Weekend links 538

greenaway.jpg

The Elf Ring by Kate Greenaway.

• “Is it possible that the Victorian fairy tradition, beneath its innocent exterior, operated as a conduit for a hidden tradition of psychedelic knowledge?” Just in time for the British mushroom season, Mike Jay explores the connections between psychedelic mushrooms, folklore and fairy tales.

• “This second coming of Prince’s greatest album is the immaculate execution of a flawed conception: the belief that you can never have too much of a good thing.” Simon Reynolds on Prince and the expanded, multi-disc reissue of Sign O’ The Times.

• “An extraordinary stash of more than 400 erotic drawings by Duncan Grant that was long thought to have been destroyed has come to light, secretly passed down over decades from friend to friend and lover to lover.” Mark Brown on a trove of gay erotica.

• New art exhibitions: Wessel + O’Connor celebrates 35 years of homoerotic exhibitionism with 35 works by different artists; “masks a must”. And New Framing at Museum More includes a great painting by Jan Ouwersloot of trams manoeuvring at night.

• There is no Prog, only Zeuhl: A guide to one of rock’s most imaginative subgenres by Jim Allen. I recommend the Weidorje album.

The Power (Of Their Knowledge), another preview of the forthcoming album by Cabaret Voltaire (or Richard Kirk solo).

• RIP Eddie Van Halen. Annie Zaleski selects 10 of his best songs (really 9 plus an instrumental…).

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Leonora Carrington The Hearing Trumpet (1976).

• Mix of the week: Autumn and Wise (The Fall) by The Ephemeral Man.

Abandoned Isle of Wight

Dark Side Of The Mushroom (1967) by Chocolate Watch Band | Mushroom (1971) by Can | Growing Mushrooms Of Potency (2011) by Expo ’70

Recoil and Cabaret Voltaire

recoil1.jpg

Since it was announced this week that Cabaret Voltaire will release a new album in November, here’s a short Cabs-related film that used to be impossible to see. A Sheffield art student, Nick Allday, made Recoil in 1981 as part of his course work, and managed to persuade Cabaret Voltaire to create a soundtrack:

The concept originated with raw material of video feedback and some sparse nuclear bomb footage available at the time. The idea was to represent in abstract form the cruel chaotic dysfunctional nature of the human condition with all its potential for self destruction. It was conceived as a manifestation of wretched anger, fury, and regret. (more)

Very typical of the early 1980s, in other words. The film was mentioned in a few of the group’s interviews around this time, and was also screened before some of their performances, but it otherwise remained a mystery until the footage was rediscovered and restored a few years ago. The copy of Recoil at Vimeo was uploaded by the organiser of the Gofundme launched to pay for the restoration, revealing music that sounds like an outtake from Red Mecca. (According to the post linked above this was mostly the work of Stephen Mallinder rather than the group as a whole.) And having written about Last and First Men a couple of days ago, it’s worth mentioning that Chris Watson, who was still a member of Cabaret Voltaire in 1981, recorded the natural sounds for Jóhann Jóhannsson’s film.

recoil2.jpg

As to the forthcoming album, Shadow Of Fear, I’m not the only person who finds everything credited to the group since Plasticity (1992) to be barely distinguishable from many of Richard Kirk’s solo works. Stephen Mallinder seems to be present in name only on these albums which makes you wonder what there is about a CV release that differs from a Kirk release, especially when the preview track, Vasto, sounds like more of the same. The real shadow of fear is the worry that a worthwhile project is being perpetuated for no good reason.

Previously on { feuilleton }
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

Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire

cv01.jpg

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.

cv02.jpg

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.

cv03.jpg

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.

cv04.jpg

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.

cv05.jpg

Continue reading “Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire”

Downside Up

downsideup.jpg

Downside Up (1984)

For a long time I didn’t know which came first, Downside Up, a 16-minute short by experimental filmmaker Tony Hill, or Sensoria, the Cabaret Voltaire music video directed by Peter Care. Both were made in 1984 and both employ the same technique of a camera fixed to a special rig that allows shots to begin at ground level, rise parabolically into the air then descend to the ground again showing a reverse angle. Thanks to this Quietus interview with Peter Care last year we now know that Tony Hill’s film came first and that Care borrowed the rig for his video. Both are memorable pieces of work. Hill starts out with a series of slow shots accompanied by sounds that imply the camera is passing through the earth. This is contradicted later (and with gathering speed) when some of the shots are rotated through ninety degrees so they materialise out of building walls. Care stripped the technique down using faster shots that he cut with stop-motion footage of Richard Kirk and Stephen Mallinder. It’s the best of the promo videos made for the group.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire

The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire

crackdown1.jpg

I mentioned yesterday Richard H. Kirk’s announcement that Cabaret Voltaire’s albums on the Virgin label are to be reissued next year by Mute Records. The news gives me a topical excuse to write something about the first album in that series, The Crackdown, which happens to be my favourite of all their releases. Cabaret Voltaire, like 23 Skidoo, benefited a great deal from their association with designer Neville Brody in the early 1980s, and this post mostly concerns Brody’s design for The Crackdown and its accompanying singles. The Crackdown was released in 1983 with the advance from Virgin having allowed them to buy new equipment and add a degree of polish to their recordings which earlier albums had lacked. Brody had been designing their covers for the past two years, and continued to do so for the next few releases before leaving the music business to concentrate on magazine and other design work.

crackdown2.jpg

What I liked about this sleeve was the way it gets the most out of the careful arrangement of a few simple elements. The front photo showing Stephen Mallinder and Richard Kirk posing with video equipment (monitoring the viewer) is enlarged and cropped to provide backgrounds elsewhere. The sleeve photos wrap around front and back while the shape made by the titles determines the layout of track titles and credits. (The various CV graphics are credited to Phil Barnes.) The type wasn’t set digitally but was applied by hand using Letraset rub-down lettering which makes me wonder how much planning was required to get the track titles to perfectly fit their intended shape.

crackdown3.jpg

Continue reading “The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire”