A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Magickal modular synths and deep space adventure from The Wozard Of Iz, Mort Garson.
It’s surprising that more musicians haven’t turned to electronic instruments to evoke the occult, particularly modular synths. Using raw electricity, filters, and oscillators, modular synths create uncanny timbres unrooted to the “real world” of acoustic sensation, producing strange alien vistas that set the imagination on fire. These alien sonics would make early electronic music a favorite with Silver Age sci-fi mavens, creating more associations with deep space, unknown worlds, and altered states of consciousness.
With The Unexplained: Electronic Musical Impressions Of The Occult, synth wizard Mort Garson, operating under the handle Ataraxia, beautifully illustrates the many levels and layers of associations the occult can conjure. On the surface, The Unexplained is a sonic adventure, somewhere between Delia Derbyshire, Wendy Carlos’ soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, and Pink Floyd’s On The Run.
The Unexplained is comprised of 9 tracks, each one dedicated to a particular occult phenomena. “Tarot”, “Astral Projection”, “Deja Vu”, they’re all here. The material is an even split between a kind of funky, lite-jazz melodicism and eerie dark ambiance. The melodic tracks (“Tarot”, “Deja Vu”, “Astral Projection”) are fun, catchy & infectious, like pop music issuing from some alternate dimension, as our good friends Include Me Out put it.
The deep space dark ambiance (“Sorcerer”, “Seance”) are eerily lovely, creeping anti-gravity paeans to loneliness, mystery, and mysticism.
These pop cultural forays into the unknown are particularly important for those of us not fortunate enough to have been born The Antichrist or raised by a coven. For many of us, pop culture was our introduction into the mysteries of the occult, with horror movies, mystical music (of every genre), fantasy novels, and role-playing games leading us into a lifetime of paranormal investigation and research.
Records like The Unexplained speak to the recursive cycle of media inspiration. For many children of the ’80s and beyond, screens would stoke our young imaginations, helping us to imagine and visualize what was possible (and impossible). This creates a lifelong fondness and fascination both with the occult, as well as the material that introduced us to it. I still love a good cinematic seance or ritual, even if they create exaggerated ideas of what happens during these occurences.
It’s the psychic bleed-through, as the art we consume trickles out into our actual lives, the “real world” of physical manifestation.
That’s why we subtitled Horrorscores “transforming yr waking thoughts into living nightmares.” Art is great, when it inspires our actual lives. Part of why i’m personally so obsessed with horror soundtracks was a chance encounter with an Alan Howarth podcast on my old iPod. I was living in Colorado at the time, and found myself inadvertently wandering the industrial ruins of Longmont, while Howarth’s sickly cyberpunk alley chase scenes through phosphorescent shadows across the cave wall of my mind.
Art can also be an escape, a justification, a delusion, an opiate, the final and ultimate soma for a pacified, decadent culture. It’s up to us to choose what we will do with. Will we be passive consumers, or will we delve and explore?
If yr here, i have a sense i know the answer to that question.
So, my reasons for posting Ataraxia – The Unexplained, as part of 31 Days Of Horror, are two-fold. First, to introduce you to the synth-ly wizardry that is Mort Garson and secondly, to call upon our mutual expertise, and try and find some more occult electronics?
In conjunction with the visual component of Forestpunk, Bitstar, we’re trying to bring some sci-fi and speculative fiction this October, as well. Halloween isn’t just about Horror, it’s about imagination. It’s about what is possible. Do you know of some other wildly imaginative soundtrack or sci-fi inspired work, in any genre, that you’d like to see featured at Forestpunk? Let us know in the comments, or drop by the Facebook Page! You can also tweet yr favorite magickal imaginative music and sounds to #horrorscores, and we’ll spread it wide!
In case you missed it, i also mentioned The Unexplained in a recent feature i wrote on essential modular synth records for Redefine Magazine.