Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Lucifer Rising Suite

Pictured below, Bobby Beausoleil at his recording studio in the California state pen…. The soundtrack of my Christmas 2015 has undoubtedly been Bobby Beausoleil’s Lucifer Rising score which I listened to throughout the holidays and I expect will usher in the new year. Beausoleil’s score made a welcome return to circulation last year, the long out of print 2004 CD expanded to a 4CD set as The Lucifer Rising Suite which gathers together chronologically all the music Bobby composed for Kenneth Anger’s film(s) – the lost first draft of Lucifer Rising from 1967 and the completed 1980 film. It’s a weighty collection, the entire suite adds up to about 3 hours of music but it’s a terrific listen, from free-form avant-rock jams and electronic soundscapes, to tough blues workouts and beautiful space-rock. The 4CD set comes in a smart clamshell box and contains two posters and some excellent revelatory liner notes covering the entire history of the project. The liners are particularly rewarding with regard to the music Beausoleil recorded whilst incarcerated at Tracy, composed and realized against a backdrop of riots, lockdowns, and the difficulties of holding together a prison band in the face of inmate transfers, releases and so on. Truly remarkable stuff and absolutely essential listening.


Monday, 28 December 2015

Torso Art

I couldn't resit posting this rather lovely UK VHS sleeve for Torso which I watched earlier... This viewing was a strategic selection rather than a random one, following Baron Blood's rehabilitation yesterday, I wanted to give Sergio Martino's film another shot - I was disappointed by the film after picking up the Blue Underground Blu-Ray, I suspect it was to do with the slackening of the pace in the third act, but forewarned is forearmed and I enjoyed the film considerably this time round. Along with the identity of the killer, I had forgotten the brutality of the film, with those gorgeous and beautifully sculpted Italian starlets torn asunder by the ski-masked slaughterhouse running amok, the murder in the swamp being particularly grueling. Martino was 35 when he made the film and I got the impression he was less than sympathetic to the youth of the day and their wanton ways - the casual sex and drugs, and as the police inspector hints at one point, student agitation and unrest...



A good Torso sleeve is worth repeating and fortunately Iver Film Services furnished us with two distinct pieces of VHS artwork. The second sleeve is not nearly as pretty as the doll version but I do like the note on the back side of the sleeve assuring punters that the film comes with "Excellent English Dubbed Soundtrack".



Worth mentioning that both Torso sleeves were found at the Iver Film Services website, an excellent fan site devoted to one of the more ubiquitous UK VHS labels from the outlaw days of the Pre-Cert era. I used to have a few Ivers myself at one point - Octaman, Night of the Bloody Apes and Shriek of the Mutilated, and for me their finest hour was the bloody-silhouetted Texas Chain Saw Massacre sleeve (one of two versions that appeared in videoshops in the early 80's) - my personal favourite piece of pre-cert artwork. All this eye-candy and more can be found over at the Iver website so be sure to pay it a visit...

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Revisiting Baron Blood

Rada Rassimov in communion with Rada Rassimov in an astonishing shot from Baron Blood... I watched Mario Bava's 1972 picture earlier today and prior to this morning's screening, had someone mentioned the film I might have shrugged it off as a middling Bava picture. Perhaps it was the upswing from the old Anchor Bay DVD to the Arrow Blu-Ray, but I thought this latest revisit was absolutely wonderful. Evidently, I had been dozing on that first initial screening a few years ago because much of it I had forgotten. If you've only previously seen the Anchor Bay DVD, this is one to upgrade to Blu-Ray to fully appreciate some of Bava's densest compositions, with the Maestro making the most of the film's ready-to-wear castle, shooting actors through decorative iron railings and mining some genuine spatial surrealism from those tricky spiral staircases. And I very much enjoyed watching the Baron himself dash about like a resurrected Matthew Hopkins.


Strictly speaking I watched the film twice today - when I finished my first pass of the film I momentarily flicked on Tim Lucas' commentary to check if a certain shot was reused from Bay of Blood (it wasn't), and ended up re-watching the entire film with Tim's excellent comprehensive, detailed overview, which reveals a wealth of fascinating production history and wonderful factoids - if you're looking to discover Bava's fleeting cameo, the director's tip of the hat to a Rembrandt painting, or an amusing anecdote about Antonioni, be sure to tune in. And thanks to Tim I'll be rolling up the sleeves in search of a copy of 1941 Italian film The Iron Crown which comes recommended...

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Tripping thru the Rubble

Trying to scare up some artificial sunshine here on a pouring wet Saturday afternoon courtesy of Rubble Collection, a fantastic (and weighty) 20-CD collection of mostly British psychedelia from the late 60's. I haven't made it to the final disc in this mammoth set yet but what I've heard so far is quite wonderful, and revelatory considering many of the groups featured were either short-lived or never quite made it out of their respective corners of Albion. I'm currently on my second pass of CD2 as I pen this and two tracks I'm particularly digging - Defecting Grey, a wicked pastiche of The Pink Floyd courtesy of The Pretty Things and Lollipop Minds by the brilliant, could-have-been-a-contender combo Wimple Winch For anyone interested in Psychedelia the Rubble Collection is pretty much essential stuff and with the CDs housed in cardsleeves, and augmented by two books of fascinating liner notes, it's well worth picking up.



Worth mentioning the attractively trippy LSD-laced artwork which adorns the individual CDs contained within the Rubble box. Each of the card sleeves comes with a snappy title such as The 49 Minute Technicolour Dream, The Electric Crayon Set, A Trip In A Painted World and my favourite, the giallo flavored 8th volume, All the Colors of Darkness...


Friday, 18 December 2015

The Art of Exploitation

A double-shift at work today has resulted in some lazy but exquisite browsing at the ever fabulous Wrong Side of the Art, a colossal and rigorously organized archive of Cult, Exploitation and Fantastique Cinema posters scanned at high-resolution for your pleasure. An essential resource for bloggers, magazine designers and fine art lovers everywhere. The quartet of Blind Dead posters below is a fine example of the treasures that await. Step this way...


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Fripp Exposure

Robert Fripp at the The Hit Factory, New York 1978…. I mentioned last week that King Crimson’s Lizard suite was the one and only appearance in my record collection of Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and the same can be said about Daryl Hall and his stint on Robert Fripp’s stunning 1979 album Exposure. I haven’t been listening to much King Crimson lately, the void being filled by Exposure and Fripp & Eno’s Live In Paris set. But more so with Exposure, the album a brilliant meshing of commercial new wave rock with more experimental devices, and enough ideas to fuel half a dozen albums (I love the taped conversation littered throughout the album, the one used on NY3 is particularly nutty). Listening to Exposure this morning, I think the album would make a fine entry point into Fripp’s work, with its Frippertronic soundscapes, and a certain nod towards King Crimson past (the track Breathless sounds like a cousin of the title track from the album Red), and future, anticipating the kind of angular rock Crimson's 80's unit favoured. The current 2CD edition of Exposure comes highly recommended, the album augmented with different mixes and personnel to form a second alternative version of the album, and all of it packaged with excellent detailed liner notes.


Monday, 14 December 2015

Stranger’s Kiss

A 27 year old Stanley Kubrick filming Killer’s Kiss in 1955… I watched Kubrick’s second feature over the w/end and what an evolutionary leap in style and maturity from the godawful Fear and Desire. Watching the film jogged a memory of the 1983 film Stranger’s Kiss which intriguingly is based on the making of Kubrick’s film. I discovered this obscure film leafing thru the Time Out Film Guide and despite my best efforts I haven’t been able to track down a copy thru the usual unofficial channels or investigated the indifferent looking Italian, Spanish and Polish (?) DVDs. Still, I’m eager to see the film and Tom Milne’s review nicely sets up the trailer:
Fascinating film structured a little like a series of Chinese boxes. First comes the fiction of a young director in Hollywood (Peter Coyote) trying to set up an independent B movie about a young boxer's noir-ish efforts to save a taxi dancer from her villainous protector. This, given the date 1955 and a marked resemblance between the two plots, merges into a speculative 'history' of the circumstances surrounding the making of Kubrick's Killer's Kiss. Then life begins to imitate art as the villainous realtor backing Coyote's movie, in which his girl is playing the lead, realizes that she is falling for the actor playing the boxer; and art begins to give life a stage direction or two as Coyote encourages this perilous triangle in the hope of lending emotional conviction to his film. Marvelously shot and finely acted, it grips simultaneously as a critical extension of Kubrick's film, as a comment on movie-making mania, and as a dark thriller in its own right.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Napalm Death

Ken Sharp's photo of Napalm Death at the back bar of the Canterbury Arms, Brixton, December 1988... I was listening to Mick Harris' dark ambient project Lull earlier today (the gaseous drones of 1996's Continue album mingling rather nicely with the incessant rain hammering against the window). With Lull and the isolationist dubscapes of Harris' other group Scorn, I tend to forget that Harris was the "whirlwind tornado" responsible for the frenzied blast beats of Napalm Death's Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration albums. Ken Sharp's brilliant photo captures Napalm Death in their short-lived From Enslavement unit with Shane Embury, Mick Harris, Lee Dorrian and Bill Steer. What a room !


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Walking In the Keep

For anyone in the UK and Ireland looking to catch up with Michael Mann's 1983 film The Keep, the film will be shown on Film4 tonite at 1:35am. I think I'll avail of this opportunity myself to revisit the film ahead of the almost-finished documentary A World War II Fairytale: The Making of Michael Mann's The Keep. And seeing that it's Christmastime I can pull a connection out between Mann's film and the festive season - it's slight, but go with me on this one. Part of Tangerine Dream's soundtrack incorporates the music of Walking in the Air, the signature music from the animated Christmas film The Snowman. Mann liked this music so much he requested its composer Howard Blake to record a version of the song for The Keep but with Blake busy with other projects, Mann asked Tangerine Dream to incorporate Walking In the Air into their soundtrack. A weird turn of events but then again, everything associated with The Keep is rather weird...



Friday, 11 December 2015

La Hora del Fantasma

My friend James Gracey (author of the excellent Behind the Couch blog) posted a rather doom-laden image earlier on Facebook and I'm responding in kind, feeling rather doom-laden myself on this Friday morning. I don't have much information on this eerie photograph by Spanish photographer Joaquín Pla Janini, entitled La Hora del Fantasma, probably dating from 1930. My guess is that Pla Janini was looking to re-create the dark mystery of Arnold Böcklin's famous painting The Isle of the Dead which depicts an oarsman and a white-robed figure in a small boat approaching a rocky island. Also worth seeking out Pla Janini's triptych Les Parques, a variation on La Hora del Fantasma and featuring in one panel the white robed figure, this time skull-faced standing on the craggy shoreline with a number of naked male bodies writhing among the rocks - a powerful image which anticipates the homoerotic death tripping of Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising... A good overview of Joaquín Pla Janini's work can be viewed here


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Vintage Times Square

Times Square circa 1968 and Wild In the Streets appropriately enough is playing at the Embassy... I've posted the link to this thread before but for all you Times Square hustlers and junkies who might have missed it, be sure to check out the Vintage Times Square thread over at the excellent Skyscraper City Forums. This is a favourite thread of mine to browse, 13 pages of fantastic street photography, and it proved a very useful archive of imagery when I was reading John Rechy’s classic 1963 novel about gay nightlife, City of Night. Check it out here


Croatia Crash Cover

The paperback cover for Ballard's Crash, or Sudar as it's called in Croatia... This 1988 edition of the book must rank as one of the strangest covers used for the novel, making a clean break from the usual automobile motif. The artwork is by Igor Kordej who went on to illustrate New X-Men, and I can't help but wonder if this depiction of a robot in passionate embrace with a flame-haired woman was a left-over from a previous assignment, looking more like something ripped from the pages of Heavy Metal. Still the meshing of lust and metal, the eroticism of technology is appropriate enough...


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Season of Glass

Listening to Yoko Ono’s 1981 album Season of Glass, the cover image featuring John Lennon’s bloodstained glasses… Ono’s album was released just six months after her husband’s murder and it’s all the more surprising for its restraint – on first approach one would expect the kind of heavy Krautrock jams and abrasive vocal improvisations heard on Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band album, but instead Season of Glass is fitted out with a series of late night introspective moods and colors which not only touches on Lennon’s murder (4 gunshots open the track No, No, No) but the Lennon-Ono relationship as a whole – my favorite track on the album Even When You're Far Away, I’d wager is Yoko’s take on the strange turn of events that was the so-called Lost Weekend (“It's just the way it happens to be”). Incidentally, the track Panty Lies off Sonic Youth’s 1995 album Washing Machine bears more than a passing resemblance to the aforementioned No, No, No


Monday, 7 December 2015

Stepping Razor Red X

I had penciled in two Bruce Springsteen documentaries for the w/end but when my connection failed to deliver the goods, I turned to a music documentary from my own collection, the 1993 film Stepping Razor Red X, a film on the life of reggae firebrand Peter Tosh. Forfeiting a conventional biopic narrative for an abstract, fragmented structure, the film is as confrontational and aggressive as its subject, with Tosh's own voice-over (courtesy of some recordings known as the Red X tapes) railing against the poverty of Trenchtown and the violence of apartheid. The film also builds a compelling case that Tosh's murder at his home in 1987 was politically motivated rather than a simple armed robbery. Tosh's music is well represented too with plenty of excellent live footage. Superb stuff. Finally, one interesting connection to muse over - the film was written and directed by Nicholas Campbell who might be better known as one of David Cronenberg's regular players, appearing in Fast Company, The Brood, Naked Lunch, and perhaps most memorably as Frank Dodd, the Castle Rock killer who becomes a victim of his own handiwork in The Dead Zone...


Sunday, 6 December 2015

In the Company of Danielle

Danielle Dax in all her Gothic finery... I watched The Company of Wolves earlier today (on a double-bill with Valerie & Her Week of Wonders), and not having seen the film close to 10 years I was looking forward to this screening. But the film left me vaguely dissatisfied - despite the exquisite art direction (which looks like it came from a Brothers Grimm engraving), I found the film rather bloodless. But my interest was piqued as the end credits rolled when I spotted among the cast names the English experimental singer, musician and artist Danielle Dax who plays the wolfgirl. I know Danielle Dax's work with the eccentric post-punk band The Lemon Kittens but her unexpected appearance has inspired me to delve into her solo career. Skipping back to her scene in the film accompanied by Neil Jordan's commentary, I was hoping for an interesting anecdote about Dax's involvement with the film but sadly Jordan says nothing worthwhile...


Nine Garmins of the Ninja

A cheerful publicity still from the 1985 film Nine Deaths of the Ninja, with cast members sporting the latest Garmin wrist watches... If Star Trek predicted flip-phones and The Next Generation, tablets, this atrocious entry in the 80's ninja cycle has a claim on portable GPS devices, with the trio below taking time out seemingly every few minutes to attend to their high-tech watches relaying vital mission information via a chorus of bleeps. Garmin fans however should give the film a wide berth, it's simply not worth wading thru the stilted line readings, arthritic martial arts, and pneumatic hairdos. I know because I watched the film last night in a fit of madness, when I could have watched one of the dozen or so still-sealed DVDs I have sitting on my shelf. On the other hand if you're the kind of Trash addict who must see everything, the film at least features one of the most absurd villains I've seen in many a long time - imagine a cross between Dr. Strangelove and Paul Partain's Franklin from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre... Someone actually fronted money for this thing ?


Saturday, 5 December 2015

Czech Folk Horror

Weekend reading... Tucking into my copy of the recently published Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies and it's shaping up to be an excellent, illuminating collection of essays and inquiries into the elusive genre of Folk Horror. With the initial opening chapters under my belt, I've skipped ahead to my friend Kat Ellinger's essay on Czech Folk Horror which serves as a brilliant introduction to a particularly magical strand of European Cinema. Beautifully written too - Kat writing about Valerie and Her Week of Wonders says: "Stylistically, Jaromil Jireš employs a strong rural aesthetic with national folk elements using the natural beauty of the countryside and rustic village location to achieve a strong organic feel as well as melting in sumptuous Gothic tones". Elsewhere Kat shines a light on some lesser known classics of the Czech Folk Horror tradition including Juraj Herz's 1978 film of Beauty and the Beast which is a discovery for me and am currently seeking the film out thru unofficial channels... Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies comes highly recommended and has that lovely intimate feel of a small press publication. Copies of the book are available here and worth adding that 100% of all profits from sales of the book will be charitably donated to environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts.



Friday, 4 December 2015

Lawrence's Ruins

Below, a tiny detail from the George Lawrence's famous 1906 photograph of San Francisco in ruins... I'm currently listening to the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa LP, and musing on the album's provisional title Earthquake Country (a better, less fussy title I think) yielded Lawrence's vast panoramic shot of the devastated city taken some six weeks after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on April 18th 1906. Nowadays cityscape panoramas are a dime a dozen but Lawrence's photograph still impresses with its clarity and scope and all the more amazing that it was taken from "Lawrence Captive Airship", which was simply a kite sent soaring over the bay. The Wiki entry has an excellent blow-up of George Lawrence's photograph here. An even bigger copy of the picture (11mbs) can be found here


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

It feels like... times have changed

A fatally wounded Slim Pickens knockin' on Heaven's door in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid... I mentioned to someone last week that Peckinpah's film was my all-time favourite American western and with that in mind, I revisited the film earlier today, and one screening later the film is now elevated to my all-time favourite Western, American, Italian or otherwise, elbowing The Good the Bad and the Ugly from the top slot. Today's screening was fortuitous for one particular reason - among Pat Garrett's legendary cast is Gene Evans whom I watched just yesterday in Sam Fuller's 1952 film Park Row. And watching the film again today I couldn't shake the idea that Kris Kristofferson in 1973 would have made a tremendous Jim Morrison, far better that Val Kilmer I think. And I love Peckinpah's cameo as a man who refuses a drink. Favourite line of Rudy Wurlitzer's brilliant dialogue is courtesy of R.G. Armstrong playing another of Peckinpah's brutish God-fearing men, "I got my shotgun full of 16 thin dimes. Enough to spread you out like a crazy woman's quilt."


Monday, 30 November 2015

Performance Music

Mad Cyril redecorating Joey Maddocks' bookies in Performance... I'm currently reading Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones, and a recurring street name that figures in the early part of the Stones' saga has me musing on yet another clandestine reference found in Cammell and Roeg's film. In the latter half of the 60's, Rolling Stones business was conducted from an office at Maddox Street in Westminster, and what's more the office was numbered 46a. Hmm...


Speaking of music and Performance I was listening to the soundtrack recently and augmented the session with a track from the CD In a Persian Garden - The Santur by Iranian musician Nasser Rastegar-Nejad, issued by the World Music label Lyricord. The track in question, Dashti, played on hammered dulcimer would be better known to Performance fans as the music that plays during the scene where Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg make love. It's a beautiful and hypnotic piece of music and it's omission from the Warners CD soundtrack is a shame. Fortunately, In a Persian Garden - The Santur is still in print on CD and available for download from Amazon so fans could easily make their own Performance OST should they wish...


Sunday, 29 November 2015

American Movie & Demon Lover Diary

Just fresh from a screening of the 1999 documentary American Movie and for any independent film makers out there reading this, your courage, dedication and sacrifice is duly noted and appreciated. Chris Smith's film chronicles Wisconsin film maker Mark Borchardt's herculean, sometimes agonizing task of completing his short film Coven ("It's pronounced "COE-ven", man") to raise finance for his feature length debut, Northwestern, and along the way the documentary ponders the big question that all struggling artists must confront at one point or another: to doggedly pursue the dream or to move on in a new direction. A quick check of the Internet Movie Database suggests that Borchardt, 16 years after completing Coven (and a music video in 2007) is still chasing the white whale that is The Great American Movie - a 90min Horror film entitled Scare Me is currently in the works. For his determination alone (and on the strength of Coven, some considerable talent it must be said) I sincerely wish him all the best.


Watching American Movie put in mind the 1980 film Demon Lover Diary, a feature length fly-on-the-wall documentary about the making of 1977 Horror film The Demon Lover... Predating American Movie by two decades (and in some respects This Is Spinal Tap and Living In Oblivion), Joel DeMott's film is a smart, funny, sad and tragic account of The Demon Lover's doomed production which was hamstrung by a disorganized shooting schedule, two pompous yet clueless co-directors, irritable actors, and of course perilous financing - one of the film's directors was mortgaged to the hilt, while the other was using compensation money he received for losing a few fingers in an industrial “accident”. During the course of the documentary tensions mount, tempers flare, and friendships are stretched well past breaking point - the film concludes with the Diary's author Joel DeMott and her boyfriend Jeff Kreines (The Demon Lover's besieged cameraman) quitting the production in fear of their lives as the frustrated co-directors discharge some guns borrowed from their friend Ted Nugent (?) Elsewhere, DeMott tempers the bitterness of the shoot with the occasional moment of levity, like the make-up artist explaining his impossibly convoluted love-life, and at one point DeMott steals a lovely moment of romance between a young starlet and a crew member during yet another production stoppage... To the best of my knowledge Demon Lover Diary is not available thru official channels, but a rather rough-looking, lo-fi copy was once available on youtube, and given the film's rarity, was entirely watchable but it's since been taken down. As for The Demon Lover, the film against all odds was finished, complete with a cameo appearance from Gunnar Hansen (unpaid apparently), but this truly dreadful film is best avoided...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Pastoral Hide-and-Seek

Revisiting Pastoral Hide-and-Seek, Shûji Terayama's second feature from 1974, and another one of the director's extraordinary meditations on youth, memory, and the revisiting and reinventing of one's own past. In the film, a director recreates his childhood on celluloid, albeit in a highly stylized form, his younger 15-year old self fantasizing about escaping from his nagging over-protective mother and running away with the beautiful madonna next door, or perhaps joining the oddball family from the nearby circus... A sleeker, more graceful film than Terayama's debut feature, Throw Away Your Books Let's Go Out Into the Streets, Pastoral Hide-and-Seek is one of the most poetic post-War Japanese films I've seen, the film is brimming over with astonishing surreal visuals - from gloomy Beckett-style landscapes to hallucinatory, acid-tinged carny life. And there's the director's fondness for cinematic trickery - including a wonderful disorienting break in the film around the 40min mark, as well as the ingenious final shot. The film also comes with terrific music by the great J.A. Seazer, who makes a brief appearance in the film...


Friday, 27 November 2015

Alexander Kostetsky

One last art post for today, and sticking with the fantastique theme but of a more cosmic dimension… I can’t supply much information on the late Ukrainian artist Alexander Kostetsky apart from some sketchy biographical information, but the paintings he produced in the 80’s and 90’s are truly wondrous, depicting vast nebulous alien landscapes that seem to hang in the air, and there's a strong current of mysticism flowing through Kostetsky’s work, his paintings often depict robed, priestly figures standing on altars or near pieces of ritualistic furniture. An excellent gallery of Kostetsky’s work can be found here (select the Painting menu). Incidentally, I’m currently listening to Tangerine Dream’s 1972 colossus Zeit and it’s proving to be perfect musical accompaniment for Kostetsky's surreal vistas…


Stephen Mackey

I've posted the work of British artist Stephen Mackey before but I regularly find myself browsing his work with renewed wonder, his paintings set in a ethereal world of animal-headed people and sinister apparitions. Some of my favourite Mackey paintings to follow...





Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Beautiful Darling

A belated post marking Candy Darling's birthday yesterday, and as a tribute I watched the 2010 documentary Beautiful Darling earlier, a superb and affectionate portrait of the gorgeous and talented Warhol superstar who passed away in 1974 aged just 29 following a short illness. What emerges most strongly from the film is Candy's commitment to living her life as a woman, an act of sheer heroism that exacted a heavy price in terms of her romantic relationships (none of her friends remember her with a partner), as well as her health - the toxic transgender medicine she took probably shortened her life. But for the most part the documentary is a celebration rather than a lament, with friends sharing warm memories of this very sweet girl, from Factory survivors like Paul Morrissey and Gerard Malanga to John Waters and Jayne County (who admonishes those who would refer to Candy as a he). Fantastic footage too of Candy appearing in some decidedly off-Broadway productions and more intimate home movies. Final thought comes from Candy herself, in an extract from her diary read by Chloe Sevigny: “I will not cease to be myself for foolish people. For foolish people make harsh judgments on me. You must always be yourself, no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.” Words to live by.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Freaky Folk

My thoughts are focused on all things folky this morning, ahead of the Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies book which I ordered yesterday, I'm listening to a compilation on the Cold Spring label entitled John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Britannica, a double CD of songs that tap into the rich vein of Albion folk music. It's an eclectic listen with tracks ranging from surprisingly traditional jigs to Sandy Denny style numbers to neo-folk and experimental psych-folk. I tend to lean towards the more apocalyptic flavored folk like Comus or Current 93, neither represented here but the artist behind English Heretic is a good approximation. So not entirely successful but this compilation serves as a good jumping off point and I'm definitely going to check out Tony Wakeford's Sol Invictus. Here's their contribution to John Barleycorn Reborn, the oppressive martial call to arms To Kill All Kings



Listening to the John Barleycorn Reborn album, one of the tracks entitled The Wicker Man jogged a memory, not of Robin Hardy's film but of a Clive Barker story which featured in the second volume of the Tapping The Vein graphic novel from 1989. In the Hills, the Cities originally appearing in the Books of Blood is a surreal rural horror story in which two cities meet in the remote countryside to enact a ritualistic fight to the death. The instruments of war are not the traditional kind, instead the citizens of both cities bind themselves together by ropes to form two huge walking giants. Truly bizarre stuff but brilliantly realized by John Bolton’s stunning artwork…


Monday, 23 November 2015

Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies

Just ordered my copy of Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, a 500-page collection of essays, interviews and artwork on that particularly British sub-genre, the Folk Horror. The contents page alone makes for impressive reading, with subjects as diverse as Public Information Films, Quatermass II, the 1920 Gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer and Paul Ferris' music for the Witchfinder General, to name just a few. I'm particularly looking forward to reading Adam Scovell's essay on Brian Eno's album On Land and my friend Kat Ellinger's examination of Czech Folk Horror. I've reprinted the full contents below. The book is available to order here and be sure to use the preview function to get a look at the contents. Just in time for Winter solstice and Natalis Invicti...



Friday, 20 November 2015

Tartan Attractions

Flashback Friday… As ever I am indebted to the nostalgia attic that is youtube, and for my latest scrounge thru the dusty boxes of stored memories I uncovered this great artifact from the VHS days - originally located on the 1995 UK VHS tape of Hardboiled, Tartan’s 5min promo reel showcasing the label’s wares. Some wonderful stuff here, and some films I haven’t thought about in a long time, like Alan Rudolph’s eccentric noir Trouble In Mind and Alain Resnais’ mind-bending Providence. Be sure to watch it to the end for that great moment from Cinema Paradiso where the little boy experiences the magic of film projection – a scene that can coax tears in an instant.


Watching this promo reel again, especially those great lifts from Hal Hartley’s films reminds me how exciting the early 90’s was for American Independent Cinema, with films like Mystery Train, Metropolitan, Slacker, Reservoir Dogs, Swoon seemingly emerging every other week. I had hoped that someone might have uploaded the excellent 1993 Channel 4 documentary Cinefile: Made in the USA but so far it hasn’t shown up at the usual haunts. Incidentally, the terrific music accompanying the images is a track called Foolish Harp/Waerera by Zimbabwe’s Bhundu Boys

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Diamanda Galas

Listening to Diamanda Galas raising Hell on The Litanies of Satan... This month's edition of The Wire features sunnO))) and Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar discussing the formative influence Galas's 1982 debut had on him and with that in mind I dug out my copy, not having heard it in some time. Still an astonishing recording, Diamanda's exploratory vocal improvisations put her alongside Coltrane. The title track is especially extraordinary with some genuinely unnerving electronic effects and what sounds like an infernal choir of demons. Galas has loaned her voice to number of different music and film projects over the years and listening to the Litanies again, I was sure her vocals featured on the soundtrack of The Last Temptation of Christ (on the track It Is Accomplished) but it wasn't the case. The Litanies of Satan is the proverbial room-clearer but if you're curious, take the left hand path...


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Synapse

More vintage magazine scans for your time-travelling pleasure… Currently clicking thru issues of US electronic music magazine Synapse which ran for 14 issues from 1976 to 1979. The magazine features a mix of electronic music news, equipment reviews and schematics, album and performance reviews, and articles on some major electronic artists of the day. Heady stuff for the synth enthusiast but there is much to enjoy for the casual listener with interesting interviews with Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Eno, Stockhausen, Zappa and Robert Fripp. Some excellent contemporary album reviews too - on Fripp & Eno’s Evening Star – “A good album for spacing out and losing oneself in the drone zone”; Pere Ubu’s Modern Dance (“Easily eclipses most of the arty residue washed up by the New Wave”), and my favorite, the Suicide LP (“Suicide creates dark. Play this record in a brightly lighted room and before long all the light will be sucked into it”). 12 of the 14 issues are available to download here


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Knight of Cups

Just fresh from the Irish premiere of Terence Malick's latest film Knight of Cups, screened as part of the Cork Film Festival... America's artiest director serves up another visually stunning meditation on life, love and the whole damn thing. Very much cut from the same cloth as Malick's previous films Tree of Life and To the Wonder - all minimal dialogue, whispered narration and Emmanuel Lubezki's exquisite images of water water everywhere. Malick's most puzzling and fragmented film to date with Christian Bale's Hollywood type wandering like an ethereal observer through the memories of his life...perhaps, for Malick offers no clues, but one thing's for sure, the film features one of the most breathtaking visions of Los Angeles in some time, surreal and dreamlike and strangely clean and empty. If there was one point of distraction from the beautiful visuals it was the soundtrack which raids selections from a number of modern composers like Arvo Part and Gorecki as well as contemporary electronic artists like Explosions in the Sky, Burial and significantly Biosphere - stunning, of course but frequently throughout the screening my brain was addled trying to put a name to a familiar piece of music. I must re-acquaint myself with Biosphere's Substrata over the weekend...


Friday, 13 November 2015

The Jonestown Death Tape

Death is a million times preferable to another 10 days of this life” intones the lisping voice of Jim Jones… I’m listening to the so-called The Jonestown Death Tape before a screening of the two-part television film Guyana Tragedy: The Jim Jones Story starring Powers Boothe (pictured below) as the fanatical cult leader who walked 918 people to their death in November 1978. The 44min tape recorded moments before the Jonestown massacre makes for chilling listening, as Jones is heard pleading with his congregation to commit their act of “revolutionary suicide”, spreading fear among reluctant Temple members about reprisals for the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan, (“If You knew what was ahead of you, you would be glad to be stepping over tonight”). At one point a dissenter questions Jones’ rationale but Jones calmly shrugs off her argument while more zealous members scornfully shout her down, willingly embracing their leader’s final edict (“We are ready to go!”). It’s voyeuristic stuff for sure, but the tape is out there so….



For anyone interested in Jim Jones, it's worth taking a listen to a short recording of the late American televangelist, pastor, faith healer Robert W. Schambach speaking about the Jonestown massacre. I have no details on the date of the recording, but can be heard opening the 1984 track Ram by the great experimental electronic outfit :Zoviet*France: Listen here...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Beyond the final frontier with...

Dan Dare double page spread from 2000AD Prog 1, the spectacular visuals are by Italian artist Massimo Belardinelli… I’m currently in the grip of a 2000AD obsession at the moment, re-reading the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic from its launch into orbit back in 1977. It would take a few years for 2000AD to settle into the comic I loved back in the mid-80’s but the early strips remain a treat - the ultraviolent beat ‘em up Invasion; the time-travelling 23rd century cowboys harvesting dinosaur meat in Flesh; Dan Dare rebooted for the 70’s with a dose of cynicism and Belardinelli’s swirling psychedelic artwork, and of course Judge Dredd who’s been administering justice to Mega-City One since Prog 2, almost 40 years on the beat. I think the fact that we’re inching closer to Christmas is what inspired me to pick up 2000AD again, the Christmas annual was something I eagerly looked forward to every year. I’m glad I had the foresight to hang on to mine…


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza

Listening to the music of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza and the Italian collective's 1970 album The Feed-Back, a brisk but brilliant 27min suite of improvised avant-rock featuring Ennio Morricone on trumpet. I often see The Group filed alongside improv units like AMM and fellow Italians, Musica Elettronica Viva but the The Feed-Back sounds more at home with Kosmische music - the abrasive textures of early Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, as well as the propulsive motorik of Neu! come to mind. Well worth seeking out. Incidentally, composing credits on the album are assigned to the Group and I wonder if Tim Gane gave the band a nod with Stereolab's 1993 EP The Groop Played "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music"...


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Zona

Finished reading Zona: A Book about a Film about a Journey to a Room, Geoff Dyer’s 2013 book about Tarkovsky’s film Stalker. Dyer’s book is not a scholarly study of the film but a scene-by-scene commentary on a film that has fascinated and obsessed the author for the past 30 years. It’s a short, breezy read (the book can easily be digested in one sitting), and while Tarkovsky students might feel frustrated that the book reveals little new about the film, Dyer has left me with at least one notion that I will take to my next screening of the film. With tongue firmly in his cheek Dyer imagines the mysterious black dog, possibly abandoned or separated from its owner in the Zone, has in fact ventured into the Room and has had its heart’s desire – of being adopted by a loving family – granted. Hence his reappearance in the final act of the film, back in the industrial wasteland of the Stalker’s home, happily lapping milk and finding a gentle companion in the Stalker’s daughter. It’s a lovely idea and it’s a measure of the brilliance of Dyer’s short book that it has increased my love of the film even more. Highly recommended reading.


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Laraaji

Listening to the music of Laraaji this morning, courtesy of the recently released triple cassette collection All In One Peace which gathers together various recordings from the late 70's/early 80's. Laraaji was my big discovery of 2013. I had previously known him for his contribution to Eno's Ambient series, the excellent Ambient 3: Day of Radiance album, but in 2013 All Saints re-issued the luminous 1987 drone work Essence/Universe and two fine compilations of recordings. One thing I like about Laraaji's music is how it's challenged my notions of New Age music, a whole swathe of music I would have instantly dismissed before I delved into Laraaji's back catalogue - his music played on electronically treated zither and hammered dulcimer is a little too hectic to be classed as ambient wallpaper but it's a world away from dreary pan-pipe albums seen propping up counters at health shops. Another revelatory album worth checking out is the excellent and beautifully packaged I Am The Center - Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990...


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The West Wing

Sky Atlantic have started showing The West Wing from scratch this week, fitting nicely into the 5pm slot. Having missed previous opportunities to follow the White House drama, I'm quite excited to finally catch it, and am eager to jump into another political drama after the superb David Simon series Show Me A Hero. I don't know if Martin Sheen's Jed Bartlet will turn out to be a good president but he surely can't be any worse than presidential candidate Greg Stillson...


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Magma

I’ve been spending the morning immersing myself in the music of Magma… It’s taken me a while to reach this point, in less enlightened times, I would often dismiss Magma with the usual prog rock prejudice (always at one’s peril I’ve come to believe) but my interest has been piqued by their association with Jodorowsky’s ill-fated Dune film. I’ve amassed quite an extensive chunk of Magma back catalogue on mp3 (call it a try n’ buy) and am journeying thru the first salvo of albums from the early 70’s. This is not easy music to absorb in a few initial fly-bys - the jazz-rock fusion is formidable, the arrangements knotty and complex with ever shifting time changes and tempos, and the vocals, sung in Magma’s own devised language often sound like they’ve strayed from a bombastic symphonic opera. But perseverance yields rewards and I'm particularly enjoying Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh, perhaps the first of Magma’s signature albums. The evolutionary leap from Kobaïa and 1001° Centigrades is apparent, the jazz-rock workouts abandoned in favor of what might be described as inter-galactic gospel music backed by pounding martial rhythms. The extraordinary vocals which range from operatic to freak-out wailing and shrieking sound to my ear like people swearing in Polish. Truly incredible stuff. Listening to this album, I can better appreciate Alejandro Jodorowsky’s idea of using Magma’s music in Dune to represent the brutal forces of the House Harkonnen...



Speaking of Dune... Unmade movies are the opium dreams of film junkies, and with so much pre-production done on Jodorowsky's Dune there's always that threat that one of the major studios will shoehorn it into a hollow effects extravaganza, diluting Jodorowsky and Moebius' more outrageous inventions (the anal staircase entrance into the Emperor's throne room comes to mind!). My dream of Dune is to see it realized as a huge animated film and looking around at some of the Dune art on the web, the potential for such a film seems limitless. I'm particularly fond of concept artist/illustrator Mark Molnar's Dune artwork at his Project Dune page



Monday, 2 November 2015

Revisiting The Element of Crime

Michael Elphick wades thru a drowned world in The Element of Crime… I watched Lars Von Trier's 1984 debut yesterday evening, my third viewing of the film over the years and it remains as frustrating and dazzling as ever. The Red Dragon-style plot never quite works for me and I find myself too easily slipping in and out of the narrative, but the film’s extraordinary visuals always win me over, with Northern Europe re-imagined as a water-logged terminal rubbish dump, everything cast in a sickly rust sepia. Nick James wrote about the film in last month’s Sight & Sound examining the film’s Tarkovskian elements, most notably the influence of Stalker, both films sharing exhausted leading men and tracking shots of submerged flotsam, but watching The Element of Crime again, Eraserhead and Hard to Be A God came to mind - two other films set in a completely immersive environment. And oddly enough I found myself thinking of Derek Jarman’s The Last of England as well…


Pasolini

Remembering Pier Paolo Pasolini on the 40th anniversary of his death on November 2nd 1975. "It is only at the point of death," Pasolini had said in 1967, "that our life, to that point ambiguous, undecipherable, suspended - acquires a meaning."


Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Pied Piper

I've been listening to Donovan these past few weeks, and while I normally don't like my music so saccharine there are always exceptions. And so this afternoon, with an hour and a half to spare I sat down with The Pied Piper, Jacques Demy's 1972 film starring Donovan as the mysterious minstrel with the power of enchantment. Not exactly Horror fare for Halloween weekend but the film has much to enjoy - the stellar cast of British players, Demy's fluid direction, some terrific sets and costumes and a few interesting parallels with The Seventh Seal and more significantly, The Devils, which must have influenced the look of the film if nothing else. I thought it was interesting that the most sinister element of the tale - of the children being spirited away by a vengeful stranger was given a subtle benevolent twist by suggesting the piper was taking the children out of harm's way of the Black Death and John Hurt's character's plan to conscript Hamelin's children as soldiers to fight a war brewing in Italy. Interesting too was the final shot of the piper and the children effectively evaporating into the ether as dawn breaks over a pastoral meadow - a piper at the gates of dawn as it were...



Saturday, 31 October 2015

Phantom Piano

I had a mind for the month of October to post a song a day themed around Halloween, but having a holiday booked in the second half of the month nixed the idea. Earlier today I was going to post The Specials Ghost Town, with its distinctive and eerie banshee wailing chorus, but I got sidetracked by the memorable cover art adorning the 12" sleeve. Failing to find an artwork credit on my own copy inspired me to roll up the sleeves and do some googling which revealed that the image of the skeletons had previously turned up on an album cover - fronting a 1966 sound effects library LP Sounds to Make You Shiver (which features appropriately enough something called Phantom Piano). After some more digging I found the original photograph which apparently was taken at a Belgian medical exhibition - the photograph so far untitled and the date unrecorded. Anyone have any additional info ?





Thursday, 29 October 2015

Trek Lit

It won’t mean much to non-Trekers, but I've recently been dipping my toes into the plasma stream of Star Trek literature, a veritable galaxy of novels and stories encompassing the Original Series right thru to Enterprise and the films and spinning off into its own self-contained universe of Star Trek continuity and mythology. For someone like me, whose watched all the series and films (and am currently getting into Enterprise), it’s an exciting discovery, and I've completed my first installment of Trek-lit with David Mack’s 2007-2008 Destiny series, a fantastic trilogy of novels, largely set during The Next Generation era (but skillfully dipping between different timelines) which sees the Federation brought to its knees by a massive Borg invasion. I have no reservations in saying the Destiny books have been some of my best science fiction reading in years and after finishing that trilogy I’ve gone straight into another - The Eugenics Wars which over the course of three novels introduces Kirk’s nemesis Khan Noonien Singh, his rise to power on Earth and his banishment on Ceti Alpha V (which chronologically speaking comes between the Original Series episode Space Seed and the Wrath of Khan film. Phasers set to stun !