Weekend links 507

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The next release on the Ghost Box label will be Puzzlewood by Plone, “unironically joyful and melodic electronica; informed by library music, music for children’s TV and a deep passion for the history of music technology”. The album will be available in April. Design, as always, is by Julian House.

• “With his panting breath and dripping sweat infused in each page of his memoir, Patrick Cowley describes himself on his knees, bending over and ‘worshipping Phallus.'” Maxwell Shand on Dark Entries‘ “holy trinity” of Patrick Cowley’s Mechanical Fantasy Box, Hot Rod To Hell by Roy Garrett & Man Parrish, and Maxx Mann’s gay synth-pop.

• “We’re gonna do economic activity—without money!”: Inside the criminal glamour of the San Francisco Diggers with Kent Minault. The third installment of a verbal history of the hippie anarchists by Jay Babcock.

• “Susanna Hoffs and friends remember David Roback, who stayed creative, and enigmatic, to the end.” By Randall Roberts.

My connection with [raga] was not to be able to duplicate or emulate it but to learn from it. I combined it with the electronics and the harmonizer and things like that. But I would have a line that was being drawn. You’re thinking about it like a shape that’s being drawn on a canvas. It’s a line that’s being drawn and another. You’re holding three pencils at once while you’re drawing on the wall. So, you’re able to get the shapes. This was my thing with it, because I was into the harmony that it would make. So, it was an easy and natural thing to do, was to go and move into the electronics. Then we had equipment that was doing transposition and all that kind of thing. So that’s one little part of it.

Jon Hassell talking to Aquarium Drunkard about his first album, Vernal Equinox, which is reissued later this month

• Published next month by Strange Attractor Press: Rated SavX: The Savage Pencil Skratchbook.

• They came from outer Finland: the town where everyone saw UFOs, as photographed by Maria Lax.

• Mix of the week: Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. VI – Sweden II by David Colohan.

Moonstrips Empire News (1967) by Eduardo Paolozzi.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Shelley Duvall Day.

Graham Massey‘s favourite albums.

Phallus Dei (1969) by Amon Düül II | Wrong Eye (1990) by Coil | Red Scratch (1994) by ELpH

Weekend links 445

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Masayo Fukuda‘s octopus is cut from a single sheet of paper.

• “But in the title track, Homosapien contains a truly great song; four and a half minutes of bubbling synth and clever wordplay, atop which Shelley puts to one side the knowing coyness he’d frequently inserted into his contributions to the Buzzcocks catalogue, loosens his tie, and, as much as he ever committed to tape, is explicit in telling the listen exactly what he desires.” James McMahon on Pete Shelley’s first proper solo album.

Kosmischer Läufer, the reissue project for East German kosmische music of the 1970s which may not be entirely authentic, has now reached its fourth volume. Authentic or not, the attention to detail is impressive.

• One of my favourite browsing places this month: NASA Image and Video Library.

• At Dangerous Minds: Eric Stanton and the History of the Bizarre Underground.

• Public domain artworks in high resolution at the Art Institute of Chicago.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 686 by the The Radiophonic Workshop.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Les Blank Day.

Art of the Poster 1880–1918.

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Interstellar Rock: Kosmische Musik (1974) by Cosmic Jokers | Sehr Kosmisch (1974) by Harmonia | Meine Kosmische Musik (1974) by Sternenmädchen

Weekend links 442

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Orgasm Addict (1977). Design by Malcolm Garrett; collage by Linder.

• RIP Pete Shelley, Buzzcock and Homosapien. Shelley is celebrated for being in the vanguard of Britain’s punk movement, of course. (Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch was the UK’s first independent single.) But he also loved Can, recorded an album of electronic drones (Sky Yen), and in 1983 successfully blended home-computer graphics with his own brand of superior electronic pop music. Related: Malcolm Garrett’s Buzzcocks band logo at Fonts In Use; B’dum, B’dum: Tony Wilson in 1978 talking to Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto about Buzzcocks and Magazine.

• Winter demands ghost stories so Adam Scovell suggests 10 great winter ghost films. Related: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas presents an A–Z of Women’s Horror Filmmaking.

Carey Dunne on the rise of underground LSD guides for psychotherapy. Related: “Psychedelics change the perception of time,” says Shayla Love.

• Ex-Neu! guitarist Michael Rother receives the box-set treatment early next year when the Groenland label reissues his early solo albums.

Jodorowsky, an exhibition devoted to the writer and director, will be staged at El Museo del Barrio, New York, from February next year.

• “From Georges Méliès to Bill and Ted, movie hells remain seriously in hock to the Judeo-Christian playbook,” says Anne Billson.

The Owl’s Legacy, Chris Marker’s 13-part documentary series on Greek culture, receives its debut DVD release.

Topic II (1989), a short film by Pascal Baes of pixilated dancers in the night streets of Prague.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 274 by Koray Kantarcioglu.

• We are the first humans to hear the winds of the planet Mars.

• Patrick Magee reads The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jean-Louis Trintignant Day.

• Mongolian biker rock: Wolf Totem by The HU.

The Quietus albums of the year.

Hell (2001) by Techno Animal ft. Dälek | Hell’s Winter (2011) by Earth | Hell A (2017) by The Bug vs. Earth

Illustrating Frankenstein

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Frontispiece by Theodore Von Holst of the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. The monster in this illustration, which Mary Shelley would no doubt have seen, is closer to the description in the text than the myriad shambling figures that came later.

It’s a recurrent feature of commissioned work that you sometimes find yourself illustrating novels or stories you might otherwise have never attempted. Spanish publisher Editorial Alma have just added a new edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to their series of illustrated classics, convenient timing with this year being the bicentenary of the book’s first publication. Last year I produced 33 illustrations for Alma’s collection of Poe stories, as well as 3 new illustrations for a small Lovecraft collection. For their edition of Frankenstein I’ve created 24 full-page pictures, one for each chapter. (I produced 25 in total, 24 for the chapters and one for the letters at the front, but the Spanish translation is arranged slightly differently so one of the drawings has been omitted.) In the past I’ve given little consideration to illustrating classic books, preferring to look for subjects which were less familiar. Frankenstein is a book that isn’t illustrated as much as some but Lynd Ward in 1934, and Bernie Wrightson in 1977/78 both produced sufficiently exceptional sets of drawings for me to regard the novel as almost unassailable. Until last year, that is.

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Frankenstein by Lynd Ward (1934).

Despite such formidable predecessors, I felt that with this book at least I might be able to offer something new using the blend of collage and drawing that I’ve been evolving recently. There was additional promise in that the story as it’s written is less familiar than the Poe stories, and much less familiar than its fellow horror classic, Dracula. People think they know Frankenstein but what they often know is the manglings the novel has received in various film and TV adaptations. The Ward and Wrightson illustrations stay close to the text, the latter being replete with period detail, and rendered in a style reminiscent of 19th-century wood engravings. Wrightson even copied two of Gustave Dore’s pictures from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for the opening scenes on the ship, one of which went unused. But Wrightson’s drawings are closer still to Franklin Booth‘s pen-and-ink style which was also derived from wood engraving yet which achieves its effects in a different manner to the engraving process.

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Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson (1977/78).

Even when artists follow the text of Frankenstein more closely than the screenplay adapters, personal tastes can’t help manifest themselves. So Ward’s drawings reflect the angular and stylised compositions of his “novels in woodcuts”, while Wrightson’s work still shows evidence of his earlier career as a comic artist. With my illustrations I wanted to reflect the artistic spirit that gave birth to the novel, namely Romanticism. Frankenstein is very much a Romantic tragedy with violent passions set against the overwhelming landscapes of the Swiss Alps, the Rhine valley and the Arctic seas. Three of the illustrations below allude to Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings, while many of the others have had their mundane cloudscapes exchanged for gloom and tumult.

I’ve said before that one of the things I enjoy about the collage technique is being able to use engravings and other graphics from the same period (give or take a few decades) as the story itself. The disadvantage of relying on pre-existing sources is that you’re always limited by the available material, so recently I’ve been pushing the technique further to achieve a hybrid style, something midway between the Ernst/Sätty engraving-collage technique and the very laborious, heavily-shaded pen-and-ink style I used when I was drawing comics. The approach isn’t so different to the one I used in my Lovecraft comics many of whose backgrounds and other details were copied from photographs. The difference is that where I used to spend several days working on a single panel (and two weeks working on a page) I can now create an entire picture in half the time. In these new illustrations I feel the hybrid style is working as I intended, allowing me greater freedom to create the picture I have in mind rather than a picture dictated by the source material. Without incorporating original figures and other drawn elements into the compositions it would have been difficult to illustrate a story with the same characters in so many scenes, a problem I encountered when I was illustrating Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and ran out of pictures of Victorian girls.

The full run of pictures follows below, including the one which was omitted from the print edition. All may be seen at a larger size here. Since the scenes aren’t always self-explanatory I’ve included fragments of text from each chapter.

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“In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talking to someone in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night on a large fragment of ice.”

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“During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of a vale attracted their notice as being singularly disconsolate, while the number of half-clothed children gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape.”

This one was omitted from the Alma edition. No loss, really, since the scene doesn’t add much to the story.

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“When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself.”

The diagrams here are taken from some of the books the young Victor Frankenstein is reading. There’s an allusion to this in the magic square on the wall in the back of Theodore Von Holst’s frontispiece, the square being the kind of thing seen in books like this one by Cornelius Agrippa, one of the occult philosophers mentioned in the novel.

Continue reading “Illustrating Frankenstein”

Jaki Liebezeit times ten

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Jaki Liebezeit.

One thing to note about the late Jaki Liebezeit is that everyone liked Can in the 1970s, which means that everyone liked Jaki Liebezeit’s drumming. When the music wars were raging in 1976, Can were one of the few groups from the hippy side of the barricade given a pass by the punks. Prog-heads liked Can because of the rock grooves and complex improvisations; punks enjoyed the muscular insistence of songs like Father Cannot Yell and Halleluwah. David Bowie liked Can; Brian Eno liked Can enough to let Jaki Liebezeit guest on Before And After Science (Eno also made this tribute video for the Can DVD); John Lydon when he was still Johnny Rotten played Halleluwah on his Capital Radio show in 1977 together with other favourite records; a year later, Pete Shelley wrote a sleeve note for a Can compilation (and the first Can album I bought), Cannibalism; Mark E. Smith liked Can (of course); Siouxsie called Jaki Liebezeit “the best drummer in the world,” while Jah Wobble would go on to work with Liebezeit on numerous recordings under his own name and as a guest on other albums. Some of the Wobble recordings appear below. If there’s a minimum of Can music in the following list that’s mainly because Mute/Spoon keep the back catalogue away from British users of YouTube. I don’t mind that; the absence of the prime stuff means I can draw attention to some examples of Jaki Liebezeit’s post-Can work which might otherwise be overlooked.

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Mother Sky/Deadlock (1970) by Can.

Two numbers from the fantastic live set the group played on German TV for an audience of ecstatic/bored/stoned hippies.

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Jaki Liebezeit drum solo (1970).

In the Can Book Liebezeit says he never played drum solos but he was forgetting about this example from the group’s early days.

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Flammende Herzen (1977) by Michael Rother.

Michael Rother’s first solo album was also his best after leaving Neu! The album is essentially a duet between Rother and Liebezeit, with Rother playing all instruments apart from the drums.

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Oh Lord Give Us More Money (1979) by Holger Czukay.

In which Holger Czukay takes the Can song Hunters And Collectors, removes the vocals then extends and remixes the whole thing into a 13-minute collage blending the music with BBC sound effects and vocal samples taken from radio and TV. Samplers didn’t exist in 1979, this was all done with tape, and it’s incredible. I forget whether it was Jaki Liebezeit or Michael Karoli who said they didn’t recognise their playing afterwards (probably the latter) but Leibezeit’s drums sustain the entire piece. He also plays on the rest of the album. Movies is Czukay’s masterpiece, and more true to the questing, inventive spirit of Can than the albums the group made after Landed. Another track, Persian Love, samples Middle Eastern vocalists two years before My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Eno was paying attention.

Continue reading “Jaki Liebezeit times ten”