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England’s Hidden Reverse

Most people interested in the intersections between music, the occult, subversive psychedelia and English eccentricity represented by bands such as Coil, Nurse With Wound and Current 93 will have either read or heard of David Keenan’s history of these artists, England’s Hidden Reverse. Those who have only heard of it will probably have been frustrated for years by the fact that the book has been out of print / hard to find / excruciatingly expensive.

Help is at hand! Esteemed underground publishers Strange Attractor have been labouring tirelessly to bring this essential tome back to life, and here it is:

England's Hidden Reverse cover

Based around hundreds of hours of interviews with members of Coil, Nurse With Wound and Current 93 as well as contemporaries, friends and associates, EHR illuminates a shadowy English underground scene whose work accented peculiarities of Englishness through the links and affinities they forged with earlier generations of the island’s marginals and outsiders, such as playwright Joe Orton, writers like death decadent Eric, Count Stenbock, ecstatic mystic novelist Arthur Machen and occult figures like Austin Osman Spare and Aleister Crowley.

While functioning as an obsessively researched biography of the three interrelated groups EHR also works to track the trajectory of their influences, explicating a reverse current that runs counter to the mainstream. Written over a period of six years and first published in 2003, the book flits between John Balance and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson of Coil’s original Threshold House in Chiswick and the old boys’ school they later moved to in Weston-super-Mare to Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound’s goat farm and visionary art environment in Cooloorta in Southern Ireland to the roof of a house in Muswell Hill where David Tibet of Current 93 receives a vision of Noddy crucified in the sky. From there it moves further back and faster; to eye witness accounts of early Whitehouse performances; to the formation of Throbbing Gristle and the birth of industrial music; to the last moments of the visionary painter Charles Sims; to Angus MacLise, ex-of the Velvet Underground, casting his poem Year as a work of elementary magic; to Shirley Collins, AE Housman and Denton Welch’s visions of England in eternity.

PLUS: 120-page A5 zine with all new, exclusive interviews and imagery from more provocateurs of the EHR universe: including Alex Binnie, Antal Nemeth, Chris Carter, Colin Potter, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Drew McDowell, Ivan Pavlov, Jill Westwood, Jordi Valls, Matthew Levi Stevens, Paul Hurst and Christine Glover of Produktion, Robin Rimbaud and more TBC.

Support independent publishing and buy direct from Strange Attractor.

The Battle of the Beanfield

Thirty years ago today.

Wilhelm Reich documentary Kickstarter appeal


There’s a Kickstarter appeal to fund a documentary film on the life and work of Wilhelm Reich. It looks like an important attempt to finally get the real story of this remarkable figure out there, to widen awareness of his work and achievements, and to lay to rest the lingering distortions seared into historical memory by the book-burning stiffs of the U.S. government.

The appeal is very close to reaching its $168,500 goal, and there’s 4 days left.

If you’ve any spare funds at all, and want to contribute to an important bit of cultural and scientific history, head over and chip in!

Please spread the word if you can.

Launch event for my book North


I’m pleased to announce that my talk on November 25th, at the Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness salon in the October Gallery in London, will also be the official launch event for North: The Rise & Fall of the Polar Cosmos.

I’ve spoken at the ECC salon before, about my War & the Noble Savage book, and it’s a regular haunt for myself and a bunch of friendly, fascinating people. Seems like the ideal place to launch North into the cosmos.

There’s an entrance fee – £7 or £5 concessions – but the book will be on sale at half price. There’s no pre-sales of tickets – just turn up at 6pm for a 6.30 start to make sure you get in. If you’re planning on coming along, please join the event on Facebook to give us an idea of numbers.

Look forward to seeing you there!

North: The Rise & Fall of the Polar Cosmos


So, this is why the Dreamflesh blog has been quiet for quite a while. This is the book I’ve been working on for a good seven years, and which has roots stretching all the way through my adult life.

There’s an accompanying website where you can find out more about the book, and where I have been and will be posting a wide array of related material: sections that had to be cut from the book developed into essays, extended footnotes, alternative perspectives and corrections, book reviews, interesting links… If you’re interested in cosmology, animism, anthropology and ecopsychology (which I’m guessing you are if you’re reading Dreamflesh!), then do follow this website. There’s an RSS feed, and stuff will be cross-posted on Facebook and Twitter. There’s also an email list, which you can sign up for at the top and bottom of each page on the site – you’ll get notified of all new content on the site.

Most importantly, please support independent publishing by buying the book direct from Strange Attractor.

Please spread the word!

Weekend Other World


My long-awaited book, North: The Rise and Fall of the Polar Cosmos, is in the final stages of preparation for the printers. It’s due out near the end of this year, published by the fantastic Strange Attractor Press. The website will be launched soon. It’s all happening.

I’ll be doing at least a few talks to coincide with the launch of the book, and first in line is Weekend Other World, an exciting event put together by English Heretic.

English Heretic and Exploring The Extraordinary present ‘Weekend Other World’. An evening and day of kaleidoscopic discussions, screenings, and performances at the intersection of film, fiction, music, anthropology, cosmology and occultism.

Friday 24th October – Apiary Studios Hackney
Electricity and Nature, Megalithic Drone, 21st Century occult rock Performances by: Teleplasmiste * Matthew Shaw * English Heretic

Saturday 25th October – Cinema Museum, Kennington
We gather some of the finest researchers, curators and artists in the fields of extraordinary experience and outre culture to look at music, film and fiction from magical, cosmological and anthropological perspectives. Weekend Other World attempts to define a rigorous yet creative approach, cross-pollinating various disciplines to breed new genres of research, artistic expression and cultural theory,

Dr James Riley * Will Fowler * Dr Hannah Gilbert * Lisa Cradduck & Adelle Stripe * Gyrus * The Quietus * Unearthing Forgotten Horrors * Evie Salmon * Jack Hunter * Andy Sharp

Followed by a screening of the 16mm print of Derek Jarman’s In The Shadow Of The Sun

I’ll be talking about the films The Thing and The Truman Show, using them to inspect the strange post-Copernican mutations of archaic cosmological motifs.

More details and tickets over at the English Heretic website.

Hugh Brody at the October Gallery

hugh brody

Next up at the October Gallery in London, on Tuesday October 29th, we’ve got the anthropologist and filmmaker Hugh Brody. He’ll be discussing his 40-year career studying, living with, and fighting for hunter-gatherer peoples such as the Inuit and the Kalahari Bushmen.

Anyone curious about Hugh’s work can check out his brilliant book The Other Side of Eden and the Tracks Across the Sand DVD.

I’ve you’re on Facebook, please join the event to give us an idea of numbers (you may need to join the Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness group first). The event will start at 6pm, and tickets will be on the door for £7 (£5 concessions).

Hope to see you there!

Lucumi talk at the October Gallery

Daniela de Armas

This autumn, the founder and host of the Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness lecture series, David Luke, is on sabbatical in the wilds of Wales. He’s passed the baton on to yours truly to bring you some stimulating Tuesday evening salons at the October Gallery in London.

First up, next Tuesday 24th September, is Daniela de Armas, a London-based Priestess of Ochun in the Lucumi tradition, and director of the London Lucumi Choir. Lucumi (also known as Santeria or La Regla de Ocha) is a syncretic religion of West African and Cuban origin, influenced by and mixed with Catholicism. Daniela will talk about how her stroll along the Lucumi path connected her to God, Nature, and Spirit, and hopes to dispel some myths about this tradition. She particularly wants to look talk about how this religion can be important in connecting with Spirit in an urban environment, and how balance, good character, and a relationship to ancestors are central to the philosophy of Lucumi.

If you can RSVP on the event page on Facebook, we can better anticipate numbers (you’ll have to request to join the Ecology, Cosmos & Consciousness group first). But you can just turn up if you want—all tickets on the door. It’s £7, £5 concessions. Arrive 6pm for a 6:30pm start.

There’s two other lectures lines up. On 29th October we’re lucky to have renowned anthropologist and film-maker Hugh Brody, author of the brilliant The Other Side of Eden and director of Tracks Across the Sand, talking about his life working with hunter-gatherer cultures. And on 26th November we’re equally lucky to have artist and musician Amodali, formerly of pagan industrial band Mother Destruction, introducing some of the themes from her forthcoming book The Marks of Teth, which documents 25 years of research and practice within the sphere of female initiatory magical formulas and praxis.

Hope to see you there!

Photo of Daniela by Nadjib Le Fleurier; peacock feathers image, CC licensed by Rose Mendoza

Tracks Across the Sand

Tracks across the Sand DVD cover

I just finished watching a remarkable DVD from anthropologist / filmmaker Hugh Brody. Tracks Across the Sand follows the progress of a land claim made by ‡Khomani San people, hunter-gatherers indigenous to the Kalahari Desert, who were driven into destitute exile in townships by European colonists.

I first encountered Hugh Brody’s work recently in the form of his marvellous book The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World. It chronicles his experiences among Canadian Inuit communities, and is one of the most intelligent and sensitive examinations of what was lost in the transition between foraging and agriculture that I’ve read. It lacks both naivety and cynicism—a rare achievement in writing about precivilized cultures. The dominant theme is that of place. Paradoxically, it is us “sedentary” farmers who have, in the long run, been the rootless wanderers lacking deep connection to place; and it is the nomadic hunters who, in fact, come to bond with a particular region intimately, engendering an interweaving of nature and culture that is unique.

Brody was involved, in the ’70s, in helping some Inuit reclaim lost territories, by mapping the recollections of elders who could remember the time before they were exiled from their native lands. When Brody ended up in South Africa in the late ’90s, to learn about the famed San “click” languages, he happened to meet Nigel Crawhall, a sociolinguist who was doing research in support of a land claim recently initiated by a group of ‡Khomani San. Brody became involved in the claim and the efforts to map the people’s ancestral connection to the land. Being a filmmaker, naturally he brought along his camera.

Rather than cut a regular-length documentary from the 130+ hours of footage, Brody decided to release this DVD, which features themed segments and interviews that run to around 4.5 hours. It’s worth watching every minute.

Especially moving is the discovery, during research for the land claim, of old women who still speak the presumed-dead Nǀuu language. One woman is found, then three sisters. They are played recordings from the ’30s, and understand them perfectly. As they are being interviewed, watched by curious children, they remark that this is probably the first time their grandchildren have heard them speak Nǀuu. By the end of the process, they are spending time teaching the apparently enthused kids. They’re realistic about the slim role that the language will play in their cultural future. But merely seeing this incredible thread of ancient culture, almost severed, in the process of potentially re-spinning itself, is an astonishing thing to have captured on film.

The film doesn’t shy away from the huge problems faced by the San. Even after the claim’s success, the people relocated back to their ancestral lands face battles with alcohol and violence. But in their willingness to forgive the wrongs visited upon them by European colonists, and their pragmatism and canniness in the face of the unavoidable modern world, there’s much hope for the future. And their unreserved joy at being back in the places that form part of their being is a delight to be aware of.

The DVD can be purchased for around $40 from Face to Face Media.

Here’s the trailer:

Climbing Ben Nevis for Survival International

On 1st June 2013 I’m doing the 11-mile trek up Ben Nevis to raise money for Survival International. Survival is the only organization working worldwide for tribal people’s land rights and human rights.

I’ve been writing about indigenous cultures for a while now, exploring their spiritual beliefs and myths, and more recently examining the current debates about violence in indigenous societies and in pre-agricultural history. My forthcoming book expands on this research. I’ve decided to do something to more direct to support the ever-threatened rights of tribal peoples.

In the current economic climate, naturally everyone’s being squeezed. And while naturally I support the fight for greater equality in developed countries, I can’t help feeling that those at the very bottom of the scale of our modern vision of “progress” are going to be squeezed the most—and deserve extra support. Even as the supposed pinnacle of this scale, our own capitalist economies, teeter and founder, and continue to damage the environment, we try to convince ourselves that people who still sustain their lives through simple technologies and small-scale living are “primitive” and unworthy. At best, they should be folded into the modern world. I think they, like all peoples, should retain their self-determination. Survival deserve more support in helping them do this, in the face of unstable but still arrogant modern power.

If you can please help by sponsoring me via my Virgin Money Giving page. Every little helps, and you can donate any time up to a month after the event (the deadline is 30th June).

Thank you!