Electricity & Imagination: Karl von Eckartshausen and Romantic Synaesthesia

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…

Images from MS1766 – a necromantic operation gone awry (and a demon described by Tilton & Cox as ‘dolichophallic’!); sigillic body art, as part of an operation to conjure Astaroth.

Continue reading

Hexadic Eudaimons

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…!

Kim Cascone: Dark Stations and Black Fields

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.

Sustain//Decay, published by Void Front Press.

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

Three Witches and a Celestial Wain

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

Dolente … Dolore: The Inferno of Malcolm Lowry

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.

Continue reading


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

P. B. Randolph’s Astrological Melody

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.

Continue reading

The Phenomenology of Revelation

It was a great pleasure to travel to Aberystwyth at the start of the month for the Listen to the Voice of Fire: Alchemy in Sound Art symposium at the National Library of Wales. The day was organised by Dafydd Roberts, of Our Glassie Azoth, and brought together a variety of academics, composers and musicians to explore diverse responses to the theme of alchemy and its relationship with sonic arts. Below are some thoughts on the day – along with a little digression into the music of Radulescu! You can also find photos of the event here.

Prior to proceedings, it was a delight to hang out with Electroscope (in this configuration John Cavanagh, Gayle Brogan and Ceylan Hay aka Bell Lungs), and also to unexpectedly encounter Johann Wlight, whose Gold of a Thousand Mournings, was one of my favourite Larkfall releases from ‘back in the day’. I am pleased to say that he is still making his music, and hope to be able to hear some more sometime soon…

Dafydd Roberts introduced the day, talking about his own interest in alchemy and noise music – as well as his PhD thesis on the work of ‘alchemistical philosopher’ Thomas Vaughan, aka Eugenius Philalethes. The idea of alchemy as the ‘phenomenology of revelation’ also came up, which caught my ear and gave me the title of this post. This segued into a precis of his essay Born out of Chaos [Academia.edu], which connects the aesthetics of Our Glassie Azoth to both the work of Louis and Bebe Barron and cybernetic theory. An interesting connection was also made between the description of alchemy as a ‘history of error’ and the fetishisation of ‘error’ as an aesthetic via databending and glitch music. This reminded me of Kim Cascone‘s attitude that errors somehow upset our reality by confounding our expectations, and can be used as potent jumping off points for creative exploration. The talk of databending also pointed toward sonification, which would be a recurrent theme for many artists over the course of the day, which I touched on as an alchemical idea here, and which Kristina Wolfe has also suggested manifests a sort of contemporary apophatic mysticism.

Continue reading

Listening for the Voice of Fire

I am pleased to say that I will be participating in Aberystwyth University’s Listen to the Voice of Fire event on the 3rd of March at the National Library of Wales. There’s a pretty diverse range of musicians and academics involved – and tickets can be found here. I am pleased to say that Our Glassie Azoth are on the bill – and indeed, the whole event is organised by Mr. Glassie Azoth himself, Dafydd Roberts. OGA was a great inspiration to me during the early 2000s. Experimenting with an Amen, a split between OGA and side-project Alphane Moon is a particular favourite – especially the way it mixes alchemical imagery, drone and noise, interspersed with sweet, whispy Nick Drake-like miniatures.


Continue reading