Phantom Cities by The Sodality of the Shadows

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Book by HV Morton (1926) not included.

I like night music, any kind of night music, whether it be the shimmering sonorities of Béla Bartók and George Crumb, Julee Cruise exploring the dark, or the rumbling atmospheres of Thomas Köner. Phantom Cities by The Sodality of the Shadows is night music of another kind, more musically determined than the numerous purveyors of post-Köner dark ambience, with a character defined by weird fiction. The latter quality is perhaps inevitable given the people who comprise the group: Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker have been running Tartarus Press for the past 30 years; Mark Valentine is an author and editor (and occasional publisher) of many story collections, and Jon Mueller’s name has appeared here in the past via the soundtrack CD for the Swan River Press edition of The House on the Borderland that I illustrated. Phantom Cities sidesteps Robbe-Grillet’s Topology of a Phantom City for an older lineage, looking back to Arthur Machen (the group’s name is borrowed from a secret society formed by Machen and AE Waite) and the spectral metropolis of pre-war London photographed by Harold Burdekin in London Night (1934). The music is slow, sombre and reverberant; guitars pluck notes from the embracing dark while Mueller’s drums maintain a funereal pace; sporadic squalls of feedback suggest a deeper darkness, the latent possibilities of unpeopled streets. Mark Valentine had an earlier musical persona as The Mystic Umbrellas but his contribution here is textual accompaniment in the form of 12 fictional pieces, some of which are read by Rosalie Parker over and between the music. This isn’t a collection of readings, however, the album may be taken either as illustration of Burdekin’s photos and the texts or as a work that stands alone. A soundtrack for the longer nights of encroaching autumn.

Phantom Cities
Strange Houses Of Sleep

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Smoke
Two albums
Thomas Köner

Weekend links 497

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Poster by Zdenek Ziegler for Roma (1972), a film by Federico Fellini.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a short history of Straight to Hell, a long-running fanzine launched by Boyd McDonald in 1971 dedicated to true stories of men having sex with other men. The post gives an idea of the contents but for a deep dive I’d suggest Meat (1994) at the Internet Archive, a collection of the best of the early editions of STH. Related: “Straight to Hell was an immensely popular underground publication. John Waters, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Mapplethorpe were fans; Gore Vidal called it ‘one of the best radical papers in the country.'” Erin Sheehy on Boyd McDonald’s determination to kick against the pricks.

• RIP psychedelic voyager and spiritual guide Richard Alpert/(Baba) Ram Dass. The Alpert/Ram Dass bibliography includes The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964), an acid-trip manual written in collaboration with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner from which John Lennon borrowed lines for the lyrics of Tomorrow Never Knows. But the most celebrated Ram Dass volume is Be Here Now (1971), a fixture of countless hippy bookshelves whose first editions were all handmade.

• “An Einstein among Neanderthals”: the tragic prince of LA counterculture. Gabriel Szatan talks to David Lynch, Devo and others about the eccentric songwriter, performer and voice of Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, Peter Ivers.

• For the forthcoming centenary of Federico Fellini’s birth Stephen Puddicombe offers suggestions for where to begin with the director’s “exuberant extravaganzas”. Related: Samuel Wigley on 8½ films inspired by .

• “I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and entering his apartment was like crossing into another dimension.” Collin Miller explores the Chelsea Hotel.

• “More green tea, professor?” The haunted academic, a reading list by Peter Meinertzhagen. Related: Our Haunted Year: 2019 by Swan River Press.

• “30 July, Yorkshire. Thunder, which is somehow old-fashioned.” Alan Bennett’s 2019 diary.

• More acid trips: Joan Harvey on the resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs.

• At Lithub: Werner Herzog’s prose script for Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Tief gesunken, a new recording by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

In Heaven (1979) by Tuxedomoon | Die Nacht Der Himmel (1979) by Popol Vuh | Roma (1981) by Steve Lacy

Foiled at last

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I’ve already written about the design for this story collection from Swan River Press but the gradient layout does nothing to convey the splendour of the foil-embossed printing. In the past when I’d suggested to publishers that foil printing might be an option the idea was always turned down for reasons of cost. My original intention for The Far Tower was for the design to be printed in a metallic ink so it might resemble the gold-on-green cover of the Yeats book which was the model for this volume. Metallic inks don’t always work too well, however, especially on a darkish background, so I said to Swan River “Or we could do it in gold foil…” To my surprise and delight they said “Why not?” So here’s the result. A great end to the year. The book is available here.

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And back in October, I posted what everyone thought at the time was the final design for Of Mice and Minestrone, a new book of Hap and Leonard stories by Joe R Lansdale. The Hap and Leonard books are popular works (there was a TV series based on them a while back) so they’re subject to the demands of the marketplace which in this case required a cover more in line with the red/white/black arrangement of some of Lansdale’s related titles. I’d already done most of this as an additional draft during the work on the first design so the reworking wasn’t too time-consuming. The rodent in the soup is more visible in this version which is another point in its favour. Of Mice and Minestrone will be published by Tachyon in May next year.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Far Tower: Stories for WB Yeats
Of Mice and Minestrone

Weekend links 491

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The Weirdness is Coming, an illustration by Robert Beatty for an NYMag feature about the near future.

• I’m slightly late to this news, but better late than never: The Doll’s Breath is a 22-minute animated film by the Brothers Quay, shot on 35mm film and with a soundtrack by Michèle Bokanowski. It may take a while before it’s available to view outside the festival circuit but it’s good to know it’s in the world. Related: Filip Lech on the Polish inspirations of the Brothers Quay.

• More from Swan River Press: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s disturbing horror tale, Green Tea, is published in a 150th anniversary edition, with an introduction by Matthew Holness, two essays and a CD containing a theatrical adaptation of the story by the Wireless Mystery Theatre.

• Luca Guadagnino, Olivia Laing and Sandy Powell, Tilda Swinton and John Waters choose favourite pieces of writing by Derek Jarman. Related: Protest!, a Jarman exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Fairport [Convention]’s revolutionary impact came in doing precisely the opposite of what the folklorists had intended when they began collecting the songs. By taking the old songs and setting them down on paper, they had largely believed they were preserving them in the form in which they must remain, ignoring the fact that songs passed through generations orally will always evolve. Fairport, though, played extremely fast and loose with the source material, matching tunes from one source with lyrics from another. As Rob Young put it in his book Electric Eden: “It threw into question the spurious ‘authenticity’ of the folk versions studiously set in stone by the Victorian and Edwardian collectors. Fairport’s electrifying act preserved and restored the guts and spontaneous vigour to the folk continuum.”

Michael Hann on the 50th anniversary of Fairport Convention’s Liege & Leaf

• More Patrick Cowley: PC’s megamix of Hills Of Kat Mandu by Tantra. And the mix of the week: a Patrick Cowley tribute from 1981 by DJ Jim Hopkins.

• The seventh edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

5 Mishaps: A 32-page hardbound handmade book of short stories by Tamas Dobozy, with collage illustrations by Allan Kausch.

• At Dangerous Minds: Lovely Bones: The transfixing skeletons and dreamlike nudes of Belgian painter Paul Delvaux.

• From 1979: a very early TV appearance by Virgin Prunes (their first?) on Ireland’s The Late Late Show.

• Fists of fear: Anne Billson on 10 films featuring severed (and frequently vengeful) hands.

Adrian Curry at MUBI selects his favourite film posters of the 2010s.

Tea For Two (1956) by Duke Ellington | Tea For One (1976) by Led Zeppelin | Tea In The Sahara (2001) by Simon Shaheen & Qantara

The Far Tower: Stories for WB Yeats

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I said a couple of weeks ago that I had more cover designs waiting to be revealed, and this was one of them, arriving two years to the week after my earlier cover for The Scarlet Soul: Stories of Dorian Gray. Both books are collections of original fiction edited by Mark Valentine for Swan River Press, and both offer variations on works by Irish authors prominent during the 1890s:

“All Art that is not mere story-telling,
or mere portraiture, is symbolic…” — WB Yeats

Stories of magic and myth, folklore and fairy traditions, the occult and the outré, inspired by the rich mystical world of Ireland’s greatest poet, WB Yeats. We invited ten contemporary writers to celebrate Yeats’s contributions to the history of the fantastic and supernatural in literature, drawing on his work for their own new and original tales. Each has chosen a phrase from his poems, plays, stories, or essays to herald their own explorations in the esoteric. Alongside their own powerful qualities, the pieces here testify to the continuing resonance of Yeats’s vision in our own time, that deep understanding of the meshing of two worlds and the talismans of old magic.

Yeats had a career that extended beyond the fin de siècle, of course, and the title of The Far Tower alludes to The Tower, a collection of poems that Yeats published in 1928. (The first poem in the book, Sailing to Byzantium, is the origin of the phrase/title “no country for old men”.) Yeats’s poetry is very different to the Modernists, however, and remained infused with mystical resonances, something I tried to reflect in the cover design. In addition to the very Yeatsian symbol of the rose there are symbols for the four elements, and a pair of robed figures who can be taken as adepts of one sort or another, either the Golden Dawn (who Yeats was involved with for a time) or the various Theosophists and Rosicrucians of the period who fed his imagination.

The green-and-gold colour scheme matches the gold on green design that Thomas Sturge Moore created for the first edition of The Tower. Sturge Moore produced covers for a number of Yeats’s books but it was his splendid design for Axel by Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam that gave me the nested circles and vertical division of the board. That edition happens to have a preface by Yeats so as an influence it isn’t too remote.

The Far Tower will be published in December but is available for pre-order now.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Scarlet Soul: Stories for Dorian Gray
Form and Austin Osman Spare
Golden apples and silver apples
A Book of Images by WT Horton
The Savoy magazine