It’s been a lot of fun playing gigs with Layla since our album, Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) was released back in March. Thank you to everyone who invited us to play and all those who said very kind things to us after shows. Thanks also to Ben Goldberg at Ba Da Bing! for the gentle push in this direction. I should also mention that WE FINALLY HAVE A WEBSITE!
Although we finished recording Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) in December 2016, the process of getting the album released was beset by a variety of delays which, ultimately, made the end result a lot better. One delay was getting the best possible lathe cut and pressing, rejecting a number of test presses along the way. In this respect, Paul Gold at Salt Mastering did brilliantly – the final pressing sounds excellent: no noise, wide dynamic range, great clarity – one couldn’t ask for more… Apparently Ba Da Bing! had an office full of interns listening to the test presses with notepads in their hands, eagerly listening out for any pops or hisses…
The other thing that took an inordinately long time was coming up with the cover art…
Hawthonn is the real deal. Equally adept at transcribing crow calls
into musical scales as they are at creating horizon melting
atmospheres, Red Goddess raises the bar for musicians interested in
composing straight from the creative imagination. For fans of Jocelyn
Godwin, John Dee and Folk Horror as much as the darker spectrum of
British music, this is a record of staggering breadth.
– Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance)
I am pleased to say that we can finally announce the new Hawthonn album, Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing), which will be released on 23rd of March on Ba Da Bing! Records. We premiered ‘Eden’, the first single, on The Quietus last week – you can read more about the track there, or listen below.
Pre-orders, and more info on the album, can be found here! For those in the UK/EU, Layla and I will handle the postage in order to cut out the prohibitive transatlantic shipping fees. If you are interested in ordering a copy, email us at email@example.com. Prices are £20 LP and £10 CD, plus P&P (LP: £4.50 UK/£7.20 EU; CD: £2.50 UK/£4.50 EU). You can also order direct from us via Bandcamp!
The LP also comes in a burlap-textured sleeve (- like the first pressing of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures! -) and has an insert with a short essay thereon. Norman Records, Piccadilly Records and many others will be also carrying the album!
Recently I acquired a copy of Fulgur’s Touch Me Not, a facsimile, transcription and translation of the Wellcome Library’s notorious Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae (MS1766). This manuscript has circulated quite widely over social media during the last year or so, mostly owing to a fascination with the diversity of demonic genitalia on display therein!
However, little was said about the textual content of the manuscript. We might immediately deduce that it is 17th century, German, and likely connected with the overtly dark and demonic ‘Höllenzwang‘ magical literature, most often associated with Faust. Intrigued by the images, I was excited to discover that an edition was in the works, edited and translated by Hereward Tilton and Merlin Cox, the description of which promised ‘psychedelic drug use, animal sacrifice, sigillary body art, masturbation fantasy and the necromantic manipulation of gallows-corpses.’ My copy arrived last week, and it is a very handsomely produced volume indeed.
Such lurid descriptions as those above undoubtedly make good copy, but what I found most interesting was the way the text interpolated material – chiefly on narcotic salves and fumigations – from the Aufschlüsse zur Magie (1788/1792) of Karl von Eckartshausen. I was only dimly aware of the work of Eckartshausen, but Touch Me Not compelled me to find out more…
A couple of announcements!
First, I’m very proud to have a track on Ben Chasny’s forthcoming Hexadic III collection. It’s an organ improvisation in the Hexadic style, entitled Zoa Pastorale. The release date is February 23rd, but pre-orders are open now!
The album also features Moon Duo, Tashi Dorji, Stephen O’Malley (and company), Richard Youngs, Jenks Miller (Mount Moriah) and Meg Baird & Charlie Saufley (Heron Oblivion). I’ve been bowled over by the diversity of sounds on display in this album – from motorik psych, to doomy sludge, ethereal folk, sunshine rock and Baroque floridity – all wrought from Ben’s system of tonal organisation. You can even dance to a couple of tracks!
Read more and place your pre-orders over at the Drag City website.
Second, you may know that I hold the poet Kathleen Raine in high esteem, having previously named an album after a line from one of her poems, and written at some length on the relationship between her vision of nature and the poetic imagination and its relation to sonic arts. I was excited, therefore, to discover that Delphine Dora had recently finished an album of songs that spontaneously interpret Raine’s poetry. She invited me to contribute an English text to accompany her album, Eudaimon (to be released early 2018 by three-four records), and this is what I wrote:
The twentieth century has had its share of poets exploring magic and mysticism. However, it is Kathleen Raine who has articulated the deepest spiritual vision throughout the entire body of her work. Having studied William Blake – and, in the process of doing so, reading all that he had read – Raine believed poetry to be an art-form that could open readers to an awareness of a divine, transcendental world which expresses itself to us through in the language of symbols.
As an example: for Raine, a tree is never ‘just’ a tree: iIt is a symbol of the unity of the universe. This symbol draws meaning from its presentation in the poem: it may blossom, decay, or be felled – each of these express different relationships between humanity and the universe. For Raine, nature and its symbols express an archetypal world, which she described as burning “with an interior light and glory, awe-inspiring.”
When we become acquainted with Raine’s symbols, we begin to see the world very differently: full of meanings and spiritual significance. Her vision of the poetic symbol has deeply influenced many artists – myself among them – and has led to a number of musical settings of her poetry. However, these are predominantly in the ‘art-song’ genre of classical composition – here, Raine’s simple and intimate language is often obscured by the compositional settings and vocal techniques that the classical idiom demands. What Delphine Dora has achieved here are naturalistic settings of Raine’s words, which present her poems in a new light. Delphine’s work interprets Raine’s poems in a style that is by turns ethereal, lively, melancholic and innocent – the last of these terms evoking the idea of the innocence of souls: who, being incarnated in the lower world, become corrupted and seek to return to their source through the gates of death.
Indeed, death is one of Raine’s prominent themes, and is explored on in the opening song on this album. H.G.A. sees Raine reflect on her proximity to her Holy Guardian Angel, who will soon lead her immortal soul away from sphere of creation, and, consequently, she will forget all that she now remembers about the material world. Many of us would be inclined to approach such a theme sombrely, but the melancholic sweetness of Delphine’s interpretation captures something of the yearning for the otherworldly and unknowable world of light that Raine believed to be the soul’s true habitation. This angel is the same as that sung about in Eudaimon, who sees her depart the celestial realms for the ‘prison house’ of the world, but who will one day bear her back to her true home in the stars.
Like Raine’s own poems, the songs on Eudaimon are pure in their simplicity and austere style. Yet they also shine with the crystalline fire of the world beyond: that same light which bleeds through the symbols that Raine believed helped our souls recall their original states. If you do not already know Raine’s work, there can be no better introduction.
Raine may also be due a wider revival: I notice that she also features prominently in Gary Lachman’s forthcoming Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.
More news soon, I hope, on the new Hawthonn album… and even a gig or two…!
Followers of this blog and my musical releases will know that the American sound-artist Kim Cascone has become both a friend and inspiration over the last few years. I wrote a piece on this blog in 2014 about my experience of a couple of concerts and workshops that I had invited him to present at Leeds Beckett University, and I also made him one of the subjects of the chapter I wrote for Void Front Press’ Sustain//Decay anthology. You can also find my chapter archived online here.
I tend invest most projects I work on with imaginative images: I find the process of working with music conjures symbols, and I explore them – I see how they unfold in parallel with the piece in question. Often the exploration of the symbols becomes so intense that the music almost seems like a by-product of this engrossing internal process. This is the kind of thinking that led me to write texts like Psychogeographia Ruralis, and which is explored in more scholarly terms in The Bright Sound Behind the Sound. Layla and I have also carried these approaches into our work with Hawthonn, which became the other subject of the Sustain//Decay piece. Continue reading
Since posting the 22-minute Dolente…Dolore back in July, this blog has been rather quiet. Of course – much has been going on behind the scenes: I’m pleased to say that 2018 is looking quite exciting – there will be a new Hawthonn album at the start of the year (vinyl, CD and digital: pre-orders should hopefully be announced in a few weeks!), and I have a solo track on a brilliant compilation album that should be released at around the same time.
Furthermore, I’m finishing off a book manuscript for one of my favourite occult publishers. I’m also doing plenty of academic work: a paper on Coil, Killing Joke and Kenneth Grant for Cambridge University Press’ Popular Music Journal (manuscript due in 2018, but not published til 2019!) AND working on my PhD thesis on esoteric discourse and musical creativity! Oh, and I also wrote a short piece for the spring 2018 issue of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’s Enquiring Eye magazine, the first issue of which was excellent. Continue reading
Alan Dunn recently asked me to contribute some music to The Lighthouse Invites the Storm, a festival of celebration for Malcolm Lowry, running around Liverpool from the 17th to 29th of July. Below is the fruit of my labour, along with a description of the rationale for the piece, which is also available for free download from my bandcamp (which includes a PDF of the liner notes).
Alan had chanced to hear a track from Hesperian Garden while simultaneously auditioning Balam Ronan’s field recordings from the Mexican Día de los Muertos celebrations. He asked if I’d be interested in contributing something hallucinogenic and mescal-fuelled, so here is my response: an electroacoustic re-imagining of Balam’s documents; a trembling, drunken dream with flashes of heaven and hell – the celestial and chthonic – punctuated by the sound of carnivalesque street bands drifting in through an open window…
Not desiring to literally interpret Lowry’s multi-faceted, ‘churrigueresque’ work, I focused on a number of images that I found potent, both from Lowry’s text, and from the biographical detail and academic interpretation surrounding it.
I am pleased to say that I have an article published in Void Front Press’ new collection Sustain//Decay. Edited by Owen Coggins (Open University) and James Harris, this 289-page collection brings together writings on drone music and mysticism by a diverse range of authors, amongst them Kristina Wolfe, Kim Cascone, Eyvind Kang, J.-P. Caron and Drone Box representing perhaps the speculative and luminescent side of drone mysticism, while Coggins, Harris, Absentology (Mark Horvath & Adam Lovasz), Steven Shakespeare, Joseph Norman and others explore the heavier, doomier side: rounding off the collection with an interview with Sunn O)))’s Atilla Csihar.
My piece is titled Inner-Sense and Experience: Drone Music, Esotericism and the Hieroeidetic Field, and looks at the role of the esoteric imagination the production of drone music. It develops Arthur Verluis’ concept of the hieroeidetic, which can be described as the imaginative space that exists between artist/audience and the art object: Continue reading
I recently began reading some of the work of Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-1875), and was intrigued to discover a formula for composing magical melodies in his notorious Magia Sexualis. Unfortunately the instructions, on pp.69-74 of the 1931 French first edition and pp. 41-44 of the 1987 English translation, are almost incoherent: obviously some sort of editorial error or misreading of Randolph’s manuscript occurred prior to publication, and since neither translator was a musician the instructions have remained somewhat opaque. I am not sure if these errors are corrected in Donald Traxler’s 2012 translation, but I am posting my own synopsis of his method for those who are curious.