Weekend links 210

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Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes (2014) by USA Out Of Vietnam. Artwork by Amy Torok.

Amy Torok’s cover art for the debut album by Canadian band USA Out Of Vietnam is pleasingly reminiscent of the surreal and psychedelic collages of Wilfried Sätty. The music within has been described as “a cross between ELO and Sunn O)))” which it is up to a point, although to these ears the group are more in the Sunn O))) camp than the post-Beatles pop of Jeff Lynne and co. The sound is big whatever label you apply, and promises much for the future.

Mysterious creatures of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s ‘Tentacles’. The Aquarium bought one of my drawings last year for this exhibition which juxtaposes tentacular artwork with live creatures. The show runs until 2016.

• Jon Hassell’s 1990 album, City: Works Of Fiction, has been reissued in an expanded edition including a live concert collaboration with Brian Eno, and a collection of remixes/alternate takes.

• Photographer Jonathan Keys uses antique camera equipment to give his views of contemporary Britain a patina of the past.

Roman Polanski and the man who invented masochism. Nicholas Blincoe on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and Venus in Fur (sic).

• Mixes of the week are by James Pianta, E.M.M.A. (whose Blue Gardens album I helped design), and Balduin.

• Sweet Jane unearths another great article about psychedelic London: The Fool and Apple Boutique, 1968.

• “Did Chris Marker think history to be not only an infinite book but a sacred one?” asks Barry Schwabsky.

• Front Free Endpaper on the story behind the cover photo of A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White.

Mapping the Viennese Alien Event Site. Christina Scholz explores another Zone.

Moondog: The Viking of 6th Avenue. The first and only movie about Moondog.

Rick Poynor on rediscovering the lost art of the typewriter.

• At BLDGBLOG: 100 Views of a Drowning World.

Miguel Chevalier’s magic carpets

Venus In Furs (1967) by The Velvet Underground | Sex Voodoo Venus (1985) by Helios Creed | Venus As A Boy (1993) by Björk

Weekend links 130

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Sarah and Writhing Octopus (New Wave Series, 1992) by Masami Teraoka.

Strange Flowers continues to push all my buttons. For a while now I’d been intent on writing something about the strange (unbuilt) temples designed by German artist/obsessive naturist Fidus (Hugo Höppener) but I reckon James has done a better job than I would have managed. Also last week he wrote about Schloss Schleißheim, a palatial estate outside Munich with connections to Last Year in Marienbad and another eccentric, pseudonymous German artist: Alastair (Hans Henning Voigt).

• The circus poster that inspired John Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper song Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! has been reproduced as a limited edition letterpress print. Related: Wikipedia’s page about Pablo Fanque (1796–1871), “the first black circus proprietor in Britain”.

• The first two volumes of The Graphic Canon, both edited by Russ Kick, are reviewed at Literary Kicks. I’ve not seen either of these yet but volume 2 contains my interpretation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Related: the second book previewed at Brain Pickings.

You only have to read [Alan Bennett’s] diaries to see that, underneath the wit and humour and sandwich-filled pottering around old churches, there is a deep resentment at what has happened to England in his lifetime and an instinctive distrust, sometimes amounting to deep loathing, of most politicians. Listening, for instance, to Alan Clark and Kenneth Clarke talking on the radio about the arrest of General Pinochet in 1998, he writes: “Both have that built-in shrug characteristic of 80s Conservatism, electrodes on the testicles a small price to pay when economic recovery’s at stake.”

Michael Billington on Alan Bennett: a quiet radical

Hauntologists mine the past for music’s future: Mark Pilkington draws a Venn diagram encompassing Coil, Broadcast, the Ghost Box label, Arthur Machen, MR James, Nigel Kneale, Iain Sinclair and others.

Hell Is a City: the making of a cult classic – in pictures. The mean streets of Manchester given the thriller treatment by Hammer Films in 1959. The film is released on DVD this month.

The Function Room: The Kollection, Matt Leyshon’s debut volume of horror stories, has just been published. The cover painting is one of my pieces from the 1990s.

New Worlds magazine (now apparently known as “Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds“) has been relaunched online.

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A drawing from Anatomy (part 1), a series by Alex Konahin.

• The forthcoming Scott Walker album, Bish Bosch, will be released on December 3rd. 4AD has a trailer.

Cormac McCarthy Cuts to the Bone: Noah Gallagher Shannon on the early drafts of Blood Meridian.

• The Velvet Underground of English Letters: Simon Sellars Discusses JG Ballard.

• Michelle Dean on The Comfort of Bad Books.

The typewriter repairers of Los Angeles

Cats With Famous People

Marienbad (1987) by Sonoko | Komm Nach Marienbad (2011) by Marienbad | Marienbad (2012) by Julia Holter.

(Thanks to Ian and Pedro for this week’s picture links!)

Dreamweapon: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise, 1938–1979

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Artist, poet, percussionist and composer Angus MacLise receives the first proper overview of his work in a series of events presented in New York City throughout May. MacLise has too often been mentioned merely as the original drummer for The Velvet Underground—he famously quit when informed that being in a rock band meant you had to stop playing—but anyone familiar with the history of American underground culture will know that there was a lot more to his life than this. Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron are the curators of Dreamweapon: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise, and this page has more detail about the events.

For those unable to get to NYC (that would be most of us) there’s always the indispensable Ubuweb where one may find a page of MacLise recordings, and also issue 9 of the amazing Aspen magazine, “the psychedelic issue”, edited by Angus MacLise and Hetty MacLise in 1971.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda

Weekend links 50

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Invisible Light by Margo Selski.

The Glass Garage Fine Art Gallery has an online collection of paintings by Margo Selski, many of which feature her cross-dressing son, Theo. Coilhouse profiled artist and model earlier in the week. Some of these paintings mix oil with beeswax which is something I’ve not come across before.

• The Periwinkle Journal‘s first issue will be available online, free, from March 22nd until mid-June, featuring work by filmmaker and artist Hans Scheirl (Dandy Dust), artwork and collages by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, a 7-page colour comic by Mavado Charon, artwork by Timothy Cummings, artwork and installations by Cody Chritcheloe/SSION, photos by Megan Mantia, Science-Heroes by Peter Max Lawrence, an illustration portfolio by Diego Gómez, selections from the queer photography pool on Flickr, reviews and other stuff. More later.

• The Quietus wanted to remind us that this year is the 25th anniversary of the NME‘s C86 compilation tape, a collection that sought to capture a moment of ferment but which inadvertently inspired too much dreary sub-Velvet Underground pop. I’d rather celebrate the 30th anniversary of the NME‘s C81 compilation, a far more diverse collection and musically superior. If you want to judge for yourself, both tapes can be downloaded here.

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Machine in the Garden — Our Island Shall Know Abundance Without End by Margo Selski.

• Rick Poynor continues his exploration of Ballardian graphics with a piece about the paintings of Peter Klasen. Related: Where Will It End? JG Ballard interviewed by V. Vale & introduced by Michael Moorcock (Arthur No. 15/March 2005).

In his autobiography, Miracles of Life, JG Ballard suggested that illustrated versions of The Arabian Nights helped prepare him for surrealism.

Robert Irwin, author of The Arabian Nightmare, on the illustrators of The Arabian Nights.

• Another Coulthart cult movie surfaces, Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End (1970), out of circulation for many years but newly restored by the BFI. A re-release is scheduled for May so I’m hoping now that a DVD release will follow soon after.

Thom Ayres’ photostream at Flickr, and more long-exposure photos.

Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts, number 5, volume 8.

Nicolas Roeg: “I don’t want to be ahead of my time.”

• MetaFilter looks at the films of René Laloux.

• The Eerie covers of Frank Frazetta.

Indie Squid Kid.

Requiem (for String Orchestra) by Toru Takemitsu.

A Secret Wish by Propaganda

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A Secret Wish (1985). Design by the London Design Partnership.

The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns
— William Blake

It’s a hallmark of musical obsession when you find yourself buying the same album over and over. Propaganda’s meisterwerk from 1985, A Secret Wish, was finally released in a definitive double-CD version this week, the fourth edition I’ve bought (after the original vinyl and two other CD releases), and this new set is easily the best of the lot.

Propaganda were always my favourites among the early acts on Trevor Horn and Paul Morley’s ZTT label: smarter than Frankie Goes To Hollywood and more musical than the Art of Noise. How could I resist another quartet of Germans from Kraftwerk’s home city of Düsseldorf, a group memorably described as “ABBA from Hell”? The first single in 1984, Dr Mabuse, came along when I’d been immersed in Lotte Eisner’s celebrated study of German Expressionist cinema, The Haunted Screen; an avant garde pop outfit devoted to the same material was just the thing I wanted to hear. Almost a mini-album, the single’s A-side was filled by an epic ten-minute song describing the character of a villainous anti-hero from several Fritz Lang films, Dr Mabuse. On the B-side there was a cover of The Velvet Underground’s Femme Fatale (and another Lang reference in the subtitle, The Woman with the Orchid) followed by some metal bashing and a taste of the A-side’s Schönberg-esque orchestral stabs then a return to the song. Cover versions were an important thing at ZTT, as was the idea of the 12-inch single as a self-contained work, Mabuse being a prime example. All of this came packaged in a sleeve whose Anton Corbijn painting referenced another Fritz Lang film, M… It felt as though they were doing this purely for my benefit.

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Dr Mabuse (1984). Design by Anton Corbijn and XL.

The intertextual reference on this and subsequent releases isn’t surprising given the people involved. Paul Morley took a great delight in embellishing the ZTT releases with quotations—the Frankie album was probably the first chart-topping release with a recommended reading list—while band member Ralph Dörper had been with the Neue Deutsche Welle band Die Krupps prior to Propaganda, and it was his influence which gave the group the abrasive industrial edge that I found so attractive. While between groups he released an experimental EP in 1983 under his own name which included versions of In Heaven from Eraserhead and John Carpenter’s theme from Assault on Precinct 13, and it was he who chose Throbbing Gristle’s Discipline as the demo song which the group used to catch the attention of ZTT. That cover version never made it to A Secret Wish although they did perform it live on The Tube, and a later version appeared on the remix album, Wishful Thinking. This recording is happily included on the second disc of the new reissue.

A Secret Wish was released in 1985 and pushed further buttons of obsession for me with the opening track, Dream Within A Dream, which is Edgar Allan Poe’s poem set to music. The album artwork came liberally decorated with Morley’s signifying quotes, the one for the Poe track being the opening lines from HP Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. Yes, they really were doing this for my benefit… Two further 12-inch singles appeared: Duel/Jewel was the same song presented in an “ABBA” version and a “from Hell” version: sweet and melodic versus harsh and industrial.

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A Secret Wish inner sleeve.

The third and final single, p:Machinery, expanded the short album mix to another nine-minute epic whose vision of a population enslaved to industrial technology easily invokes Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, so much so that I used to play the single whilst running scenes from the film on TV. The enormous “Polish” mix of this song has always been scarce on CD, with a Japanese release in 1988, and a later reissue (with some shoddy and superfluous remixes) in 1995. Another benefit of the new edition of the album is that the extended mix provides the climax of the second disc and sounds even more enormous, its brass fanfares accurately described in a review at the time as conjuring images of cities rising from the sea.

Also present for the first time on the new CD is Do Well, the twenty-minute Duel suite which was a cassette-only release, and a number of other previously unavailable mixes. If you have this double-disc set and the Outside World single collection from 2002 then you’ll own pretty much everything that’s great about Propaganda. A lot of pop music from the 1980s sounds horribly dated now: tinny synths, empty production and a paucity of ambition. Propaganda sound as thunderingly magnificent as they did in 1985, and still unique. It’s a shame that A Secret Wish was their finest moment, things fell apart fairly soon after. But one masterpiece will always be worth fifty Duran Duran travesties.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Metropolis posters