Music inspired by artist and occultist, Austin Osman Spare

Strange Attractor Press is running a Kickstarter for a unique deck of tarot cards drawn by British artist and occultist, Austin Osman Spare (1886 – 1956).

The deck is a follow-up to Lost Envoy, their wonderful book about the deck and the story of its discovery in the collection of London's Magic Circle Museum. The Kickstarter includes a new, expanded paperpack edition of the book in addition to the cards.

In this piece for Quietus, Strange Attractor publisher (and musician), Mark Pilkington, curates a list of music inspired by Austin Spare's art and ideas.

Bulldog Breed – 'Austin Osman Spare' (1969)

The first musical tribute to Spare is this enjoyably flouncy psych number released by Decca in 1969. It captures the spirit of the period's flourishing occult revival, while being a few years ahead of the curve in recognising Spare as a significant magical figure. Esotericists and collectors of recherché art were aware of Spare at this time, but his name wouldn't reach the wider scene for a few more years.

The song's origins are pleasingly mundane: Spare was an acquaintance of guitarist Rod Harrison's grandmother in South London. She and his aunt had a number of Spare artworks around the house, which Harrison inherited, then lost, having done a runner after failing to pay his rent on a flat.

Psychic TV – 'Thee Starlit Mire' (1988)

Throbbing Gristle, the band that launched a thousand noise acts, played a significant role in the occulturisation of the musical underground (though probably less of one than Led Zeppelin!). But it was the post-TG groups – Psychic TV and its splinter cells Coil and Current 93 – who really pushed things to the next initiatory level: magical language, imagery and practice appearing as central to their music, style and philosophy.

This track's pullulating, rhythmic intensity echoes some of Spare's darker images and is drawn from Psychic TV's 1988 album Allegory And Self, which featured a Spare image, 'Fashion', from A Book Of Satyrs on its cover, and several more in an accompanying booklet. The title is borrowed from a 1911 book of aphorisms by two doctors, James Bertram & F. Russell, illustrated by Spare, which PTV-associates Temple Press also republished in a beautiful edition.

Coil – 'Titan Arch' (1991)

Coil's John Balance spoke of his close connection to Spare, at times claiming to be in contact with his spirit, and owned a large collection of his art, some of which appeared in their later live performances. In Coil's formative years the teenaged Balance was also a member of experimental performance group Zos Kia – a name drawn directly from Spare's esoteric writings – with fellow early Psychic TV member John Gosling.

Coil later coined the term "Sidereal Sound' to describe some of their disorientating audio-processing techniques, a phrase borrowed from Spare, who referred to his warped portraits of film stars as sidereal – a play on the fact that they were "stars" (sidereal is an astronomical term), and appeared as if drawn from the cheaper "side" seats of a cinema.

Although Spare was a major figure in Coil's personal pantheon, their music didn't draw explicitly on his writing, though this fine track, featuring Marc Almond on vocals, conjures distinctly Sparean imagery with lyrics adapted from Kenneth Grant's book Outside The Circles Of Time (1980).

Read the rest here.