Behold Moebius’ Many Psychedelic Illustrations of Jimi Hendrix


The 1995 release of posthumous Jimi Hendrix compilation Voodoo Soup has divided fans and critics for over two decades now. But whatever its merits, its cover art should hold an honored place in every Hendrix fan’s collection. Drawn by the legendary cult comic artist Moebius from a photograph of Hendrix eating soup in France , it captures the sound Hendrix was moving toward at the end of his life—his head exploding in flames, or mushroom clouds, or pink psychedelic bronchial tubes. The image comes from a larger gatefold, excerpted below, which Moebius drew for the French double LP Are You Experienced/Axis: Bold as Love in 1975.

Journalist Jean-Nöel Coghe was supposedly very upset that he did not even receive mention for taking the original photo, but in the nineties he and Moebius came together again for a project that would do them both credit, a book called Emotions électriques that Coghe wrote of his experiences traveling through France as Hendrix’s guide during the Experience’s first tour of the country in 1967.




Moebius provided the book's illustrations, many of which you can see below, “each of them,” as the publisher's description has it, “imagining Hendrix in a classic Moebius landscape of dreams.”

 

Obviously a huge Hendrix fan, Moebius is in many ways as responsible for the psychedelic space race of the 1970s as the guitarist himself. His work in the French comic magazine Métal hurlantHeavy Metal in the American version—epitomized the sci-fi and fantasy elements that came to dominate heavy rock. His work with Alejandro Jodorowsky on the Chilean visionary filmmaker’s aborted Dune is the stuff of legend.

Moebius had illustrated album covers since the early seventies, mostly those of European artists. But his creations as a magazine and comics illustrator (and film scenarist) have the most enduring appeal for much the same reason as Hendrix’s music. They are both unparalleled masters and natural storytellers whose imagined worlds are so richly detailed and consistently surprising they have birthed entire genres. The two may have crossed paths too late to actually work together, but I like to think Moebius carried on the spirit of Hendrix in a visual form.

It may not be common knowledge that Hendrix hated his album covers, leaving detailed notes about them for his record company, who ignored them. His own choices, one must admit, including a Linda McCartney photo for the cover of Electric Ladyland that makes the band look like they’re on the set of a proto-Sesame Street, do not exactly sell the records’ treasures. But Jimi might have loved Moebius’ interpretations of his headspace, a visual continuation of a prominent strand of Hendrix's imagination. See all of Moebius' Hendrix illustrations here.

 

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Musical Instruments in Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights Get Brought to Life, and It Turns Out That They Sound “Painful” and “Horrible”

Welcome to The Garden of Earthly Delights.

You’ll find no angelic strings here.

Those are reserved for first class citizens whose virtuous lives earned them passage to the uppermost heights.

Down below, stringed instruments produce the most hellish sort of cacophony, a fitting accompaniment for the horn whose bell is befouled with the arm of a tortured soul.

How do we know that's what they sounded like?




A group of musicologists, craftspeople and academics from the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments at the University of Oxford, took it upon themselves to actually build the instruments depicted in Hieronymus Bosch’s action-packed triptych—the hell harp, the violated lute, the grossly oversized hurdy-gurdy

...And then they played them.

Let us hope they stopped shy of shoving flutes up their bums. (Such a placement might produce a sound, but not from the flute’s golden throat).

The Bosch experiment added ten more instruments to the museum’s already impressive, over-1000-strong collection of woodwinds, percussion, and brass, many from the studios of esteemed makers, some dating all the way back to the Renaissance.

Unfortunately, the new additions don’t sound very good. “Horrible” and “painful” are among the adjectives the Bate Collection manager Andrew Lamb uses to describe the aural fruits of his team’s months-long labors.

Might we assume Bosch would have wanted it that way?

Brandon McWilliams, the wag behind Bosch’s wildly enthusiastic, f-bomb-laced review of thrash metal band Slayer’s 1986 Reign in Blood album, would surely say yes, as would
Alden and Cali Hackmann, North American hurdy-gurdy makers, who note that Bosch’s painterly desecrations were not limited to their personal favorite instrument:

Bosch and his contemporaries viewed music as sinful, associating it with other sins of the flesh and spirit. A number of other instruments are also depicted: a harp, a drum, a shawm, a recorder, and the metal triangle being played by the woman (a nun, perhaps) who is apparently imprisoned in the keybox of the instrument. The hurdy-gurdy was also associated with beggars, who were often blind. The man turning the crank is holding a begging bowl in his other hand. Hanging from the bowl is a metal seal on a ribbon, called a "gaberlunzie." This was a license to beg in a particular town on a particular day, granted by the nobility. Soldiers who were blinded or maimed in their lord's service might be given a gaberlunzie in recompense.

To the best of our knowledge, no gaberfunzies were granted, nor any sinners eternally damned, in the Bate Collection’s caper. According to manager Lamb, expanding the boundaries of music education was recompense enough, well worth the temporary affront to tender ears.

via Metafilter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City tonight as host of Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Fender Stratocaster Made Out of 1200 Colored Pencils

Alder and Ash. These woods have traditionally made up the body of the Fender Stratocaster. Crayola colored pencils? They were never part of the mix ... at least until now.

Above, Burls Art gives it a go. In nine minutes, they take you through the making and playing of the Crayola Strat, from start to finish. Aficionados, feel free to argue over the tonal qualities of this new fangled creation.

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Philip Glass Finishes His David Bowie Trilogy, Debuting His Lodger Symphony

Sometimes I feel
The need to move on
So I pack a bag
And move on
Move on

--David Bowie, “Move On”

We might have been calling it the Lake Geneva Trilogy, given David Bowie’s recuperative sojourn in Switzerland after the emptiness he felt in L.A. The first album in the Berlin Trilogy, Low, was mostly recorded in France, and the last album of the trilogy, Lodger, in Montreaux in 1979. But they were almost all written in, around, and about Berlin, where Bowie found what he was looking for—a more rarified form of isolation—or as he puts it, “virtual anonymity…. For some reason Berliners just didn’t care. Well, not about an English rock singer, anyway.”

Bowie’s wife Angela remembers that “he chose to live in a section of the city as bleak, anonymous, and culturally lost as possible…. He took an apartment above an auto parts store and ate at the local workingman’s café. Talk about alienation.” The feeling pervades all three albums to different effect, but Lodger takes things in a far edgier, more cacophonous direction. Removed from Bowie’s time of soaking up krautrock and producing his roommate Iggy Pop’s solo albums, recorded as his marriage dissolved, it is the sound of jaded cultural and relational dislocation.




“A lot more chaos was intended” on Lodger says Tony Visconti, and it is on these rocks that composer Philip Glass foundered for 23 years. In the 90s, he began his own trilogy, of symphonies based on the renowned Bowie/Eno/Visconti collaborations. Lodger hung him up because it “didn’t interest me at all,” he tells the Los Angeles Times. Despite its wild experimentalism, he heard "no original ideas on that record.”

Glass gravitated towards the melodies of the first two albums, releasing his Low symphony in 1993 and the equally inspired Heroes in ’96. Finally, just this week, he premiered Lodger, with venerable American composer John Adams conducting, in Los Angeles on what would have been Bowie’s birthday, January 8th.

Though Glass never shared his thoughts about Lodger with Bowie, he may not have needed to. Bowie himself felt that “Tony [Visconti] lost heart a little” during the recording “because it never came together as easily as both Low and “Heroes” had. This had a lot to do with my being distracted by personal events in my life," he says, though "I would still maintain thought that there are a number of really important ideas on Lodger.” It is on the ideas that Glass seized. “The writing was remarkable. It was someone who had created a political language for themselves.”

While Glass’s other Bowie symphonies drew directly from the albums’ music (the Low symphony opens with the cinematic theme from “Subterraneans”), “What I was going to do on Lodger,” says Glass, “had nothing to do with the music that was on the record.” He realized that he had been given “a whole piece by a very accomplished writer and artist who had a vision of the world” in the lyrics. Employing the unique voice of singer Angélique Kidjo, Glass made what he calls “a song symphony” using seven of the “texts” (he left off “Look Back in Anger,” “D.J.” and “Red Money”).

Glass takes these “poems” as he calls them and weaves them into his own musical fabric. He’s “unconcerned,” writes Randal Roberts at the L.A. Times “with what Bowie would have thought of his method,” but he remembers Bowie was most struck in his other symphonies by “the parts that didn’t sound very much like the original.” At the top of the post, hear “Warszawa” from Glass’s Low symphony and listen to his other Bowie-inspired pieces on Spotify. The Lodger symphony will make its European premier at the Southbank Centre in London in May of this year, and we should hope to see a recording released soon.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Hu, a New Breakthrough Band from Mongolia, Plays Heavy Metal with Traditional Folk Instruments and Throat Singing

Maybe you’re jaded, maybe you think it’s time for heavy metal to finally hang up its spikes, maybe you think there’s nowhere else for the world’s most theatrically angry music to go but maybe bluegrass…. Or maybe Mongolia, where folk metal band The Hu have been inventing what they call “Hunnu Rock,” a style combining Western headbanging with instruments like the horsehead fiddle (morin khuur) and Mongolian guitar (tovshuur). “It also involves singing in a guttural way,” Katya Cengel points out at NPR—no, not like this, but in the manner of traditional Mongolian throat singers.

Now YouTube sensations with millions of views of its two videos for “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem,” the band plans to release its first album this spring, after seven years of hard work. The Hu are not flash-in-the-pan internet fame seekers but serious musicians who didn’t quite expect this degree of attention, or so they say. “When we do this,” said guitarist Temka, “we try to spiritually express this beautiful thing about Mongolian music. We think we will talk to everyone’s soul through our music. But we didn’t expect this fast, people just popping up everywhere.”




University of Wisconsin Kip Hutchins, a doctoral student in cultural anthropology, has taken an interest in the band and thinks their appeal, writes Cengel, has to do with how “the story of Mongolia has been written in the West. Nomadism and horse culture has been romanticized, and the emphasis on freedom and heroes tends to appeal to the stereotypical male heavy metal fan.” The band’s themes focus on past national triumphs, the legendary rule of Genghis Khan, and the glorification of the nomadic warrior’s life.

Or so it would seem to Westerners parsing their lyrics in English. It may also be hard to read “Hey you traitor! Kneel down!” in a song about “taking our Great Mongol ancestors names in vain” and not think about metal’s role in a few violent ultra-nationalist scenes. Some suggest the songs are ironic or translate differently to Mongolian listeners. Or that the band might be a sophisticated satire, like Laibach, using nationalist themes, costumes, and dramatic settings on the steppes to critique nationalist narratives.

One observer who knows the culture suggests it's more complicated. The Hu are not mocking traditional Mongolian culture and history, far from it. “The graphic visuals used in the video certainly evoke pride in our nomadic culture,” writes Batshandas Altansukh, “but the lyric is quite the contrary. It’s very political and highly critical of today’s Mongolian society” and what the band sees as their country’s propensity for “emptily boasting about the past” rather than actually learning about and respecting it (with motorcycle gangs riding across the plains).

The lyrics we read in translation are apparently "too westernized or simplified” to really get their point across and slogans like “taking our great Mongol ancestors names in vain,” Cengel points out, “are almost exactly what was sung in the late 1980s during the transition to democracy”—a means of fiercely asserting an independent cultural identity against the hegemonic Soviet Union. Mongolian folk rock and jazz bands picked up the sentiment and Mongolian hip hop acts promote respect for the country’s traditions with new dance moves.

But whether or not The Hu’s politics get wrongly interpreted, or ignored, by their millions of new fans, it’s clear that people get it at the universal level of metal’s communal frequencies: long hair, leather, guitars, growling, and epic medieval badassery.

via NPR

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Actress Lucy Lawless Performs the Proto-Feminist Comedy “Lysistrata” for The Partially Examined Life Podcast


Remember Lucy, aka Xena the Warrior Princess, perhaps better known to younger folks as Ron Swanson's (eventual) wife on Parks and Recreation? Before her career re-launched via major roles on Spartacus, Salem, and Ash vs. Evil Dead, she took some time off to study philosophy and so got involved with The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast, which is coming up on its 10th birthday and has now been downloaded more than 25 million times.

She has now joined the gang for cold-read on-air performances with discussions of Sartre's No Exit, Sophocles's Antigone, and most recently Aristophanes's still-funny proto-feminist comedy Lysistrata. For the discussion of this last, she was joined by fellow cast member Emily Perkins (she played the little girl on the 1990 TV version of Stephen King's "IT") to hash through whether this story of stopping war through a sex-strike is actually feminist or not, and how it relates to modern politics. (For another take on this, see Spike Lee's 2015 adaptation of the story for the film Chi-Raq.)

And as a present to bring you into the New Year, she provided lead vocals on a new song by PEL host Mark Linsenmayer about the funky ways women can be put on a pedestal, projected upon, unloaded upon, and otherwise not treated as quite human despite the intention to provide affection. Stream it right below. And read the lyrics and get more information on bandcamp.com.

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The “David Bowie Is” Exhibition Is Now Available as an Augmented Reality Mobile App That’s Narrated by Gary Oldman: For David Bowie’s Birthday Today

Maybe it’s too soon to divide pop music history into “Before David Bowie” and “After David Bowie,” but two years after Bowie’s death, it’s impossible to imagine pop music history without him. Yet, if there ever did come a time when future generations did not know who David Bowie is, they could do far worse than hear Gary Oldman tell the story. Luckily for them, and us, Oldman narrates the new David Bowie augmented reality app, which launches today on what would have been the legend’s 72nd birthday.

Bowie and Oldman were both born and raised in South London. They became friends in the 80s, starred together in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film Basquiat, and collaborated on the 2013 video for “The Next Day,” in which Oldman plays a sleazy, ducktailed priest. As much the consummate changeling in his medium as Bowie, Oldman brings a fellow craftsman’s appreciation to his role as docent, without any sense of star-struckness. “I see him less as ‘David Bowie,’” he once remarked, “and more as Dave from Brixton and I’m Gary from New Cross.”




The app is based on the sensational 2013 Victoria & Albert museum exhibition David Bowie Is, which traveled the world for five years before ending at the Brooklyn Museum this past summer. Focused on “the colourful, theatrical side of Bowie,” Tim Jonze writes at The Guardian, the show drew “a staggering 2m visitors” with its stunning breadth of costumes, props, sketches, lyrics sheets, film, and photography. The digital version intends, however, not only to “recreate the experience of going to the exhibition,” but “to better it.”

Learn how “Dave from Brixton” (or Davy Jones, before a Monkee of the same name came along) made “sketches proposing outfits for his teenage band the Delta Lemons (brown waistcoats with jeans).” See how that young aspiring crooner learned to love “hikinuki—the Japanese method of quick costume change that he experimented with during his Aladdin Sane shows at Radio City Music Hall.” The exhibition brilliantly fulfilled his own wishes for his legacy. “As Bowie himself puts it,” Jonze writes, “he didn’t want to be a radio, but a colour television.”

Bowie probably would have been pleased to have his friend Gary hosting his variety show. But does the AR app match, or better, the real thing? It’s “no match for seeing the costumes in real life,” or seeing Bowie himself in the flesh. But for the millions of people who never got the chance—a category that will soon include everyone—it may currently be the best way to experience the musician/actor/writer/one-man-zeitgeist’s career in three dimensions. See a preview of the app from Rolling Stone, above, and download the AR David Bowie Is for iPhone and Android via these links. The cost is $7.99.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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