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 498

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The Sentinel 280, a car design by Syd Mead from 1964.

• “Boris Dolgov did not exist. The man who bore that name may have existed, but there never was a man in the United States with that name until 1956, too late for Weird Tales.” Teller of Weird Tales on the mysterious identity of a magazine artist.

• Saying goodbye to 2019 also meant saying farewell to Vaughan Oliver, Neil Innes and Syd Mead. Related: Vaughan Oliver at Discogs; I’m The Urban Spaceman; a look back at Syd Mead’s vehicle designs.

Lanre Bakare on how ambient music became cool. (Again. This begs the question of when it became uncool, especially when a ten-year-old Brian Eno piece about “the death of uncool” is being quoted.)

Westerners interpreted the peyote experience very differently from the practitioners of the peyote religion, where the focus was “ritual, song and prayer, and to dissect one’s private sensations was to miss the point”. Writers such as Havelock Ellis, who published an essay on his peyote experiences in the Lancet in 1897 (it’s likely that he also administered the substance to his friends W.B. Yeats and Arthur Symons), instead tended to focus on its visual effects. Ellis described “the brilliance, delicacy and variety of the colours” and “their lovely and various textures”. Peyote reached Europe in tandem with the X-ray, cinema and electric lights, Jay notes, and “nothing delighted the eye of the mescal eater so much as the new electrical sublime”.

Emily Witt reviewing Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic by Mike Jay

Peter Bradshaw takes on the thankless task of ranking Federico Fellini’s feature films.

Geoff Manaugh on when Russia and America coöperated to avert a Y2K apocalypse.

• “Music is an ideal medium for interstellar communication,” says Daniel Oberhaus.

Keith Allison on Karel Zeman, a creator of remarkable cinematic fantasies.

•  Japanese Designer New Year’s Cards of 2020.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Vera Chytilová Day.

2020 in public domain.

Sentinel (1992) by Mike Oldfield | Sentinels (2001) by Cyclobe | Sentinel (2004) by Transglobal Underground

Weekend links 251

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Beliel (2013) by Dan Quintana.

Guida essenziale all’Italian Occult Psychedelia. Out next month: Nostra Signora Delle Tenebre, a tribute to “movies that…retained a decidedly Italian flavour, a bizarre mix of nasty violence, lurid sexuality and feverish Catholic mysticism, all filtered through a manic obsession with death, blood and the sins of the flesh.” In the meantime, try the Italic Environments mix by Lay Llamas.

• “His work matters more than ever now because it stands in contrast to all the sequels, the comic-book adaptations, that Hollywood makes to sell lunchboxes.” Ryan Gilbey looks at a new documentary about the great Robert Altman.

• Psychedelic Culture at the Crossroads: Erik Davis on the ongoing reappraisal of the value of psychedelic drugs. Related: Dude, You Can Draw Magic Mushrooms With an Oscilloscope.

Like [Ellen Sofie] Lauritzen, what I appreciate about music, writing, and films that vary from dated to downright misogynist is the rawness I see expressed, a sheer energy that can’t toe the line of perfect political obeisance. I join her in hoping that we back down from using “problematic” as a censorious bludgeon against creative achievements, no matter how problematic they are.

Sarah Seltzer on whether feminists can enjoy misogynist art

• Mixes of the week: Roger Eagle’s jukebox selection for Eric’s club, Liverpool; Switched On! Vol. 4 by AnchSounds; T-P-F Mix 3: Bucolic Intrigue Romance by The Pattern Forms.

• At Dangerous Minds: Paul Gallagher on the whimsical anarchism of the White Bicycle revolution.

• Opening the Ghost Box: Dave Thompson on a record label that’s mentioned here more than most.

Abominations Of Yondo (2007), a free album inspired by the weird fiction of Clark Ashton Smith.

• Placards of earthly delight: Isabel Stevens on Vera Chytilová’s film posters.

• I’m an artist to watch according to Nakid Magazine.

Tomb of Insomnia

Death Surf (2012) by Heroin In Tahiti | Voices Call (2015) by Lay Llamas | Averno (2015) by OVO

In The Past

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In The Past (1966) by We The People.

Thanks to Modzilla in the comments for yesterday’s post I’ve been listening to different versions of In The Past all day. I always found the Chocolate Watchband rendition to be very catchy, the kind of song you’d expect to be covered by other bands even though the version in yesterday’s playlist is the work of session musicians under the direction of producer Ed Cobb. The original song is an uptempo number written by Wayne Proctor and recorded in 1966 by his garage outfit, We The People, a group I knew of already since two of their songs are featured on the Nuggets CD box. In The Past isn’t one of them, however, so I hadn’t heard it until today. More surprising is seeing the amount of times it’s been covered since. Lava lamps and false eyelashes at the ready, here’s a quick summary of a musical obsession.

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La Fermeture Eclair (1966) by Delphine.

The title translates as The Zipper Closure (?). Delphine was a Belgian singer who recorded a handful of singles. This seems to be her most popular song (see below), and a regular inclusion on compilations such as this. The YouTube video matches the music to shots from Vera Chytilová’s marvellous Daisies (1966).

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In The Past (1968) by The Chocolate Watchband.

Posted again so I get a chance to show the (uncredited) collage cover. Cobb and co. add sitar flourishes worthy of Bill Laswell.

Continue reading “In The Past”