“There in the narrow hall, outside the bolted door with the covered keyhole, I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread—the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery. It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth, and that at certain intervals they assumed a symphonic quality which I could hardly conceive as produced by one player.”
- “The Music Of Erich Zann“, H. P. Lovecraft
“[Lovecraft] says that we should understand weird as an attitude of “awed listening, as if we were listening for the beating of black wings or some kind of scratching at the end of the known universe”.
- “On H. P. Lovecraft’s Sonic Horror“, Dean Lockwood
“The music on the album was created using musical approaches put forth by Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo to honor H. P. Lovecraft, the literary figure regularly cited as being the father of modern horror. Both figures have been an extremely important figure in the development of experimental music and literature, both to me personally, and countless other musicians, artists, and writers working today.”
- Will Connor (Seesar, Various)
Fantasy author Fritz Leiber once described H. P. Lovecraft as “the Copernicus of horror fiction,” turning the anthropocentric worldview on its head, in light of then-recent developments in deep space exploration, particle physics, uncertainty, and a host of other bogies that flummoxed even the brightest minds. Even Albert Einstein finally reached his breaking point, as reality went up in an indeterminate cloud, famously exhorting, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”
In this way, Lovecraft may be seen as the shaman/priest of the 2oth Century, plunging into the nighttime abyss of irrationality and illogic, despite the fact that he was an ardent, avid atheist. In many ways, Lovecraft stumbled upon something, with his Cthulhu Mythos, that he was unable or unwilling to appreciate. He called up something he couldn’t put down.
Many more mystical minds, however, have peered into the depths and darknesses unearthed by Lovecraft in the last 100 years. These dreamers and poets and visionaries and madmen are much more poetic and abstract, able to dream and conceive of things, while Lovecraft himself merely balked as “terrible” or “undescribable”.
While this dearth of description has provided many critics with much frustration – and not an unsizable amount of amusement – it’s good news for the artists, for the sonic visionaries, the music makers and dreamers of dreams.
Given Lovecraft’s evocation of the alien and unimagined, it makes sense that the Cthulhu Mythos would intersect with Luigi Russolo, Italian Futurism, and The Art Of Noises, although it takes a bit of a leap, initially, to make that connection.
Luigi Russolo, along with the rest of the Italian Futurists, called for an embracing of noise in composition, towards the goal of making a more relevant music for the hyper-industrialized, permanently-embattled, constantly-accelerating world we’re living in. After nearly 100 years of getting cozy with Dada, DuChamp, Burroughs, Bowie, and the cut-up techniques, Russolo’s adoption of mechanical instruments and pre-recorded sounds might not seem that earth shattering, but the implications are as vast and as endless as the inky spaces where the black stars hang in Lovecraft’s fiction.
The New Leaders Of The Eldritch Noise is a brand new enclave, organized by notorious Dark Ambient wizard and ethnomusicologist Will Connor. Connor’s been exploring the intersection of experimental electronics and the Lovecraftian mythos for years now, with his Sombre Soniks imprint and under a variety of musical guises – but this project is brand new and especially exciting.
The New Leaders Of The Eldritch Noise is currently made up of 25 active artists, writers, and musicians, looking to drag the Mythos into the future, via Futurist practices. The Art Of Eldritch Noises is their initial release, forming a kind of cthonic supergroup.
The Art Of Eldritch Noises comes off almost as a compilation or mixtape, as it’s comprised of 7 tracks, each patterned after a different Lovecraft story. Things begin with “Descending To Y’ha Nthlei”, a collaboration between Will Connor’s Seesar project, along with Portugal’s Babalith and Druha Smrt, out of the Czech Republic. True trainspotters might notice that Y’ha Ntlei is the main city of The Deep Ones, in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, while Seesar is the name of a monster out of a Godzilla movie. Somehow, this confluence of the ritual; the shadowy, deep subconscious and trashy sci-fi horror makes a perfect encapsulation of both Lovecraft, in general, and The Art Of Eldritch Noises, in particular.
The Art Of Eldritch Noises is particularly effective as an introduction both to a wide swathe of under-known artists, working with Lovecraftian/Mythos themes, in the realm of abstract, experimental sound art, as well as to some of Lovecraft’s stories you might not be aware of. Anything that raises awareness of the tremendous “The Walls Of Eryx”, as “The Invisible Maze Of The Man-Lizards” – another collaboration between Seesar and Babalith – does, is a welcome addition to the world of science-fiction.
The Art Of Eldritch Noises is equal part lo-fi and high magickal imagination. It would be a perfect soundtrack for some astral journeying, scrying, ritual invocation/evocation, or other such metaphysical pursuits, or for running tabletop role-playing campaigns in your basement, or writing schlocky deep-space operas about cannibal androids and sentient flytraps. The raw sound quality of the field recordings are particularly effective, most likely courtesy of Will Connors/Seesar, as part of his exploration of ethnomusicological instruments and ritual. Instead of hand drums and shakers, however, Connors elicits a wide array of skittering pulses, taps, springs, dings, clunks, and scrapes from hinges, household shelves, and other bric-a-brac, in a way that sounds like mice crawling across your ear drums or being buried alive in field ticks. It’s deliciously unsettling.
The Art Of Eldritch Noises manages to summarize nearly everything we’re about, at Forestpunk – the intersection of science and mysticism; music, sound, and noise; and, of course, supporting underground artists and musicians. As an added lagniappe, Connors recently moved to my hometown of Portland, Or. making this a local release, as well. I had the pleasure of meeting Will Connors in person, briefly, this summer, and am looking forward to working together towards creating a truly magnificent magickal, horrific underground, here in the Pacific Northwest.
As with the last few posts, I’ll wrap up this post with a question. As much as we’d love to pretend otherwise, we actually WEREN’T experts in all of the topics and fields we’ve been investigating, when we started Forestpunk. Instead, it’s been more of a journey and an investigation. I’m highly interested in some of the studies that occultist Kenneth Grant has done into Lovecraft’s work, adapting into more thoroughly into an established occult context. Has anyone else done any research into the 23rd Current, and could recommend any books, music or movies either directly on the topic, or of a similar mood? I feel like it’s all part of a trend that I’ve been calling Neptune Rising, as the collective subconscious gets closer and closer to the surface of the conscious thought – rising like R’lyeh, with all the attendant ESP, precognitive dreams, radical empathy, and blurring lines.
And what are some other Mythos-related musics that you’d like to see covered on Forestpunk?
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Tune into every Sunday night/Monday morning for Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness @ Freeform Portland! Exploring the dark side of techno, hip-hop, shoegaze, metal, psych, folk, and soundtrack. You can listen to the archives online @ mixcloud.com/for3stpunk.