Weekend links 563

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Cover art by Jeffrey Schrier for the 1975 reissue of Zero Time by Tonto’s Expanding Head Band.

• RIP Malcolm Cecil, electronic musician, and producer of Stevie Wonder, among many others. The term pioneer is over-used when discussing electronic artists, but it’s an accurate one when applied to Cecil and his partner in Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Robert Margouleff. The first Tonto album, Zero Time (1971), was a collection of fully-realised all-electronic compositions recorded in the days when “electronic music” in the rock sphere usually meant rock-band-plus-synth-burbles. As I said in a post about Tonto’s debut album a few years ago, “Jetsex sounds like an outtake from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (albeit three years early) while Timewhys wouldn’t have been out of place on The Human League’s Travelogue album almost a decade later”. Cecil may be seen in this short film showing off the bespoke synth gear that comprised The Original New Timbral Orchestra (aka TONTO), while he talks at length about his career in issue 4 of Synapse magazine here. Cecil and Margouleff parted company in the mid-70s shortly after releasing a second album, It’s About Time (1974), a collection of jazzy instrumentals that’s overdue a proper reissue.

• “Every film production company they showed it to said it was ‘too weird’ to ever be made. ” Next month Strange Attractor publishes The Otherwise, a script by Mark E. Smith and Graham Duff for an unmade horror film.

• More horror: Predator’s Ball by Uni; music video as horror scenario in which you can play spot-the-reference: Alice in Wonderland, Rocky Horror, Leigh Bowery (?), Pasolini’s Salò (?)…

• At Bibliothèque Gay: Narkiss by Jean Lorrain, another homoerotic classic newly translated into Spanish, and with new illustrations.

• The week in Gary Panter: Nicole Rudick on Gary Panter’s Punk Everyman, and the man himself writing about his life and art.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine investigates the connections between Charles Williams and Sax Rohmer.

• At Dangerous Minds: New Age Steppers, “the only ever post-punk supergroup”.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 689, a feast of funk compiled by Steve Arrington.

• At Public Domain Review: Agostino Ramelli’s Theatre of Machines (1588).

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Pier Paolo Pasolini Day.

Valentina Magaletti’s favourite music.

Louvre site des collections

Narcissus Queen (1958) by Martin Denny | Narciso (1974) by Pierrot Lunaire | Narkissos (2006) by Sadistic Mikaela Band

Weekend links 471

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Pink Floyd, Lee Michaels, Clear Light (1967) by Bonnie MacLean.

• Electronic musician Mort Garson has been subject to a revival of interest recently, with reissues of his works as Ataraxia (The Unexplained), and Lucifer (Black Mass). The latest reissue is Mother Earth’s Plantasia (1976), an album released under Garson’s own name, and one of several works of plant mysticism from the 1970s (see Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants, and Green by Steve Hillage).

• “It is striking how much of this work sounds like a missing link from the art world to the popular groups of the time, such as the Detroit techno pioneers Cybotron and the Japanese electro legends Yellow Magic Orchestra.” Geeta Dayal on the reconfigured Speak & Spell machinery of Paul DeMarinis.

The cost of free love and the designers who bore it: Madeleine Morley meets the women of psychedelic design.

For the transhumanist anarchist Wilson, the neurological relativism revealed by his own learning and personal deprogramming experiments called for a form of ‘guerrilla ontology’ that lampooned, rejected and transmitted much needed interference into the ‘reality tunnels’ that attempt to control much of contemporary society and individual behaviour. In the Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy, characters are repeatedly placed in positions of cognitive dissonance, where they are forced to reevaluate their own belief systems due to experiences that they are unable to accommodate.

Sean Kitching on the 40th anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson’s Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy

• They said books were dead, they were wrong: Adrian Shaughnessy on a decade of Unit Editions.

• Mixes of the week: Xianedelica by Jesús Bacalão, and Kosmische Mix By Tarotplane.

• Swinging 60s surrealist Penny Slinger: “Collectors thought I came with the art”.

• Cabaret Voltaire: Chance Versus Causality (Teaser).

Luc Sante on postcards of American violence.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Peter Whitehead Day.

Computerwelt (1981) by Kraftwerk | Speak And Spell (1984) by Christina Kubisch | Time Space Transmat (1985) by Model 500

Tonto’s expanding frog men

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I wasn’t going to write about album cover art three times in a row but things keep catching my attention this week. Anyone interested in the history of electronic music knows the name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, the duo formed by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff to create music with Cecil’s huge, custom-built TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer. Cecil and Margouleff recorded two albums together: Zero Time (1971) and It’s About Time (1974), the latter credited to Tonto only. Zero Time was incredibly advanced for 1971, not classical adaptations like those being produced by Wendy Carlos and her many imitators, but all-original pieces created polyphonically, a feat that only the TONTO synth could easily achieve.

Given how successful the album is musically I’ve always thought it a shame that the sleeve art, inside and out, was the kind of amateurish “psychedelic” doodling that you find on many albums of this period. The design above was for a 1975 reissue, something I’d not seen before. The artist was illustrator Jeffrey Schrier who has a small, and no doubt incomplete, listing at Discogs with nothing similar to this in evidence. At a guess I’d say the evolving frog men are derived from the lyrics of Riversong, a meandering piece with singing processed via early vocoder-style technology, something that Wendy Carlos was also experimenting with. It’s not all hippy ambience: Jetsex sounds like an outtake from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (albeit three years early) while Timewhys wouldn’t have been out-of-place on The Human League’s Travelogue album almost a decade later. Easy to see why Stevie Wonder and others were eager to work with Malcolm Cecil throughout the 1970s.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score