style popularised by Tangerine Dream on Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet and Stratosfear.

The “fear” element of the latter title is significant in this context. Tangerine Dream from their earliest days produced timbres and atmospheres that tended towards the sinister and the doom-laden. This quality continued when they moved to Virgin Records in 1974, using new synthesizers and sequencers to develop their sound. In part the doomy atmosphere was a result of limitations, a combination of organ-led chord sequences and the difficulties of using primitive electronics for anything other than unnatural atmospheres. The earliest albums by Klaus Schulze are equally sombre but Schulze lost this tendency as his playing improved. Tangerine Dream, meanwhile, seemed to enter a Gothic phase with the move to Virgin: their track titles became darker—Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares, The Big Sleep In Search Of Hades, Stratosfear—and they swapped concert halls for the cavernous spaces of European cathedrals. William Friedkin in his sleeve note for the Sorcerer soundtrack album expressed disappointment that he hadn’t heard the group soon enough for them to provide music for The Exorcist.

Tangerine Dream are only represented here with two tracks—one of them from the Sorcerer soundtrack—but their influential Virgin years provide the template for several other pieces. Two of the groups, Redshift and Node, are British ensembles who take Tangerine Dream’s albums of the 1970s as their sole template. In the case of Redshift this has yielded a number of albums that are flawless in their imitation (and extension) of the Rubycon/Ricochet template, and the group are highly recommended to anyone who enjoys those albums. Redshift have also continued with the doom-laden atmospheres which is why this mix contains so many of their pieces.

The other axis here is the early scores by John Carpenter which have often seemed as influential as his films: imitated, sampled, and inspiring the sinister, throbbing electronica of Pye Corner Audio and others. Carpenter has frequently mentioned Tangerine Dream in lists of favourite electronic musicians; no surprise there but it feels satisfying to have things join up.

As before, Mixcloud no longer allows the posting of a tracklist so this is the running order:

Tangerine DreamSorcerer (Main Title) (1977)
Pye Corner AudioProwler (2015)
RedshiftLeave The Light On (2004)
John CarpenterThe Fog Enters The Town (1980)
Ian BoddyThere’s Something In Your Attic (1999)
NodeDark Beneath The Earth (2014)
Tangerine DreamDesert Dream (1977)
RedshiftWraith (2002)
RedshiftNightshift (2007)
RedshiftDown Time (2001)
Pye Corner AudioStars Shine Like Eyes (2015)

Previously on { feuilleton }
A mix for Halloween: Teatro Grottesco
A mix for Halloween: Unheimlich Manoeuvres
A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming
A playlist for Halloween: Hauntology
A playlist for Halloween: Orchestral and electro-acoustic
A playlist for Halloween: Drones and atmospheres
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
A playlist for Halloween

Weekend links 203

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A Dune-inspired piece by Joshua Budich for In Dreams: an art show tribute to David Lynch at Spoke Art.

• “[Montague] Summers was a friend of Aleister Crowley and, like [Jacques d’Adelswärd] Fersen, conducted homoerotic black masses; whatever eldritch divinity received their entreaties was evidently propitiated by nude youths.” Strange Flowers goes in search of the Reverend Summers.

• More Jarmania: Veronica Horwell on the theatrical life of Derek Jarman, Paul Gallagher on When Derek Jarman met William Burroughs, and Scott Treleaven on Derek Jarman’s Advice to a Young Queer Artist.

Robert Henke of Monolake talks to Secret Thirteen about his electronic music. More electronica: analogue-synth group Node have recorded a new album, their first since their debut in 1995.

This hypertrophied response to decay and dilapidation is what drives the “ruin gaze”, a kind of steroidal sublime that enables us to enlarge the past because we cannot enlarge the present. When ruin-meister Giovanni Piranesi introduced human figures into his “Views of Rome”, they were always disproportionately small in relation to his colossal (and colossally inaccurate) wrecks of empire. It’s not that Piranesi, an architect, couldn’t do the maths: he wasn’t trying to document the remains so much as translate them into a grand melancholic view. As Marguerite Yourcenar put it, Piranesi was not only the interpreter but “virtually the inventor of Rome’s tragic beauty”. His “sublime dreams”, Horace Walpole said, had conjured “visions of Rome beyond what it boasted even in the meridian of its splendour”.

Frances Stonor Saunders on How ruins reveal our deepest fears and desires.

Gustave Doré. L’imaginaire au pouvoir: Four short films from the Musée d’Orsay to accompany their current exhibition, Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination.

• At Dangerous Minds: Remembering Cathy Berberian, the hippest—and funniest—lady of avant-garde classical music.

• “Merely a Man of Letters”: Jorge Luis Borges interviewed in 1977 by Denis Dutton & Michael Palencia-Roth.

Luke Epplin on Big as Life (1966), a science-fiction novel by EL Doctorow which the author has since disowned.

The Psychomagical Realism of Alejandro Jodorowsky: Eric Benson talks to the tireless polymath.

• A video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz for the 10th anniversary of David Milch’s Deadwood.

Eugene Brennan on Scott Walker’s The Climate of Hunter (1984).

Dune at Pinterest.

• Prophecy Theme from Dune (1984) by Brian Eno | Olivine (1995) by Node | Gobi 110 35′ south 45 58′ (1999) by Monolake

Terminus by John Schlesinger

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Before John Schlesinger made his debut feature, A Kind of Loving (1962), he directed a number of short documentary films. Terminus (1961), a day in the life of the Waterloo railway station in London, is the most notable of these, an award-winning snapshot of a period when Britain’s railways were still nationalised and steam trains were about to vanish from regular service. The film has that crisp, black-and-white photography so typical of the early 1960s, a look which renders close-ups with uncanny fidelity and makes the outmoded fashions—the bowler-hatted men and gloved women—seem all the more curious. A year later Orson Welles was deploying a similar style when photographing the dishevelled splendour of the Gare d’Orsay in Paris for his film of The Trial.

For a different take on London’s railway stations there’s Terminus by analogue electronic outfit Node, a track inspired by concerts they played live at Paddington station in 1995.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Screening Kafka

Everything old is new again

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Thomas Negovan.

Music journalist Simon Reynolds has been garnering attention over the past couple of weeks with his new book Retromania, an exploration of the thriving revivals and resurrections in the musical world and an examination of what this may mean for the future. There’s an astute discussion along these lines between Reynolds and Colin McKean over at The Quietus (and it is a discussion for once, rather than the more usual Q&A). The debate is a pertinent one but seems a little insular in its focus on music alone, and pop music in particular. Other creative disciplines have been dealing with questions of influence and originality for some time, they only seem pressing concerns in the musical world because so much music from all nations and eras is now available, and pop as a form is still relatively young.

In addition to the rear-view mirror approach to musical creation, there’s another side to retromania in the present fascination with antique musical instruments and recording equipment. The Cramps once declared that they preferred valve amplifiers because valves “turned the music to fire”; amps containing silicon chips, on the other hand, deadened the music by routing it through pieces of stone. There’s a lot of this attitude around at the moment (organic analogue versus inorganic digital), not least the persistent fetish for analogue synthesizers which dates back as far as 1995 and the Node project. That said, you’ll have to work hard to find anyone pursuing a retro aesthetic with greater determination than Thomas Negovan, a Chicago musician intent on releasing a 4-track EP which has been recorded directly onto wax cylinder using an 1894 Edison recording machine. Negovan and co. plan to release the recording on vinyl (with no digital technology used in the transfer), and also release a single on wax cylinder, a medium which they say hasn’t been used in this way since 1924. They still need some funding so there’s a Kickstarter page for the project here, and more details about Mr Negovan’s music over at his MySpace page.

Lastly, and quite by coincidence, The Wire‘s website has been running Antique Phonograph Portal links this week, including mention of a wax cylinder preservation project at the University of Santa Barbara. Go here, here and here for further details.

Update: Jay reminds me that he wrote a piece for the LA Weekly back in 2003 about the ongoing interest in music of the past.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Obsolete formats continued
Old music and old technology