A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: Static Caravan
Release Date: 5.11.12
RIYL: John Carpenter/Alan Howarth, Pye Corner Audio, Ghost Box, Yves Malone
You are watching snow-encrusted pine trees rush past a rain-splattered car window on a battered color TV with rabbit ears. The mood music is tense; it is impossible to tell, just coming on to the scene, if you are watching a crime being solved or perpetrated.
You are entering the world of Lexicon Of Paragon Pines, a soundtrack for imaginary film from The Duke St Workshop, based on “cold cases,” unsolved mysteries, from the ’70s.
Welcome to a new edition of Horrorscores, where we transform yr daily, workaday world into a walking nightmare, if that’s yr bag (and if you’ve managed to find yr way here, it probably is). For this installation, we present this dusty auditory oddity, full of queasy analog synths, knocking knackered drum machines, melancholic piano interludes, field recordings, all slathered in an attractive tape scum.
There’s not much biographical information to go on, and that’s part of the charm. Lexicon Of Paragon Pines could just as well be some unheard gem from the days of oversized plastic clamshells, but it seems to be of modern origin. The producer/composer pays exquisite attention to anachronistic detail; there’s no breakbeats or dubstep wobble to break the spell. It places you inside a late-’70s/early-’80s thriller, and keeps you there. It reminds us of what was so great about those original soundtracks and movies, and invites us to take another appreciative look.
I’m not gonna lie, i’m full of fanboy fanaticism for this type of document. It makes the world weirder, it makes you wonder. Yr not sure what is going on: is it a relic? Is it a homage? The producer’s not telling; Lexicon Of Paragon Pines speaks for itself, in a world of it’s own. The musical themes, alternating between synth jams, either industrial atmospheric thrillers or funky synthpop, and moody piano instrumentals, are augmented with field recordings, a phone ringing, a door slamming, the sound of children on a playground. It breaks the 4th wall, and you forget that you are “merely” listening to music, conjuring events in yr mind’s eye. It activates a visionary and imaginative property of listening to sounds that is not possible in straightforward “pop” music or watching film. You are free, required, to supply your own imagery.
There’s a lot that can be said, both positive and negative, about this kind of homage. On one hand, the thoroughness and authenticity of the aging is staggering. On the other, as the music critic Simon Reynolds laments loudly in Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, what has become of the future, and who will create it?
This IS the future, or at least part of it, the future is just turning out to be a much stranger place than anyone imagined. It is built upon the debris of the past, and we are forced to reckon with it. After a couple hundred years of capitalism, we are left with mountains of refuse to sort through. It can either be treasure or so much trash, depending on how we deal with it.
Let’s face it, a lot of older thriller/horror films are not that good. The pacing frequently makes a snail seem manic, by comparison. The acting can be goofy and unbelievable, and the special FX are beyond cheap, red food coloring smeared in vaseline. The filmmakers often did not know what they were doing. They were just trying to make a movie, with limited technology and no budget.
Yet i have a fondness for cheap, made-for-TV fare. As a child, i would be scared stupid once a week watching Unsolved Mysteries, with its dramatic re-enactments and morbid piano themes. It would set the tone, leading me into the fascination that will burgeon into full-on bloodlust as a teenager and was a little more put-upon by the world. There are gems amidst the rough, coarse textures of Kodachrome nostalgia. Odd bits of atmosphere, here, a compelling character there. I just like the mood of horror movies.
Duke St Workshop get that mood just right, and brings it into yr living room. Start here, and got lost in these frozen forests, then go back and re-watch some of yr old faves. Listen to the sound design, look for inspiration. Do Something with the past. Make it yr own. In that way, we can make the present, and thus the future, into whatever we want it to be.
I cannot recommend this album highly enough! I’ve been listening to this, on a gritty grease-caked boombox all week; even my roommates like it (giving them a respite from the non-stop barrage of horrible noise and chintzy library music). The CD is long since sold out, but is still available as a download.
Stay tuned for more bloodchilling wonder…