Sunday, 28 June 2015

How Beautiful are the Ripples of the Sand

It's possibly not irony but entropy that means after well over a decade of fecundating the imagination with England's diverse mythic structures, I find myself obsessing about the ultimate inert world; the realm of sand. Perversely though, the desert and by extrapolation the sea less beach appears as fertile if not more so than the concrete bunkers and ruined Hammer churches of previous research.

For many years I've been gestating on a correlating various visionary interpretations on red deserts; a conflation of Burrough's Cities of the Red Nights; Ballard's Vermilion Sands, Lovecraft's crimson Desert and Kenneth Grant's mauve zone. Grant's mauve zone might be a slightly off colour vision; that said, his pulsating oracular portal must be construed as tantric metaphor given the domination of menstrual themes in his work. Such a reading draws in Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle's 1975 book The Wise Wound, a text that Grant uses as an anthropological marker for his wilder speculations. The desert at dusk in Grant's imagination populated by blood of the moon devouring hyenas.

Redgrove and Shuttle's The Wise Wound contains a fascinating deconstruction and menstrual reading of The Exorcist. It stresses the importance of Captain Howdy's obscenity, “the sow is mine...” It struck me recently that the mention of the sow has a fascinating ripple across the visionary and more particularly, the pestilent desert. Blavatsky envisioned Chozzar as a pig god of Atlantis and the name has been appropriated by the cults of Choronzon linking it Pazuzu. Of course literalists have debunked the speculative gematria that occultists apply to Pazuzu and Choronzon as evidence of their synonymity, but equally so, we are not in the realms of the literal – we are in the realm of twilight language, image and association the misrulers of its grammar. The important thing is to notice the appearance of the psychopomps – desert dogs and pigs.

For the gigs I played last October, I used a new unrecorded piece "Shugal-Choronzon". It was designed to be the theme music for a metafictional Western set in this visionary red realm. For the video backing I used the opening scene from The Exorcist, the unearthing of Pazuzu. It's one of my favourite pieces of cinema and a scene I would like to live in and maybe I do: a hyperventilating amateur archaeologist surrounded by omens. It struck me introducing the scene into the visionary equation more tightly tied the desert to a places of possession. Crowley's encounter with Choronzon in  Algeria is perhaps his father's Plymouth Brethren bible coming back in Enochian; the last temptation of Anti-Christ.

John Waters once said his favourite actor was Wilhelm Defoe, 'a man who could play Manson and Christ with equal plausibility' to paraphrase Waters. Inevitably the dune buggy apocalypse of Spahn ranch races into this Western. Ballard cast Manson in Hello America as a desert borne leader. Seemingly though Ballard's  Vermilion Sand stands out of the equation of a demonic reading, but I think it's important to trace the changing psychological terrain of this author's deserts. Vermilion Sands is a timeless and slightly decadent shangri-la. The people who inhabit Vermilion Sands are disaffected and parasitical, but not yet fully blown, giant cocked, leering Pazuzus. That would manifest in the suburbs, first with Vaughan and then in the form of shamanic priapus Blake in Unlimited Dream Company- a psychedelic death demon, the anti-christ neighbour of Sir Stanley Spencer's Cookham. If Cookham high street is a bucolic bethel then the prostitute causeways of the Heathrow approach are Chorazain.

One can also read Ballard's suburbia as desert, inert as sand, breeding grounds for tomorrow's psychopaths. Sand as a constituent of concrete. If in biblical doom say we return to dust and ashes, in the secular brutal realm we will return to sand.

Ballard's sands morph suddenly with The Terminal Beach into a considerably more pathological realm. The Terminal Beach was written in 1964, just after his wife's death (on holiday on the Spanish coast). It's undoubtedly a roman à clef, but also the point of some breakdown, where he introduces the condensed chapter fractured form.

By bringing the idea of the sea-less beach into the imagery, we can begin to see some very interesting and less obvious chimeras. At the more exotic end, the phantom form on Dali's paranoid beaches and in England, the demon spheres of M.R James' sands: of Oh Whistle and A Warning To The Curious. As I discovered a while back, Robert Graves alludes to the Latin riddle in The White Goddess and draws in a very intriguing connection to ritual whistles as well as is own short story The Shout, all of which add to the pestilential geographic. To briefly summarise, Graves explores the symbolism of the Marjorcan clay whistle called the xuirrell. The xuirrell can be cast in a number of anthropomorphic shapes: a mermaid, a bull-headed man, a coiled serpent or pregnant woman. Each of these forms signify a role in a harvest festival at the Autumn Equinox. The festival calls in the winnowing North East wind to soak the winter wheat planted earlier in the month. This is the only time whistling is permitted, at other the times the wind is feared like the devil and is ruinous to the agricultural year. Graves quotes Oh Whistle's dictum “furbis, flabis, flebis” as a warning; “whistle shrill weep long”.

In all this we begin to construe the possibility of our own supernatural sands and their relevant demonic conjurations through sound. The beaches of Norfolk were used to great effect in the 60s' and 70s' adaptations of MR James stories. The dunes of North Devon are the setting for The Shout (both the original story and the film adaptation). Crowley and Neuberg's Arabian nightmare returns to its Devon brethren, though the vision of Graves. The ripples of the exotic have local mirages for us to fantasise upon. Jerzy Skolimowski's 1978 adaptation of The Shout made use of Staunton sands – the largest dune system in England. The psassomere eats away at the marram grass to create a particularly jarring collage of landscape. Staunton Sands was used as a simulacra of Omaha beach  for training in preparation for the D-Day invasions. The ciphers Omaha and Utah are employed throughout Ballard's most brutal period of writing as icons of the terminal beach. These are subtle doubles of a fever dream, encroaching stains on England green.

It's not an arbitrary decision that Graves' narrative of the wondering shaman takes place during a cricket match in the grounds of a lunatic asylum. This is the pagan astral of Summerland, invaded by the perverse ceremonies of those liberated from sanity. The character of Charles Crossley has learned how to kill with a shout. He has learned this power during his years in the Australian desert living under the tutelage of aborigines. By a strange coincidence Blake in Ballard's Unlimited Dream Company performs an aboriginal mating ritual with the hole left by a cricket stump on his school playing field. In some ways The Shout parallels Ballard's suburban sperm festival; a nomad priapus copulating with the sanctity of village mores. Crossley seduces Richard's wife by stealing a buckle from her shoe. A trivial possession in the hands of the magician allows him to capture her soul.

As with M.R. James' stories Graves' The Shout is allusive of its author's erudition; the piece is a fictive riddle with carefully placed clues and keys to a deeper gnostic mystery. When Crossley asks Richard if he is aware of a magic that causes death by means of a shout, the hero replies with an intriguing hint, that he has read of a dragon cry heard at May-eve.

Here Graves deliciously opens a Chinese puzzlebox to further apparitional realms. The shriek he mentions comes from a story in the Mabinogion. After Llud inherits Britain as his kingdom it is devastated on three occasions by plagues. The second plague is precipitated by an endless sky battle between two dragons, one white, one red. The shriek of the combat is heard on May-Eve. It causes women to abort their foetuses. Llud is instructed by his favourite brother Llefely how to cure this plague.  The cure is clearly an overtly alchemical formula. He must gather the finest mathematicians to survey the land exactly and find the very centre of the country. At this point they must dig a pit and place a cauldron of mead within it. The cauldron is to be covered with a silk cloth.  On doing this, the prospectors will be able to see the dragons fighting in the sky above. The dragons will eventually fall exhausted into the pit – no longer in the form of dragons but as piglets. They will drink the mead and full into a stupor, to be wrapped in the silk cloth, enclosed in a stone casket and buried beneath the strongest fortress in the kingdom.

What's also interesting with Llud's dragon war is that it contextualises The Shout with a key concern of Graves' The White Goddess, the May-Eve fertility rites of Northern Europe. The more one explores The White Goddess, the more strange its structure appears – it's a baffling construction, but always compelling – it's also non linear and deeply set in dream time, a smithery of word reverb. It belongs a library of the waking dream, a speculative grimoire of bardic gnosticism. The truth is tantalisingly just out of reach like a levitating grail vessel or a castle in the sky.

In Skolimowski's  adaptation of The Shout, Crossley, played by Alan Bates, gives Anthony (renamed from Richard in the story) a demonstration of the efficacy of his killing cry. It blights the immediate terrain, dead sheep fall from the marram grass down the dunes. The scene is curiously reminiscent of Werner Herzog's Fata Morgana, his 1968 documentary in search of Saharan desert mirage myths. In one famous scene the camera pans across the carcasses of cattle. I used this scene a few back as video back drop for a live version of The Dagger Of Bou Said, a track based on Crowley's cry of 10th Aethyr. Crossley in The Shout is the archetypal itinerant charlatan who feeds on scholarly naïveté and steals his muse. Think again the menage a trios between Kelly and the Dees: Dee trades his wife for an angelic language. Of course the overarching theme of The Shout is Graves obsession with the single poetic theme  - the relationship between poet, muse and wyrd as a metaphor for the life, death and resurrection of the spirit of the year.

It appears that Oh Whistle served as a premonition for James during a poignant but platonic relationship with the widow of his friend James McBryde. James was, as ever, an asexual wyrd. What's often overlooked is the significance of the location of Parkin's' discovery of his demon whistle and its archaeological and anthropological possibilities. The whistle is inscribed with two phrase “QUIS ESTE ISTE QUI VENIT” and the aforementioned “furbis flabis flebis”. He unearths it at the remains of a former Templar preceptory. Though the fictional location of the Burnstow is based on the Suffolk coastal town of Felixstowe, the Templar preceptory of his imagination seems to be a premonition of another one situated at Garway on Welsh border. Following the death of James McBryde, the author was frequent visitor to Mcbryde's widow Gwendolene, who lived in Herefordshire. In a letter from 1917, it seems they had an unsettling visit to the Templar church at Garway. Of this visit James writes,

"We must have offended something or somebody at Garway I think: probably we took it too much for granted, in speaking of it, that we should be able to do exactly as we pleased. Next time we shall know better. There is no doubt it is a very rum place and needs careful handling."

The church adjoins a farm also built by the Templars. The farmyard houses a huge dovecote also built by the templars and with a sinister qabalistic architecture. The dovecote contains exactly 666 windows. A tocsin shrills long across our desert. Crowley and Neuberg successfully summoned Choronzon by merely sacrificing three pigeons in the Solomonic circle at Bou Saada. God knows what entity the Templars might have been energising with a 222 times more powerful formula of blood sacrifice.

QUIS EST ISTE was spawned from a verse in Isaiah, “who is it who is coming from Edom, wearing the red garments of Bozrah”. What's very curious given Graves' mention of “furbis, flabis, flebis” in his chapter Gwyion's Heresy, is that he then proceeds to riff on the qabalistic cipher of Adam and Edom. He refers to Adam as “the red man” and states that Edom and Adam are one and the same. Graves draws on a record in the Talmud concerning an heretical sect known as the Melechizedekians – essentially an oracular cult that consulted with the shade of this “red man” in a Hebron cave.  What can only be speculated is that somehow Graves' assertions occupy the same mythic headspace as Oh Whistle; and that possibly the whistle unearthed by Parkin was employed in the same Eleusinian mysteries that obsess Graves. Jesus as the corn king, calendrical ceremonies to honour his birth, death and resurrection. Gwion's heresy is that we have literalised our relationship with the mill of fate, that we are above nature, and in control. A whistle to propitiate the harvest wind blown at the wrong time would have the adverse effect of invoking a malevolent wind and its consonant murderous siren.

In the metafictional shimmer of overheated connectivity, our occult Western takes the form of a gnostic magnificent seven. Replace the bloody duels and sun glints off spinning pistols with killer sigils: of biblical curses on demon whistles.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A Study Of Lunar Research Flights

A Study of Lunar Research Flights was the codename for a US military operation to explode a nuclear bomb on the moon. The phallic lunacy of cold war weapon testing is the launchpad for English Heretic to meditate on the cosmic battle between sol and luna. The red and white of alchemy as primal landscapes and archetypes, designated by sun and moon. This release navigates a rich route from the solar temple of Bawdsey missile base via the utterly mysterious shrine to Astarte at Margate's Shell Grotto back to the cruel tophet of Carthage. Under the tutelage of Tanit and Ba'al, this is music for hermetic time and space travel: flight commanders Carl Sagan and Artaud. Comes with 24 page A5 illustrated booklet

Head over to the Eighth Climate shop to purchase this release.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Weekend Other World, a letter of appreciation.

Gyrus discussing Polar Cosmology and The Thing - photo by Jack Hunter

Weekend Other World was a blast and I think everybody who attended and spoke had a great time.
We will be looking to put together a publication of some of the papers in the near future.

I received a very nice and thoughtful email from Russell Cuzner which serves as a lovely appreciation of the day.  Russell's kindly allowed me to quote his correspondence as a means of thanking all who took part:

Dr Riley's demonstration of the 'death of the sixties' was very nicely framed and emphasised the longevity afforded to the heady cultural mix of the time - I certainly don't expect anyone to be talking about the "terminal decline of the 1990s" or "...2000s" in years to come (sadly)!

Hannah's fascinating, anthropological lens on horror films has been stirring my head ever since as I consider other movies and the motives behind their manoeuvres. In a similar way to the folk horror demonstrating localised alienation, I wonder if class could be observed as another, similar facet - does the political wax and wain from Tory to Labour and back again get reflected by films whose threats are respectively, the secretive indulgences of the rich, or the wild, waywardness of disaffected youth and the poor? (stuck at work I can't think of many examples, though I'm sure there are many - maybe the perverse rich in 'Society' and the killer hoodies of 'Eden Lake', perhaps?)

The very dapper Mr Hunter covered areas I've only started getting into - to my shame - in fact I'd begun reading Machen's 'A Fragment of Life' just a few days before the weekend, and now greatly look forward to the 'Great God Pan' chapter; while my experience of MR James is, like many, limited to BBC dramatisations. I wish my RE teachers were as open minded when I was at school - all I seem to remember doing was trace maps of Israel and colour them in!

Evie Salmon's insights into the increasing influence of place confirmed the current of psychogeographic concerns that seem to making their way through much of modern musics. I'd like to think that part of this will flow into musicians becoming more concerned with actually playing and recording in specific places, or composing for particular environments even, so place and music become closer once more.

Gyrus' cosmic extrapolation of The Thing went far beyond (no pun intended!) the scope I was anticipating. I loved the way it resonated with Hannah's illustrations of fear of the foreign, but turned it on its head to suggest that we are the aliens we're struggling to understand within the context of the rest of nature (as we continue to pillage it).

John Doran's confessional chapters were as wryly humorous and affecting as ever and certainly cleansed my palate (although I was thoroughly enjoying all previous flavours!)

Lisa Cradduck's brave solo speech peaked (ahem!) my interest on yet another book that I've somehow managed to miss so far - to put things right Under the Volcano is now on order from eBay! (and then, weirdly, an unpublished manuscript of Lowry's was reported the same weekend).

Unearthing Forgotten Horrors was a revelation - Darren Charles' curation swiftly travelling from the romantic orchestrations through prog to more 'post-industrial' pastures deftly demonstrated the important changes in approaches to sonic scariness over the years. I wonder what he thinks is coming next?

For Will Fowler's summary of Jarman's more experimental (and, in my opinion, strongest films) - I particularly appreciated the way he emphasised how this work wasn't something that necessarily needed de-coding, and can be rewarding by merely letting the combination of images and sound flow over you uncramped by comprehension.

It was an ideal prelude to the actual thing which was simply awesome to behold - as I think I mentioned, the fact that the sound came from a separate source meant that the quality was likely better but also lent the showing a deft aptness - the 'tracking' of sound to image being slightly different, and so, unique to any other 'copies' - particularly given this was how Jarman showed the films originally to friends at home.

As ever, English Heretic's outline of approach to cinema and its use as a 'score' to inspire and guide  recorded work I found dangerously catalytic.

Thanks also to Matthew Shaw, Teleplamiste (Mark Pilkington and Mike York) and the Pond Scum light crew (Jamie Sutcliffe and Jennifer Pengilly) for their audio visual extravaganza's on Friday night.

Here's a couple of them pics in action:

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Gigs and Events

October 10th - Bournemouth, Shelley Manor

October 24th - Apiary Studios, Hackney

October 25th - Weekend OtherWorld talks and music (Cinema Museum)

October 30th - Folk Horror, Let's Dance, Sheffield

November 8th - Brugata, Oslo

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Out Now: The Underworld Service

The Underworld Service available now at the shop or in digital format from Bandcamp

Go to Bandcamp

After a decade of toil in the blood drenched, worm eaten, occult battlefields of Albion, English Heretic takes a well earned holiday... in Hades.  The Underworld Service is a 70 minute radio broadcast from Tartarus, where every song and news report is an intimation of our mortality. The Underworld Service subverts the culture show format and celebrates the hard hitting documentary format. Scanning a waveband of Corpse Oriented Rock, Philosophical Stoner, Field Trip Hop, Horror Folk, and Funereal Disco, The Underworld Service is English Heretic’s most death enhancing release to date.

The Underworld Service comes with a 48 page colour guide to accompany your voyage. Informed by the work of James Hillman, English Heretic undertake a series of ritual descents and movements towards the seas of the unconscious.

We survey Greek Horror fads of the 1970s. We look at the eschatological warnings of the fabled alchemist Fulcanelli and follow his trail from a church in London to the irradiated coasts of Suffolk. We travel to the white cliffs of Sussex to meet an occult beachcomber. The living dead are unearthed in the beautiful limestone ravines of the Peak district and traced to their necromantic origins in the Black Temples of Atlantis. We raise a glass to the enolic mornings of Malcolm Lowry, inside a giant mausoleum. We travel to Hiroshima to record the voice of Kwannon and transmit haunting military experiments from the jungles of Vietnam.

CD track listing
* Inside The Mausoleum
* River Of Black Rams' Blood
* Invisible Canon
* The Alchemist Of Saltdean
* The Pherenike
* Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
* Video Anxieties
* Peregrine
* Transmutation At Sizewell B
* Operation Wandering Soul
* The Underworld Service

48 page colour A5 book

Price £11 (UK) £13 (Rest Of The World) 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Underworld Service - track notes

The next English Heretic release, The Underworld Service is due for release at the end of August. Over 70 minutes of new music. The Underworld Service is a holiday in Hades. It subverts the bouffant intellect of Melvyn Bragg culture and celebrates the hard hitting documentary investigations of World In Action. The Underworld in our vision doubles as an hermetic process. We look at the eschatological warnings of the fabled alchemist Fulcanelli and follow his trail from a church in London to the irradiated coasts of Suffolk. The living dead are unearthed in the beautiful limestone ravines of the Peak district and traced to their necromantic origins in the Black Temples of Atlantis.  We bathe in the enolic mornings of Malcolm Lowry, Under The Volcano, inside a giant mausoleum. Informed by the work of James Hillman, English Heretic undertake a series of Katabases: ritual descents and movements towards the seas of the unconscious.

Musically, we scan a waveband of Corpse Oriented Rock, Philosophical Stoner, Field Trip Hop, Horror Folk and Funereal Disco . Radio broadcast from Tartarus, no matter what station you tune into, where every song, news report and culture show reminds you of your own mortality and the hermetic ciphers embedded in pop culture. Music genre as a form of word play, honouring the cabalistic punning tradition of Fulcanelli.

Inside The Mausoleum
In honour of the katabatic alcoholic tragedy of Malcolm Lowry. The track began with an improvisation carried out inside De Grey's mausoleum near Clophill in Hertfordshire. It's my argument that fictions should start at the point of death. Lowry's Under The Volcano is an example par excellence of this process. The track evolves into an evocation of an hermetic journey, a paean to the universal solvent of inebriated lyricism. The situationists paid homage to Lowry by carrying a series of psychedelically informed derives to the Paris suburb of Sarcelles. They were high on mescalin at the time. Sarcelles by a curious coincidence was the location of the alchemist Fulcanelli's legendary transmutation in 1922. 

River Of Black Rams Blood
Kereyni's description of Hades re-imagined as the main theme to a Greek horror film. The track was composed from snippets of  "Land of the Minotaur" theme together with field recordings from a corpse road at Walsham Le Willows in Suffolk. As I recorded the church bell peels, a child  could be heard playing on a swing in a neighbouring garden. The creaking of the swinging was oddly melodic and when processed back in the studio created a perfect imitation of a folk rock flute riff. Vocal wise, Alan Vega or Andrew Eldritch (depending on your critical angle) down the Greek discotheque backed by an ageing English Lit. Professor – the types you'd meet on an horrific  Mediterranean  holiday. 

Video Anxieties
This forms part of the research I've being doing into  constructing a private inner cinema. The track is an attempt to remap the locale of zombie Horror flick – Living Dead At Manchester Morgue. This infamous video nasty set bizarrely enough in the Peak District, gives the film a gory beauty. Our interpretation is folk horror soundtrack part documentary of a vaguely anxious travel guide, the dialogue abstracted from Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue – to recast the script as a paranoid holiday outing. A sinister  documentary  element is added by an  Italian voice over reading an extracts from Kenneth Grant's  Nightside  of Eden,  In  Nightside  Grant makes the claim that the  Altantean  Priesthood employed  sexual necromancy in their the creation of zombies. Hardcore horror and hardcore occultism meet in the mid 70s.

  Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Horror folk. The song is a traditional Derbyshire ballad  concening  the infamous Winnat's  Pass Murders. Sound affects are taken from Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, of the zombies' curious gurgling sound. Director George  Grau  based the sounds of the zombies on his memory of hearing his own father's death rattle. 
Transmutation At Sizewell B 
The Greek concept of the  Katabasis – a ritual descent – can also mean a journey toward the sea. The track is derived from recordings made during a serendipitous katabatic journey toward the Suffolk coast.  The journey began at the infamous Blythburgh  church (where the devil is said to have visited in the middle ages). While there, we recorded a local choir were rehearsing Office Of The Dead. We then drove to Sizewell B and recorded the ambience, to be later processed into an imaginary  geiger  counter sound. The lyrics come from the final chapter of  Fulcanelli's  Mystery Of Cathedrals. Mystery of Cathedrals is an alchemical warning  against  the misuse of atomic chemistry. Most curiously, opposite the entrance to Sizewell B, is a pub called the  Fulcan  Arms. The pseudonym  Fulcanelli  is thought to be derived from the name for the Roman God of fire and forge – Vulcan.

The Pherenikos
Philosophical Stoner Rock: in which we tackle the ancient veneration of the severed head in the figure of the Gorgon contrasting feminine tenderness with US servicemen's abuse of VietCong in the process of trophy skull adornment.  The track that exposes heavy riffs whilst also considering serious gender issues encompassing religion, war and masculinity.

The Alchemist Of Saltdean
An extract from an interview with south coast hermeticist - Haunted Shoreline

Field Trip Hop - the predatory cousin of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross - A setting for a reading from J.A. Baker's shamanic nature book, The Peregrine.

Invisible Canon
The piece began with two field recording on a visit to Hiroshima. The first, the sound of the thousands of cicadas near the ruin of the Atomic Dome, the closest surviving building left standing after the bomb. The second field recording taken on video on my Cannon camera was of myself striking the peace bell.

The piece includes the choir of Gyuto monks. This was inspired by a dream recounted in Michael Horwitz Hill's book Dreaming the End of the World  in which one of his subjects experiences a nightmare where sound of B52 bombers has been replaced by a choir Gyuto monks.

For the structure of the piece, I wanted to create a track in the style of apocalyptic DJ Shadow - DJ 'Falls The' Shadow - a reflection on an incredible exhibit in the Peace Museum at Hiroshima. The museum contains the steps of a local bank with the shadow of a body, evaporated during the explosion: the most haunting and violent sculpture, one can imagine.

Operation Wandering Soul
The early 70s as the underworld, a report on the documentary roots of Apocalypse Now.  A homage to  ITV's World In Action and its expose of rebellion in the ranks of U.S grunts and  the use of sound warfare to create imaginary Viet Cong ghosts. Operation Wandering Soul was conceived in the echo chambers of the US military.

The Underworld Service
A unique new music service: English Heretic Music Thanatology ®. The first prototype will be used on the death bed of English Heretic. We have identified a market for a more edgey listener who would like something more terrifying than the platitudinous harps of conventional Music Thanatology practices.