Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down (Thrill Jockey)

wrekmeister-harmonies-and-then-it-all-came-down-cover-360-1500Light Into Darkness

Chicago’s J.R. Robinson believes that life is a long, gradual process of decay and degradation. We are all born innocent, into the light, and slowly succumb to the pressures of society. On Then It All Came Down, Robinson, along with a Greek chorus of doom metal heavyweights, use the story of Bobby Beausoleil, one of Charles Manson’s golden boys, as an illustration of this process. In turns beautiful and horrific, Robinson & Co. use a wide array of instruments, styles, and techniques, to capture this full range of human experience.

It all starts off innocuously enough; glimmering organ drones, temple bells, gorgeous violins and cello thwomps. A celestial choir of women’s voices intone “beautiful sun”, which is what Beausoleil’s name translates into, in French. Perhaps this is what inspired occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger to cast Beausoleil as the lead role in the unfinished Lucifer Rising, which he also composed an unreleased soundtrack for. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page would later finish the task.

In Bobby Beausoleil, we have a figure tying together the flower power hippy rock of the late ’60s/early ’70s; Lucifer, the light bringer; 20th century avant garde cinema; and a reign of terror and bloodshed, perpetuated by his “family”. In Beausoleil, we could see an illustration of the shadow of the underground, the collective unconscious made visible, all the better to analyze.

In the Truman Capote essay from which this album draws its name, in which Capote interviews Beausoleil in San Francisco’s San Quentin, Beausoleil claims: “Good and bad? It’s all good. If it happens, it’s got to be good. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be happening. It’s just the way life flows. Moves together. I move with it. I don’t question it,” and then goes on to say “I have my own justice. I live by my own law, you know. I don’t respect the laws of this society. Because society doesn’t respect its own laws. I make my own laws and live by them. I have my own sense of justice.”

Some good ol’ fashioned Satanic rhetoric here, that somewhat misses the point, or gets it slightly wrong. Many of the happenings Beausoleil claims to be good with are decisions made by people. To claim that “it’s all good”, and “everything happens for a reason”, sort of suggests a human infallibility, that all of our decisions are just and right in the moment, and we should just follow our instincts and do whatever. This does not take into account the dark sea of conditioning, prejudices, insecurities, and out and out lies we tell ourselves. For all of Manson’s messianic posturing, one wonders if the murders, particularly the Tate murders, were not spurred by the petty jealousy and greed of a struggling musician (record producer Terry Melcher used to inhabit 10050 Cielo Drive, and some have suggested that Manson didn’t realize he’d moved.

Being a recovering religious person, as well as a practitioner of the dark arts, i’m all for people making their own morality, creating their own code and sticking to it. In fact, that’s a large part of what this blog is about; discovering for yrself what you like, and what you are trying to do, to better realize yr goals and dreams. But once yr off the grid, one must be ever vigilant of the specter’s that pull our strings. We must uncover all our conditioning, unearth all our wounds, to learn how to heal them. That is the goal: healing, wholeness, happiness.

Back to the music. From here on out, Then It All Came Out fluctuates between gorgeousness, and mind-shredding dread, with tectonic doom and black metal howling. The transitions are seamless, and awe-inspiring, showing Then It All Came Down to be a new kind of longform, heavy metal, classical composition, that bodes well for all genres involved.

It comes off so well, perhaps, in part to the congregation of some of extreme/experimental music’s heaviest hitters. Chris Brokaw, from Codeine/Come, members of Indian, Leviathan, Yakuza, and Pulse Programming. Wrest, from Leviathan, provides the shrieking, and does an admirable job.

If you could imagine what it might sound like if Godspeed You! Black Emperor were mixed with the pastoral psych of Six Organs Of Admittance, and Electric Wizard, and yr getting there.

I think it’s a good sign that people are doing interesting things, mixing strings and classical instruments and structures with metal and electronics. It was a damn shame, during the ’00s, when the possibilities of “post-rock” denigrated into hollow structuralism. It seems like things are opening up again, and people are using whatever tools at their disposal, to tell unique and complex stories.

Then It All Came Down originally debuted at a large scale performance in Chicago’s Bohemian National Cemetery, as part of the Beyond The Gate series. The next installment is on Dec. 5th, so if yr in the midwest, make sure not to miss that.

Then It All Came Down features stunning artwork, from Simon Fowler, who’s done cover art for Sunn O))) and Earth, and the CD version comes packed with last year’s You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me, on disc here for the first time.

A staggering, stunning achievement, for those who aren’t afraid to pierce the darkness, but make up their own minds, once they get there.

Wrekmeister Harmonies – <a href=””>Then It All Came Down / You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me</a><img src=”; width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

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Wreckmeister Harmonies @ Thrill Jockey

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Atman’s Unreal – Psalm Of Solitude

atmansIt is a lonely path, exploring the darkness. Which makes coming across a fellow traveller on those shadowy roads all the more fascinating and unforgettable. It is rare, and beautiful.

- from A Remembrance Of H.R. Giger, by Clive Barker

In 2005, i had the unenviable honor of writing the eulogy for my best friend at the time, who had taken his own life. (Let’s hear it for having a gift for words. Weddings and funerals are my specialty.) I found myself returning to the living, over and over. I couldn’t find much to say, for the deceased; he made his choices, and it was not exactly a surprise, for those that knew him well. Instead, my reflections were geared towards the living, about remembering our dearly departed, and not succumbing to the same darkness which had claimed him.

Death impacts us all in so many different ways, calling up such a dense and tangled skein of emotions, it is difficult to express. On top of this, it is a topic which nearly everybody is highly uncomfortable with, unwilling to dip into the messy pool of emotions and reach the other side.

Psalm Of Solitude, from upstate New York dark ambient producer Atman’s Unreal, one of the moniker’s of Ryan Rock, explores these many faces of death, over the span of 9 tone poems. Psalm Of Solitude was written as an exegesis of the suicide of two people, close to Rock’s life; his father, and his uncle, both of whom took their own lives. His goal was to use pure music to open a portal to the Otherworlds, in an ever darkening journey, that is based on sound metaphysical research and spiritual traditions.

Things start off reflectively, with the undulating rivers of liquid light of “Book Of Divination,” an opening of the way that gives the sensation of sitting in a sun-dappled room, as wispy clouds cast flickering shadows. It is timeless and bittersweet, more reflective than melancholic. A sense of eeriness creeps in with “Tool Of Ritual”, as a metallic scraping noise is fed through the echo chamber, a noise which recurs several times throughout Solitude. The use of echo and reoccurring samples gives the sensation of a broken tape thought loop, as we play through the “what if”s and self blame and just plain loss, that is typical of the grieving process.

“Relic Of Occultation” is a timeless void, with a sustained bass tone playing the part of infinite blackness, while higher harmonics rise and fall, like the voices of ashen specters from the abyss. There is a rumble, like distant thunder, which suggests there’s a storm brewing. Something wicked this way comes. It is an elegiac work, full of subdued menace, when the bass crackles and roars.

Hell’s infernal machinery crank up on “Temple Of Chaos” – the menace is no longer implied, but in yr face, being the most ominous and terrifying track so far. The bass snarls like a sentient ink ocean, while horrorscore synths glow like some bioluminescent bone cathedral. This is a paean to suffering, which knows no ends, an imaginal anthem for the City of Dis. It’s also bloody good dark ambient/blackened noise.


I won’t detail every step of this journey into Outer Darkness, as it’s a highly personal, subjective experience, that should be experienced. Like grief itself, it’s bound to be different for everybody. As we turn towards the dark season, i invite you to swim in Psalm Of Solitude, and remember those who are no longer with us, and reflect on life, in the shadow of it’s absence.

Psalm Of Solitude does not need a catchy backstory to stand on it’s own, as compelling music. Ryan Rock’s goal with music is to “pursue new territory in sound through spiritually experiential music.” Quite simply, dark ambient music, and electronic music in general, is capable of exploring new realms of harmony, which hint at the possibility of a new vocabulary, beyond trite re-imaginings of past glories. Take the album opener, “Book Of Divination”, with its calm and stately solar synths. I’m pretty sure the motif is the common F – Am – C progression, heard in billions of folk and pop songs, but in this instance, a new life is breathed into familiar territory, turning these notes into floating islands of sounds, adrift on a luminous silvered ocean. With synthesized and longform drone music, sounds go together that usually shouldn’t, and we are left with a more complex and variegated emotional language. We are able to express ourselves more clearly, and vibrantly.

Music, out of all the artforms, is the most open-ended and personal medium of them all (although it might share that position with painting); especially instrumental music. It is experienced inside one’s self, and doesn’t tell you what to make of it. It fills yr psych with memories, thoughts, and emotions, which are different for each listener. The end result is a deep and real connection with the composer and the audience, when two souls collide.

In Clive Barker’s tribute to Giger, which I quoted at the beginning, he concludes with “His artworks mapped majestic territories that made those dark areas waiting in the deepest chasms just that slightest bit less terrifying, because here was a man who visited the abyss and lived to tell the tale.” Ryan Rock is just such a man, and we are all a little less alone and afraid, because of it.

While it may be hard to find people to listen to and relate on the darker sides of the human experience, in daily life, dark art is the perfect place to find kindred spirits, to locate those who not afraid to gaze into the blackness. Because that is the way towards the light.

Let this be the soundtrack for your coming rituals and remembrances.

Along those lines, Rock sent me a message, saying he would be conducting a special Samhain ceremony, to confront some demons, and asked to spare a thought or send a prayer his way. I invite the Forestpunk community to join in, in this, forming a silvered web of intention from around the globe.

Atman’s Unreal FB
River Rock Reviews


Wizards Tell Lies – The Maddening Machine

wizardstellliesmaddening There, in that clearing, on that cold blue night, we three knew that would be the last time that the call of the maddening machine would interfere with our lives. Those hellish visions, however, were burned rightly in our minds forever, and the sounds of stars and distant galaxies would dance lively through our ears until we no longer had a breath in our bodies.

- The Call Of The Maddening Machine

These are the final words, narrated by Joshua Levesque, of “The Call Of The Maddening Machine,” which provides this album it’s name and central concept, being inspired by Hellraiser, the discovery of the antikythera device in 1900, an early example of an analog computer, and demonic possession. From this brief interlude of spoken text, in this otherwise instrumental album, a narrative begins to emerge; a kind of turn-of-the-century steampunk version of Hellraiser and LeMarchand’s box.

The Maddening Machine begins with “Tremor Drift”, which reinforces the idea of a soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist, with the sound of crackling vinyl and what sounds like a film reel unspooling, before an ominous ritualism commences, with downtuned doomy guitars, pulsing percussion and some authentically evil sounding synthesizers, that sound ripped straight from some cut-rate movie starring David Carradine and a book bound in human flesh. As usual, Wizards Tell Lies manage to coax out an impressively full sound for a one man band, courtesy of Matt Bower’s split personalities: Fox, Owl, and Hart. As with the last time we ran across WTL, on The Ninth Door, released earlier this year on Jehu And Chinaman, the drums sound impressive, like a full-fledged psych/occult metal band. As with The Ninth Door, The Maddening Device continues Bowers’ mission to revitalize the genre once known as post-rock, holding on to the dynamics and epicness, but ditching the predictability. The loose narrative helps Wizards Tell Lies, in this regard.


“Spyridean Mechanism Ritual” is my favorite track on here: a lengthy dark ambient opus of creepy warped music box tones and melted tape. “Spyridean Mechanism Ritual” would sit comfortably next to Coil’s “The Box Theme,” adding to the Hellraiser theme, as “The Box Theme” was from Coil’s unreleased score for the original Hellraiser. The underwater, experimental electronic texture of “SMR” is just one more element that prevents this from being yr run of the mill post-rock record, recalling recent efforts by Mogwai, and giving us hope that their may be life yet in the world of powerful, visionary, climactic rock ‘n roll. I also really love the wall of delayed percussion, which borders on dub techno, like Adrian Sherwood remixing Jesu. The subtle, ominousness gives way to powerful sludge, with buzzing black metal guitars joining growling, plodding bass, that is equal parts June Of 44 and Godflesh.

This fluctuation from epic, instrumental rock to atmospheric dark ambiance continues throughout the record. There’s something for every lover of psychedelic metal here.

Next is the eponymous “The Call Of The Maddening Machine,” quoted above. One cannot help but view this as the cornerstone of the record, giving it it’s name and the longest track here. It starts off with the distant crackle of thunder, arcing electricity, and divebombing string drones, issuing from the cello of another Forestpunk fave, Ms. April Larson. Stomping percussion, clean ringing guitars and that face-melting bass announce the theme and set the mood, building up to the narration from Levesque. For all horror writers and storytellers, this would make a wonderful soundtrack for penning yr own stories of dread. It builds to a terrible, triumphant climax, like the portal to hell opening, like being torn apart by hooks, in rapturous agony.

Back to the dark ambiance, back to dark waters with the final track “Dark Stairway To Exit,” which sounds like nothing so match as being hunted by some dark reaver down a metal sewer pipe. There’s some analog electronics and harsh noise static on “Dark Stairway,” bringing in even more layers and textures to this already jam-packed record. There’s some glorious phasing towards the end, and some blissful organs, suggesting there is a light on the other side of this darkness, that seeking forbidden wisdom may have been worth it after all.

It’s a compelling headtrip, all in all, that fans of Clive Barker’s mythos, as well as H. P. Lovecraft’s should gibber over. Matt Bower (and his personas) are growing in power, with each release, making some of the most powerful and compelling self-produced music out there. For anybody that loved bands with no words, long songs and long names in the mid ’00s, we owe Bower a huge debt of gratitude, injecting new life into the world of instrumental rock music, by splicing it with dark ambient, noise, and various shades of metal, to create rich music with a wide emotional vocabulary, that is open-ended and open to interpretation.

Sadly, the Maddening Machine is gone, in its physical form, on the ever-essential Rano Records, but the digital archives remain, to be tasted by all.



Wizards Tell Lies FB


Lee Noble – Darker Half (Black Moss)


shadows & light

Darker Half by drone poet Lee Noble is a wordless meditation on the complex and contradictory emotions the autumn summons. Sometimes sweet & yearning, dark and menacing, Darker Half is like holding a Halloween seance, gazing into the abyss, and waking up with a candy corn hangover.

Darker Half is built from four lengthy tone poems of swooning organs and diffuse drones. Lee Noble gets us started with “Halloween Kiss”, whose title suggested the autumn connection, which is as sweet and lingering as the name suggests. There are no shadows here, just the bright life of hope, as oscillators waft like incense on the breeze, inviting you to inspect the contours of their coils, like the caterpillar’s smoke dragons. Rippling harmonics sound like lights reflecting on dark water, like sitting on a pier outside of a happening party, perhaps the location of the eponymous kiss. Hues of darkness begin to creep in towards the ending, setting the mood or the A-side closer, “I’m A Skeleton”, the darkest offering here.

If “Halloween Kiss” is the soundtrack for lights on dark water, then “I’m A Skeleton” is like being plunged into the deep end. It’s disorienting, there’s no telling up from down, as yr life flashes across yr nervous system, as planes and air raid sirens sound in the distance. Maybe it’s a good thing yr underwater, because it sounds like the waking world is coming to an end. The silhouette of a tibetan ritual horn creeps in with shadowy footsteps, calling the mournful congregation. This is music from the deep, dark unconscious, speaking in riddles and dream logic, splaying yr eyelids with phantasmagoria, like something from “A Night On Bald Mountain”. As these cautionary drones sound around me, the air seems to grow heavy and congeal; muffled shrieking and knocking on the wall emanates from the room next door. This music opens a portal; guaranteed to make yr autumn more magical. Sounds begin to flicker and detune, about 2/3 of the way through, unsteadying the ground beneath yr feet, shaking you to yr foundation, with the most subtle of seismic shifts.

mask-papercraftB-side opener “Paper Mask” seems both ancient and timeless, like some spectral, fog-ridden astral realm, beyond temporality and causation. Hunched and antlered figures dance in a slo-motion circle, as crystal singing bowls radiate concentric spheres. Barely there sequencers bring back the sensation of the surface of water, but this time it’s oil-slicked, opalescent, phosphorescent. A rhythm emerges for the first time on the record, ratcheting up the tension, the sensation of something happening. I wonder what it is? The tape begins to shred, the air goes all wonky and soft around the edges, like the director has just smeared the lens with vaseline, for an impromptu dream sequence. The Halloween vibes are made overt for the first time, with the introduction of a spooky organ, but only briefly.

Lee Noble brings us back to dry land and daylight with “Sick For A Week”, the lengthiest outing on the record. It is the sound of convalescing, of coming to grips with yr fever visions, trying to stitch the non-linear images together into some kind of narrative. Organ tones float gracefully in and out of one another, like a psychedelic light show, in a truly poetic and abstract way. This is one of the greatest strengths of ambient music, is the ability to combine sounds, tones, and harmonies in a way that is difficult with strictly acoustic music. We are able to access new combinations, new textures, new harmonies, and as a result, new visions in thine mind’s eye.

This is an absolutely exquisite release, that i can’t get enough of, and comes with the highest possible recommendation. Like many noise/drone based musicians, Lee Noble is prolific, and these incidental releases paint an interesting picture, between the higher profile “albums”, like the difference between a chamber work and a symphony. This limited editions are an endlessly imaginative way for artists to explore their dreams and desires, while honing their craft, and are, at the very least, as essential as the major albums.

Darker Half was re-released on vinyl by the wonderful Black Moss label, in 2012, after an initial cassette release on the equally mandatory Bathetic Records.

I’m quite excited to be featuring some older, archival material, along with newer releases of note. One of my main goals with Forestpunk is to feature as much music as fits the aesthetic, regardless of release date. Hardly anyone will write about older releases, unless they’re being re-issued, or have some kind of anniversary, which just isn’t that reflective of what it is really like to be a music devotee, today.

So i will continue to bring you as much poetic, imaginative, subjective, dark and maddening art as my fingers can channel.

So what are some of yr favorite autumnal/Halloween-related releases? Leave us a comment!

Lee Noble – Darker Half

Lee Noble FB



Black Moss


Mudpusher – Sacrilege single

mudpusherwe continue our war against the light, with this symphonic metal single from Sweden.

Believe it or not, metal is super important to what we do at Forestpunk – part of the core concept, if you will. We love the power, the precision, the fury, the fact that they’re not afraid to delve into the dark side of life, if not necessarily dwelling there.

We’re also all about the equality of the sexes. We worship the grace and beauty, nurturing and emotional intelligence (to name a few qualities) of women, while we equally admire the strength and focus and determination of men. We are seeking a balance in all things, from genders to genres, and are always looking for the point of overlap.



Mudpusher is both yin and yang, both beautiful and ferocious. They play a kind of gothic, symphonic metal, somewhere between A Perfect Circle, Evanescence, and Cradle Of Filth. Singer Kimberly Nordqvist brings the heavenly aura, while singer/guitarist Alexander Nordqvist opens up the pit (of hell). The moments of ethereal beauty are contrasted with extreme grinding brutality, with synchronized rhythmic breakdowns that are perfectly executed. Mudpusher have cited Meshuggah as an influence, which will give those in the know a pretty clear idea of what they’re going for, even if they have a slightly more polished, metalcore approach to what they do.

The recording, the musicianship, and the songwriting are all top notch on this short transmission, if the lyrics may be slightly cringeworthy, at times. Metal is not known for its deep lyrical content, and most of the time you can’t understand it anyway, but still, it’s no excuse. For their next effort, I’d like to see the band find a way to make their lyrics more universal, perhaps by speaking in riddles and symbols. A little more shadow and light, a little less heart on sleeve.

The production values are extremely high on Sacrilege. I could imagine this being played in progressive industrial club nights, the world over, for people in stacked heels and bondage pants to twitch and flail to.

Extremely lovely stuff. If Mudpusher could tone down the emo a bit, they could be truly world class.

Mudpusher FB


Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones)

Pharmakon - Bestial Burden album coverbody horror

I started having ulcers when i was 11, thanks to an overcritical band instructor, cementing in place a lifelong hatred and mistrust of the flesh. There is a particularly unsettling feeling, when yr vessel turns on you – you feel betrayed; lost. It’s a painful reminder that we’re all wounded animals, rotting our way to the grave, and so many of our oh-so-important human thoughts and institutions are a shallow attempt to gloss over that abyssmal truth.

The initial inspiration behind Bestial Burden almost killed Margaret Chadiet. Poised to depart for her first European tour, doctors discovered a large cyst pressing down on one of her organs, which had to be removed. Chadiet’s nervous system couldn’t comprehend that her flesh was seriously compromised, as she lay in hospital, listening to her dying neighbor calling out for his daughter, who never came. Bestial Burden is the soundtrack to Chardiet’s recuperation, her soundtrack for this nightmarish and surreal experience, which wonderfully illustrates the dichotomy between mind and body, flesh and spirit.



Chardiet takes you on a journey through the body, with heavy, kicking industrial percussion playing the part of a pulse, while wheezing electronics replicate the respiratory system, and the rushing of blood. It all begins with “Vacuum”, 1:15 seconds of multitracked hyperventilation and pulsing drones ramping up the intensity. It’s the best album opener since “Only Shallow” on Loveless, perfectly setting the mood and simply and understatedly introducing the album’s philosophy.

It jumps right into the double-header of “Intent Or Instinct” and “Body Betrays Itself”, which seamlessly flow together, and is one of the album’s highlights (it’s only a half hour long, so pretty much the whole thing is a highlight). The music occupies the crossroads between power electronics, industrial music, and black metal, with Chadiet’s tortured banshee wail. It’s an attractive and powerful combination, that i wish would be explored more often, as it seems to have great potential. Chadiet’s arrangements are sparse and effective, giving each element its space to breathe, with an absolutely infernal mixing job from Cult Of Youth‘s Sean Rogan.

What makes Bestial Burden so successful and engaging is the physical, tactile nature of the sounds; the breaths, the coughing, the pulsing percussion. While noise music’s tendency towards unconventional sounds and structures is one of its joys and greatest potential, it frequently runs the risk of being unrelatable, unrecognizable – too alien and overwhelming. Of course, that’s a sensation too, but it often flattens noise’s emotional range into the 2D Merzbow/Massona-worshipping wall of sound, and ceases to make an impact. Listening to Bestial Burden, i was reminded of the animals snarls of Ben Frost’s By the Throat – another example of a noise artist at the top of their game, which is 10x more powerful and terrifying due to the close-miced samples of snarling wolves that peppered that record. Noise (and abstract music of all kinds) has so many possibilities, when it is rooted in the tangible.

I was also strongly reminded of the fleshiness of the Swans’, as well as their ambient side project, Body Lovers / Body Haters, so fans of that band should definitely make sure to pick this one up. I was also reminded of the solo noise of Prurient, as well as some of the grimy electronics that have been coming out recently on Gnod‘s Tesla Tapes, so fans of both make sure to check this one out, as well.

Bestial Burden is being lumped in with this month’s (every month really) focus on Horror and the dark arts. Horror is such an amorphous, difficult thing to define, frequently boiling down to “you know it when you see it” and causing all manner of arguments among its acolytes. One definition i’ve run across is that the sensation of Horror is one of repulsion, that the sensation of coming across a “monster” is like being plunged into a pit full of slugs, or having the lower part of yr body coverd in maggots (something which Cardiet has also done). By this criteria, Bestial Burden definitely fits the bill, sonically illustrating what it feels like to be a stranger in yr skin, and maybe that flesh has it out for you. It’s the sound of our human minds reflecting on our animal instincts. We’re the only animals that have this kind of self reflection, have knowledge of our own mortality, which means, in a way, to be Human is to live in a kind of Hell.

One of the most impressive things about Bestial Burden is how much love it’s been getting from the press, which is pretty surprising for such a difficult, uncompromising work. It’s a major success for noise-influenced music, introducing people’s ears to such visceral sounds and such an uncompromising concept, greatly advancing the cause. One reviewer said this record sounds, “like hell”, while another recommends listening while squatting in a grimy part of yr apartment, wearing only a pair of soiled underwear, and sniffing inhalants, so, yeah, we were pretty much destined to love this one.

This is one of those reviews that i never want to end, even though it’s a stark and disturbing listening. Chardiet’s sounds just sound SO GOOD! Time to go hunt down a copy of Abandon!

Highest possible recommendation! Outstanding!

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden
Pharmakon FB
Sacred Bones FB


Cut Hands – Festival Of The Dead (Blackest Ever Black)

BLACKESTLCD010_-_bigcartel-Packshotglimpses from the land of the dead

visions of serene and timeless joy

Festival Of The Dead is the 3rd long-player from William Bennett’s afronoise project, Cut Hands. Festival finds Bennett returning to the dark and fertile soil of Blackest Ever Black, finest purveyors of gourmet audio terror and existential dread, with 4 tracks previously issued – ‘Damballah 58′, and ‘Belladonna Theme’ from last year’s Damballah 58  ep, also on BEB, and ‘Vaudou Take Me High’ (an album highlight) and a “festival mix” of ‘Madwoman’, both from Afro Noise Volume 4, alongside 8 new tracks. For those that already possess these 4 tracks, it’s great to hear them again, and to have them in one place, and for those coming across them for the first time, yr in for a treat.

Festival Of The Dead is being released in time with “harvest or autumnal customs across the world, it’s both a harbinger of darker, winter times and a commemoration of shared ancestry and traditions common to many cultures across the world – All Saints Day, Samhain, Feast of Ancestors, Pitru Paksha etc,” coming from Boomkat, which goes on to say “computers are the new drums, so to speak, hence a swingeing celebration of programmed percussion designed to induce and release madness from all who hear it: whether that’s raving lunacy, hatred, or joy, they’re all apposite reactions.”



Now we’re at it: madness, possession, ritual. Repetitive rhythm and motion, designed to freeze the conscious mind, and let the darkness of the subconscious/collective unconscious out to play.

I think it’s this tendency which made African drumming and religions so dangerous to the Western/Christian mind, which is all about conquering and subjugation. They knew the only way to control the native populace they were taking over was to take over their religions, to control the symbols of their subconscious. The conquerors knew that drums and dancing were dangerous (just look at copoiera for examples of this).

I feel like, in a lot of ways, what we know of as history (his story), the last 2000 years, has been white men eradicating anything that does not fit into their Christian/rational/linear way of thinking, with all of the subtlety of a drug cartel spiking heads, pushing underground any current that didn’t jibe (we must remember that the actual definition of “occult” means “hidden or obscured”). In light of this, it seems like the history of the 20th century (starting in the late 19th), and the trajectory of widespread knowledge and access to information has been what Freud/John Fahey referred to as “the return of the repressed”. Basically, The Man (The Hierophant) has done his damnedest to put his foot on the neck of the freethinker; to make them comply, to make us happy little cogs in the machine.



So, of course, at first we had to break down all the institutions, until nothing was forbidden and the playing field was leveled, giving rise to schools of thought like Artaud’s Theater Of Cruelty, and the late ’70s obsession with transgression, a tendency that began (or at least was popularized) with De Sade and his libertine philosophy.

Now that we’ve had a good 40 years to get used to this way of thinking, to become suitably desensitized, it becomes possible to see the entire career of William Bennett in a more clear light. He’s been called a fascist, a racist, a cultural appropriator, and probably every other thing under the moon. It’s all to easy to dismissively label Bennett the “ex-Whitehouse provocateur”, like this Pitchfork review, which then goes on to criticize Cut Hands as “looking at clubland and saw an emptiness eating away at it from the inside—an interesting and possibly valid viewpoint, but not one that needs repeating ad infinitum.” This leads one to assume that this reviewer’s not all that familiar with this style of music, the history and purpose of percussive trance rituals, and the subliminal philosophy of noise/philosophy.

For anyone that’s been paying attention, or knows how to listen, Bennett has never championed or endorsed any of the atrocious events he references in his long history. Instead, the unceasing barrage of volume and horrific imagery served as a kind of air raid siren, shocking the fragile small mammal nervous system into submission, to let something else shine through. He uses sonics as a way to speak directly to the flesh, to the labyrinthine corridors of synapses and guts, and all of the trauma and servitude that lies therein.

Because society is a slavemaster, make no mistake. And every slave must be whipped, when they get out of line. Just think, how many times have you been told that yr dreams are unrealistic? That it’s all well and good, as long as you have a Plan B. Basically, you can do whatever you want, as long as you submit and work at The Factory.

The truth of the matter is yr dream MIGHT be possible – you’ll never know unless you try. What might be more realistic to say is that it’s going to be tremendously hard, thankless work, blocked at every turn by the landowners, and you have to be half-mad to even try. Basically, if you can have an even somewhat peaceful life working a counter or in a cubicle or for someone else, you should probably do that, but it’s going to be a helluva lot more pleasant. For those of us with no choice, we’re out in the wilderness, 3/4 starved, afflicted with mad visions. We’re the Boo Radleys of the world, or Euchrid from And the Ass Saw the Angel; certainly not something to be aspired to. But there are truly awesome and magnificent sights in the wilderness, the hot blooded passion of the jaguar, the loyalty of the wolf, the beauty of an unbroken snowy glen on a moonlit night, that do make it worth it, if you can hack it.

But enough filibustering, back to the music. Cut Hands has never sounded finer, thanks in large part to a beefy mastering job by Noel Summerville: the low end is fierce, but tight. It reminds us that Cut Hands’ original inspiration was when Bennett spun a set of vodou rhythms at a club night, and noticed the potent results. I defy DJs to bring it full circle, and drop some of these workouts in their sets. Let’s bring the invisible aboveground; let the panic begin!

Album opener “The Claw” is a stand-out track, being particularly ferocious and potent. It seems like the festival truly begins with “I Know What I Must Do,” a slow ‘n ominous temple stomp, which gives way to the blood frenzy of “Damballah 58″, with piston-like percussion joined by formant lo-fi electronics, that sounds like a Gameboy trying to speak prophecy. “Parataxic Dimension” stops the percussive onslaught for a moment, sort of, focusing on some apocalyptic ambiance, like some giant death machine from the other side of hell lumbering through the streets of Detroit. Squealing horror strings meet Tibetan horns, in a true liturgy of the dead, as well as an invocation of an Angel Of Retribution.

“Festival Of The Dead” is a more structured outing, what it might sound like if a footwork DJ were to mangle some Ocora records, which is then shellaced with starburst electronics and radio static. It’s one of the more straightforward tracks on here, and might be a good place for the adventurous DJ to begin. “Belladonna Theme” truly takes you to the underworld, in a surprising moment of timeless ambiance, and “Vaodou Takes Me High” is like this record’s high mass.

As per usual, Festival Of The Dead is almost entirely rhythmic/percussive, putting it in line with acts like Vatican Shadow or Muslimgauze. Let it serve as the soundtrack to your season’s black masses, and free yrself from the tyranny of yr oppressors (mental or otherwise).

Cut Hands – Festival of the Dead
Cut Hands FB
Blackest Ever Black FB


Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was The Golden Age

RVNGNL27_COVER_500x500reclaiming nostalgia

It would be all too easy to lump Bing & Ruth‘s second LP with the retrofuturistic “longing for a future that never happened” of Leyland Kirby’s Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Once Was , a work that Tomorrow Was A Golden Age shares sonic similarities with. However, Bing & Ruth do not seem to be longing for some Edenic childhood. Instead, they seem to be reaching for something that never was, or simply is. Simply put, Tomorrow Was The Golden Age is timeless music, that manages to be entirely timely, and utterly modern.

Bing & Ruth are a troupe of 7 musicians (pared down from 11 on their last release, City Lake, comprised of two upright bassists, two clarinetists, a cellist and a tape delay tech. This group of seasoned musicians, who met at New York City’s New School of music, create dense soundscapes that duck, dive, swoon, and soar around pianist David Moore’s colorful, repetitive, meditative piano. Bing & Ruth have been described as both “drone-based” and “microtonal”, but could just as simply be called “modal”, in the vein of electric-era Miles, like Bitches’ Brew or In A Silent Way, where musicians would jam on one key for an indeterminate amount of time, and see where it goes. This is music that does not have an incessant forward thrust, instead being happy to linger and explore and contemplate.

Bing & Ruth took their name from a short story by writer Amy Hempel, and were initially inspired by the school of New York minimalist short story authors like Raymond Carver or Gordon Lish. These short stories are atmospheric, slice-of-life vignettes, that look at life in miniature, looking for the nobility and tragedy of the everyday. From there, David Moore began to write “longer-form, slower, textural music,” as he put it in an interview with Bomb Magazine, to create a sonic approximation of Hempel’s work.

Tomorrow Was The Golden Age is a single suite, chopped into nine segments. It’s breathtaking from the word go, with “Warble”‘s twinkling piano and looming cello playing like light and shadow, like sunlight across a rippling pond, with the clarinets’ breathy harmonics playing the part of the breeze. The wooden drones of the basses alternate between tension and release, between ominousness and gorgeousness, playing to the album’s themes of the resolution of opposites, between silence and volume, between darkness and daybreak.

TWTGA, presumably the title track, is the album’s sweet center, with a plaintiff, tender piano melody, surrounded by twinkling arpeggios and breathless a disembodied choir of angels. It cuts straight to the heart, stirring up a beehive of emotions, without telling you what exactly they are. Such is the strength of instrumental music. This is the perfect music for remembering, or forgetting, or dreaming.


One of David Moore’s goals, with Bing & Ruth, is to create “something that evolves over the course of a life or over various experiences—something that means something to me when I’m twenty-five, and then means something totally different when I’m thirty-five, so will fulfill what you need when you need it.” This cuts right to the quick of the idea of musical progress, and as a by-product, to the roles of music journalism and criticism, and deposits us in the invisible nucleus of the modern age.

Music journalism seems built around the suppositions of “better” or “worse”, playing into the supposition of musical progress, and for a long time, it was that way. Beethoven was the death knell of the Classical period, giving way to Romanticism, and everyone who reverted to the classical style was considered old fashioned, and discarded. The same thing can be said for late 20th Century electronic music, with one style giving way to the other, and people would only dance to the flavor of the week. In this worldview, dubstep killed drum ‘n bass, and it did, in a way.

But this is one slight (but with significant implications) of the atemporality of the internet, and the omnipresent access to information. I frequently listen to classical music, romantic, dubstep, AND drum ‘n bass, before i get out of bed in the morning. I love them all, for different reasons. This hierarchy of better or worse is simply flawed, and no longer relevant. All that remains is what story you are trying to tell, and how well do you pull it off?

But without psychoanalyzing the minutiae of art and music history, people remain as puppets to forms and styles they are used to, subconsciously adhering to the epic, heroic arc of the pop formula, the adventure of ranging out into distant keys, the combat of the perfect fifth, and the peaceful resolution of returning to the home of the root note.

The implications of minimalist fiction, and microtonal music, is simply what stories we are able to tell, which results in a philosophical shift. What happens when you still the march of “history” and “progress”? You simply ARE. Yr eyes open to the moment around you. You are lost in details and texture.

Suppose for a moment that McKenna’s singularity happened, silently, while no one was watching, on 12.21.12. We are now living in an eternal, timeless present, and are feeling the tremors, without realizing it. The possibilities are a peace, beyond the eternal war of capitalism. This is a profound, but subtle, shift in seeing. What would happen if everyone who was obsessed with money simply stopped, for one day, one hour, and simply felt okay? The peace that surpasseth all understanding. How would life be different, if you simply had enough, and were content?

Tomorrow Was The Golden Age couldn’t arrive at a better time, in the fading blossom of the autumn. As i type, lemon yellow trees burn like the sun, against a flat grey sky. I wish this moment would never end. All i require is the minimal resources to keep a roof over my head, and eat once a day, and the space and time to pursue my art and live my life. I want to dismantle the cogs of capitalism in my mind, and all the harm it does to my masculinity, and realize that everything is okay.

If someone is constantly stressed, constantly rushing, constantly grasping, they’re missing it. If you think the world is shit, you’re blind. There is amazing, mind-shattering beauty every-which-way you turn. It’s all a matter of what you’re looking at.

In this way, Bing & Ruth’s Tomorrow Was The Golden Age is the opposite of nostalgia. In fact, it’s entirely present; a sonic architecture or dense wood to explore, endlessly and repetitively.

So, i entreat you, listen to Bing & Ruth, and come alive to yr own life. Make this autumn count, make the most of it.

Bing & Ruth are David Moore- Piano Jeremy Viner & Patrick Breiner- Clarinets Leigh Stuart- Cello Greg Chudzik & Jeff Ratner- Basses Mike Effenberger- Tape Delay

Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was the Golden Age

Bing & Ruth FB


Halasan Bazar & Tara King Th – 8 (Moon Glyph)

MG80-HalasanBazar-TaraKingth.-8-coverTake a trip through haunted roadhouses and spectral discoteques, with this outstanding collaboration from French baroque pop outfit Tara King Th and dark psychedelicists Halasan Bazar.




Everybody is inspired by the past. We’ve all got to start somewhere. And yet, while many claim to take inspiration from classics like Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, The Zombies, Jacqueline Taieb, or Galaxie 500, very few make records as good as those classics.

Now imagine having them smooshed onto one slab of vinyl…

MG80-HalasanBazar-TaraKingth.-8-coverbackSimilarly, too often in the underground, lo-fidelity techniques like distortion and reverb are used to mask a lack of originality, and a dearth of songwriting ability. This is unfortunate, as fuzzed, scuzzy recordings are excellent at creating a sense of age, approximating the warped weft of antiquated documents, making you feel like yr watching an old movie. Or better yet, falling through time.

The tendency seems to be that artists start off “lo-fi”, due to limited resources (look at the careers of Iron & Wine or Grizzly Bear, for illustration). The recordings inevitably accrue gloss & shine, as they achieve success, essentially making records just like anyone else. It’s a rare bird, who chooses to refine rougher recordings into high art. The imaginative possibilities are endless.

That’s not to suggest that 8 is lo-fi, it’s just warm and rough and analog. The two bands set up a makeshift recording studio in a snowed in discoteque in the sleepy mountain village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, in the Auvergne, after sharing some brief songwriting sketches via the internet. These tape documents were polished into a truly timeless document by the detailed production of Arnaud Boyer. The careful production lets the songwriting and musicianship really shine, making both bands sound better than ever before.

It’s a little ridiculous that these bands haven’t been playing together longer, they’re so tight and sharp and focused. Unison riffs on guitar and Farfisa Organ reveal the bands as consummate professionals, flawlessly rehearsed and lovingly laid to tape.

It all starts off with a twang, a journey into David Lynch’s spectral roadhouse, on “Coeurs Croises” (which translates to heart crusaders). The bottom drops out, as demented organs grow more chaotic and infernal, raising the intensity. Romance and remembrance meets lysergic bittersweet insanity, setting the pace for what’s to come.

The instrumental gives way to “Rot Inside”, one of the most potent allegories of unhealthy relationships that i have ever heard, portraying the lovers as atrophying zombies, with the line “I rot inside/but I don’t die.” It’s strong stuff, visceral and effecting, but infectious as hell. It’s also the first appearance of the duetting prowess of Tara King Th’s Béatrice Morel-Journel, and Halasan Bazar’s Fredrick Rollum Eckoff - truly a match made in hell, with Eckoff’s downer baritone offsetting Morel-Journel’s effortless soaring. The pair are a modern day Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, with all of the substance abuse and sadomasochism made explicit. By all that’s unholy, i hope that this record is not a one off. These two are made to sing together!

On “Cover”, Rollum Eckoff Journel is the near spitting image of Galaxie 500’s Dean Wareham, and will be a godsend for everyone who dearly misses that band. It’s also the first evidence that this record is not all doom ‘n gloom and spooky organs. “Cover” is high and pure and sweet and clear – the perfect soundtrack for the tremulous gentility of mid-October.

Speaking of dearly missed bands, the phantoms of Broadcast and Stereolab hang heavy on 8, most explicitly on “Ventolin”. The track is thick with vibes, quite literally, as the skeleton of the track is comprised of vibraphone and spartan chanteuse vocals, which are held together by a “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” waltz drumbeat. The tragic demise of both bands have been some of this century’s greatest losses, and we lament daily. Thankfully, Moon Glyph has been doing more than anybody to bring those haunted library grooves back to sparking life, with Tara King Th and Death And Vanilla. They’re bringing vitality back to the realm of baroque pop, which is a textural godsend for those of us who are burned out on the cro-magnon trinity of guitar, bass, and drums. We still love those things, but that’s not all there is to life, and a paprika spritz of organs, flutes, and chorale vocals are all that it takes to completely re-invigorate the feeling of possibility in music.

These first four tracks set the pace for the entire record, a perfect microcosm of everything that is good and right and holy with this record. It’s a grand slam quartet of perfect songs, the strongest opening of any album i’ve heard this year. Thankfully, they never fuck it up or drop the ball. 8 is a strong record from start to finish, a perfect 10.

Both Tara King Th and Halasan Bazar may be hauntological, in that they are like cross-sections of the past, alive in the present, but they are also an example of the phenomenon i have coined hyperpop, which are people who have distilled what they love about past art, and created a kind of Giger’s Alien of pop or lounge music, or whatever they’re into, and differentiate themselves from the pastiche of things like the swing revival or the rockabilly scene; people who are using music, scene, and lifestyle as an escapist fantasy, akin to civil war recreationists or people who want to live like it’s 1890. This phenomenon explains how bands like Belle & Sebastian, or even the aforementioned Stereolab and Broadcast, along with films from Ben Wheatley, Quentin Tarantino, or Ti West are often better than the works they were inspired by and adore.

And lastly, Tara King Th and Halasan Bazar reveal The Secret about making art in 2014. Wherever you are starting from, it’s all about the songwriting, or the story, or whatever yr trying to do. It’s the raising of substance over style, and from there, you can filigree and format to yr heart’s content, creating bizarre and beautiful mutations in the process, creating skewed dreams.

Both bands have never sounded better, so this is a fine place to begin, and you’d be advised to delve further into both ouevres, particularly Tara King Th.’s damn fine Hirondelle & Beretta EP, or the sunny pop of Halasan Bazar’s How To Be Ever Happy. If you dig this, you’d also be advised to check out Death & Vanilla and Lightning Dust, as well as some of the classics mentioned at the beginning.

Moon Glyph are quickly becoming an indispensable go to, and one of our favorite imprints, fine purveyors of beautiful and strange visions. Keep up the good work!

Check out Sebastien Tixier’s beautiful, kodachrome trailer for 8

Tara King Th. FB
Halasan Bazar FB
Moon Glyph FB


Black Mountain Transmitter – Black Goat Of The Woods

blackgoat1ia! ia! shub-niggurath

Black Goat Of The Woods is a 35 minute peramble of rustic dark ambiance from Belfast-based musician JR Moore, who plies creepy drones under the name Black Mountain Transmitter. It is based on the Lovecraftian lore of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat with a Thousand Young, and conceived as a “the soundtrack from some lost low budget horror movie, rediscovered on an old and faded VHS cassette found mouldering in a deserted house in the depths of the woods.”

Black Goat Of The Woods is comprised of sustained organ drones, nameless field recordings, static and rumble – which are then bent and skewed in a most unwholesome fashion. It’s hard to know exactly what the hell is going on, as familiar sound shapes warp like melting candle wax, in the most beautifully disorienting fashion. Wood creaks like tender saplings, as deep bass tones shiver like shadows on a full moon night. The overall sensation is of coming across some eldritch clearing in the forest, with bioluminescent fungus spewing sickly, wan light and terror-inducing spores into the night, while owls and ghostly loons cry out in the distance.

blackgoat2This is true musick for the dark arts, a soundtrack for forgetting civilization, and letting yr darkest dreams and desires manifest. This is only to be feared, if you fear yrself – yr own dark places. For creatures of the night, there is a comfort to be found in this solitude, in this freedom.

Some comments on bandcamp speak loudly to the awesome, terrible joys waiting for the fearless:

Heavy, creepy, droney and positively reeking of sacrificed virgins, 70’s horror movies and quaffing blood from ornate goblets, this is fine stuff. – Sean Thomas


Terrifying… Simply terrifying… – Barry Jones

Black Goat of the Woods pays homage to the dark denizen of the nocturnal glades, and is a true paean to backwoods horror, and finds its rightful home amidst the desolate drones and creepy, crepuscular electronics that is Forestpunk.

beelzebub1Shub-Niggurath cuts an interesting figure, a loaded symbol. While The Goat With A Thousand Young was originally cast as one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, later stories make her out to be an almost protector of mankind, allied against more malevolent deities like Ghanatothoa. She has been equated with Astarte, the Mesopotamian version of Ishtar, as well as Pan and even Baphomet. What we see her is a clear illustration of Christian/Western over-simplification – the continued demonization of all things Earthy and Pagan, as can be seen in the co-opting of Pan and Dionysus into the image of Satan, or the coercion of Baal, the Lord Of The Earth, into Beelzebub, the Lord Of Flies. Anyone that knows anything knows that a fertility god, or a God of Celebration like Pan, is not the same thing as Satan, which means “Adversary”, the more traditional image of the devil on the shoulder, or the one that trips up yr footsteps.

Delving into the forest means going beyond names and labels, into the essence of a thing. To fearlessly scrutinize the spirit of all things, and to do decide for one’s self what is good or bad, moral or amoral. For those that love the Earth, and the things contained within, there is nothing to be feared, in these dark glens.

I’m dreadfully obsessed with Black Mountain Transmitter, and this kind of rural drone. I’d love to find more things along this line, but there’s no good name for this style. If anyone cares to share their expertise, please leave a comment!

If you like this, make sure to check out The Goatman soundtrack i posted about a few weeks ago.

To learn more about the origins of the name Black Mountain Transmitter, and Moore’s early uncanny experiences, as well as hear a tremendous mix he put together, check out this piece from The Outer Church.