mrjamesanxiety

Emit – Spectre Music Of An Antiquary

emitspectremusic2Enter a world of mildewing manors, where sentient black ooze dribbles from subterranean crypts; a realm of spectral landscapes and blasted moors. Enter the realm of Montague Rhodes James, as depicted on this crucial reissue from Crucial Blast, from blackened ambient producer Emit.

When dealing with Horror (or any genre with recognizable signifiers, for that matter), art tends to fall into three categories. There’s music from the thing itself, in this case the creepy soundscapes from classic Horror films; then there’s things that reference that original source material, or borrow directly from it – spookabilly, classic metal, music that samples from classic Horror or Sci-Fi films, or attempts to recreate those original sounds. And there’s the third camp; music that is intended to make you feel like yr inside a Horror film or novel (or Adventure or Science Fiction or Romance, or whatever yr bag is.)

Art, specifically music in this instance, which either references classic works of Horror, or borrows directly from the original source material, is safe. Like the promotional campaign for The Last House On The Left, it tells you “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.” Frequently, music that references classic Horror plays up the cartoonish aspect of it, and is not very frightening. Look at the garage camp of bands like The Cramps, as evidence of this.

But the music that places you inside of a Horror film or novel can be quite harrowing indeed; especially when it is not associated with any concrete imagery, like an alternate soundtrack for a movie. With nothing to anchor it, these visions take on a vague and spectral dread, filling the air with all manner of phantasmagoria, like some demented Edgar Allan Poe protagonist. The chills may be too subtle to pick up, for someone with little imagination, or without the patience to draw their own interpretations of this subjective art form. Most horror fanatics, however, have imagination in spades, and plenty of patience to absorb dark arts, in whatever medium they may come.

Spectre Music Of An Antiquary is the first new music from the excellent British dark ambient producer Emit, who has been working under the Hammemit moniker, in the meanwhile. I use the term “new music” loosely, here, as Spectre Music was originally released on cassette on Glorious North Productions, in 2012, but is getting a much appreciated re-release, on CD and Vinyl, on the notorious extreme music label Crucial Blast.

Emit, across both of his monikers, exemplifies everything we hold dear, here at Forestpunk: ritualistic folk music, raw black metal, blackened noise, horrorscore synths, and mysterious and murky coldwave and post-punk, sometimes within the same song. Emit proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the hard and fast rules of scenes and genres are decaying, with these weird and abstract permutations being something entirely modern, yet without a name.

It is this unnamable quality which makes this music so effective, and so James-ian. M.R. James heroes were frequently scholars, (much like himself), who dared to go seeking the limits of logic, and fell off the map, into a world of shadows and terror – a world of madness, essentially. We recall that the specter in one of James’ most classic tales, “Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad,” is depicted as nothing more threatening than a bed sheet. It is the wondering, the uncanniness of things moving when they should not, of being where they shouldn’t be, that drives James’ heroes beyond their wits’ end. The mind is free to fill in the blank spaces with whatever it likes, whether they be angels or demons. It is the unknowing that causes the terror.

I think our attitudes may be shifting, however, which may play a part in why our aesthetics are changing. Because we live in a world where everything is immediately knowable, which leaves us starving for the unknown, longing for mystery. Perhaps this need for new frontiers to explore may outweigh the risks of falling off the map.

Horror has always served a confusing dichotomy. On one hand, it is a realm for people with morbid imaginations; while on the other, it directly serves the status quo, reminding us to not leave behind the lamplight of civilization, or we shall surely be killed, or worse. Horror serves as bloody morality tales, to keep the young fearful, to stop them from doing drugs or having premarital sex and ruining their lives. More than anything, it spells out, in giant invisible letters, “You need society. You are not safe.”

Imagine a world without imagination, however, a world with nothing to explore. We’d die out of terminal boredom in a generation. It also presupposes that everything is entirely perfect as it is, as good as it’s ever going to be. Anybody who reads a newspaper from anywhere in the globe can tell you that is not true. With the widespread access to information we have nowadays, it is plain to see that the idea of “civilization”, which too often gets used as a shorthand for “capitalism”, is a noble lie. Softness and convenience is too often at the expense of someone else. For every first world country, of which there are not many, there is a third world country in the dust, starving to death. Easy answers and morality tales have gone the way of the unicorn.

All of this is a lengthy way of saying we have to explore these dark and shadowy unknown realms, to try and cure ourselves. To risk the darkness, to find grace and hope. We have to risk the demons, to find the angels.

Most of the material on Spectre Music Of An Antiquary falls into the mysterious coldwave/post-punk variety, with simple but cavernous beats and chiming chorused electric guitar, like something off of a Cure or Felt record, being swathed in tormented vocals, reminding us of Emit’s black metal roots. They phrase it thus, on the press release, “mutated, primitive 80’s darkwave being completely taken over by malevolent spirits, with eerie electronic drones and distant moaning vocals often taking over.”

Actually, i’m just going to quote the label’s entire description, because it’s pretty much perfect:

The album opens up with that chorus-drenched minor key guitar sound that is unmistakably Emit, eerie choral drift intertwining around the vaguely off-key melody of this short intro track “Haunter Of Benighted English Summers”, sounding dreamlike and hallucinatory and off from the start. That’s over pretty quickly, and then it completely shifts gears with the throbbing distorted synth and gated drums of “Mors Wher Devels Are Abrod”, an eerie melody woven around ghoulish vocals lost off in the background, that chiming, chorus-soaked guitar coming back in after a while; utterly weird, this sounds like some cross between something off Tangerine Dream’s score for Risky Business, a rack of keyboards lifted from John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness soundtrack, and a shambling low-fi basement black metal outfit, and the result is rather bewitching. Clanking industrial percussion, strange mechanical melodies and distant crooning blur together on “The Dusk Gardens Of Translucent Mansions”, continuing the bizarre dreamlike feel of the album, sounding like some inebriated death rock band wandering through a graveyard of broken clocks, and then that murky, soundtrack-like sound returns on “Shades Over The Mere”, with more distant Tangerine Dream-esque synths droning over heavy mechanical rhythms, those deranged vocals waaaaaay off in the distance, everything wrapped in a thick fog of tape hiss and low-fi corrosion, but still strangely pretty and haunting beneath all of the sonic slime. The rest of the songs are similarly delirious, “Sylvan Old Enchanter” drifting on waves of buried synth and deformed black metal guitar, washed out and bleary as it transforms into a wash of gorgeous organ-drift, like something out of a Hammer Horror film drenched in lysergic acid, followed by the ghostly ambience, strange melodic singing and plodding drums that almost sounds like a more stripped-down, minimal version of black psych weirdoes Yoga; that’s followed by “The Meadow Reapers (A Field Recording)”, which is pretty much just that, a stretch of minimal environmental sound flecked with strange nocturnal cries, mysterious rumblings, bits of ominous warbling synth and distant voices, everything slightly skewed and otherworldly.

The final track “Emanations From Beneath Far Hills, Beyond Far Moons”, though, is closer to the sort of weird black ambience heard on older Emit releases like The Dark Bleeding Gods and the excellent Abortions collection, a dimly lit, murky wash of metallic resonance, soft shimmery pulsations of cymbal-like reverberations, these sounds coalescing in the blackness into strange, chiming, half-formed melodies. After awhile, mysterious percussive sounds begin to appear and disappear, soft ghostly knockings that drift up like transmissions from beyond the grave as the track slowly fades into total and utter darkness.

The entire album is perfect, from start to finish, but the dark noisy ambiance of “Emanations From Beneath Far Hills, Beyond Far Moons,” is my personal favorite, and the most evocative of M.R. James’ work, that makes you feel as if you are exploring subterranean tunnels, in search of some lost manuscript. It is dank and ominous and utterly lightless. Truly disturbing stuff.

Any fan of death rock, post-punk, raw black metal, dark ambiance, or the writings of M.R. James, or ghost stories in general, while frankly gibber over this release. Very much worthy of yr time and attention on this, one of the darkest nights of the year.

Emit – Spectre Music of an Antiquary

deanellis

Yves Malone – Aced

yvesmaloneacedWe return to the realm of late ’70s/early ’80s sci-fi/slasher/thrillers, with this blurred-out transmission from the enigmatic Yves Malone.

Yves Malone is the evil phantom twin of Portland’s Adderall Canyonly, part of the smell but dedicated scene of producers who are making authentic anachronistic documents, recreating the sounds for lost ’80s straight-to-video chillers that never were.

On Aced, Malone has departed from the clam shell a bit, not trying to sound as convincingly archaic, instead seeming inspired by that era, and using it as a template to carve out his handmade newage synth odysseys. There’s a little less guignol splatter on Aced, and more of the feeling of a euphoric sci-fi optimism.

This just screams late ’70s sci-fi/action/thriller, something with Charlton Heston or Dolph Lundgren, something where the protagonist has to penetrate a dome at the bottom of the ocean, to retrieve a cure for his ailing ladylove, or retrieve the notes for the mad scientist’s elixir of youth. You can expect explosion, that is to be sure, but this is one of those thinkpiece existential melodramas, that delivers atmosphere and social commentary, in between the fireballs.

This is one of the main strengths that this genre of imaginary soundtracks has going for it, which is shared by most instrumental music, in my opinion. It frees you to draw up yr own plots, yr own characters, or to place yrself inside the action. It’s a much more engaging and participatory style than the passive consumerism of watching someone else’s vision, and seems to inherently stoke creativity inside the listener.

This begin with the logotone of “Aced Part I”, in true hauntological fashion. Consider this the spectral Viacom mark, for a company from an alternate past. “Posi-Rollout” brings the atmosphere and the mystery straightaway, with falling glittering synth arpeggios, with subdued and skeletal drums (lovingly sourced from analog, as almost everything else on Aced) gives some tension, expectation, and momentum. “Posi-Rollout” climaxes with some eerie theremin warbles, imperceptibly segueing into the throbbing square wave basslines of “Snackerface Byplant”, which is why we all love this style in the first place. There’s a bit of Ghost Box rinky dink library goblin synth melodies, as well, that keep this from becoming too enamored of one particular era, enhancing the uncanny atemporal sensation. The swarming echoes and shooting star synths are a nice touch, at the end, sealing the deal that you are in store for a truly engaging speculative listen.

“Bushing The WahtCleves” is the first hint that this may be sourced in the present, as the highly erratic disembodied beats sound a bit too abstract for late ’70s. With rippling underwater organs and prismatic oscillators over a dissected casio beat, this sounds like Autechre or Actress jamming with Terry Riley, and should be a treasure for the ’70s prog synth wizards out there.

“Along Cometh Gareth” is particular favorite track on here, and goes to show what is possible within this style of music. First of all, it’s a classic theme, simple but memorable. It’s got that open-ended, mysterious quality, peculiar to this realm. I wonder if it’s the key that he’s playing in, or just the sound quality itself, but it seems to have this unresolved and hollow feeling, forever seeking, not getting anywhere. It feels vaguely middle-eastern, in my mind, but I may just be hearing things or projecting. This is a true epic cyberpunk romance, here, complete with chirping motherboards. And then the breakdown, @ 4:08, that separates Malone from the imitators. This is no hack bedroom producer, riffing on presets and stitching together lego sounds. Here is a visionary, a true musician with something to stay, conjuring strange spectral stories, out of thin air, and leaving the listener to interpret them as they see fit.

If you’re looking for a soundtrack for yr next William Gibson or Neal Stephenson reading session, this could be yr ticket. Also, filmmakers, somebody needs to lay Malone’s sounds to celluloid. You heard it here first!

I won’t give the play by play for the entire record, but the two-fer “Cleaving Warpaths’ Orange” and “Now We Are Dimmer” are my other two favorites, making an exquisite trinity of underwater romance, wormhole questing, and antigravity epiphanies. More than anything, these two tracks illustrate that Yves Malone has real breakout potential, as this is no mere pastiche, or geek collector oddity. The laser synth on “Cleaving Warpaths’ Orange” is phat and full, another reason why we love ’80s synth – you can practically smell the ozone, as electricity passes through transistors, while the beats are smooth, solid, heavy yet graceful. I would lovelovelove to hear this on some progressive techno dancefloor (anyone know someplace in Portland where they play this kind of thing? I need to start my DJ career already.)

And finally, “Now We Are Dimmer” is just beautiful. And ominous. And exciting. This is the sound of discovering the Enochian tablets at the center of the galaxy. It’s far out futurism, but it’s still moving and emotional; truly lovely music, for any synth fan. Plus it’s got bongos! A mash-up of the late ’70s cinefunk syle and the proto-techno industrial synthscapes of the early ’80s. In short, something for everybody, and again, hint hint, perfect for mixes and mixtapes.

As we are continually inundated with digital information, as the air seems to swarm with terrifying nanobots, designed to consume our waking peacefulness, Yves Malone, and fellow synthitects like Perturbator, Zombie Zombie, and Pye Corner Audio remind us to relax, to go back to the feeling of excitement and discovery, that made us all fall in love with music, and genre, or whatever the hell else yr into. The reference to VHS and analog equipment gives this music a tactile quality that i predict will become increasingly meaningful in the years to come, as we strive to come to an uneasy peace with the technology, the information, and the possibilities that surround us every second.

With Yves Malone, you can sense the producer’s hand in the work, in the graceful filter sweeps and hand-programmed drums. Makes you want to dig out yr VHS machine and chop some samples, and create some slime soaked atmospheres of yr own. Of course, it’ll take a while until they’re as good as the subjective soundworlds of Aced

Very much recommended, as is anything that YM does.
 

 
Yves Malone FB
@YvesMalone
yvesmalone.com

karloffdoor

Lilacs & Champagne: Midnight Features Vol. 1

lilacs&champagneWhat do J Dilla, and J. P. Massiera have to do with Nurse With Wound, King Tubby, haunted folk, and opium-induced ritualistic metal? The answer, in this case, is Emil Amos + Andrew Hall.

When I first heard the instrumental hip-hop of Lilacs & Champagne last year, with their self-titled record, I though I was hearing some lost street poet auteur, someone like Gil Scott-Heron. Imagine my surprise when I realized that L&C were half of the instrumental trance-rock band Grails. Imagine my surprise, yet again, when i discovered Midnight Features Vol. 1: Shower Scenes, released back in April on Mexican Summer, that they had traded in their vintage exploitation vibes for midnight darkened giallo hip-hop?

The ominousness begins straightaway, with some ectoplasm synths and Friday The 13th delays on the titular track, but quickly lays into the meat of the track; smooth as chinese opium broken beats, Edwardian harpichords, and ominous music boxes, over a dub reggae bassline – everything smoked out and fugged through an MPC and unspeakable post-processing. It’s like taking four decades of horror/thrill films and splicing them into one hyper-efficient whole, essentially making for a dark sonic continent, to wander in and explore, to yr heart’s grisly delight.

“Le Grand (Brooklyn Bridge Version)” is the baddest haunted house record every made. It starts off with the ominous growling semi-atonal synth, which seems to be the hallmark that something horrific is going on, as thunder crashes and pans around yr cranium, like a stoned out version of those Peter Pan records you had as a kid. That harpsichord, again, holding down a static groove, while Emil Amos drums in dubspace, and Alex Hall singlehandedly recreates the Fabio Frizzi jazz adventure vibes on guitar.

Because, you see, there’s no telling where the sampling ends and the live instrumentation begins with Lilacs & Champagne, which is part of what makes them so damn compelling!

The anachronism is complete and total, and I truly cannot tell what is live, and what is sourced from weird old awesome Italian records. This layering of samples and recording promises massive capabilities, that I don’t think have yet even been scratched.

Back when i was first getting into writing about music, was during the height of the hauntological conversation, where writers like Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher were spelling out end of days philosophies in post-Marxist rhetoric. Everything has been made and seen, and we are doomed to pale reflections of past glories. In many ways, these prophecies still hold true, although not as much in culture, I feel.

Because while we may be doomed to be influenced by the past, to stand in the shadows of giants, to acknowledge our influences, and find ourselves amidst them, in spite of this all, I do think new forms and styles are emerging. This dense, referential bricolage of found sounds and samples is one such form, that I find endlessly thrilling.

And like I have frequently said, once you have yr samples in hand, you can do whatever you want with them, fit them to whatever groove sparks yr blood. It makes total sense that someone would turn to creepy, crappy old movies, and weird Library records, dump themp into an MPC, and drop a sweet headnodding hip-hop beat to it. I’m just surprised there’s not more of this kind of thing.

So, this time, i come only partially as an authority, mainly to get these sounds to you in the height of the spooky season (which never ends, here at Forestpunk castle.) I would also like to ask yr assistance? For one, does anybody recognize any of the samples that pop up on here? I would love to have a better understanding of how L&C are putting their sounds together. And 2, can you recommend anything else that sounds like this? I’m looking for more horror-influenced hip-hop, and always electronica. Not necessarily horrorcore, although i like some of that stuff; I’m looking for more stuff stitched together from freaky ’70s + ’80s records and movie soundtracks, most specifically of the horror genre, but that can extend to sleaze, mysteries, even daytime television!

This is one of the areas of music of which i am most passionate and excited about, so expect to hear a lot more about this, as the months and years wheedle on.

To learn more about Emil Amos, and his roots in sampling, check out this primer at self-titledmag.

Lilacs & Champagne – Midnight Features: Shower Scene 1
Lilacs & Champagne FB

@Emil_Amos
Mexican Summer FB
@MexicanSummer
Mexican Summer

To read more about sampling and culture, read more about the Archive Theory tag

To be deluged in blood, cobwebs and bones, peruse the horrorscores.

housebythecemeteryposter

The House By The Cemetery soundtrack – Walter Rizzati (Death Waltz)

housebyStep into Dr. Freudstein’s cobwebbed basement of horrors, with this essential soundtrack from Walter Rizzati.

The House By The Cemetery was a horror film from 1981, by infamous Italian giallo legend Lucio Fulci, completing his Gates Of Hell trilogy, began with The City Of The Living Dead and The Beyond. It tells the story of The Boyle family, who move into a creepy, rambling estate in Upstate New York, called Oak Mansion, known as “the Freudstein place” by the locals. The son, Bob, meets a mysterious young girl named Mae, that apparently only he can see, who warns him not to go into the house. There is some ominous signs, within the house, like the fact that the cellar door is nailed shut, and there’s a tomb in the living room.

Like most giallos, The House By The Cemetery is not a great movie. It does, however, have a number of wonderful details about it. There’s a great creeping atmosphere of dread, in the decaying gothic grandeur of Oak Mansion, rivers of gore and a number of creative kills, and the stellar soundtrack from Walter Rizzati. Fulci had used Fabio Frizzi for 8 out of the last 10 movies, but opted to go for Rizatti, who had only done music for a couple of sex comedies so far.

Rizzati’s score is a compendium of ’70s horror music tropes – spooky organs, ritualistic percussion, spectral choirs, flanged guitar, and discordant proto-industrial electronics. It stands on the threshold between the orchestral grandeur of earlier scores, and the ’80s solo synth auteur soundtracks that would be popularized by John Carpenter. Take the case of “Blonk Monster End,” which sounds like it could be something from Wendy Carlos’ A Clockwork Orange soundtrack, that sounds like a pipe organ through a dense prismatic fog – a true missing link between European gothic decadence and ’80s sci-fi synth futurism.

 

 

The double-headed opener of “Quella Villa” and “I Remember” really set the mood, and tell you all that you need to know about The House By The Cemetery. “Quella Villa” is a model of unsettling proggery, with a dry bass wandering aimlessly, upsetting the harmonies, shifting the ground beneath your feet, as if you were walking over some secret laboratory. There’s a muffled pulse throughout, that imitates the sound of a racing heart, causing your organ to do the same. It all builds to an almost unbearable tension, with a frantic, frenetic climbing organ riff and atonal honky tonk piano warbles, while orchestral drums reinforce the feeling of a bloodsoaked ritual orgy. Nothing resolves, everything is unsettled.

“I Remember” is a true classic theme. You can practically see the title screens roll past your ends, in faded, vaseline-soaked ’70s splendor. A haunting, bittersweet melody, that still creates a sense of adventure, is supplemented by the barest touch of a rock drum kit, and those ethereal choirs.

This combination of ’70s ritualistic funk; classic eerie atmosphere from scrapes, clangs, and modulated choirs; and ’80s synth is a decent approximation of the wonders in store on this mandatory reissue.

 

 

Other standout tracks are the Alessandro Blonkstein penned “Blonk Monster End”, a truly excellent example of early ’80s synth organ creepiness, and the two Terrores, “Voci Del Terrore” and “Verso il Terrore”.

“Voci Del Terrore” alone is worth the cost of admission, with more mysterious plodding melodic uncertainty, from the bass and piano, painted over with starlight electronics and truly ghostly choirs, that’ll stand yr hair on end.

“Verso il Terrore”‘s use of synths are restrained and effective. Hammer Horror organs sound as if they are underwater, while the rest sounds like some unholy amalgamation of The Rites Of Spring and The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

I would like to challenge the diggers and the DJs to make something of this, drop some of this giallo greatness into yr samplers or onto yr mixtapes, and let this cyberpunk thriller infect the world.

As with almost all old horror movie soundtracks, The House By The Cemetery reminds us that there’s so many great things out there to discover. So many odd and thrilling delights to be taken in the small details. Even in a sub-par movie (which The House By The Cemetery is not), there are incidental moments of inspiration, or of use to people working in the field. Whether yr a writer, a musician, a director, there is wisdom to be taken from the most unlikely sources.

My favorite thing about The House By The Cemetery soundtrack is that it takes us back to a time when films still used original music. Horror movies hadn’t succumbed to generic production music, or pop rock produce placement soundtracks. Instead, composers were able to apply music theory, performances, and sound design to create their unsettling effects. Horrorscores can be this maddening, infernal take on classicism. Musica et Diabola indeed.

If yr a fan of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi or other Italian film composers, as well as ’70s library grooves and heady prog weirdness, look no further.

The House By The Cemetery got the lavish reissue treatment from the ever essential Death Waltz Recording Co., showing up here for the first time, although they’ve been doing some of the best work out there, in terms of giving attention and legitimacy to classic horror soundtracks.

Printed on transparent red vinyl, with a 24″ x 24″ foldout poster, and featuring liner notes from Coil‘s Stephen Thrower.

The House By The Cemetery [180 Gram Vinyl]

Walter Rizzati @ imdb
Death Waltz Recording Co.
Death Waltz FB
@deathwaltzrecs

You can also watch The House By The Cemtery, in its entirety, at Hulu.

If you like this kind of thing, be sure to check out some Italian Occult Psychedelia, which is a movement of modern bands who are inspired by this era of film music, as well as the newest album from The Night Terrors, for more organ-led giallo grooves.

The archive theory series is an ongoing reflection on sampling and culture, going beyond the defeatism of retromania, looking for the future, and how to make the most of today.

carnival2

The Night Terrors – Pavor Nocturnus (Dual Planet)

nightterrorsPerhaps no sound is as inherently linked with the horror genre as the pipe organ. From the immediately recognizable open strains of Bach’s “Tocata In Fugue In D Minor,” in 1932’s Doctor Jekyll And Mister Hyde, to the spectral romp of Carnival Of Souls, to dark and tormented geniuses like The Phantom Of The Opera or Captain Nemo in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the pipe organ is used to simulate the sensation of a person possessed. Perhaps the pipe organ even inherently evokes ancestral memories of popcorn palaces and weeping chandeliers, in the times before talkies.

In the book Music in the Horror Film: Listening to Fear (Routledge Music and Screen Media), it is theorized that the pipe organ recalls the Gothic era, with its “ruined magnificence, beautiful disorder, attractive decay, dreadful spectacle, and supernatural extravagance” and a searching for the sublime. According to Edmund Burke, “beautiful objects are associated with smallness and delicacy, huge objects evoke awe and terror—a sense of the sublime.”

carnival2                      +

It is easy to imagine vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses, imagining these acoustic behemoths filling sacred spaces with immense tones and drones, like an early wall of sound. Pipe organs could be seen as the perfect example of the horror lover’s love of the sublime. As Clive Barker put it, portraying the horror lover as a modern shaman.

“The shaman’s position within the tribe is to be a sort of go-between, between the ghost-world, the worlds of the dead and the ancestors arid the minor divinities, of the haunting spirits on the one hand, and the tribe and common-life on the other. And the shaman goes off, takes his or her dream-trip, ventures into these places and comes back with, hopefully, insights, sometimes healing insights, spiritual insights, news from the gods, news from the ancestors.” – The Edge Interview

Horror is, after all, a representative of the fantastic, and is tied in with the quest for the spirit, for the supernatural. In this way, horror is religion’s twin shadow, the path we walk in search of real trembling awe and mystery.

Pavor Nocturnus is the newest LP from Melbourne, Australia’s The Night Terrors, and first release for the new imprint Twisted Nerve Australia, a collaboration between reissue labels Dual Planet and Finders Keepers. Pavor Nocturnus is built around recordings from the gigantic pipe organ in Melbourne’s Town Hall, The Grand Pipe Organ, the largest in the southern hemisphere. Pavor Nocturnus is a titanic opus of grindhouse funk and giallo gothicness, recorded on one Friday the 13th back in June.

As if a talented band playing Goblin grooves on a giant pipe organ weren’t good enough, these recordings are then adorned with Carpenter-esque analog electronics, pounding tribal drums, and The Night Terror’s most defining characteristic, the classically trained theremin playing of Miles Brown.

The cobwebbed gothicness of the pipe organ, with the eerie, otherworldly bent tones of the theremin combine to create a mixture of archaic horror and speculative SF, as if this vaunted cathedral, or ’20s movie palace, were to suddenly uproot and blast off into orbit, leading Rock Star Journalist to compare Pavor Nocturnus to Mario Bava‘s Planet Of The Vampires.

planet of vampires surface 2

So, really, with allusions to The Phantom Of The Opera, Captain Nemo, Doctor Jekyll And Mister Hyde, Carnival Of Souls, John Carpenter, and space vampires, i could pretty much stop writing here. What else do you need to know?

Except that The Night Terrors can really write and play. It’s a little sickening that these baroque monstrosities were captured on one afternoon, reminding us of the times where composers were expected to be able to improvise, as well as notate music. This is like J. S. Bach, improvising in front of Lucifer.

As is often the case with instrumental music, Paver Nocturnus works best as a whole, and you’d be advised to throw this on a pair of headphones, or get the LP and blast it through a stack of speakers, and let yrself be transported, to let yr head fill with phantasmagoria. If there is anyone out there currently writing gothic or sci-fi horror, this would be an excellent soundtrack, to get and stay in the mood.
 

 

While working best as a soundtrack, there are standouts, however. The first one to leap out and snare my attention was “Megafauna”, with its grinding, pyrotechnic bass organ riff, opening up into choppy, chunky discordant organ chords and growling bass synth, rooted down in the powerful funk drumming of Damian Coward. The drums are The Night Terrors ace in the hole, as they lend a driving sense of adventure, as well as giving that ’70s giallo cinemafunk vibe we all adore. Also, scope that second breakdown about 2 minutes in, with craft chord modulations, if you have any wonder if The Night Terrors’ cuts are theoretically sound.

“Kucelli Woke Up In The Graveyard” is the next one to stand my hair on end, with right and proper ominous tension from the bass synth, as the phantom organ shreds yr peace of mind. Dig those Carpenter basslines! This is the most cinematic outing on here, making me think this Kucelli has accidentally fallen asleep in the graveyard, only to be awakened by glowing vampires with spiked hair and long fingernails.

Both “Gravissima” and album closer “Spectrophilia” stand out, and sound of a piece, mainly with their insanely colossal drums. “Gravissima” is more of a heavy funk outing, however, while “Spectrophilia” astounds with its plodding ominousness giving way to jaw-dropping classical beauty. You have never in yr life heard a theremin sound so lovely, so haunting.

These tracks probably stand out more only in that they are heavier and more bombastic than some of the more creeping and subtle material on here. It’s all good, and indispensable to all horror lovers. Get this now, and get it on yr Halloween mixtapes!

Melbourne’s The Night Terrors straddle the dark chasm between silver screen horror and classic SF, producing a new galaxy of antigravity bloodsoaked visions.

If yr lucky enough to be in Australia, you have a chance to see this album performed live, at Melbourne’s Town Hall, on Halloween!

Highly recommended! Great stuff!

The Night Terrors – Pavor Nocturnus
The Night Terrors FB
@TheNightTerrors
Twisted Nerve Australia FB

bobbybeausoleil

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=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LWLZU1U/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00LWLZU1U&linkCode=as2&tag=forestpunk-20&linkId=XFBXFQ2LMN37GLVZ”>Then It All Came Down / You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me</a><img src=”http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=forestpunk-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00LWLZU1U&#8221; width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

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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.

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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.

 

 


 
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Lee Noble – Darker Half (Black Moss)

darkerhalf

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

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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.


 
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