4 Hours by Clock DVA

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Sleeve by Neville Brody.

After mentioning Clock DVA’s Thirst (1981) a couple of days ago I’ve been playing the album together with Pow-Wow ever since. 4 Hours was Thirst‘s accompanying 7-inch single, a marvellous slice of rumbling post-punk angst. The B-side, Sensorium, includes the words “Uptown apocalypse” among its lyrics, a phrase that’s also the title of the second track on the equally marvellous Music For Stowaways (1981), an instrumental album by the post-Human League, pre-Heaven 17 offshoot British Electric Foundation. This isn’t a coincidence; the latter number was co-written by Clock DVA’s Adi Newton, and features him playing guitar and synth, Newton having been in The Future with BEF’s Marsh & Ware prior to the formation of Clock DVA and The Human League. And to further complicate this tangle of Sheffield connections, 4 Hours was reissued in 1985 in 12-inch format on Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision label. I bought almost all the Doublevision releases but this was one I missed. (Was the title of Cabaret Voltaire’s Sensoria derived from Sensorium? Maybe…)

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Pow-Wow by Stephen Mallinder
Old music and old technology
Neville Brody and Fetish Records

Weekend links 334

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Pixel Forest (2016) by Pipilotti Rist.

• “Think about it: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people were almost completely invisible in the movies or on television, or even in newspapers and magazines. It wasn’t until LGBT people started producing their own media that we started to see consistent, positive images. But it would take until very recently for TV and cinema to catch up with what happened in books and magazines decades ago. In other words, nearly all LGBT culture only existed in print or at the bar. So when the queer bookstore disappears, where else can you find 40+ years of LGBT culture? (Hint: it’s not on Netflix.)” Ken White on starting Query Books and republishing classic LGBT literature.

• Related to the above: David Shariatmadari reviews a new edition of Coming Out, Jeffrey Weeks’ history of gay emancipation in the UK; Modern Harmonic is reissuing Love Is A Drag, a collection of “love songs by men, for men”, first released in 1962; Your Daily Male 2017: 52 international artists, 365 pages of full-colour male art; erotic portraits of Yukio Mishima by Eikoh Hosoe.

A Year In The Country revisits The Touchables (1968), a film about four Swinging Sixties girls who live in a huge plastic bubble in the countryside (must be a nightmare in winter); the quartet kidnap a rock star as “a temporary solution to the leisure problem”. Script by Ian La Frenais from a story by David & Donald Cammell. No DVD but it’s on YouTube.

• Mixes of the week are still in the Halloween zone: FACT mix 575 by Fenriz, and Resting Lich Face by SeraphicManta.

• War, love and weirdness: Brian Dillon on Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, 70 years on.

• Bringing back the magic: a conversation with Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions.

David Toop listens, finally, to the legendary John Latham recordings of Pink Floyd.

The Synth Sounds of John Carpenter: Halloween, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13.

• “Creep or craftsman? Hitchcock was both,” says Tom Shone.

The Dazzling Designs for a New York That Never Existed

Photography by Harry Gruyaert

The Untouchables (1959) by Nelson Riddle | The Touchables (All Of Us) (1968) by Nirvana (UK) | The Touchables (1980) by The Human League

School Daze by Patrick Cowley

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School Daze sleeve designed by Eloise Leigh.

Music made for porn films is nothing if not derivative and unmemorable, assuming it’s been specially made at all and isn’t merely a cheap library track, the aural equivalent of stock footage. This wasn’t necessarily the case when porn cinema was getting established in the America of the 1970s but a huge turnover of anonymous product combined with simple expediency—hours of footage that needed to be soundtracked by something—made falling standards inevitable. The cliché of the cheesy porn soundtrack is such a given that it’s a surprise to encounter anything which is even halfway listenable away from the screen. In the case of this album by Patrick Cowley it’s even more of a surprise to find that such exceptional music has been hiding for years on a couple of gay porn films, School Daze and Muscle Up, from 1980.

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Gay porn would seem the perfect thing to be soundtracked by the creator of an unashamed anthem like Menergy (1981) but the music on School Daze bears little resemblance to Cowley’s Hi-NRG disco hits, not least because some of the tracks were composed as far back as 1973 when Cowley was still in college. The tapes were unreleased until John Coletti, the owner of Fox Studios, asked Cowley for some music which is how these early experiments ended up as porn scores. Experiments they may be, in differing moods and styles, but they’re also very successful ones. Jorge Socarras’s album notes describe Cowley’s wide-ranging musical (and sexual) tastes which would explain why one of the longer tracks, Journey Home, features a didgeridoo of all things. The didgeridoo sound became a considerable dance music cliché in the early 90s but prior to this you’d only find it outside Indigenous Australian music on pastiche numbers such as Flying Doctor by Hawklords or The Dreaming by Kate Bush; Cowley uses the instrument as simply another sound source. Socarras also mentions Cowley listening to Tomita and Wendy Carlos while in college but none of the music here sounds anything like the earlier generation of Moog composers; it also doesn’t sound much like Tangerine Dream or anything that was happening in Europe during the 1970s. If anything, the subdued and often dark atmosphere is a better fit with the post-punk music being produced in Britain around the time the films were released, sombre albums like The Bridge by Thomas Leer & Robert Rental, or instrumental tracks by The Human League. Didgeridoo or not, some of the tracks are surprisingly gloomy for porn music.

In the autumn of 1982 I was in the process of moving from Blackpool to Manchester, and spent a lot of time shuttling back and forth on coaches listening to tapes on a cheap Walkman clone. A couple of those journeys were soundtracked by Patrick Cowley’s extended remix of I Feel Love by Donna Summer and Industrial Muzac by Throbbing Gristle, a piece of subdued electronica which has been out of circulation for far too long. The music on School Daze fills an unlikely space between the two, there’s even a synth solo like the one that erupts into the Donna Summer remix. Patrick Cowley died in November of that year, one of the earliest victims of a disease which at that time wasn’t even called AIDS. Listening to School Daze, and to the last album released while he was alive, Mind Warp, you can’t help but wonder what he might have done with the sampling technology that became widespread a couple of years later.

School Daze is available on double-vinyl and CD from Dark Entries who say all proceeds from the album will be donated to Project Open Hand and the AIDS Housing Alliance.

Nightcrawler from School Daze
Mockingbird Dream from School Daze
Dark Entries interviews John Coletti of Fox Studio
Five Things You Need to Know about Gay Electronic Wizard Patrick Cowley

Previously on { feuilleton }
William E. Jones on Fred Halsted
Summer of Love
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score

Weekend links 187

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Delia Derbyshire (2007) by Iker Spozio.

Whatever you think of Doctor Who, Delia Derbyshire’s recording of Ron Grainer’s theme tune is a landmark piece of electronic music. Those glassy electronic tones still sound unique today, not least for their having been created using rudimentary oscillators and much laborious tape editing. In Radiophonic Workshop: the shadowy pioneers of electronic sound, Joe Muggs looks at the history of the BBC’s electronic composers. If you’re a Radiophonic-head then the Alchemists of Sound TV documentary from 2003 is essential viewing.

There’s more (there’s always more): Delia Derbyshire – Sculptress of Sound: part one of a seven-part radio documentary about the great electronic music composer, and Blue Veils and Golden Sands, Martyn Wade’s radio play about Delia. Related: Delia-Derbyshire.org, Delia Derbyshire: An audiological chronology and A History of the Doctor Who theme. And don’t miss: Silence Is Requested In The Ultimate Abyss (1969) by Welfare State and White Noise, an incredible slice of electro-psychedelia from the John Peel Presents Top Gear album.

• “Why don’t books for grown-ups have illustrations any more?” asks Christopher Howse. Some of them do, this past week I’ve been finishing a new series of illustrations for a story anthology.

• From 2006: Ian Penman on cigarettes, espionage, and the masterful (and superior) television adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

It was Malcolm [McLaren] who suggested that the main characters be a boy who looks like a girl who looks like a boy and vice versa. What was strange was that, actually, in 1985 this was nobody’s vision of the fashion industry. Since then, fashion and fascism have crept closer: you’ve got John Galliano doing his promotional bits for the Third Reich, you’ve got Alexander McQueen killing himself, you’ve got Versace and that horrible, violent stalker coming for him. Since it was written, almost all of it has come true apart from the nuclear winter, but I think we’re working on that. The actual society that the story happens in is much more like the society we have now than culture was in 1985.

Alan Moore on Fashion Beast, Situationism, and why he hates superheroes.

• KW Jeter talks about his latest novel, Fiendish Schemes, and the “cultural juggernaut” that is steampunk.

• Grit and Social Dynamics in Smoke Ghost: Elwin Cotman on the weird fiction of Fritz Leiber.

The Secret Lives of the Vatican’s Gay Cardinals, Monks, and Other Clergy Members.

Don Cherry & Organic Music Theatre, live in the RAI TV studios, 1976.

• Otherworldly Art and Photography: Mlle Ghoul finds the best things.

• From 1998: Rahma Khazam on composer Bernard Parmegiani.

• Mix of the week: Marshland: The Mix by Hackneymarshman.

• “Let’s colonize the clouds of Venus,” says Ian Steadman.

J. Hoberman on David Cronenberg’s Visual Shock.

The Delian Mode (1968) by Delia Derbyshire | Tom Baker (1981) by The Human League | Doctor Who? (1984) by Doctor Pablo & The Dub Syndicate

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 and 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