Weekend links 590

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Understanding Mu (1970) by Hans Stefan Santesson. Cover art by Ron Walotsky. Via.

• “I have never believed Chariots of the Gods?—it takes faith, so what I mean is that I’ve never believed in it—but it has still held my affection for decades.” Patrick Allington on ancient aliens, unidentified aerial phenomena, and the unhinged pleasures of speculative nonfiction. I still have a stash of paperbacks in what I call “The Crank Box”, a collection of the more far-out titles that proliferated in the 1970s in the wake of the bestselling (and very egregious) Erich von Däniken. There aren’t many books about ancient astronauts or flying saucers in the box because they were so plentiful, I was always on the lookout for more outlandish volumes: lost continents, yes, but not the all-too-common Atlantis; Lemuria or Mu were more like it. So too with Hollow Earths and mysterious realms as detailed in Shambhala: Oasis of Light by Andrew Tomas, or The Lost World of Agharti: The Mystery of Vril Power by Alec MacLellan. The attraction wasn’t that any of this speculation might be true, more that these books operate as bargain-basement equivalents of the Borges conceit in which metaphysics is regarded as a branch of fantastic literature. Weird fiction by other means.

Collecting these books was a fun thing to do in the 1980s when the crank publications of the previous decade had washed up on the shelves of secondhand bookshops. The shine began to wear off in the 1990s when the emergence of the internet empowered a new breed of hucksters (and worse) pushing all of this stuff as though it was “hidden knowledge”. It’s hard to get excited about a battered paperback brimming with pseudo-science and pseudo-archaeology when similar ideas proliferate on YouTube channels catering to credulous hordes.

• Absolutely elsewhere (and linked here on a regular basis): An archive of the endlessly fascinating Absolute Elsewhere, a website created by the late RT Gault in order to present “a bibliography of visionary, occult, new age, fringe science, strange and even crackpot works published between 1945 and 1988”. The listings are accompanied by an informed, sceptical and often enlightening commentary, and also include a fair amount of weird fiction. Mr Gault had the right attitude.

• New music: Raum by Tangerine Dream, a preview of the new album, Probe 6–8, which will be released next year; new/old music: a reissue of Marine Flowers (Science Fantasy) by Akira Ito.

• “He had been honest about himself, and shockingly honest about his parents, but about his work he had spun me a tale.” Carole Angier on the elusive WG Sebald.

• At The New Criterion: Two stray notes on Moby-Dick by William Logan; on contemporary reviews of Moby-Dick and Melville’s journey on the Acushnet.

• “Perhaps what’s most extraordinary about Kollaps is that it was made at all.” Jeremy Allen on Einstürzende Neubauten’s thrilling debut album.

• At Culture.pl: a podcast about Czech film director Vera Chytilová and her masterpiece of Surrealist anarchy, Daisies.

• At Perfect Sound Forever: Part 2 of a Jon Hassell tribute which talks to friends and musical collaborators.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…William S. Burroughs The Ticket That Exploded (1962).

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine unearths a medieval recipe for gingerbread.

• Mix of the week: Death’s Other Dominion by The Ephemeral Man.

MU-UR (2000) by Coil | Mu (2005) by Jah Wobble | Mu 1 (2015) by Acronym

Weekend links 585

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Fox Woman (c. 1916) by Bertha Lum.

• “Apparently he had been walking though customs/arrivals with a large cube of weed stuck on the end of his silver Dr Martens and a foot long silver flashlight full of seed, but when they realised who he was, and that today was his 60th birthday, he was released with just a warning.” Radio Lancashire DJ Steve Barker remembers the late Lee “Scratch” Perry, and links to one of his shows with Perry (and Roger Eagle) here.

• “…it’s the chase itself that shapes the film’s distinctive aesthetic—the under-lit interiors and the sunless and frigid exteriors of the many locations across the city, sites that take the cops well beyond their usual beat, to places both above and below ground.” Chris McGinley explains how William Friedkin’s The French Connection reinvented (and exploded) the police procedural.

• “Toibin, who is himself gay, has always extended historical sympathy to sexual outsiders. As he’s written elsewhere, ‘There are no 19th-century ballads about being gay.'” Dwight Garner reviews Colm Toibin’s The Magician, a novel about Thomas Mann.

Here is the key point: to experience such marvels you have to risk an unsophisticated, even credulous love for corn, and part of that love involves a willingness to submit to what [Phil] Ford calls a “magical hermeneutics” capable of transforming marginal chunks of pop culture. As he writes in the wonderful 2008 essay that inspired the episode, exotica is “less a genre of music than a class of cultural objects that share a characteristic projection of the self across boundaries of space and time.” This makes it essentially psychedelic—“film music for daydreams”—and Ford draws out that historical connection in his essay, which argues that while the hippie movement that Nature Boys like Ahbez prophesied looks like a radical rejection of the space-age bachelor pad of ’50s consumerism, tendrils of transcendent yearning link the exotica imaginary to the earnest if stoned mysterioso to come.

Erik Davis on Eden Ahbez and Californian exotica

Edgar Froese interviewed on WSHU radio in 1974 where he talks about Tangerine Dream, live performance and the future of electronic music.

• At Dangerous Minds: A momentary lapse of reason…when Dario Argento interviewed Pink Floyd in 1987.

• It’s that man again: John Doran interviews Kevin Martin, aka The Bug.

David McKenna on The Strange World of France, La Nòvia & friends.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Tape deck.

Exotica (1958) by Martin Denny | Exotica Lullaby (1976) by Harry “The Crown” Hosono | Exotica (1979) by Throbbing Gristle

Weekend links 576

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Cover art by Bob Haberfield, 1976.

• I’ve been reliably informed that Australian artist Bob Haberfield died recently but I can’t point to an online confirmation of this so you’ll have to take my word for it. “Science” and “sorcery” might describe the two poles of Haberfield’s career while he was working as a cover artist. His paintings made a big impression on British readers of fantasy and science fiction in the 1970s, especially if you were interested in Michael Moorcock’s books when they appeared en masse as Mayflower paperbacks covered in Haberfield’s art. Haberfield also appeared alongside Bruce Pennington providing covers for Panther paperbacks by HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and others, although his work there isn’t always credited. Dangerous Minds collected some of his covers for a feature in 2017. (The US cover for The Iron Dream isn’t a Haberfield, however.)

• “Like Alice, who can only reach the house in Through the Looking-Glass by turning her back to it, Gorey reversed the usual advice to ‘write what you know’ and wrote the apparent opposite of his own situation.” Rosemary Hill reviewing Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery.

• “Orvil…wanders the countryside, visits churches, rummages in antique shops, and encounters strange men to whom he is no doubt equally strange.” John Self reviewing a new edition of In Youth Is Pleasure by Denton Welch.

• At the Wyrd Daze blog: Q&A sessions with Stephen Buckley (aka Polypores), Gareth Hanrahan, and Kemper Norton.

• “Fellini liked to say that ‘I fall asleep, and the fête begins’.” Matt Hanson on Federico Fellini’s phenomenal films.

• A Beautiful Space: Ned Raggett talks to Mick Harris about the thirty-year history of Scorn.

• Deep in the dial: Lawrence English on the enduring appeal of shortwave radio.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on making a picture for Annie Darwin (1841–1851).

DJ Food looks at pages from Grunt Free Press circa 1970.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 814 by Loraine James.

• New music: Clash (feat. Logan) by The Bug.

• At BLDGBLOG: Terrestrial Astronomy.

LoneLady‘s favourite albums.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Porn 2.

Tilings Encyclopedia

Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme) (1977) by Tangerine Dream | Science Fiction (1981) by Andy Burnham | Sorceress (2018) by Beautify Junkyards

Weekend links 556

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Captain Edward St. Miquel Tilden Bradshaw and his Crew Come to Grips with Bloodthirsty Foe Pirates by S. Clay Wilson, Zap Comix no. 3, 1968.

• RIP S. Clay Wilson, the wild man of American comics. The scene of mayhem above is typical in being barely coherent at a small size; click for a larger view. Patrick Rosenkranz at The Comics Journal describes Wilson as “the most influential artist of his generation…creating an extensive body of work that will defy authority and offend propriety until the end of days”. When Moebius was writing in the 1980s about the founding of Métal Hurlant he had this to say about the American undergrounds: “They were the first in the world to use comics as a means of communication, to express real emotions. Before, comics were used only to do stories, entertainment. They had some great moments but they were all very conventional. The American Underground showed us in Europe how to express true feelings, how to tell something to the reader through the comics. They blew the minds of the few professionals in Europe who saw them.” Also at TCJ, the S. Clay Wilson Interview. Wilson sent me a postcard once. I wish I knew what the hell I’d done with it.

• Michael Hoenig, synthesist for Agitation Free and (briefly) Tangerine Dream, plays one of the pieces from his debut album of electronic music, Departure From The Northern Wasteland, on a radio show in 1977. Hoenig’s album is long overdue a remastering and re-release.

• “My job, which the BBC has tasked me to do, is to provoke people and ask them, ‘Have you thought about looking at the world this way?'” Adam Curtis talks to Michael J. Brooks about his new TV series, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

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{ feuilleton } celebrates its 15th birthday today. Monsieur Chat, the mascot of this place, is happy about that but then Monsieur Chat is happy about most things.

• At Greydogtales: Opening The Book of Carnacki. A call for contributions to a collection of new stories about William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective. I’d be tempted if I didn’t already have more than enough to keep me occupied.

• “I’m being asked to talk about it a great deal at the moment, with the pandemic.” Roger Corman and Jane Asher on filming The Masque of the Red Death.

• New music: Cygnus Sutra by Mike Shannon, “a soundtrack to a fantasy/sci-fi epic not yet written”.

• A trailer for The Witch of King’s Cross, a documentary about occult artist Rosaleen Norton.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Hans Bellmer & Paul Eluard The Games of the Doll (1949).

• RIP also this week to Rowena Morrill, fantasy artist, and to Chick Corea.

• “Computers will never write good novels,” says Angus Fletcher.

• DJ Food on Zodiac posters by Funky Features, 1967.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 794 by Lutto Lento.

Annie Nightingale’s favourite music.

Zodiac (1984) by Boogie Boys | From The Zodiacal Light (2014) by Earth | Zodiac Black (2017) by Goldfrapp

Cosmic music and cosmic horror

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Track titles by Tangerine Dream (again) if they were stories or chapters in a book of weird fiction:

– Alpha Centauri
– Ultima Thule
– Origin Of Supernatural Probabilities
– Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares
– Sorcerer
– Abyss
– Stratosfear
– Choronzon
– Remote Viewing
– Hyperborea

Clark Ashton Smith’s tales of the northern continent of Hyperborea were Cthulhu Mythos fantasies with a sardonic CAS twist. The connection with Tangerine Dream is most likely coincidental, the name being one that Smith borrowed rather than invented, but I enjoy the intersection all the same. The title of TD’s first single, Ultima Thule, refers to another remote northern realm. If you’re reaching for associations, as I invariably am, then it’s also worth mentioning Haunted Island by an affiliated group, Agitation Free. The last track on their 2nd album features a partial recitation of Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe that includes the words “from some ultimate dim Thule”; the keyboard player in Agitation Free was Michael Hoenig who was briefly a member of Tangerine Dream in 1975. As for Choronzon, this was a demon that Aleister Crowley claimed to have tangled with in the Algerian desert in 1909. The malevolent and chaotic nature of the entity, together with its unavoidably Lovecraftian epithet of “the Dweller in the Abyss”, places it close to the Mythos god of “nuclear chaos”, Azathoth, although the music that bears the Dweller’s name doesn’t convey any of these qualities. Tangerine Dream’s Choronzon is an uptempo piece of electro-pop that Virgin optimistically released as a single in 1981. For a group with a long history of eccentric title choices this maybe isn’t so surprising.

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Tangerine Dream feature on another cosmic-horror music list that I suggested as soundtracks for The Haunter of the Dark in 1999. (The Lustmord somehow lost a couple of words from its title.) Most of these are drone works, and several were released after I’d drawn most of the pages, but I was listening to Zeit and Rubycon during many late-night work sessions, the latter especially while drawing The Call of Cthulhu. Discovering weird fiction and spacey electronica simultaneously caused the two things to become inextricably connected, and besides which there wasn’t much else to be found in the music world of the late 1970s that complemented such stories to the same degree. Rubycon offered satisfying associations, from the liquid green of the cover art (Cthulhu always suggests the colour green), to the predominantly sinister, minor-key music within. When the sequencers in Rubycon: Part 2 give way to the sounds of waves breaking on a shoreline this only reinforces the suitability of the album as a Cthulhoid soundtrack.

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The dedication from Alpha Centauri as printed in the Virgin double-disc reissue with the Atem album. It’s never been clear whether the “space” referred to is a noun or a verb.

If you’re looking for cosmic-horror soundtracks today then you’re spoiled for choice, there are numerous examples, from the general—the occulted universe of Dark Ambience—to the very specific. I enjoy the drones, obviously, but the Berlin School still has something to offer so long as the key remains a minor one and the titles avoid New Age vapidity. See this mix for further examples.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tangerine Dream in concert
Drone month
Pilots Of Purple Twilight
Synapse: The Electronic Music Magazine, 1976–1979
A mix for Halloween: Analogue Spectres
Edgar Froese, 1944–2015
Synthesizing
Tangerine Dream in Poland
Hodgsonian vibrations
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode