Weekend links 500

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Projet onirique (tombeau pour un poète) (1901) by Henry Provensal.

• “20 years later, Sexy Beast remains something of an oddity…It offers a deconstruction of the genre, which is then reconstructed to marry the unhinged, convulsive beauty of surrealism with sturdy, universal storytelling.” Thomas H. Sheriff looks back at Jonathan Glazer’s debut feature.

Blau Gers, a new piece by The Alvaret Ensemble: Greg Haines (piano), Jan Kleefstra (voice, poems), Romke Kleefstra (guitar, bass and effects) and Sytze Pruiksma (percussion).

Wendy Carlos: A Biography by Amanda Sewell, the first study of the life and work of the electronic composer, is out in March.

The prejudice against writing sex in Anglo-American literature is something that utterly baffles me. What a bizarre thing it is to claim that this central, profound territory of human life is off-limits to literary or artistic representation. Sex seems to me one of the densest and most intense human phenomena, one of the things I find it hardest to think about—and so something I want to think about in art. The biggest surprise to me about the reception of my first book—other than the fact of there being any reception at all—was how much discussion there was about the sex in it. There isn’t very much sex in it! It said something about the culture of mainstream publishing in America in 2016 that a novel with maybe three or four pages of explicit sex between men could seem surprising.

Garth Greenwell talking to Ilya Kaminsky about literature and life

• Some (but not all) of the museums of Paris have made thousands of artworks available for free online.

• The Work of Fate: AS Hamrah introduces a screening of Jean Cocteau’s Orphée.

La Labyrinthèque: Histoire de l’art jouissive & enchantements littéraires.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the art of the (book) cover.

Tom Huddleston on 10 great stressful films.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Malcolm Le Grice Day.

François de Nomé’s Imaginary Ruins.

Sexy Sadie (1968) by The Beatles | Sexy Photograph (1995) by Ui | Sexy Boy (1998) by Air

Weekend links 417

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Cover of How To Destroy Angels (Remixes And Re-Recordings) (1992) by Coil. Artwork: Fine Balance (1986) by Derek Jarman.

• It’s that man again: “According to the late great short story writer Robert Aickman, the problem with our excessively modern world is not that it is strange, but that it is not strange enough.” Scott Bradfield on a writer who can no longer be described as neglected or overlooked.

• Coil may have expired over a decade ago after the death of John Balance but the posthumous releases persist. Latest of these is How To Destroy Angels, an album-length presentation of music (or audio) by Coil and Zos Kia (John Gosling) from 1983/84.

• “Two decades ago, a renowned professor promised to produce a flawless version of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated novels: Ulysses. Then he disappeared.” The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar.

• At Dangerous Minds: The Fool: The Dutch artists who worked for The Beatles (and made their own freak folk masterpiece). Previously here: The art of Marijke Koger.

• RIP Nick Knox. The Cramps were always best when playing live, as here in 1986 when they performed songs from A Date With Elvis on Channel 4’s The Tube.

• “The McKenzie Tapes is a collection of live audio recordings from some of New York City-area most prominent music venues of the 1980s and 1990s.”

• Beyond the veil: two extracts from Death by Anna Croissant-Rust, one of two new books from Rixdorf Editions.

• Impulse Responses: composer Deru on scoring with the Cristal Baschet.

Fleshback: Queer Raving in Manchester’s Twilight Zone Chapter 1–3.

• “Puzzler says he has cracked code to stolen Belgian masterpiece.”

• Mix of the week: FACT mix 657 by Beatrice Dillon.

Jenzeits

Death Have Mercy (1959) by Vera Hall | Oh Death (1964) by Dock Boggs | Oh Death (1967) by Kaleidoscope

The South Bank Show: The Making of Sgt Pepper

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Here come the anniversaries again, driven by nostalgia and the imperatives of corporations to flog you another version of that thing you already own. Anniversaryism grew out of the CD reissue boom, with one of the first significant incidents being the debut release on CD of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album in 1987. This week you can walk into a shop and buy the album yet again in a variety of formats, the 50th anniversary now coinciding happily for legions of accountants with the current boom in overpriced vinyl.

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This post is complicit, of course, just as Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention were complicit in reinforcing Sgt Pepper‘s status as a cultural monument even while carping at it; satirists always end up attached to what they attack. The latest round of retrospective attention had me wondering whether Alan Benson’s excellent South Bank Show documentary about the making of the album was on YouTube. It isn’t (but it is available elsewhere), probably because there’s a documentary in the new Sgt Pepper box set that seems to be the same film. The South Bank Show documentary was broadcast in the UK in 1992 for another anniversary, the year being the 25th since the album’s release. This is one of those television productions crafted to deliver maximum content with a minimum of fuss, so there’s no hyperactive editing, and no pointless Reactions To The Great Work from minor pop celebrities. Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are all present to discuss the creation of the music, from the first song of the sessions, Strawberry Fields Forever, through to A Day In The Life. In the film’s real coup, George Martin sits at a mixing desk in the Abbey Road studio pulling faders up and down to show how the songs were pieced together; he also explains how some of the album’s more unusual effects were produced. The film runs just under 50 minutes, and it’s notable that nearly all the songs being discussed are by John Lennon even though this is an album dominated by Paul McCartney’s voice, and the initial concept was McCartney’s. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Fool album covers
The Sea of Monsters
Tomorrow Never Knows
Yellow Submarine comic books
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
Heinz Edelmann
Please Mr. Postman
All you need is…

The psychedelic art of Nicole Claveloux

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The psychedelic quotient is emphasised here since Nicole Claveloux has had a long career in France as an illustrator and comic artist only part of which embraces a psychedelic style. This work is very much in the post-Yellow Submarine Heinz Edelmann style, of course, but Claveloux wasn’t the only artist to pastiche Edelmann, and the massive impact of The Beatles ensured that watered-down traces of Edelmann graphics could still be found in the mid-70s. The images here are from this post which features more Claveloux art in this style, together with some drawings from her own take on Alice in Wonderland, the style there being closer to Peter Blake. The picture below is a page from a rather stunning children’s book, Alala, Les Télémorphoses (1970) by Guy Montréal, more of which may be seen at Animalarium.

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Nicole Claveloux has an official website here (in French), and a related site here devoted to her wide-ranging and witty erotic art.

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Did You Get Your Pill Today? (1970).

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Romeo and Juliet (1971).

Update: Added two posters.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Elaine Hanelock’s Hollywood stars
The art of Marijke Koger
David Chestnutt’s psychedelic fairy tales
Yellow Submarine comic books
Heinz Edelmann

Psychedelia and Other Colours by Rob Chapman

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My mother thought well enough of The Beatles in the 1960s to buy two of their albums—Beatles For Sale and Help!—and she continued to enjoy the Fab Four’s songs up to the point when (in her words) “they went funny”, by which she meant the period after Rubber Soul when they dropped the beat stylings, picked up sitars and took to recording drums and guitars in reverse. They were also taking drugs, of course, hence the funniness, and this rapid evolution—from loveable moptops to freaked-out weirdos in a matter of months—is the subject of Rob Chapman’s huge study of psychedelia as a cultural phenomenon, the period from around mid-1965 to late 1969 when Western youth “went funny” en masse.

This isn’t an undocumented era but Chapman’s book provides an overdue counterweight to the American focus of earlier studies such as Jay Stevens’ Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987). Psychedelic art evolved in San Francisco but it’s an irony of the form that many of the wildest, most typically psychedelic concert posters were promoting acts that were only marginally psychedelic in their sound or, in the case of the older jazz, soul and blues acts, weren’t psychedelic at all. Chapman is more interested in the multi-media light shows than the poster art, and he reaches back in his early chapters to the origin of the San Francisco light shows in the avant-garde art of the Modernist era (especially László Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator of the 1920s) and the art schools of the 1950s; he also traces the familiar journey of LSD from the Sandoz laboratories in Switzerland and the clinics of America to the front pages of newspapers and magazines. One of the most remarkable and unlikely aspects of psychedelia was the way in which a short-lived poly-cultural phenomenon maintained an aura of danger and illegality late into the 1960s even while psychedelic aesthetics were filtering into every facet of mainstream life: films, fashion, decor, advertising, even children’s television—all bloomed briefly with vivid colours and melting typography.

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Playboy gets hip to the trip, December 1967. Art by Wes Wilson.

Chapman touches on all of this but the bulk of his study is concerned with the music which was always the core of psychedelic culture, even if many of the artists involved were only following a trend (or, to be less charitable, jumping on a bandwagon). American groups are given their due, and Chapman has some smart things to say about the often neglected surf boom of the early 60s; as noted here last month, the first piece of popular music to use “LSD” in its title was LSD-25 (1960), a surf instrumental by The Gamblers. Surf bands and garage bands mutated into psychedelic groups but there was often little change in the overall sound beyond adding an effect or two to the instrumentation. Adulterated or processed sound is what I usually look for in psychedelic music, the psychedelic experience being one of distorted or exaggerated perception. Adulteration (or lack of it) is the most obvious factor that differentiates American psych from its British equivalent: White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane is a great song (its final line is fixed to every page of this blog) but is psychedelic only as a result of its lyrical context. Musically, the song is a simple rock bolero next to which Strawberry Fields Forever sounds like a broadcast from another planet.

Continue reading “Psychedelia and Other Colours by Rob Chapman”