Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Moon And The Sledgehammer

The Magician

Strange Attractor Press is probably my favourite source of esoteric lore and wonder. The work they publish is defiantly unpopular, weirdly odd, beautifully designed and intelligently written and their series of journals have provided years of fascinating reading. Despite being in a whirlwind of cultural activity, Strange Attractor Press editor, Mark Pilkington has managed to write an insightful and timely post in celebration of All Souls Day. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

"The Magician was, in fact, an appreciation of my genius such as I had never dreamed of inspiring."

A sly blend of self-depreciating humour and shameless immodesty here, from the Great Beast Aleister Crowley, writing in his Confessions.

An early 1908 potboiler by Somerset Maugham, The Magician features a malevolent svengali-figure, Haddo, clearly based on Crowley, who kidnaps a young sculptor in order to use her flesh and blood to construct a homonculus, a magical being that would, presumably, do his will on Earth. (Though, we might wonder, with his hypnotic abilities wouldn't it have been easier just to hypnotise her into doing his will on Earth?)

Crowley parodied the novel that same year in a piece written for Vanity Fair entitled 'How to Write a Novel! after W. S. Maugam', under the pen name of Maughum's magician, Oliver Haddo. The Magician is not a great book – Maugham later claimed to have forgotten it – and is actually quite dull compared to Crowley's own magical adventure novel of 1917, Moonchild, but it did spawn an interesting and very influential film by one of cinema history's first great directors, Rex Ingram.

Shot in Nice after Ingram refused to kowtow to the newly-formed MGM,The Magician appeared in 1926, at the tail end of the silent era, and makes up for what it lacks in sound with immense gusto and imagination. Highlights include an infernal pagan bacchanalia – bursting with prancing fauns and cackling satyrs –that could be an out-take from Benjamin Christensen's Haxan (1922), a brilliantly designed sorcerer's tower and laboratory, idiot dwarf servant included, that would be a key influence on James Whale's Frankenstein films, and a protracted, epic climax that, while a little slow-moving by modern standards, provides a fascinating insight into the development of the action film.

The film's real lynchpin, however, is it's star, Paul Wegener – as Haddo – who played the Golem in the eponymous 1920 film, which he also directed. Wegener's Haddo scowls, prowls and stares with wonderful hypnotic intensity, pinpoints of light shining in his eyes, effortlessly stealing every scene in which he appears, which, thankfully, is most of them.

Long considered lost, or at least missing, The Magician is finally getting a DVD release and is well worth your time if you're interested in popular representations of occultism, early cinema, horror film, cackling dwarves or leaping satyrs.

The Ragged Ragtime Band, featuring Zali Krishna, Gary Lachman, Frances Morgan, Mark Pilkington and Leila Salay will be performing a live soundtrack to The Magician at The Last Tuesday Society's Hallowe'en spectacular in London on 29 October.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Iceni

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In The Darkness.....

.....coming soon, an immersive mix of spectral sounds by Anworth Kirk and Demdike Stare.

Samhain Mixtape

Haunted Air

"Haunted Air" is a collection of anonymous found photographs which document everyday people in the latter half of the twentieth century celebrating the pre Christain festival of Samhain, otherwise known as All Souls' Day or latterly, Hallowe'en. The book exhales a curious sense of dread and uncanny nostalgia, as each photograph breathes a dull breath of fleeting other worldliness, a strange intangible quality of memento mori. In this book, treasured keepsakes and family heirlooms act as the failed signifier for those once loved, forever obscured by hideous and demonic masks, lost forever.  These images haunt the mind and serve as half remembered memories of a world populated by the then living, dressed up as surreal cadavers, masked witches and malevolent spirits. I highly recommend you seek out a copy. A wonderfully odd and unforgettable book.

I am deeply indebted to the publishers, Jonathan Cape and author, Ossian Brown for supporting the blog by generously sending a review copy.  The book is published by Jonathan Cape on the 28th October, 2010. Here's a little indirectly related footage.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nowhere To Go

Just a little post to say that the ever wonderful Jonny, of Trunk Records is giving away this rather nifty jazz film score EP (free, yes that's right, free) when you subscribe to his mailing list.

Nowhere To Go was a 1958 London crime flick starring a young Maggie Smith and if this soundtrack is anything to go by, the film may also be worthy of your attention.

"Have a listen anyway, it's a curious thing and has some good bits, especially the crazy drum cowbell thing." Jonny Trunk

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tableau Synoptique D’Oreilles D’A. Bertillon

A photograph by Alphonse Bertillon of forty eight ears of french criminals, circa 1900, from the wonderfully titled book "Just Look At His Ears!".

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Walter Potter

Walter Potter [1835-1918] was an English taxidermist who created anthropomorphic dioramas featuring stuffed animals mimicking everyday human life. He opened a museum in Bramber in Sussex, England to cater for the eccentric Victorian love of the macabre.

Ubuweb Website Hacked

Sad news. Ubuweb is probably the single most important online resource devoted to avant garde sound art and film. A potential devastating loss to culture.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sound & Silence

I couldn't resist re posting this fantastic image which was recently posted by Paul of Unmann-Wittering at the Found Objects blog.  The image comes from a book entitled "Sound & Silence" by John Paynter and Peter Aston, which was recently discussed over at the sublime resource which is Toys & Techniques.  The book was originally published as a companion textbook for a 1970 Cambridge University Press recording which was primarily used to encourage creative music and drama in the classroom in the early seventies.  Many years ago, I found two copies of this gem in a school which was closing down, but rather sadly, I never managed to unearth a copy of its accompanying book.  If anyone feels like sending me a copy.....


Fantastic news.  Finders Keepers are venturing into the world of literature with a reprint of David Pinner's proto Wickerman novel. Originally published in 1967 by New Authors Limited, the book has languished in rare obscurity. I just hope Finders Keepers see fit to reprint the wonderful Peter Edwards cover graphics.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Walking To A Farm

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Anworth Kirk

Strange things have been coming through my letterbox of late.  This morning, I received a whole batch of mail related to the blog, a recording of sub aquatic exotica by Dolphins Into The Future, a book on rubber fetish wear and a collection of films made by the artist John Latham.  Also amongst the mail, was an anonymous parcel with scant information as to the identity of the sender.  Slightly anxious that I was being stalked, I set about finding out who had sent it.  It took a while, but eventually, after a little research, I twigged who was responsible. This particular package contained a record, and a very interesting one at that.  At times, the recording sounds like a soundtrack, albeit of the vaguely oddball and twisted kind.  It's a strange mixture of spectral electronics and cunning folk musique concrete.  The disc is immersed in an ill distempered paganism with shimmering moments of intense haunting fragility. The record graphics impart very little information apart from a photograph of Anworth Kirk (a location used in the The Wicker Man film) and a page of a book (which I think relates to the Pendle witchcraft trial of 1612) which was glued onto the back of the hand stitched cover.  I found the music contained spellbinding and for those who enjoyed the recent Broadcast and Focus Group collaboration, they will find much to love about this record. As to when it's actually released, I'll keep you posted.