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Kevin Foakes’ Wheels of Light, Cathode Ray Hinterlands by Way of Moonbuilding and Delving and Peeking Behind the Curtain for Hidden Treasure

Kevin Foakes’, aka DJ Food and Strictly Kev, book Wheels of Light: Designs for British Light Shows 1970-1990 which was released in 2022 focuses on the artwork of the liquid wheels, picture wheels, FX cassettes etc which were used in projectors to create light shows at gigs, galleries, clubs etc and still occasionally are, including by Foakes himself at the immersive audio visual Further nights which he puts on alongside DJ Pete Williams and which I have written about before.

Wheels of Light was released by Four Corner Books and it is notably well-produced and designed alongside also being a fascinating snapshot of cultural time, aesthetics, media and technology before digital projection methods began to gain sway.

It explores and archives a cultural area that is both relatively niche and was also once quite widespread in terms of its use, distribution etc, although to a degree it may have been somewhat, if not hidden, then at least  overlooked in plain sight, characteristics which it shares with a number of Jonny Trunk’s books including Own Label: Sainsbury’s Design Studio 1962 – 1977 (2011 and 2019) and A-Z of Record Shop Bags: 1940s to 1990s (2022) that collected, curated and focused on distinctive supermarket packaging design and the both utilitarian and creative designs of vintage record bags.

Such books also often act as indicators of a particular individual’s passion and enthusiasm for their subjects, as I can imagine that a quite phenomenal amount of work, energy, effort, travel, delving etc can often be involved in finishing them, alongside also showing the publisher’s belief and support for niche passion projects, as I expect it involves a not inconsiderable financial, time etc commitment on their behalves.

In issue 2 of Moonbuilding zine/magazine, more on which below, there’s an interview with Kevin Foakes where he discusses Wheels of Light and in which he says of such delving and the people he met:

“These are the parts of the research I really love, the conversations and visits to the orginators, hearing their stories, seeing the stuff they dig out of lofts, cupboards and garages. You get a peek behind the curtain, back in time to their world as it was back then.”

Related to which, alongside enjoying wandering through the resulting finds in them, an aspect of such books that I tend to enjoy is the way that they can give you a peak behind the peak behind the curtain when their author’s discuss how they first became interested in the subject matter and the subsequent explorations, research etc that they carried out.

Returning to Moonbuilding, it’s a lovingly produced magazine/zine hybrid collaboration between its publisher the record label Castles in Space and Neil Mason who was previously an editor for Electronic Sound magazine and it is well worth seeking out.

Moonbuilding’s core focus is on independently released electronica including a fair bit of hauntological and/or what author Simon Reynolds called “conceptronica” orientated work, i.e. concept based electronica, alongside other interlinked areas such as an eclectic and potentially bank balance threatening selection of books and magazines.

The magazine comes with free CDs that have included work by a number of people who created music for the AYITC themed compilations, including Field Lines Cartographer, Keith Seatman, Twilight Sequence (aka Assembled Minds), Pulselovers, Polypores etc alongside others and as with the magazine itself the CDs can act as signposts to new discoveries by both people whose work you already know and those you’re not familiar with.

And wandering back to talking about older forms of culture which were once fairly commonplace but that have now largely faded away, while not “cover mounted” themselves, the free CDs that are included with Moonbuilding reminded me of what now seems like quite a long time ago when a lot of music magazines often included cover mounted CDs…

Issue 2 of the magazine included a piece on the A Year in the Country: Cathode Ray and Celluloid Hinterlands book, where it can be found in the rather fine company of books by and on guitarist John McGeoch who has worked with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, PiL etc; Martyn Ware of Human League, Heaven 17 etc; and Paul Gorman’s The Wild World of Barney Bubbles: Graphic Design and the Art of Music, which as the title suggests focuses on the work of graphic artist Barney Bubbles who created artwork for Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and Stiff records alongside directing the video for The Specials’ “Ghost Town” single etc. Blimey, I’m chuffed (!)

Thanks to all at Moonbuilding and Neil Mason in particular, much appreciated and a tip of the hat!

(Above: another image from Wheels of Light.)


Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


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