Weekend links 418

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Poster by Roman Cieslewicz for the 1963 Polish release of Vertigo. Via The Hitchcock Zone.

• Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is sixty years old this year. It’s a film I’ve always found to be preposterous and very over-rated, despite the considerable strengths of its cast, production, etc; consequently, any claims to its being an unalloyed masterpiece (such as being voted the best film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll) have been difficult to accept. For the latest anniversary, David Thomson examined the film in the light of changing social attitudes.

• Currently seeking funding at Unbound: Stars, Fools and Lovers: An illustrated guide to the art and history of the Tarot by Joanna Ebenstein, Laetitia Barbier and Mark Pilkington. Another Tarot-related book, Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story by Stuart R. Kaplan with Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons, will be published next month.

• Everybody wants to talk to Jon Hassell at the moment, which is no bad thing: recent interviews have appeared at The Vinyl Factory, Red Bull Radio and Vice.

• Coming soon from Lazarus Corporation: England’s Dark Dreaming by Paul Watson.

• Sean Kitching on The Strange World of Charles Hayward (This Heat et al).

• At Dennis Copper’s: The title sequences of 56 mostly horror movies.

• Stone circles: Adam Scovell chooses 10 notable cinematic examples.

• “You gotta be selfish. It’s a terrible thing,” says David Lynch.

Wolf’s Kompaktkiste shows off a serious record collection.

Boy with Cat (1966), a short film by Donald Richie.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 256 by Nina.

Tank (2018), a short film by Stu Maschwitz.

Phantom Islands—A Sonic Atlas

Letraset, design and music

• Vertigo (1988) by Flash Cero | Psyko (Themes from Psycho and Vertigo) (1993) by Laika & The Cosmonauts | Vértigo Magnético (2014) by Liquidarlo Celuloide

Digging the Rubble

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1: The Psychedelic Snarl.

A few words in praise of Rubble, the 20-disc collection of (mostly) British psychedelic singles released by the Bam Caruso label from 1984 to 1991. A reader of Rob Chapman’s Psychedelia and Other Colours would find the Rubble series an indispensable companion to the second half of the book which explores the unique styles of British psych. Ideally you’d read the book while having these and other compilations close at hand, something I didn’t manage so I’ve been going through the discs myself this week, listening out for some of the many singles that Chapman discusses. The Rubble title is a nod to Lenny Kaye’s 1972 collection Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, the first reappraisal of the garage/psych era whose success spawned Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969, a not-so-good attempt to do the same for the UK, and Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era, 1976-1995. The original Nuggets was followed by the long-running Pebbles series which sprawls over 28 discs collecting obscure garage singles.

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2: Pop-Sike Pipe Dreams.

What I like about the Rubble series, apart from its covering a favourite zone of musical history, is the way that each volume is titled in a suitable manner beyond a mere number: the title of volume 8, All The Colours Of Darkness could have been used by Coil during their LSD period. Then there’s the sleeve designs by the great Phil Smee, one of the founders of Bam Caruso, the collector of many of the featured singles, and a first-rate artisan of psychedelic graphics: there’s a Louis Wain cat on volume 2, and more of those letterforms by Roman Cieslewicz on volume 10. Smee deserves a post of his own but covering such a lengthy career would be a daunting task: Discogs lists 784 separate releases, and that’s only his design work. The design on the first run of Rubble albums was credited to “Harvey S. Williams”, a Smee pseudonym playing on the name of Elektra Records art director William S. Harvey. Harvey S. Williams was also the designer of the short-lived and rather wonderful Bam Caruso magazine, Strange Things Are Happening, issues of which are advertised in the inner sleeves of the early Rubble albums. (The magazine borrowed its title from a 1968 single by Rings and Things which is featured on Rubble 4.)

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3: Nightmares In Wonderland.

The Rubble series has been reissued on CD many times, and is currently available as The Rubble Collection, a glossy cube containing all 20 discs in card sleeves together with two booklets that reprint Phil Smee’s original sleeve notes and band photos. The Rubble albums sound a little rough today when many of the songs which were taken directly from old singles have been resurrected and can be heard elsewhere in better quality. Subsequent compilations have also cherry-picked many of the better selections but this is still the ideal place to start if you want to immerse yourself in the toyshop/kitchen sink surrealism that is British psychedelia.

• See also: Richard Norris reminiscing about working at Bam Caruso, and choosing 20 favourite British psych records.

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4: The 49 Minute Technicolour Dream.

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The Monstrous

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One of the books I was working on over the summer is officially published this week. The Monstrous is a horror anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, and the third Datlow collection that I’ve designed for Tachyon Publications after Lovecraft’s Monsters (2014) and Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror (2010).

My work on this new collection isn’t as full-on as for the Lovecraft volume: I designed the interior, and also illustrated each story but this time many of the illustrations are details or vignettes rather than full-page pictures. There are still 20 stories and over 20 illustrations, however, illustrating pieces by Jeffrey Ford, Peter Straub, Dale Bailey, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Gemma Files, Livia, Adam-Troy Castro, Kim Newman, Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, Carole Johnstone, Brian Hodge, Stephen Graham Jones, Adam L. G. Nevill, Sofia Samatar, Terry Dowling, Glen Hirshberg, A. C. Wise, Steve Rasnic Tem, Christopher Fowler, and John Langan. Not everything here is a monster in the common sense of that word, the collection explores monstrousness in many different forms, from Sumerian demons and Japanese ghosts to Peter Straub’s disturbing portrait of a psychotic school teacher.

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Missing from this selection of pages is additional pictorial material from Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris (1665). The capitals on the contents pages are the collaged letterforms by Roman Cieslewicz taken from Dover’s book of bizarre and ornamental alphabets.

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Lovecraftiana calendar

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It may have been delayed by a week but the Coulthart calendar for 2016 arrives earlier in the year than some of its predecessors. A few months ago I had no idea what I was going to do for a calendar this year; I had a lot of work in progress, and more scheduled for the autumn, so creating all-new artwork wasn’t the best idea. Then on the plane back from Providence I thought, “Oh, yeah…Lovecraft…” So here’s a selection of Lovecraftian artwork old and new. The most recent pieces are from the front and back cover of the NecronomiCon convention booklet; among the older works there are two paintings which weren’t intended to be illustrative of The Weird but can be if you give them suitable labels, hence The Yellow King for February (see the pages at larger size here). The capitals on the cover are from the wonderful collaged set designed by Roman Cieslewicz, and which can be found in Dover’s Bizarre and Ornamental Alphabets.

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I’ve mentioned the problem caused by CafePress cancelling the line of portrait-oriented calendar templates that I’d been using for several years. The calendar templates at Zazzle didn’t quite match the old CafePress ones but with some fine-tuning of the options I’ve got as close as I could. There’s a slight disadvantage in the way the dates are overlaid on the artwork but then the artwork is already pierced by a hole at the top so this seems negligible. Zazzle’s template improves on CafePress by offering a range of coloured pages and coloured wire-binding so I’ve gone for a none-more-black interior. Zazzle also lets you design a back cover which means this is the first calendar where I’ve been able to provide credits and dates for all the pictures. Buyers also have the option of choosing their own regional holidays; CafePress is resolutely US-centric with all its products. The purchase page is here.

For the moment all the previous calendars, including the popular Psychedelic Alice ones, are unavailable although I’ll be moving them to Zazzle when I have a spare moment. Watch this space.

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Continue reading “Lovecraftiana calendar”

Weekend links 219

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Grendel Monster (2013) by Anna & Elena Balbusso.

Rick Poynor looks at the Guide de la France mystérieuse (1964), a fantastic (in every sense) doorstop of a volume whose collage alphabet by Roman Cieslewicz can be seen on the cover of Carnival In Babylon (1972) by Amon Düül II.

• Boolean mathematics, Charles Howard Hinton, The Voynich Manuscript, and the effects of surveillance on the political process: Adam Curtis firing on all cylinders as usual.

• At Strange Flowers: The Picture of John Gray, remembering the minor fin de siècle figure who gave Oscar Wilde a surname for his most famous creation.

In “32 Cardinal Virtues of Dennis Cooper,” Wayne Koestenbaum remarks: “Cooper’s quest for the unseeable is virtually religious. I mean: sedulous, abstract, perpetual, unrewarded, unreasonable.” There’s much more to be said of Gone, its power, its pain, its odd intrigues, but perhaps it will suffice to say that it is revealing: unlike Burroughs’ scrapbooks hidden away by some private collector, never to see the light of day, Gone (and its sister texts at the Fales Library) illuminate in perpetuity Cooper’s obscure quest for the unseeable.

Diarmuid Hester looks at Dennis Cooper’s scrapbooks

The Sallow Tree, a single by Lutine. More music: An hour of Julia Holter‘s St John’s Sessions performance.

• At Dangerous Minds: Christian televangelists listen to Stairway To Heaven forwards.

• Cathy Camper reviews Fearful Hunter, a graphic novel by Jon Macy.

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 452 by Claude Speeed.

Roman Cieslewicz at Pinterest.

The Adobe Illustrator Story

The House of Julian

Unofficial Britain

• Amon Düül II singles: Rattlesnakeplumcake (1970) | Between The Eyes (1970) | Light (1971) | Lemmingmania (1971)