Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. as some of you may be aware is an album by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, and related endeavors. My friend Carl Glover of Aleph Studio has been responsible for the design of a fair quota of Steven Wilson releases over the years, and asked me to chip in with this one. Specifically he asked me in my capacity as someone familiar with Mexican codices who might be able to come up with hieroglyphs corresponding to four phrases, one of these being the album title itself. The design of the album and its accompanying material were, as I understood it, then a work-in-progress, so although Carl wasn't sure how my hieroglyphs were to be used, or if they were to be used, it seemed like a good idea to have the material on hand. I'm not particularly familiar with Steven Wilson's music, aside from some of the Bass Communion stuff from a while back, but I met him a couple of times around Carl's place and he seemed like a decent guy, and this sounded like it would be a fun thing to do. I translated the four phrases into hieroglyphic form to the best of my abilities, and then faked a pseudo-anthropological essay to explain why the images weren't just some incomprehensible shit I'd thrown together, and in case it was of any use in terms of the finished creation.

In the end only one of the hieroglyphs proved useful, converted to monochrome as something resembling a clay-stamp and appearing amongst the material accompanying a limited edition deluxe version of the album, a limited edition which apparently sold out prior to release. I'm reproducing my original material here for anyone who may be interested, fans of Porcupine Tree or whoever, because it was fun to do, and quite gratifying to see it used, even as just a weird little detail.

The San Antonio Fragment comprises a single page of bark paper divided into four numbered images painted in the Mixteca-Puebla style most closely associated with Codex Borgia and others of its group, each accompanied by a written gloss purporting to provide the hieroglyphic images with a Spanish translation, although the meaning of these translations remain ambiguous, as does the precise correlation of image to gloss. The numbered images are as follows:

I. - Mano no Puede Borrar (Hand Cannot Erase)
There has been some degree of debate as to whether the gloss of the San Antonio Fragment was a significantly late addition to the page, perhaps as an effort to interpret the symbols based on something besides the testimony of the original artist (Tedlock, 1974), although most feel it likely that the first of the set rules out this probability, the gloss being too specific (and one might suggest idiosyncratic) an interpretation to have resulted from an approximation of the kind which is difficult to avoid in the interpretation of Mixteca-Puebla symbology. The reason for this given by Manolo (1982) is simply that the gloss offers hand rather than arm, which might appear the more obvious interpretation, even given that the full arm specifically denotes an action. In this instance the action is the destruction or erasure of some object. The familiar water glyph to the left of the image would appear to serve a phonetic purpose with the stem of a-tl (water) creating a phoneme for the negative prefix a- thus stating that the hand here cannot erase.

II. - Aparato Arcano Encendido (Arcane Handset On)
In this image the action is denoted by the ollin glyph representing red and blue intertwined strands of rubber in turn denoting implicit force, and specifically the implicit force of a bow driven fire drill, the action of which is made clear by both the presence of an operating hand and volutes of smoke. The consensus translation here gives this as representing an object to which one would refer as a handset, although the precise function of that object is possibly not significant. Beneath the volutes of smoke, the distinctive wrinkled lower jaw of an old man seems to serve an adjectival purpose in denoting arcane.

III. - Llave del Esqueleto (Key of Skeleton)
Here a staff of office of striking similarity to that born by the wind God Ehecatl in Codex Borgia (plate 56) is born by a skeletal figure, probably serving to indicate a generic type rather than any specific figure through the abbreviated form of a skull and forearm. The inverted half solar disc appearing as the bottom half of the image perhaps serves to underscore the figure as a generic representative of the dead rather than any more familiar denizen of the rheological underworld. The staff of office would of course serve as a key in so much as it would allow the bearer access to official spaces forbidden to commoners, royal courts and guild offices for example.

IV. - El Coda de sus Antenas (Her Antennas Coda)
Of the four images, this one has presented the greatest challenge for interpreters seeking to connect symbolic language with gloss. The main part of the image would appear to be a solar disc, or at least a celestial object endowed with a listening ear. Gainsborough (1968) disputes that this could really be analogous to antenna, a word which would hardly have held much currency in the late 1600s, but in the absence of any more legitimate grounds for doubt, we must for the present work with that which we are given. The three volutes of speech or song appear to denote a coda or something which qualifies as a closing piece in so much as the third volute is differentiated from the others. The symbology here would simply represent some dualistic concept were only two volutes shown. Finally the curved oyoualli symbol representing female genitalia on the left is interpreted by the translator as a possessive suffix - her antennas. That the oyoualli was apparently left unpainted and incomplete is interpreted by Gainsborough (1968) as indicating that the author may have had a struggle illustrating the concept he had been given. Although this would perhaps account for the somewhat convoluted symbology employed here, it may simply be the case of an artist reluctant to depict that which would incur the wrath of his more prudish Franciscan sponsors.

So there you have it. Anyone requiring a larger, probably downloadable version of the above image should, in theory, be able to find it here. Anyone seeking the Steven Wilson album should hopefully be able to work that one out for themselves given that its been tickling the upper reaches of the album charts in a few countries.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

More Raffy

There's another installment of my Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador strip in the new issue of Southwark Mental Health News, this time a two page job with multiple panels taking more than two seconds to read. The magazine comes highly recommended as, I suppose, one of the last surviving things you could probably truly call a fanzine, assuming you don't count e-zines, which I don't - reviews of stuff you probably won't have heard of, intelligent articles - notably a good one on mental illness as an inevitable byproduct of capitalism - and plenty of hints as to all the stuff that's wrong with western society, just in case you hadn't already worked it out, as a lot of people apparently haven't. Additionally this one comes with Continuity Mad Pride, a free CD of mostly exclusive stuff by Alternative TV, Ceramic Hobs, UNIT, Mex, the Astronauts and others - and it's a proper CD with a case and a cover and everything too, not some hokey CDR shit. I've been listening to it today and it's pretty good.

As to getting hold of one, there are some copies left which will be sent free to people in the UK if they get a postal address to whoever answers when you phone 020 7358 7279 before Sunday the 15th March, or email your address to samhfunding@gmail.com - I believe this gets you on the mailing list for the next ish, even if you're too late for this one.

I have a couple of spare (and free) copies if anyone here in the US wants one, in the event of which, reply to this post with your email address and I will be in touch.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Liberating Earth

Just published is Liberating Earth, an anthology of short science-fiction tales brought together and edited by Kate Orman. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things about it, and Kate Orman's name has become synonymous with a certain standard, so I expect it's worth a look; and it's mentioned here because I painted the cover.

Liberating Earth is available in lovely hardback (or eBook if you have a nose around the site) directly from Obverse Books at this link, and possibly from some other places, but I'm not sure where just yet. Nowhere in North America, I guess. 

In case anyone is interested, I tend to take photographs of my book covers as I paint them, and so I usually have a few work in progress shots for future reference. For Liberating Earth, these are as follows:

...and finally, Cyril?
Finally, Esther, I am indebted to Mrs. R. Simpson of Tonbridge Wells who sent me this naughty carrot...

The links should hopefully take you to my Flickr page where you can see the images without having to scrabble around for a magnifying glass, and the arrow symbol on the right hand side of that page should yield downloads in the event of anyone wanting any of the above for a screensaver or any other non-nefarious purpose.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Cultural Terror

Roughly sixty-five million years ago towards the close of the Cretaceous period, I dabbled in cassette tapes of noisy electronic shite. Noisy electronic shite was the internet when most of you lot were still agonising over Optimus Prime's latest bout of existential nausea in the Transformers comic, and you were probably also listening to the Electric Light Orchestra and watching Michael J. Fox films on a VCR the size of Battersea power station, yer twat.

Amongst the more enthusiastically offensive of my many, many correspondents of the time was the excellent Trev Ward - a lovely bloke in person, and the man behind a tape label known as Zeal SS in 1987 or thereabouts. The SS stood for Severe Systems, naturally. I released a couple of Trev's tapes on my own tape label, and he put out one of mine - a live recording to which he gave the title Death in a Milan Square.

This double cassette compilation was a label sampler comprising excerpts from everything that was available at the time. I'm featured - doing a fairly poor impersonation of Whitehouse as recorded in the sculpture studio at my college in Leamington Spa; as are ESP Kinetic - musical organ of the famous Neil Campbell, Thee Unkommuniti - Tim Gane's group prior to Stereolab, Final - which was the bloke from Godflesh, Asepisis - which was my mate Jez from school making a noise on my stereo, the Apostles, Ashenden, Grey Wolves, and others you may recall if you have a long memory and were into the noisy electronic shite; and it's available for free download here.

I say noisy electronic shite, but the compilation is actually quite varied, even musical providing you're not expecting the Monkees. Some of it may appear extreme to the uninitiated, but it should probably be remembered that this was the decade in which a badly photocopied picture of a concentration camp was probably confronting society with its own inherent hypocrisy whilst hoping to upset you as much as possible, rather than suggesting that concentration camps had necessarily ever been a good thing. I realise there may have been some room for ambiguity in more recent years, particularly amongst those on the fringes of power electronics and certain fat Nazis who seem to be of the belief that the wrong side won the second world war, but if there was any of that here, and I'm pretty sure there wasn't, then I remain unaware of its presence in case that needs stating. We were young and stupid, and it was supposed to be repellant. That was the point.

...and I'm surprised at how good it is to hear this stuff again.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Their Darkest Hour

A few years ago I was in a band called Konstruktivitsts, famously or semi-famously instigated by Glenn Wallis, one time Whitehouse ivory tickler and Throbbing Gristle bag carrier. We recorded one album whilst I was in the band, although my favourite stuff emerged from sessions prior to that, just Glenn and myself at his house in Norwich hammering out a few ideas directly onto his portastudio. Happily Monsieur Y, which was one of these tracks, has resurfaced on a new collection of previously unreleased material from Glenn and Mark. Their Darkest Hour, as the collection is called, is free to download from the Konstruktivists' bandcamp page. Whilst I'm blowing this particular trumpet, you may be interested to know that the cover painting for Konstruktivists' Black December - as originally released on lovely vinyl back in 1984 - is one of mine, and Psykho Genetika - also available from the aforelinked bandcamp page has been described as the greatest industrial album of all time by at least a few people. Personally I wouldn't call it industrial, but it is indeed one powerful fucker of an album, which I would recommend to anybody with a taste for spooky electronics.

Ooh ooh - I also play on Housewife's Choice which is on Kollection 78-95 so you need to buy that one too in order that your archive of all my mighty deeds remaineth complete.

It's okay. I'm joking.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador

For whatever it may be worth, I've recently dusted off my wax crayons and returned to comics, specifically a cartoon strip called Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador for Southwark Mental Health News #126. It's just four panels, but Southwark Mental Health News is something deserving of support, so it seemed worth mentioning here. The magazine is put together by Robert Dellar, author of the excellent Splitting In Two: Mad Pride and Punk Rock Oblivion (published by Unkant, a thumping good read, and reviewed within by Stewart Home) and is more in the line of yer proper fanzine than the list of charity coffee mornings and biscuit making evening classes one might anticipate given the title; and it's print, a physical thing with pages which you hold in your hands, which is nice. Whilst
Southwark Mental Health News is undoubtedly published with a fairly specific readership in mind, it should be of interest to anyone who has ever had any sort of dealing with the psychiatric profession, and not just residents of Southwark (as I was myself about five years ago in case anyone was wondering).

Raffy, by the way, is an actual sniffer dog employed to locate illegal narcotic substances smuggled in by patients at Maudsley hospital, usually tobacco which has been banned from the premises because some fucking genius decided that any person of sufficient derangement as to be sectioned under the mental health act and admitted for treatment, observation or whatever might also benefit from finding themselves additionally forced to give up smoking whilst in the bin because it's so unhealthy and makes your clothes smell blah blah blah... the idea seemed ripe for sarcastic commentary. Also, there are reviews of CDs by UNIT and a couple of groups I've never heard of but who sound worth hearing.

Southwark Mental Health News #126 is free if you (I think) send an A4 stamped addressed envelope to:

Southwark Association for Mental Health,
Cambridge House,
1, Addington Square,
SE5 0HF,
United Kingdom.

...or possibly you could phone 020 7358 7279 and get yourself on the mailing list. I have no idea what you would do should you live outside the United Kingdom, maybe try the phone number, or ask me if you're here in the US as I have a couple of extra copies.

The next issue is supposed to have a free CD of various Mad Pride associated groups which is sure to be well worth a listen, so get yourself on the mailing list if you want to cop one of those.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Andy Martin on Roy of the Aztecs

There haven't been any reviews of my Roy of the Aztecs collection because I haven't bothered to send out any review copies and wouldn't know who to send them to if I did, but - for what it may be worth - I've just had a couple of emails from my friend Andy Martin whom some of you may remember as one time singer of the Apostles, and here's what he said on the 25th September 2014:

I'm now on page 44 of Roy Of The Aztecs and I am amazed I never bothered to read this strip when it was first produced. I've never liked comics, even when they're done by people I know. I remember a few frames you photocopied and stuck on your toilet wall - the famous frame with Roy off his tree on peyotl which ends the trees, the trees.

Basically this is easily one of the cleverest and most hilarious items I've ever read. I laughed out loud on the D6 bus to work today and I chuckled aloud on the 277 on the way back home.

...and then on 26th September 2014:

I finished Roy early this morning - it stopped me going to sleep because I had to read just one more page and then just one more...until I realised I only had 5 more pages to go and so I decided to read on until the end.

The chap with the punk haircut - can't remember his name - who kindly provides preposterously (and obviously) contrived end of strip cliff hangers by playing thoroughly impractical practical jokes - is splendid!

So there you go. That's why you should buy it. If you've no idea what it actually is or what it's about, then please refer to this blog post, and then open your wallet in the general direction of this webpage. If you still have doubts, ignore them. Just buy it.

Ta very much.