Weekend links 559

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Cover art by Toshiyuki Fukuda for the Japanese edition of the new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

• “The story here is how between 1978 and 1982, this impulse shed its novelty genesis and its spoils were divvied up between gay producers making high-energy soundtracks for carnal abandon, and quiet Hawkwind fans smoking spliffs in Midlands bedrooms.…this excellent compilation offers fresh understandings of a period in sonic history where the future was up for grabs.” Fergal Kinney reviews Do You Have the Force? Jon Savage’s Alternate History of Electronic Music, 1978–82.

DJ Food continues his history of mini CDs with Oranges And Lemons, the 1989 album by XTC which was released in the usual formats together with a limited edition of three small discs in a flip-top box. The cover art by Dave Dragon is a good example of the resurrected groovy look.

• “If Austin Osman Spare, William Burroughs, Mary Butts and Kathy Acker got together for a séance, the transcript could well look like this.”

• How Leonora Carrington used Tarot to reach self-enlightenment: Gabriel Weisz Carrington on his mother’s quest for mythic revelations.

• Mixes of the week: Sounds Unsaid at Dublab with Tarotplane, and To Die & Live In San Veneficio by SeraphicManta.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 5strings presents…Solve et Coagula: An introduction to Israel Regardie.

• The Joy of Silhouettes: Vyki Hendy chooses favourite shadow-throwing cover designs.

Emily Mortimer on how Lolita escaped obscenity laws and cancel culture.

Freddie deBoer has moved his writing to Substack.

• New music: Wirkung by Arovane.

• Children Of The Sun (1969) by The Misunderstood | Children Of The Sun (1971) by Hawkwind | Children Of The Sun (2010) by The Time And Space Machine

Weekend links 558

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• One of the earliest posts here concerned The Suite of the Most Notable Things Seen by Cavaliere Wild Scull, and by Signore de la Hire on Their Famous Voyage from the Earth to the Moon (1776) by Filippo Morghen, a series of prints which depict the fantastic inhabitants, fauna and flora of the Moon. Morghen shows the Earth’s satellite to be a tropical place very similar to 18th-century conceptions of the New World or the Far East. Back in 2006 you couldn’t see copies of the prints as large or as detailed as this set at The Public Domain Review.

• “Last Call preserves the poignant irony that the trust and vulnerability that once made gay bars synonymous with gay community were also vectors of death, both in the form of murder and, later, HIV/AIDS.” Jeremy Lybarger on Elon Green’s study of the murders of four gay men in New York City in the 1990s.

• “No one in American letters ever pushed back against power over such a long time as [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti,” says John Freeman. Related: Ferlinghetti’s travel journals.

• New music with literary associations: Invisible Cities by A Winged Victory For The Sullen, and Star Maker Fragments by TAK Ensemble & Taylor Brook.

• Old music with no literary associations: The first of the forthcoming releases of live recordings by Can will be a 1975 Stuttgart concert.

The 120 Days of Sodom: France seeks help to buy ‘most impure tale ever written'”.

• The Joy of Circles: Vyki Hendy looks at some recent concentric cover designs.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Sculpted sushi made entirely from natural polished stones.

• My Hungry Interzone: Brian Alessandro on coming out and reading Naked Lunch.

• Andy Thomas maps Jah Wobble’s interdimensional dub.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 684 by Ben Bondy.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Jim Jarmusch Day.

Circles (1966) by Les Fleur De Lys | Circles (1970) by Blonde On Blonde | Carry On Circles (2006) by Tuxedomoon

David Britton, 1945–2020

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Mister Rock’n’roll, 1969.

David Britton, author, artist and publisher, died on 29th December. I wrote this for the Savoy Books news announcement:

My closest artistic collaborator from 1989 to 1999, and a close friend for longer than this: capricious, determined, fearless, funny, generous and inspirational. No David Britton, no Lord Horror; no Lord Horror, no Reverbstorm. He changed my life.

He’d been increasingly ill for several years so this came as less of a surprise to those of us close to him than to others. Dave and I used to talk at least once a week, and on the last occasion he’d sounded worse than usual. Those talks were episodes in a conversation about art that ran for over 30 years, beginning in the mid-1980s at the counter of the Savoy bookshop in Peter Street, Manchester, continuing in the Savoy offices with co-publisher and collaborator Michael Butterworth, and resuming on the phone; art in all its forms and in any medium, with no attention paid to categories of “high” and “low”.

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Reverbstorm, the Lord Horror comic series that we created throughout the 1990s, was the product of those conversations, and was also produced mostly through conversation, working by instinct without a script. The series, which was compiled into definitive book form in 2012, is testament to a pooled breadth of interest, encompassing/quoting/appropriating/reworking Pointillist, Cubist and Expressionist painting, Modernist poetry, pop songs, Sondheim musicals, Finnegans Wake, Tom Phillips’ Humument, Burne Hogarth’s Tarzan comics, Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs, voodoo chants, Piranesi, King Kong, Bauhaus graphic design, Hugh Ferriss architecture, and illustration of all kinds, from fairy tales to cosmic horror via Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke; there’s even ballet in the mix if you look closely. Dave always liked the idea of Lord Horror leaping and pirouetting like a dancer. More than anything, Reverbstorm is rock’n’roll, and this is partly what the title refers to: a thundering rhythm.

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Britton art from Weird Fantasy #2, 1971. This is the drawing that caught the attention of William Burroughs when Britton and Butterworth visited Burroughs in New York City in 1979.

The term “rock’n’roll” always requires qualification when considering the Britton oeuvre, he used it with regularity while remaining bitterly aware that the original charge of the words had been degraded by over-use, reduced to a caricature by too many mediocre music acts and lazy journalists. I chided him a couple of times that his use of the term was functionally meaningless, a synonym for “my favourite things”. But the application was always a serious one, a label for any work that he found sufficiently thrilling, wild, original, excessive, anarchic, flamboyant, boundary-breaking or confrontational. Little Richard, Larry Williams, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley were Dave’s kind of rock’n’roll, as were Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, PJ Proby, Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, The Cramps, The White Stripes and the Wu-Tang Clan. No surprise there, but Burne Hogarth was also rock’n’roll, although Hogarth would no doubt have disputed this. Another favourite artist, James Cawthorn, was given the label because Dave had discovered Cawthorn’s work when his teenage rock’n’roll obsession was at its height; two forms of art were permanently bound together, with sword & sorcery recast as the literary equivalent of a delinquent musical idiom. Dave’s other artist collaborator, Kris Guidio, was rock’n’roll for having served time as a peerless portraitist of The Cramps. LaVern Baker was rock’n’roll, as was CL Moore. Aubrey Beardsley was rock’n’roll and Harry Clarke was rock’n’roll; William Burroughs and William Hope Hodgson were rock’n’roll, so were Michael Moorcock and Harlan Ellison. Francis Bacon and Paula Rego were rock’n’roll; Alan Clarke was rock’n’roll and so was David Lynch. The quest for more of this rare commodity was relentless and unceasing. Many of our conversations were little more than enthusiastic discussions of shared favourites, or recommendations to watch/read/listen to something new.

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The first Savoy publication from 1976—Cawthorn adapting Moorcock’s apocalyptic Elric novel—was a declaration of intent: maximum rock’n’roll.

The photo at the head of this post is one that Dave had reused in recent years, one of the few portraits he seemed to like. It first appeared inside his debut publication, Weird Fantasy #1, a genre fanzine that was also enough of an underground publication to receive a passing mention in Oz magazine. The picture is emblematic of the Britton character, dressed in a manner at odds with the north Manchester surroundings he grew up in, and where he was still stuck at the time, a world of back-to-back housing and squalid ginnels. Rock’n’roll in all its forms was the great escape from a world of severely limited horizons and circumscribed lives, where all you could look forward to after a few years of poor education was a job in the local mill or factory. People who dismiss the gaudier forms of entertainment as “escapist” are usually middle class and blessed with comforts and opportunities that reinforce their condescensions; people who never had to consider a life so lacking in promise that a song heard on the radio, a vinyl record, a comic book, a paperback found on a market stall, might be the key to a wider world, an affirmation that there was more than the brick walls of your immediate environment, and there could be even more than this. “Escapist” suggests a hiding away but it also means breaking free. In later years Dave maintained a sporadic correspondence with Alan Moore; they never met but were mutually supportive, thanks in part to a shared background as bright boys from working-class backwaters with no encouragement to try and transform their lives through their escapist enthusiasms. Alan maintained an affection for his background, but Dave seldom spoke of his without a shudder, as though he’d evaded a fate worse than death. One thing he retained from north Manchester was an ebulliently vulgar sense of humour. He agreed with Picasso that good taste is the enemy of creativity.

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David Britton’s first novel wasn’t one he considered his best but it remains the most notorious thanks to the conscientious literary assessments of the Greater Manchester police.

I’ll miss Dave’s infectious humour, just as I’ll miss the conversations that so often provoked it, the quest for better art, some new kind of kick, more rock’n’roll. I’ll miss being able to show him something I know he’ll enjoy. He always liked quotations so I’ll end this with a lengthy one from Walter Pater, the aesthetic theorist whose ideas energised the Decadents and the founders of The Savoy, the magazine from which Savoy Books took its name. It summarises Dave’s attitude to life even if he’d never discuss things in such a grandiloquent manner:

…we are all condamnes, as Victor Hugo says: we are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve—les hommes sont tous condamnes a mort avec des sursis indefinis: we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion—that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of this wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for art’s sake, has most; for art comes to you professing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.

Previously on { feuilleton }
James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art
A Reverbstorm jukebox
Reverbstorm: an introduction and preview

Harold Budd, 1936–2020

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Art and design for The Pearl by Russell Mills.

I must have listened to this album hundreds of times, maybe thousands, there having been days when I’ve allowed it to loop for hours on end. I’ll never tire of it.

There’s a lot I could write about Harold Budd: about his early electronic compositions like The Oak Of The Golden Dreams; about the way that The Pavilion Of Dreams is the slowest jazz album you’ll ever hear; about the Eno/Lanois production on The Pearl which creates music that’s simultaneously earthed and extraterrestrial, the latter quality making it a (dark-eyed) sister to Apollo—Soundtracks & Atmospheres; about the time that Budd became the fourth member of the Cocteau Twins; about the William Burroughs influence in the poems that Budd reads on By The Dawn’s Early Light; about the beautiful soundtrack he composed with Robin Guthrie for Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, a film whose subject matter isn’t beautiful at all… But it’s easier to simply say listen to this.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Made To Measure
Night Music in two parts

Electronic Tonalities For The Subjugation Of Parasitic Psychical Entities

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In today’s post, the latest release from The Wyrding Module. The electronic tonalities emanating from darkest Salford continue to be satisfyingly spectral, and with sufficient character to avoid being taken for the work of another artist. Wyrding Module music inhabits a haunted zone where occult rites, parapsychology, cosmic horror and kosmische music intersect; there’s a William Burroughs reference in the title of a piece from an earlier release—Infused With The Venom Of Giant Aquatic Centipedes—and even a hint of psychedelia, mostly evident in the persistently vivid cover art. Pastiche is kept to a minimum; last year’s Typhonic Neural Tantra featured the kind of groovy organ-led number you might hear playing in a horror-film nightclub but this was an uncommon departure. Previous releases (of which there may now be 13…details remain vague) are generally forward-looking, as you’d expect from an artist whose name is borrowed from a science-fiction device—a sonic weapon—invented by David Lynch.

The new album delivers familiar Wyrding Module trademarks: grinding synthetic timbres, glitch-ravaged voices that might be the product of a ritual working, and that organ tone which maintains a generic mood without ever becoming too literal. The print inside each disc is a unique work of generative art. Being someone who likes to keep the seasonal parasites at bay by sustaining the spirit of Halloween until January, this is all very welcome. Subjugate your own psychical entities here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Outer Church