Weekend links 642

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A light wheel. Via.

• “Part of the instrument’s draw is its fallibility. Famously, or perhaps infamously, every Rhodes is different: some freakishly responsive, some with keys that stick like glue, and all with uneven registers, darker corners, and sweet spots.” Hugh Morris on the delicate art of reinventing the Fender Rhodes.

Rambalac’s YouTube channel of first-person walks through Japanese locations is a vicarious pleasure, especially on a big screen. It’s not all city streets but if you like urban meandering then Tokyo walk from day to rainy night – Higashi-Ikebukuro, Mejiro, Ikebukuro is a good place to start.

• At Igloomag: Chang Terhune interviews Stephen Mallinder in a gratifyingly lengthy piece which covers Mallinder’s recent solo recordings and collaborations, his work with students on his sound-art course, and (unavoidably) the late Richard H. Kirk and Cabaret Voltaire.

What I think might be a useful approach—perhaps impractical, but bear me out—I think that if we were to reconnect magic and art as a starting point, because they’re practically the same thing anyway, make art the product of your magical experiments, the way that Austin Spare did for example, then that would give magic an enormous sense of purpose and I think it would also lend art the vision that it seems to be lacking at present. A lot of modern art seems rather empty and hollow conceptualism that lacks any real vision or substance or power. A linking of magic and art would help both of those fields. Then, once you’ve done that, maybe linking art and science. There’s plenty of work already done in that regard.

Alan Moore talking to Miles Ellingham about the usual concerns plus his new story collection, Illuminations

Wheels of Light: Designs for British Light Shows 1970–1990 is a book by Kevin Foakes (aka DJ Food) which will be published later this month by Four Corners Books. The author talks about his book here.

• “The Sandjak of Novi Pazar always sounded as if it were a title, like the Sultan of Zanzibar or the Dame of Sark…” Mark Valentine on discovering outdated maps in forgotten books.

• “My brief was to find tracks that had been left by the wayside or disregarded.” Lenny Kaye on 50 years of his influential garage-rock compilation Nuggets.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 768 by Lawrence English, and King Scratch (Musical Masterpieces from the Upsetter Ark-ive) by Aquarium Drunkard.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House (1959).

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Slag.

• This Wheel’s On Fire (1968) by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity | Cosmic Wheels (1973) by Donovan | Wheels On Fire (1985) by Haruomi Hosono

Weekend links 589

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The Three Perfumes (1912) by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh.

• “…we have empowered this monopoly to strike fear into the hearts of authors. And that may be unprecedented in history. Through our own complicity as consumers, their market share only grows.” Dave Eggers talking to Rachel Krantz about the dominance of Amazon, and his new novel, The Every.

• “People will readily flock to yoga and Pilates classes, but how many show up for soundscape therapy or take a sound-walk?” Bernie Krause on the healing powers of quietude, the Ba’Aka tribe, and Japanese forest bathing.

• “Difficulty is my drug of choice, I guess.” Dennis Cooper (again) talking to Troy James Weaver about his new novel, I Wished.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine reviews Shadows of London by Jonathan Wood.

• Robert Fripp’s drive to 1981: Joe Banks on Discipline and the return of King Crimson.

• End times and rapture: Ken Hollings remembers Richard H. Kirk.

• Daniel Spicer on The Strange (Parallel) World of Miles Davis.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 715 by Uffe.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Oposta.

Perfumed Metal (1981) by Chrome | Ode To Perfume (1982) by Holger Czukay | Perfume (2006) by Sparks

Richard H. Kirk, 1956–2021

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Q: Was the initial idea to be a music group?

Richard H. Kirk: I suppose that depends on how you define “music”. No, the initial idea was to be more of a sound group, just putting sounds together like jigsaw pieces. If the result did sound like music then it was purely coincidental.

From Cabaret Voltaire: The Art of the Sixth Sense (1984) by M Fish & D Hallberry

This was a shock, in part because I tend to think of certain artists as perpetually young even when I’ve been following them for decades. In the case of the not-so-young Cabaret Voltaire it was an easy frame of mind to slip into when Kirk and Mallinder were only photographically visible up to about 1990. After this the group resumed their former obscurity, cloaked by abstract images and Designers Republic graphics.

Oddly enough I’d been running through the early Cabs albums only a couple of weeks ago, and wondering how long Kirk was going to keep the revived group going on his own. I suppose this means that Cabaret Voltaire is now definitely finished, in which case it’s a double RIP. And just a few days ago I was reading a Mark Fisher essay on Joy Division, feeling as frustrated as I always do when Curtis and co. are praised for “channelling” (or whatever) the spirit of William Burroughs when nobody would think to connect Burroughs and Joy Division if you changed the title of the song Interzone to something else. Throbbing Gristle were closer to Burroughs personally than were Cabaret Voltaire but the influence on TG only became really overt when Industrial Records released Nothing Here Now But The Recordings, an album of Burroughs’ tape experiments. The Cabs were more important to me as a youthful reader of Burroughs’ novels for seeming to be broadcasting from inside his texts. Their early albums were disturbed and disturbing (a friend once asked me to switch off their music for this very reason), an unwholesome amalgam of dialogue taped from TV and radio, crude electronics, threatening voices, and songs that were warped into strange new shapes. This is entertainment…this is fun… I’m still amazed that their first album included a cover of No Escape, a song by psychedelic group The Seeds, which didn’t sound out of place despite the weirdness surrounding it.

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William smiles. Left to right: John Giorno, William Burroughs, Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk. Photo by Sylvia Plachy from the gatefold interior of A Diamond In The Mouth Of A Corpse (1985), a compilation album released by Giorno Poetry Systems.

Cut-up theory was a constant in the Cabaret Voltaire discography, and in many of Richard Kirk’s solo recordings, with the group starting out as Dada-inspired tape collagists* before they found a way to present their experiments in a musical form. The concept is to the fore in the title of Cabaret Voltaire’s debut album, Mix-Up, and exemplified in the track that opens side two, Photophobia, a reworked version of a Surrealist monologue that dates from the group’s days making recordings in Chris Watson’s attic. Photophobia pulls you into the same queasy dreamspace in which you find yourself when reading Burroughs’ early cut-ups, a catalogue of oneiric splicings—”they’re injecting the rivers with stainless-steel fish…a coelacanth/a body with a shrunken head…”—the phrases being increasingly overwhelmed by rising synthesizer drones and Kirk’s squeaking clarinet. Kirk’s solo debut, Disposable Half-Truths, was a cassette-only release on Industrial Records infused with the Burroughs spirit in both technique and content, offering track titles such as Information Therapy and Insect Friends Of Allah. Cabaret Voltaire continually referred to Burroughs’ speculative essay collection The Electronic Revolution in interviews but it was Kirk who extended the group’s cut-up experiments to film and video. By 1982 they’d accumulated enough of their own video material to release a VHS collection on their own music and video label, Doublevision.

If I’ve concentrated on the early recordings it’s because the post-punk period continues to seem like a miraculous moment, a space of four years when anything was possible musically, a time when Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis could record an album as uncompromisingly strange as 3R4 then have it released on 4AD and sold in racks next to albums by label-mates Bauhaus and The Birthday Party. Cabaret Voltaire took advantage of this unique period to warp expectations in their own way, and to extend the boundaries of the possible. Richard H. Kirk’s subsequent career was prolific, releasing a blizzard of albums and singles under a variety of pseudonyms (Discogs lists 42 different Kirk aliases). One of my favourite pieces from his solo recordings is White Darkness from 1993, the last track on a 12-inch single, Digital Lifeforms, credited to Sandoz. There’s a mysterious quality here that I wish he’d explored more often on his later albums instead of letting the rhythms run their course for another seven or eight minutes. The sampled voice maintains a thread of continuity with Kirk’s music before and after, as does the reference to LSD in the Sandoz name, taking us back to Mix-Up and the mescaline experiments described on Heaven And Hell. Psychedelia by other means.

* For a taste of unadorned Cabs-related tape manipulation, see The Men With The Deadly Dreams, a cassette release compiled by Geoff Rushton/John Balance which features contributions from Chris Watson and Richard H. Kirk. Note that the blog post doesn’t give an accurate description of the tape contents.

• At Vinyl Factory: An introduction to Richard H. Kirk in 10 records.
• At The Wire: two interviews with Kirk from the magazine’s archives.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Recoil and Cabaret Voltaire
Pow-Wow by Stephen Mallinder
TV Wipeout revisited
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
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
Neville Brody and Fetish Records

Weekend links 577

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Black Lake (1904) by Jan Preisler.

• Upcoming releases on the Ghost Box label will include a new album by {feuilleton} faves Pye Corner Audio, plus the surprising appearance of figures from Bruegel on a Ghost Box cover design.

Tilda Swinton and Olivier Saillard pay tribute to the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini. (Or to Pasolini’s costume designer, Danilo Donati.)

• New music: Spectral Corridor by The House In The Woods, and Re:Moving (Music for Choreographies by Yin Yue) by Machinefabriek.

• At Spoon & Tamago, Technopolis gets all the good things: “Giant kitty now greets commuters at Shinjuku Station.”

Anil Ananthaswamy on the ways in which psychedelics open a new window on the mechanisms of perception.

• Mixes of the week: Isolated Mix 112 by Suna, and GGHQ Mix #56, “An Unfortunate Kink”, by Abigail Ward.

• In this week’s impossible task, Alexis Petridis attempts to rank The Velvet Underground’s greatest songs.

• DJ Food unearths more flyers for London’s Middle Earth club, plus covers for the East Village Other.

• Global signals: Aki Onda on Holger Czukay and radio’s power to connect.

• At The Paris Review: Paintings and collages by Eileen Agar (1899–1991).

Will Sergeant’s favourite albums.

The Babel Tower Notice Board

Shaking Down The Tower Of Babel (1983) by Richard H. Kirk | Pärt: An Den Wassern Zu Babel (1991) by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Paul Hillier | The Black Meat (Deconstruction Of The Babel-Tower of Reason) (1994) by Automaton

Weekend links 544

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“You may if you please, call a partial View of Immensity, or without much Impropriety perhaps, a finite View of Infinity.” An illustration from Thomas Wright’s An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe (1750).

• If you read about electronic music for any length of time today you’ll eventually come across the term “pad”, referring to a feature of the music itself not the instrumentation. I’ve noticed increasing instances of this with no accompanying explanation of what the term actually refers to. Rob Wreglesworth has the answer.

• At Dangerous Minds: Richard H. Kirk talks to Oliver Hall about Cabaret Voltaire and Shadow Of Fear. No comment from Kirk as to why the new album warrants the CV name when the music is indistinguishable from his many solo works.

• Eyeball Fodder: The Art of the Occult Edition. S. Elizabeth presents artwork featured in her new book, together with links to artist interviews, including one to the interview we did for Coilhouse magazine a few years ago.

• More electronica: Music From Patch Cord Productions is a new compilation of music by Mort Garson that features some previously unreleased pieces. Great cover art by Robert Beatty as well.

• A trailer for Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, a documentary film about meteorites by Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer.

• From 2019: John Waters and Lynn Tillman in conversation. “The pair discussed Waters’s recent exhibitions and art career.”

Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions may finally be published, after a five-decade wait.

Turn your feline into a god with this cardboard Shinto shrine for cats.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 670 by Dadub.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Harry Dean Stanton Day.

John Cooper Clarke‘s favourite songs.

Meteor Storm (1994) by FFWD | The Third Chamber: Part 5 – 7pm Tokyo Shrine (1994) by Loop Guru | Fireball (1994) by Sun Dial