A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Joseph Curwen – Strange Olden Ruin


Release Date: 6.13

Label: Self-Released

Sounds Like: Wind, Mist, Sucking Mud, Lustmord, Eternity, Being Lost

With so much music in existence, in can be difficult to know where to begin. This is triply the case when it comes to the world of drone and noise music, so much of which is about the moment, instantaneous remixes, spontaneity, improvisation, and closely looking at sounds themselves. There are skads of daily ambient and field recording sites popping up, it becomes feasible to imagine that you could spend all of today listening to a remix of yesterday. Its philosophically and psychologically fascinating, but if yr just looking for something to listen to while you do the dishes or walk the cat, it can be a bit daunting.

Dark Ambient/Drone artist Joseph Curwen, named after a character in H. P. Lovecraft’s The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, has taken this into account. In an interview with British magazing TheCOLONY, this is what the artist had to say, regarding the importance of visuals to experimental music:

I think it can give the music a sense of context and immediacy that just listening to the music may not provide. Having watched experimental performers in the past, the use of visuals is a great tool for evoking a particular mood. This is especially true if what the performer is doing is quite dull to watch.  When dancing in clubs, you feel more euphoric when there’s coloured lights swooshing over everyone, and doom gigs feel heavier with minimal lighting. I don’t think impressive visuals should be used as a cover up for lack lustre music, the fundamentals of the sound should always be there, with or without this extra element, in any genre of music.

In this instance, Joseph Curwen makes electronic dirge themed after the works of H. P. Lovecraft. His ominous, unyielding moods admirably evoke the weirdness and endless expanse of the famed Rhode Island recluse. It gives a sense of cohesiveness, narrative and mood to the longform drones, and it also gives you something to do while being baptised in the sound. For this installment, Strange Olden Ruin, the three pieces are scripted after The Moon-Bog. It tells the tale of an Irish-American who inherits his family’s estate in Kilderry, a fictional town in Ireland. Going against the town’s folk in typical Lovecraftian fashion, he decides to drain the bog behind the house, which the locals believe to be cursed. It ends badly for everybody. The three tracks here are I – Dancing Lights In The Dark Of The Moon, II – Chill Winds When The Night Was Warm, and III – Wraiths In White Hovering Over The Waters. Each track is around a half-hour in length, and are cut from a similar sonic tapestry, so the album is of a whole, and the individual tracks are like symphonic movements. The mood is pensive, reminiscent, forlorn – more spectral gray than the pitch black void of Atrium Carceri or similar Cosmic Dark Ambient artists. The sounds are digital in origin, and like any good sound artist, Joseph Curwen is exploring the nearly infinite combination of tones and textures to be coaxed from binary motherboards and signal processors. The nearly imperceptible presence of field recordings and digital wind give his recordings room to breathe, make them seem as if they are happening in reality and not merely bouncing around inside some DAW. This alone would be enough to make his music stand above 99% of the anonymous dronesters out there, but the music stands on its own, reeking surreal visions on yr inner retinas. Transform yr bedroom or morning commute into a haunted burial mound, a damp attic, an abstract dimension.

moon_bog____done_by_forkscrawl-d46r0kzOne of the most common comments i hear about longform audio like this is: ‘its good, but what am i supposed to do with it?’ People appreciate the idea of watching sine waves blend and dance in thin air, in theory, but rarely make the space in their lives for such sonic meditation. Joseph Curwen’s music circumnavigates this dilemma by attaching it to a concept. Simply stream (or, preferably, buy for a respectable price) one of these records, sit back, and get in to some of Lovecraft’s works. It is for this reason that i am attaching this article to The Vision And The Voice series, which is all about the intersection between audio and visual arts. Text is a visual art, it is taken in through the eye, and with this music playing (preferably through decent speakers or headphones), and have a full, immersive experience that can be genuinely unsettling, as well as enlightening.

I am becoming more and more fond of Curwen’s work, the more i hear of it. The dude is hyper prolific, so there are hours and hours of material to get lost in. It gives me a reason to go back and finish reading the rest of Lovecraft’s work, which is something i’ve been meaning to do for a minute. It has the wormwood scent of the sepulcher about it, difficult to quantify but impossible to duplicate. Those that love horror movie soundtracks, bass drone music, reading, or long walks at night will have a new companion, for the oncoming dark months.

You can find out more about the artist here, and follow along via his tumblr
. You can also read a more detailed analysis of this record at The Ambient Exotica blog (it seems that AE and i have the same listening habits, lately).
You can find the whole text of The Moon Bog here, to heighten yr listening experience:





One comment on “Joseph Curwen – Strange Olden Ruin

  1. Pingback: Joseph Curwen – Cyclopean Stones | forestpunk

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