Monday, 19 December 2011

Vania Zouravliov

    This artists work is now showcased as part of our 'Some Decadent Illustrators' series. Find it here.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Peter Bell
'Strange Epiphanies'

     Swan River Press, has just announced that it is accepting pre-orders for its forthcoming (March 2012) collection of stories by Peter Bell 'Strange Epiphanies', in an edition of just 200 copies.

     The contents are: 'Resurrection', 'M. E. F.', 'The Light of the World,' 'An American Writer's Cottage', 'Inheritance', 'A Midsummer Ramble in the Carpathians', 'Nostalgia' and 'Death and Melancholy'.

    This has been keenly anticipted for some time and will be a handsome book judging from Swan Rivers previous volumes. Given the quality of Peters writing it may well be o.o.p. on publication.

    Another of Peters tales, 'The Rites Of Pentecost' appears in the Side Reals Press anthology 'Delicate Toxins'.



Thursday, 15 December 2011

An Afternoon With Mel Gordon
(San Francisco 2nd Dec. 2011)

Mel Gordon in Professorial mode

    While in San Francisco it was my pleasure to meet Professor Mel Gordon. He is perhaps best known to the world at large via his numerous books, among them 'Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin', 'Erik Jan Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant' and 'The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of
Three titles by Mel Gordon
Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Depravity'. All are wonderfully, and extensively, illustrated from the authors own archives.

    I had become aware of Berber after obtaining the wonderful 'Gesamtskunstwerk Expressionismus' (I reviewed it 'here') and through that, the extraordinary book jointly penned with her husband Sebastian Droste 'Die Tänze des Lasters, Des Grauens Und Die Ekstase' (1923) which translates as 'Dances of Horror, Vice and Ecstasy'*. It is only a short internet jump to Profesor Gordons biography of Berber, the only one in

Tiburon Main St
English, and a very friendly correspondence ensued, resulting in a meeting for lunch in Tiburon. Tiburon has a touch of architectural fantasy about it - a fantasy in which an architect around 1980 decided to design a shopping mall in the styling of the 'ye old west'. Whist the results of this whim are somewhat odd, both the Mexican food and the views over the bay to downtown San Francisco are excellent, especially  so on a warm and sunny day in late November.

    While we ate, Mel told us many anecdotes concerning his Berber interests, including an account of his staging of  his Berber homage, based on his book and starring Nina Hagen in San Francisco in 1994. Against all his expectations it was a great success; so much so that some burly visitors who were arranging 'security' for the numerous vehicles outside ("cars get damaged Mr Gordon") asked for tickets as part of their payment, as they were impossible to obtain. Quite what they made of the unsimulated sex and drug taking that was part of the show is unknown.

    Dining done, we followed Mels car over the Richmond Bridge to his house in El Sobrante for tea cakes and of course...archive. After chosing cakes, I was handed a folio of erotic etchings of Berber made in 1919 by Charlotte Berend.  The copy I held was one of just 40 copies hand coloured and signed by the artist. As the entire run (80 copies) was suppressed as pornography and destroyed when found, it is an item of the utmost rarity. 

Side Real Press with the Berand folio.
    From then on there was a veritable blizzard of files, photos taken by visitors to the fleshpots of Berlin, guides to nude revues from the 1930s, the self-produced publications of various fascist love cults, Grand Guinol publicity material- the flow seemed endless. This was underpinned by Mels anecdotes on further diverse subjects; his conversations with people who had met Berber, the exact year Jewish humour began, the wonders of ebay, the latter years of Sebastian Droste as a self invented eccentric nobleman in New York and the theory (to which I wholly subscribe) that the ephemera of society is an often overlooked but integral part of its  history. It was hard to pay attention to such with my eyes wandering over the papers arrayed in front of me, and of course I forgot entirely to ask about Ewers, Alraune, and the actress Briget Helm all of which he had mentioned in passing at lunch.

Mel Gordon
    Suddenly it was after five o'clock and time for us to depart, but as a finale Mel fired up a laptop and showed me two twenty second clips of Anita Berber dancing. As no footage is known to exist of her outside her film works I was quite astonished by this, and viewed the clips a few more times as Berber dipped and drifted in grainy silence across the screen. These simple loops were quite magical to behold, and there is the tantalizing prospect that perhaps more footage might exist. A great end to a great afternoon.

    *'Dances of Horror, Vice and Ecstasy', translated by Merril Cole and containing an essay on the book by Mel Gordon, is due to be published by Side Real Press in early 2012. Details will be posted here.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Warm Digits

    Some will know of my love for things German, outside some of its literature, and this includes much of the music (lazily) categorized as 'Krautrock'; bands such as Neu!, Faust, Can and the mighty Kraftwerk.

       If this is also your 'thing' then you may find the band 'Warm Digits' of interest. The influence of the genre (especially Neu!) is apparent; they meld the rhythm and experimentation of that group with an injection of what has been termed 'disco-gleam'. They have a LP - 'Keep Warm' recently released as a double 12" and digital download.

    They are also extremely good live, using live video feeds overlaid with the type of images seen on the album cover as part of their stage show. Not they need them; to watch Andrew Hodson, the  drumer, is entertainment enough.

    Here is a video for one of the tracks from the LP, 'Weapons Destruction'. In this case it is not made with their own visuals, but by the equally clever film makers Deborah Bower, Mat Fleming and Annette Knol using hand assembled pieces of 16mm film.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Hieroglyphic Press

 "We do not want the dregs of the 21st century, the 21st century is Nothing’s Empire. We want the High and the Holy, the Sacred, the Rare."

    It is always a pleasure to promote interesting projects  and this new press is certainly that.

       Run jointly by author Mark Samuals and a man well versed in the byways of European literature Daniel Corrick,  it aims to produce a biannual journal Sacrum Regnum, "an experimental journal, a sort of contemporary Symbolist review" and publish hitherto untranslated books by authors such as Guido Gozzano, Alexandra Macedonski and Stefan Grabinski

    I must confess that the first two names mean nothing to me, but with Grabinski and others on the list of "authors we hold in high esteem" (including Ernst Jünger, Stefan George, Charles Baudelaire, Bruno Schulz, Leon Bloy, Gustav Meyrink, and Gabriele d’Annunzio) they nail their colours to the mast.

    Their schedule of releases is set to begin in Spring 2012.

The website is here.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ajna, Anger and Techicolour Skull 
(Los Angeles 19th Nov. 2011)

Kenneth Anger / Technicolor Skull

    On our recent family visit to California we were able to spend a few days in L.A. 

    The big event that weekend was the official opening of Kenneth Angers show 'Icons' at MOCA with a rare live performance by Brian Butlers band Techicolor Skull; a duo in which Butler pays guitar and Anger theremin.

L-R: Myself, Tyler and Chelsea Davis
    My pleasure was considerably enhanced by meeting Tyler Davis and his wife Chelsea of  The Ajna Offensive prior to, and at, the event. Tyler contributed an essay on the  mandrake to the Side Real Press edition of Alraune and Ajna have just released the debut Technicolor Skull album - they are busy folk.  As you might imagine, we had plenty in common and chatted over tea in a cafe opposite the juggernaut of indie music retail AmoebaThey normally reside in the rural hinterland of Oregon so it was very nice to be able to meet them in the flesh; they are a charming couple and good fun.

   Due to the kindness of Brian (we had previously met in Newcastle as part of the AV festival) I had been placed on the guest list and was also able to have a wander around the exhibition which is divided into two parts.

Brian Butler / Technicolor Skull
    The first is a large room filled with memorabilia from the Anger archive. As one might imagine, there is a considerable amount from the golden age of Hollywood; Valentino publicity photos, posters, newspaper clippings etc, but Anger has also assiduously collected ephemera from the more forgotten stars plus oddities such as a 'signed' Rin Tin Tin photo. This is the type of collecting (and collector) I admire the most - a jackdaws eye for things that others may pass up as too trivial but as a collection finds its worthy place. I was keeping an eye open for Crowley material, but this aspect of Angers interests was sadly not very evident.

    Room two (which was painted and carpeted in red) had a five screen installation showing films from The Magick Lantern Cycle. The relatively small size of the screens (perhaps 3m wide) allowed the audience to wander at will within the installation and at various points in time four of the five screens would freeze frame and the fifth would continue to run whatever film it was showing for a while. This  method worked really well as the element of chance determined what you saw at any particular time. The visuals and sound quality were, as one might expect for MOCA, excellent.

Kenneth Anger / Technicolor Skull
Brian Butler / Technicolor Skull
    The performance itself took place outside on a semi-piazza. It was packed with (one assumed to be) many of the great and the weird of the L.A. scene. To a backdrop compiled from various of Angers films, Butler created a wall of guitar treatments. This was deliberately restrained to allow the squawks and pitches of the theramin to both be heard and to play against them, the overall effect having a crackly feel to it that juxtaposed nicely with the film clips. It was short, perhaps fifteen minutes long. I think had it been much longer the energy generated would have been dissipated as the sound was quite intense.
Kenneth Anger / Technicolor Skull
    Both artists were available to chat and sign autographs after the show, but as I already had another commitment that evening I only managed to thank Brian and say my farewells to Tyler and Chelsea before sliding off into what is something of a rarity in L.A., a rainy night.