A Journal Of The Dark Arts
scene: antiquated rough-hewn stone corridors on the hillside. The weight of time is palpable in their ill-fitting confines. You look to the sky, to the starry expanses.
[camera angle pans upward, towards the inky blackness.]
transition. Suddenly the vantage point is from on high, being sucked into the voidness of space. The stone walls diminish, like the light at the end of a tunnel, like memories of home, like waking from a dream.
On this new long-player from prolific Newcastle-upon-Tyne sound artist Joseph Curwen, continues his ambitious quest to provide abstract soundscapes based upon the work of weird fiction legend H. P. Lovecraft. On this most recent installment (which happen about once a month), Curwen has forsaken the cthonic cults that worship the Great Old Ones with unspeakable rites and instead focuses on the deep space where they reside. He accomplishes this with 5 tracks of nearly static tones, slowly morphing and undulating nearly imperceptibly.
There is a feeling of weightlessness contained within these transmissions. Its like floating in the vacuum for what seems like forever, as all hallmarks and trademarks of time have long since left. This is infinite sensory deprivation, only occasionally interspersed with photons and ghostly radio transmissions brush past yr now useless ears.
As retro sci-fi and analog excursions continue to rise in the popular consciousness, people might do well to check out Curwen’s tones. It’s more like the soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s Aliens than Outer Space, however, and Curwen is evoking the actual vacuity of deep space, rather than a cinematic depiction. And his cosmos is populated by ancient, ageless, malevolent EVIL, so there is a sinister edge, even if its only in the context, buried beneath these longform compositions.
Lovecraft has become a patron saint of modern horror, so it is often overlooked that he often wrote Science Fiction, as well. His writing was the beginning of mankind coming to grips with its own insignificance in the cosmic spectrum, as we retreated further and further from the Earth-centric world-view, pre-Galileo. Space was the final frontier, oppressive in its unknowability. As the 20th century progressed, we filled in that blankness with wild imaginings, glossing over the dread with space westerns and friendly aliens, until we were able to convince ourselves that we knew what was out there.
Joseph Curwen is dismantling that veil, and taking us back to the wild void, where anything is possible, and Cosmic Horrors rub shoulders with inconceivable beauty.
These tone sculptures are remarkably static, making for the most patient of listening experiences. It sounds like what it might be like to be a radio astronomer, picking through noisy ambiance, hoping to find order or intelligent design amidst the chaos. This is best suited for those already keen on listening to field recordings and ambient sounds, that know how to make music from the industrial symphony that surrounds our daily life. It is a unique and meditative experience, an hour of Satori in an overly busy and crowded world.
In this way, Joseph Curwen is providing us with an invaluable service, the reminder to slow down and look up, to ponder yr place in things and as such, the meaning of yr life.
Cyclopean Stones is a fine addition, for those already familiar with his work, as mood music for an interstellar RPG or film, for those that enjoy retro SF or analog soundscapes. And for the unfamiliar, stop in and attune to DEEP LISTENING.