More Mail Art From Lestaret

I think i’m probably the recipient of some of the best unsolicited mail in Yorkshire. Sure, I get my fair share of double glazing quotes, credit card application forms and bills but every now and then something really special turns up on my doormat which makes me smile. A couple of days ago, this very envelope was retrieved from the usual tangle of postal rubbish and I knew there would be a rare treat inside;

Envelope1

Envelope2

I always tend to put such envelopes to one side util I can give them my full and undivided attention, that moment didn’t arrive until Tuesday morning and so with hushed reverence I carefully split the top flap and gingerly removed the following item from within;

BookCover

This is a beautifully handmade booklet fashioned by none other than the good Mr Lestaret (who blogs here by the way), that arch mail artist and self-styled purveyor of patented curiology.

Book1

Book2

The paper used throughout appears to have been constructed by pasting sheets of older leaves together and has a wonderfully satisfying tactility about it, particularly at the edges.

Book3

Book4

As with a good many other pieces of Mr Lestaret’s mail art, particularly his booklets it all means absolutely nothing… but also means everything.

Book5

Book6

The end product is all. The feeling and smell when holding a physical book in the hands means more than words can ever hope to convey. There is a sense of love about these objects within their plain brown envelopes, of passion and pride, of being brought into existence just to exist.

I’m extremely proud to know Mr Lestaret personally and eternally pleased to be a recipient of his unique brand of curiology. Long may it continue to arrive through my letterbox!

BookBackStamp

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Gimme More Head

When I originally put together the Gimmie Head article (here) back in December last year, it struck me just how many books I had left over with heads on their covers. In fact, I have just received a package containing two more such volumes from my narrowboat dwelling friend this past month so I thought I might as well do a follow up of sorts. I chose eight titles for the original piece and so for the sake of equilibrium I have done the same here, narrowing my original choice down from a dozen.

As I prepared the books for photographing and checked the design of the previous article, I became aware that I had used two volumes by Algis Budrys in the first piece and have somehow managed to repeat that feat in part two. Maybe Budrys’ cover designers just liked heads…

Mindmix by Leo P. Kelley
1972 – Fawcett Gold Medal
“They gave him another man’s brain and forced him to live in a stranger’s nightmare”
A tagline just crying out for a cover depicting a fragmented head populated by surly strangers. The artist is uncredited for this fantastically unsettling piece.

Kelley Mindmix

Who? by Algis Budrys
1979 – Fontana
A brilliant physicist reconstructed by The Russians and now resembling a “ball bearing on legs” is at the centre of this rather nifty little spy-fi thriller. The cover painting is by Alun Hood.

Budrys Who

Prisoner Of Fire by Edmund Cooper
1977 – Coronet
A tale of telepathy and psychological warfare gone wrong when one the gifted trainees goes missing. Orders from the top of Government dictate that she is hunted down by her own kind and destroyed. Sadly no artist is credited for the brilliant cover.

Cooper Prisoner

Our Friends From Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick
1970 – Ace Books
Great artwork by John Schoenherr from this 1st paperback edition from one of my favourite PKD novels.

Dick Frolix 8

Michaelmas by Algis Budrys
1979 – Fontana
A rather prescient tale featuring Domino, a highly portable computer which allows Laurent Michaelmas to interface with and influence every electronic communications network on the planet. The cover by Alun Hood looks like the titular hero is being fitted with a giant sim card!

Budrys Michaelmas

The Worlds Of Frank Herbert by Frank Herbert
1970 – New English Library
A landscape populated by heads and Salvador Dali-esque upper torsos painted by Jan Parker illustrate this fine collection of Herbert shorts and novellas.

Frank Herbert Worlds

The Inner Landscape – Anthology
1975 – Corgi
An anthology of novellas by Mervyn Peake, J.G. Ballard and Brian W. Aldiss. This superb cover is yet another uncredited piece unfortunately. (Thanks for this one Bernie!)

Inner Landscape

Immortality Inc. by Robert Sheckley
1978 – Peacock Books/Penguin
Excellent story of reincarnation and zombies from Sheckley, the wraparound artwork by Peter Goodfellow is pretty damn good too.

Sheckley Immortality

What The? #2

Herovit’s World by Barry N. Malzberg

1974 – Pocket Books
Cover by Charles Moll

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

Nope, me neither. This cover clearly depicts a sleepy/grumpy naked man exiting a typewriter whose eye is turned upwards as if to say “At least put some pants on mate”. The typewriter is surrounded by orange and green globules of an indeterminate nature and also appears to be wearing a rather dapper matching bow tie. I’d love to have been at the art director’s meeting the day this one was given the go ahead. The shit sure was good back in the seventies man.

Herovit's World Malzberg

Music Is Noise Is Music

I currently have around 8000 LPs in my library. This not an idle boast but a way to begin this article with a sense of context. I am an inveterate collector of music, I constantly seek out more LPs to obtain, listen to and derive pleasure from. I have a television that hasn’t worked for almost two years now and so music and reading are my primary methods of entertainment. I often have music playing whilst I read and frequently have it playing throughout the entire day so the number of thoroughly unexplored albums quoted at the start of this piece diminish my collection rather substantially. I do love music.

But when the music gets to be a bit too, well… musical, what then? I am also a huge fan of music which others might lazily call ‘a load of noise’ but let’s just call it all music anyway for the sake of completeness. I was going to write an article about my favourite pure ‘noise’ LPs of all time but the list grew out of all proportion – it seems I like ‘noise’ an awful lot too. So, in the pursuit of brevity, I thought I’d pick out a few LPs which I play often but which can’t really be termed music in the conventional or accepted sense of the word.

Let’s not forget here that noise is music and music is just noise, those two terms are wholly and completely interchangeable. The following albums shouldn’t be ignored or passed over because of their lack of verse/chorus/verse structuring, try them and see what happens. you may well pleasantly surprise yourself.

Emptyset – Material (Subtext, 2013)

 Emptyset

I’m a huge fan of Emptyset, a duo comprising of Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg. Their earliest work around 2008/2009 is best described as abrasive, glitchy techno although their sound has developed into something completely different in the intervening few years. This short three track EP sees the duo setting up their mighty sound generators inside London’s Ambika P3 concrete bunker, Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Wales, and Chislehurst mine in Kent. The purpose of using these remote, abandoned locations is to unleash vast slabs of speaker wrecking bass subs, sinus clearing static and higher frequency tones than are humanly possible to hear within them and record the results. The whole thing runs at just over 17 minutes but is jaw droppingly intense and impossibly eerie, conjuring up belching echoes, tonal interferences and a whole gamut of sound transference from surfaces within spaces unvisited by humans for many years. In a single word – staggering.

Ryoji Ikeda – Supercodex (Raster-Noton, 2013)

Print

This is the third and final album in a trilogy for German label Raster-Noton by Japanese musician and supreme frequency manipulator Ryoji Ikeda. I came across his two previous efforts Dataplex and Test Pattern earlier this year and had them both on heavy rotation, each one sounding like CDs which had been impossibly abused with all manner of abrasive substances. This final instalment of the trilogy explores the relationship between data and sound and the “invisible multi–substance of data that permeates our world”. Supercodex uses as its raw material sounds taken directly from Ikeda’s previous Dataplex and Test Pattern albums in addition to sources drawn from his other projects and installations. This is raw, uncompromising data presented as music which at times can almost give the impression of a fleeting rhythmic dynamic beginning to develop between the constantly collapsing sonic constructs but mainly fills your listening space with pure, unadulterated 1s and 0s.

Bernard Parmegiani – L’œuvre musicale (INA-GRM, 2008)

Bernard Parmegiani

Last November, Bernard Parmegiani passed away aged 86. I had just managed to get my hands on this twelve CD retrospective of his career and decided to listen to it that day in its entirety as a tribute of sorts to the great man. I was enthralled for the whole of the thirteen hour running time experiencing sounds I had never heard before whilst tapping into a host of emotions hitherto undreamt of. It truly was a perception-changing experience on a number of levels which I’m still coming to terms with. Parmegiani began his career in the French equivalent of the BBC sound department at times working with mentor Pierre Schaeffer using prototype tape machine loops and early microphones – truly the stuff of science fiction back then. He continued working and releasing LPs right up to his sad death. Nothing amongst these discs sounds antique or outdated in the slightest. It’s easy to hear a multitude of the precursors to modern electronic and experimental musical tropes within the tangled web of sounds presented across the dozen discs. If there was ever a release that I would unreservedly rate as essential listening then this is most definitely it. A pure work of sound as art.

This article is dedicated to the life and work of Bernard Parmegiani
(27th October 1927 − 21st November 2013)

What The?

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

This time, a collection of shorts and novellas featuring such luminaries as Frederick Pohl, Lester Del Rey and Philip K. Dick. Published only once in English language by Belmont in 1964, the frankly awful painting is signed ‘Brillhart’ which the isfdb lists as Ralph Brillhart (here). I’m not quite sure why an anthology of authors of this calibre was assigned such a bizarre cover as this, maybe only the art director will ever know.

All I know is that I’ve been deeply puzzled by this one ever since picking it up late last year, it’s all very odd. Very odd indeed.

WTF1

More Poul Anderson Cover Confusion

Last September, I published piece about a set of four Poul Anderson titles I had collected, all of which had covers which I found irritatingly amateurish yet confusingly intriguing. The full article can be read (here) but be warned, it does contain unaccountably odd images and some of the most awful typography known to man. I stated that I was at a loss as to why I liked these covers so much and that maybe the confusion they instilled within me was a major part of it.

Then, late one evening last week whilst browsing eBay another familiar piece of jacket art stared back at me from my iPad, taunting me to click the ‘Buy It Now’ button. I couldn’t help myself and so there it was, A fifth Poul Anderson title which belonged to the original uniform edition of design abominations which I assumed there were only four in number.

When the book arrived through the postbox, it proved to be as strangely confusing as the first four and so for the sake of completeness I thought I’d add it here. Makes me wonder how many more volumes were published as part of this series…

Beyond The Beyond published by Coronet in 1973, the artist is understandably uncredited.

Poul Beyond

And here’s a shot of all four books from the previous article – just in case your mind hadn’t successfully blotted them out;

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Poul2

The Müller-Fokker Effect x 3

I rarely buy the same book twice because a better cover comes along but that’s not to say I never do this. Indeed, I have a library shelf groaning with copies of H.P. Lovecraft volumes bearing many of the same titles but wrapped in different covers. I call these my ‘vanity purchases’, books which will never be read as I already own a perfectly good copy exactly for that very purpose. But then this happened…

One day, I came across a copy of John Sladek’s rather fine novel The Müller-Fokker Effect on eBay for a rather paltry sum and decided to hit the ‘Buy It Now’ button immediately. Here is that very volume published by Pocket Books in 1973 with rather fetching cover art by Gene Szafran;

 MF2

Before the book had even arrived through my letterbox, another copy appeared on eBay bearing a cover extremely similar to a copy of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream OF Electric Sheep which I had purchased earlier that day. I knew I had to have it and again hit the familiar blue button below the listing. A few days later I had both copies sitting on my table for cataloguing, this particular version was issued by Panther in 1972 and has stunning cover art by McInnery;

 MF1

During the brief period of browsing which had uncovered both these volumes, I had noticed a few copies of a third version of this very tome – a first edition hardback no less with a very bizarre psychedelic cover. The starting prices were always over the £45 mark and so I passed them over with a sigh. Then, one evening I stumbled across a copy with a starting price of just £10. I duly clicked the ‘Watch’ button and proceeded to keep an eye on it over the next few days. There were no bids with only one minute to go before the auction ended and so I tentatively placed an offer just over the £10 starter. To my surprise, I won the auction without a single counter bid and so now had three copies of the same book. Published by Hutchinson in 1970 and bearing the most amazing cover drawing by Bill Botten, here’s the front of the dust jacket:

MF3a

Even the rear of the book is great showing Sladek looking like some kind of anarcho-hippie freedom fighter or a member of Hawkwind circa 1976;

MF3b

It’s hard to tell which is the ‘vanity purchase’ here as all the covers are so fantastic (the book is brilliant too by the way) but I think my library would be missing something if I didn’t have all three sitting on its shelves.