Weekend links 335

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The Expectation (1936) by Richard Oelze.

Richard Oelze, 1900–1980 is an exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Michael Werner Gallery, London, which runs until January 2017. More Surrealist works by Oelze may be seen at But Does It Float and Ubu Gallery.

Will McMorran on the problems of translating the Marquis de Sade’s most obscene work. Related: Jay Sina on Sexistential Horror: HP Lovecraft and the Marquis de Sade as perverse peers.

• Mixes of the week: More Halloween horror at No Condition Is Permanent, Secret Thirteen Mix 200 by JK Flesh, and a mix for The Wire by Botany.

The Chronicles of Clovis (1911), a story collection by Saki (HH Munro) who died 100 years ago this week.

• “Jack is 24, sometimes he’s a drag queen named Sabrina.” The Queen (1968).

• The Mindset of the Macabre: An interview with Abigail Larson.

• “The world is full of bloviators,” says MAD cartoonist Al Jaffee.

Ginette Vincendeau on how the French birthed film noir.

• How to throw a dinner party like Salvador Dalí.

Sastanàqqàm, another new song by Tinariwen.

• At A Year In The Country: more Quatermass.

• Photographs by Klaartje Lambrechts.

Paul Bailey on Pasolini’s lost boys.

Adam Shatz on Leonard Cohen.

Subterranean London

Joan Of Arc (1986) by Jennifer Warnes with Leonard Cohen | Who By Fire (1986) by Coil | The Future (1992) by Leonard Cohen

Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies

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The particularly British sub-genre of folk horror receives a substantial examination in Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, a 500-page collection of essays, interviews and artwork edited by Andy Paciorek.

Featuring essays and interviews by many great cinematic, musical, artistic and literary talents, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies is the most comprehensive and engaging exploration to date of the sub-genre of Folk Horror and associated fields in cinema, television, music, art, culture and folklore.

Includes contributions by Kim Newman, Robin Hardy, Thomas Ligotti, Philip Pullman, Gary Lachman and many many more.

100% of all profits from sales of the book will be charitably donated to environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts.

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Nuada rising, 1973 & 1976.

Among the contents there’s my 4000-word essay Sacred Demons: The Dramatic Art of David Rudkin, parts of which will be familiar to readers of my previous posts about Rudkin’s work. I’m not sure Rudkin would appreciate being subjected to such a narrow focus when his plays and TV films are much more personal and cerebral than most generic entertainments. But there is an intersection in a number of them with folk horror at its widest reach, and Rudkin did happen to adapt The Ash-Tree (1975) by MR James for the BBC’s series of ghost stories at Christmas. My piece covers this along with other TV films such as Penda’s Fen (1974) and Artemis 81 (1981), and many of the stage plays including Afore Night Come (1962), The Sons of Light (1965/76) and The Saxon Shore (1983). The stage plays I only know from their scripts which makes them difficult to appraise; maybe the renewed interest in Rudkin’s work will spur some revivals.

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Sight and Sound, August 2010. Illustration by Becca Thorne.

Paciorek’s book isn’t solely concerned with British subjects, other essays include studies of Weird Americana, the music of The Cremator and Morgiana, and Czech folk horror. The Lulu page apparently didn’t allow the listing of a full table of contents so I’m posting the details below.

Continue reading “Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies”

Weekend links 265

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The White House, Washington DC, on the evening of June 26, 2015.

I can remember that after the cops cleared us out of the bar we clustered in Christopher Street around the entrance to the Stonewall. The customers were not being arrested, but a paddy wagon had already hauled off several of the bartenders. Two or three policemen stayed behind, locked inside with the remaining members of staff, waiting for the return of the paddy wagon. During that interval someone in the defiant crowd outside called out “Gay Power”, which caused us all to laugh. The notion that gays might become militant after the manner of blacks seemed amusing for two reasons—first because we gay men were used to thinking of ourselves as too effeminate to protest anything, and second because most of us did not consider ourselves to be a legitimate minority.

At that time we perceived ourselves as separate individuals at odds with society because we were “sick” (the medical model), “sinful” (the religious model), “deviant” (the sociological model) or “criminal” (the legal model). Some of these words we might have said lightly, satirically, but no amount of wit could convince us that our grievances should be remedied or our status defended. We might ask for compassion but we could not demand justice. Many gays either were in therapy or felt they should be, and the words gay liberation would have seemed as preposterous to us as neurotic liberation (now, of course, Thomas S. Szasz in the United States, RD Laing in Britain and Felix Guattari on the Continent have, in their different ways, made even that phrase plausible enough).

What I want to stress is that before 1969 only a small (though courageous and articulate) number of gays had much pride in their homosexuality or a conviction that their predilections were legitimate. The rest of us defined our homosexuality in negative terms, and those terms isolated us from one another. We might claim Plato and Michelangelo as homosexuals and revere them for their supposed affinities with us, but we could just as readily dismiss, even despise, a living thinker or artist for being gay. Rich gays may have derived pleasure from their wealth, educated gays from their knowledge, talented gays from their gifts, but few felt anything but regret about their homosexuality as such. To be sure, particular sexual encounters, and especially particular love relationships, were gratifying then as now, but they were explained as happy accidents rather than as expected results.

Edmund White writing on The Political Vocabulary of Homosexuality (1980). Reprinted in The Burning Library: Writings on Art, Politics and Sexuality (1994).

• “…after seeing Don’t Look Now, The Wicker Man looked just so dull and flat. What Don’t Look Now has that The Wicker Man doesn’t is a complete mastery of cinema. Don’t Look Now is almost a silent movie, a brilliant, coherent, original and fantastic film that has an enormous emotional impact.” Bernard Rose emoting at length about Nicolas Roeg. Related: Wild Hearts Run Out Of Time, the Roy Orbison video that Rose mentions directing.

• “The male sex organ is depicted not so much as a body part, but more as a fetish object in its own right—a thing independent of the male body, worthy of intense, delirious veneration.” Jason Farago reviewing Tom of Finland: the Pleasure of Play. Related: Same-sex desire through the ages at the British Museum.

• “Sphinx is a typical love story only in the way that it’s the tale of two people who have fallen in love, and things don’t go smoothly. Beyond that…as reader, you have no idea of the gender of either half of this romantic equation.” Chris Clarke reviewing Sphinx, a novel by Anne Garréta.

• “To give space to the musical elements was really a thrill—how far can you get without using too much stuff?” Moritz von Oswald on “the sounds of emptiness”.

• “The problem is not always Helvetica but that Helvetica is all too often the default, the fall-back, the I-really-can’t-be-arsed choice,” says John Boardley.

• Mix of the week: Shaft’s Old Man: An Imaginary Soul Jazz Soundtrack by Aquarium Drunkard.

• “What is the Cut-Up Method?” Ken Hollings explains in a BBC magazine piece and radio feature.

• Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass, the final TV serial, will be released on Blu-ray next month.

• Relevant to the week’s reading: an archived Italo Calvino site.

Drÿad: a Tumblr.

Sphinx (1989) by Syd Straw | The Sodom And Gomorrah Show (2006) by Pet Shop Boys | Pattern 1 (2009) by Moritz Von Oswald Trio

Stone Tapes and Quatermasses

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Quatermass paperbacks from Jovike’s Flickr pages.

This may be another occasional series in the making since there’s already been a post about Roadside Picnic/Stalker music, and one about music inspired by the cosmic horror of William Hope Hodgson. I was going to write something earlier this year about music derived from the works of Nigel Kneale after rewatching all of Kneale’s major works. The reappraisal was prompted by the publication in January of The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale, an excellent anthology of essays/speculations (and a China Miéville interview) about Kneale’s film and TV dramas. The delay in writing was a result of having to wait several months after ordering a CD of the Tod Dockstader album (see below) which for some reason the distributors couldn’t manage to get in the post.

In the Twilight Language book there’s a piece by Ken Hollings about electronic music, some of which has material connections with Kneale’s work, notably the Radiophonic Workshop’s creation of sound effects for Quatermass and the Pit. Early copies of the book came with a bonus cassette tape of Kneale-inspired music; more about that below. The men and women of the Radiophonic Workshop are the godparents of the following Kneale soundworks, most of which are British, and inevitably tend towards the grinding, droning and doom-laden end of the electronic spectrum. Given the enduring influence of Kneale’s work, especially the Quatermass serials and their film equivalents, it’s surprising there isn’t more Knealesque music to be found. (I’m avoiding the obvious film soundtracks, and any bands such as Quatermass who may be named after Kneale’s work but whose music doesn’t reflect it.) If anyone can add to this list then please leave a comment.

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Quatermass (1964) by Tod Dockstader

The American master of tape manipulation here processes hours of recordings of cymbals, pipes, tone generators, a vacuum hose and rubber balloons to create what he calls “a very dense, massive, even threatening work”. Dockstader hadn’t seen any of the Quatermass films or serials when he chose the name but he said that it sounded right. It certainly does, as does the unnerving, shrieking morass of sound he manages to craft using the most primitive equipment. The Starkland CD containing the Quatermass suite includes two further edits of the source material entitled Two Moons of Quatermass.

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The Séance At Hobs Lane (2001) by Mount Vernon Arts Lab

Mount Vernon Arts Lab is Drew Mulholland and various collaborators. The Séance At Hobs Lane is an abstract concept album based on Mulholland’s lifelong obsession with Quatermass and the Pit (an idée fixe he writes about in the Twilight Language book), plus “Victorian skullduggery, outlaws, secret societies and subterranean experiences”. Among the collaborators are Coil, Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Barry 7 of Add N to (X), and Adrian Utley of Portishead. The album was reissued in 2007 on the Ghost Box label.

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Ouroborindra (2005) by Eric Zann

And speaking of Ghost Box… This album has been mentioned here on several occasions, a one-off release that’s the most consciously horror-oriented of all the works in the Ghost Box catalogue. The artist “name” and track titles reference Lovecraft and Machen but it’s included here for the dialogue quote in the insert from Kneale’s ghost drama The Stone Tape. In addition to the Mount Vernon reissue other Ghost Box references to Kneale can be found in the samples from Quatermass and the Pit (TV version) on The Bohm Site from We Are All Pan’s People by The Focus Group, and the title of the track which follows: Hob’s Rumble. Continue reading “Stone Tapes and Quatermasses”

What Is A Happening?

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Poster for the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream (1967) by Michael McInnerney.

“The language of Mellow Yellow, the art of the Happening…”

Yesterday’s story from International Times appeared in the same week in 1967 as this 30-minute BBC documentary shown as part of the Man Alive documentary strand. Taking them together you receive contrasting views of a major moment for London’s psychedelic underground, The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, an all-night indoor arts-and-music festival staged at Alexandra Palace on 29th April, 1967. The event was a benefit to raise money for International Times following a prosecution for obscenity (Oz magazine later had to endure a similar, more notorious rigmarole). Alexandra Palace was an odd choice of location, being a huge Victorian exhibition space which had once served as the BBC’s main studios. (The first Quatermass serial was filmed there in 1953.) The venue was apparently chosen because it had previously hosted blues all-nighters but the acoustics are dreadful for live music, as the BBC’s documentary demonstrates. The film also shows that most of the audience wouldn’t have been too concerned; being there was more important.

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When you’ve been reading about an event like this for years it’s fascinating to get an extended view of the thing. The BBC were there all night, and capture many key incidents. The three interviewers are deeply sceptical of the whole business but that’s inevitable when they were making a film for a general audience. All the same, the repeated questions of “Why are you here? What’s this for?” are ones that would never be asked of a group of visitors to, say, Ascot, or the Henley Regatta. “It’s the audience which is the interesting part,” an upper-class Chelsea bookseller astutely declares, the interviewer seeming surprised that an older person might wish to be present. If the event looks trivial and even stereotypical today (tripped-out kids and blissful sentiments), it needs to be remembered that this was the very first time anything like this had been seen in Britain, hence the presence of the documentary crew. For sceptics and initiates alike the night was a glimpse of bright new territory opening up. The excitement of the moment still communicates itself.

What Is A Happening?: part one | part two | part three

The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream at UK Rock Festivals

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