A Journal Of The Dark Arts
I’ll be yr host this evening, acting as Virgil, leading you deep into the deep dark woods with the nocturnal travelogue of OH/EX/OH’s THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS.
Thought-wrapt, he wandered in the breezy woods,
In which the summer, like a hermit, dwelt:
He laid him down by the old haunted springs, Up-bubbling, mid a world of greenery, Shut-eyed,
and dreaming of the fairest shapes
That roam the woods.
Whiles glow’ring round wi’ prudent cares,
Lest bogies catch him unawares.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
The House In The Woods is some rural psychedelia, as seen on a groddy old VHS. Something like Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, perhaps? More like The Blair Witch Project.
A story begins to conjure in the shewstone:
Went looking for The Gristlehurst Boggart, a local sprite or fairy found near Lancashire. Let’s not forget that many fairies were dark, and the Boggarts were the ancestors of the Bogeymen.
You find a house in a clearing, “Oh shit, it’s a house.”, and The Blair Witch gives way to The Evil Dead. It’s not as malevolent as it sounds, however, as much of The House In The Woods is rather peaceful sounding. Maybe these sprites are the more ethereal type, like The Lady In White? There’s a touch of relief, with the classic-Carpenter-inspired “From Dusk Til Dawn”, tense minimalist synthesizer melodies, with a hint of a beat, and it seems that almost everybody makes it out alive.
The House In The Woods is divided into two halves, the dark cabin side, and the more medieval sounding, Cthulhu related B-side. Like every good hauntological document, both sides begin with a logotone, which gives this record the feeling of one of those Golden Books tapes you would read along with, when you were a kid.
The A-side, what i’d call the rural psychedelia portion, is mostly ambient soundscape: field recordings of crickets and cicadas painted over with the sparsest patina of gelatinous droning synth. It’s like the essence of David Lynch‘s roadhouse purgatory with the humanism removed, leaving you to drift off into the ether night. Fans of Burial Hex and Mirror, look no further. It also reminds me strongly of another House In The Woods, the recent side project of Pye Corner Audio, as well as The Blackridge Tapes, from Lost Trail & The Implicit Order.
The flipside seems like a medieval fantasy, and Cthuloid in nature, with track names like “Beneath The Water” and “Necronomicon”. “The Church Hearing 1977” is a personal favorite, of this collection, with peaceful shimmering synths giving the feeling of floating underwater, perhaps exploring a sunken cathedral. Again, like the best hauntological artifacts, this side reminds us how good synthesized flute and woodwinds can sound, lovingly scratched in the best possible way. Like the best non-existent soundtrack for an episode of Hammer House Of Horror, except it sounds much more ’80s newage inspired, so maybe it’s an episode of Tales From The Darkside, instead.
The House In The Woods reflects exactly what we so adore about the Horrorscore series, and the quaint curiosities of the hauntology tag. Like a good Lovecraft store, it references folklore, and gives the feeling that there is more to the story, makes you want to dig in, like a good antiquarian. That Boggart link above will lead you to the chronicles of Edwin Waugh, who was the Alan Lomax of British spookstories, plus sheet music to boot. A fine way to spend a sun-dappled weekend, getting lost in quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore.
Oh/Ex/Oh also reminds us of our love of the synthesizer, the simple unbridled joy of listening to sine waves twine in the air, gently pirouetting, occasionally rubbing. Sine gives way to square to sawtooth; gentle gets roughed up. Peace gives way to menace. Classical composers would’ve given their pinkies for this level of nuance and control over the building blocks of sound, and it reminds us how much room there is for exploration, development and mastery in this 100-year old artform.
The soundtrack quality of these recordings also sets the imagination alight, conjuring images of dark woods, forgotten gods, glowing ghosts and dusty libraries. It’s superior, even, to real film score in that these images do not yet exist, and force you to use yr visionary faculties.
Transform yr living room/bedroom into a sunken tomb, a lost city, an abandoned house, a clearing in the wood. Float into nothingness. Go looking for mysteries. Use yr imagination.