The Layering

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In Alan Moore’s recent novel, Jerusalem, the ghosts of Northampton travel to different ages of the town by pulling up the concentrated layers of time which they peel back like the pages of a book. The passage of time as an accumulation of layers was materially evident in 18th-century Rome even before geology became an established science. Piranesi’s most popular series of prints, the Vedute di Roma, show how centuries of wind-blown dust and soil had raised the level of the city several feet above its ancient ruins. Before antiquarians began to remove the soil the city was a place of curious juxtapositions, with truncated Corinthian columns growing from the earth, surrounded by—or even forming part of the structure of—the rougher buildings where contemporary Roman citizens were living or sheltering their livestock.

Layers of time and history are the subject of the new compilation from A Year In The Country:

The album explores the way that places are literally layered with history, and is an audio slicing through the layers of time. It journeys amongst the stories and characters of these layers, including, amongst other aspects, the structures built, events which took place and different era’s technologies and belief systems.

Such layering can go far back into pre-recorded history. Much of the earth is thought to have once been underwater, and it is likely that the majority of cities, towns and villages are built in former ocean areas. Current land masses have come to be formed, in part, through a layering of past marine, other life and plants, which in turn are then quarried or mined, subsequently being used to create the infrastructure of contemporary civilisation, and creating something of a cyclical, time-out-of-joint nature to the layers of time.

Track list:
1) A Year In The Country — Cross Sections Of Time
2) Circle/Temple — The Hollow Stream Buried
3) The Heartwood Institute — Beneath The City Streets
4) Sproatly Smith — Chapel Still Stands
5) Field Lines Cartographer — Layers Of Belief
6) Howlround — A Heart Shaped Forest
7) Folclore Impressionista — The Problem Of Symmetry
8) Handspan — At The End Of The Aerial Flight
9) Widow’s Weeds — Gilmerton Cove
10) Listening Center — Wattle And Daub Office Blocks
11) Vic Mars — Once There Were Houses
12) Pulselovers — Brodsworth
13) Grey Frequency — Tigguo Cobauc

As with some of the earlier releases in this series, the accompanying notes are essential to flesh out the substance of the instrumentals; so The Hollow Stream Buried follows Coil in charting the lost rivers of London, Tigguo Cobauc deals with the labyrinth of caves under the city of Nottingham, Chapel Still Stands concerns a place of worship marooned inside an industrial estate, and so on. Without a description, Howlround’s evocation of a Cumbrian landmark might be another example of stone-tape clairaudience. The tape distortions, however, turn out to be the tape feedback playing itself; if there are any ghosts here their origin is presumably rural, not mineral. Handspan combine a traditional tune from the North-East of England with outdoor percussion, a piece whose jauntiness is undermined (somewhat literally) by thoughts of the collieries of Northumberland and the “aerial flight” itself, the cable conveyor at Blackhall Rocks that makes such a memorable backdrop to the final scenes of Get Carter (1971). Relying on notes in this manner may seem like a flawed approach but it’s the nature of all programme music to be accompanied by some kind of description. Several of the more ambient pieces aren’t too far removed from Brian Eno’s On Land, an album that also concerns itself with place and memory, and which contains its own lengthy contextualising note. Delve beneath the layers here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Quietened Journey
Echoes And Reverberations
The Watchers
The Corn Mother
The Quietened Mechanisms
The Shildam Hall Tapes
Audio Albion
A Year In The Country: the book
All The Merry Year Round
The Quietened Cosmologists
Undercurrents
From The Furthest Signals
The Restless Field
The Marks Upon The Land
The Forest / The Wald
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures

Double weird

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Two of the books whose covers I was working on late last year have been announced so here they are. This is more work for PS Publishing where wraparound covers are the standard, so once again I was able to work in a pictorial, landscape format. (PS also do their design in-house so I only did the art this time. Click on the pictures below for larger views.)

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Apostles of the Weird is a collection of contemporary weird fiction edited by ST Joshi:

Weird fiction is an incredibly rich and varied genre, running the gamut from supernatural horror to imaginary-world fantasy to psychological terror. This anthology seeks to exhibit the wide range of themes, motifs, and imagery that weird fiction allows, as embodied in the work of some of the leading contemporary writers in the field. (more)

“Weird” is indeed a very broad category so rather than try and create something that represented a single genre I opted for a weird view instead. The idea was to do something like Borges’s Library of Babel in a space that was a hybrid of Piranesi and MC Escher. I was hoping originally to make this more Escher-like, with a number of gravity-defying staircases, but the underlying drawing took so long that I didn’t have time.

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His Own Most Fantastic Creation: Stories About HP Lovecraft is also edited by ST Joshi:

HP Lovecraft (1890–1937), the pioneering writer of weird fiction, has himself become an icon in popular culture. Stories, novels, and other works featuring the gaunt, lantern-jawed gentleman from Providence, Rhode Island, have proliferated. These works have been triggered by the incredible amount of knowledge we have on the writer—his family, his friends, his idiosyncrasies and eccentricities—as found in his thousands of surviving letters. (more)

This was much easier to achieve since HP Lovecraft is familiar territory. The idea here was to do a portrait of Lovecraft situated in a Lovecraftian zone, a colossal idol of a type that might be found in some of his Cyclopean ruins. Lovecraft and his Weird Tales colleagues had a habit of referring to each other in their stories and letters as though they were ancient priests or sorcerers so portraying Lovecraft in this manner is fitting. The combination of perspective and lighting worked against creating an accurate likeness, however—it doesn’t help that Lovecraft’s features are weird in themselves—so the “HPL” icon is there to affirm the identity.

Both books will be published next month if Great Cthulhu hasn’t risen from the depths by then.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Something from Below

Weekend links 218

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The End of a Thousand Years (2014) by Hilary White. Via Phantasmaphile.

• It’s taken a while to shamble into the world but A Mountain Walked, an anthology of Cthulhu Mythos stories edited by leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, will be published by Centipede Press next month. The publisher’s page for the book shows that my contribution will be facing Joshi’s introduction which is something I wasn’t aware of until this week. It also says the 692-page limited edition is sold out, although book dealers often buy collectible volumes such as this to sell on after adding their own markup. Be warned that it was listed on Amazon at $160 so if there are copies available anywhere they won’t be cheap.

• It’s not such a surprise to hear that magic mushrooms were an inspiration for Frank Herbert’s Dune. David Lynch’s film of Dune receives passing mention in this profile by Jeremy Kay of Lynch and the Twin Peaks film/TV series.

• “Whitechapel station is one of Giambattista Piranesi’s imaginary prisons, colonised by frantic electrical engineers and watched over by CCTV.” Will Wiles on the chaos and tangled energy of modern cities.

The word perfume comes from the French root “fume”—smoke—and where there’s smoke, there’s fire! I think most people are turned on sexually by scents and smells. Certain body odours can be very sexually stimulating. We purposefully chose certain ingredients for my Obscenity perfume that are associated with occult or religious rituals, including vetiver, labdanum, and oud, and others that are considered aphrodisiacal, including patchouli and sandalwood. The point of Obscenity is that there is no conflict between the religious and the sexual, and in fact they should be completely complimentary. The fragrance is meant to stimulate you sexually, but it also literally contains water from Lourdes, so it also has religious notes and perhaps even healing properties!

Bruce LaBruce talks to Kathy Grayson about his new fragrance, Obscenity

The Baffler, “a journal of iconoclastic wit and cultural analysis” relaunches with full access to its archives from 1988 to the present.

Pineal, the new album by Othon, is dark and “properly, brilliantly queer,” says David Peschek.

• At Core77: How to improve the audio quality of vinyl records with wood glue.

• P. Adams Sitney interviews Kenneth Anger on WNYC’s Arts Forum (1972).

• At BibliOdyssey: Le Bestiaire Fabuleux by Jean Lurçat.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen mix 123 by Evol.

Meawbin the Creepy Cat

Perfumed Metal (1981) by Chrome | Fragrance (Ode To Perfume) (1982) by Holger Czukay | The Perfume (2006) by Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, Tom Tykwer

Angkor Wat street view

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The ruined temple complex of Angkor Wat is another of those places for which I maintain a cult fascination despite never having been there. I’ve posted links to panoramas of Angkor Wat in the past but Google recently added the complex to their Street View catalogue, so you now have the opportunity to see the fabled Nagas in their natural habitat: surrounded by garishly-clad tourists.

A large part of the attraction of places such as this involves the promise of deterioration and isolation, two qualities kept remote by the site’s World Heritage status. I imagine a visit to Angkor would be like the visit I paid to the ruins of Hadrian’s villa outside Rome, the well-tended bones of a formerly splendid construction. Hadrian’s villa is still worth a visit even if you won’t ever see it overgrown by foliage the way it was in Piranesi’s day.

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Continue reading “Angkor Wat street view”

Two covers

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More new work of mine has been unveiled in the past few days so I can show these here. The Buried Life and Cities and Thrones are a pair of fantasy novels by new author Carrie Patel being published by Angry Robot. I was asked to provide something in an engraved style set against a black background, with imagery that reflected themes of vast, underground architecture and armed conflict.

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Vast architecture of any description is something I’ve always enjoyed, the main challenge with each book came in trying to imply the architecture and events without the pictorial content becoming incoherent. Marc at Angry Robot asked for something Piranesian where the architecture was concerned. Looking over Piranesi’s non-Carceri designs didn’t turn up anything with a suitably dramatic perspective, however, so most of what you see in the first cover comes from Giuseppe Galli Bibiena’s Architetture e Prospettive (1740). The Bibienas were a family of architects and theatrical engineers who specialised in dizzying perspective views for their stage designs; Bibiena’s book was produced to preserve some of his more celebrated designs, the originals of which are now lost. I’ve had a book of these drawings for years but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to make use of them in any kind of collage.

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This style of Baroque architecture doesn’t suit steampunk imagery which tends towards 19th-century urban/industrial; the plates are also rather staid scenes without the graphic flare that Piranesi gave to everything he rendered, real or imagined. But I do like those plunging perspectives, and pieces from two of the plates turned out to share both the same perspective and the same lighting direction. It’s easy to collage things into a flat view but creating a realistic sense of depth from bits and pieces can be tricky.

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The frame for the second cover has more of a Piranesian quality being chipped and eroded. The typography for the titles went through several changes, the versions here show a late suggestion of mine with lettering that’s probably too thin to read well at a distance (or a small size on a web page). SF Signal has a post showing the Angry Robot versions which will probably be the final ones, together with a preview of the first book.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aldous Huxley on Piranesi’s Prisons