music and horror no. 3: you won’t recognize my face.

François de Nomé, 'Fantastic Ruins with Saint Augustine and the Child.'

François de Nomé, ‘Fantastic Ruins with Saint Augustine and the Child.’

I am working on a piece on John Keir Cross’ 1946 fiction collection The Other Passenger, and am unsure whether to make one tale an installment in the Neglected Weird Fiction series or to do a general review. In the meantime, here is another installment in a different still-born series, Music and Horror.

The first entries for today are my own work, from a project tentatively called Atonist. The boilerplate description: Atonist is a lo-fi “experimental” collaboration working around a combination of structured composition and free improvisation, in the style of what we like to call “acoustic noise”. Acoustic instruments are used to lull the listener with pretty, fingerpicking passages that only lead into bludgeoning and percussive bursts of improvisation. Prepared guitars and broken instruments preponderate. Influences could be said to include: Bob Drake, Marc Ribot, Fred Frith, musique concrete, and a whole number of free jazz artists. At some points the music verges on what could be called “free folk.” The wholly provisional name of Atonist is taken from a novel by Ishmael Reed, “Mumbo Jumbo.” Atonist is myself and a friend and fellow Central Valley-ite Californian, D.M.K.

The mood in we engaged in these instrumental pieces was one of nebulous political engagement and a feeling of being energized to do something about the crumbling, failing system and landscape around us (or at least speaking for myself).

Civilization – with its vastly droning airports; its thousand-ton freighters cutting through the polluted charnel house of an ocean; its delusions of some cosmic singularity melding cruel irrevocable flesh with its shadow and emanation, the mind; the possibilities of flight and growth through the emptiest desert of all, outer space; the unthinking, harvesting thresher of capital, working ceaselessly over its potter’s field of bones and offal, constantly expanding like a tick filling with blood from a toe, dilating like a great blind eye; its uncanny skill to immiserate and coddle in the same instant, to drown in cold water one bawling infant and garb in warmth and soft music another; its portentous governments with their halls of abstraction and their laws birthed and upheld by despotic violence; the seductive desiderata and cooing blather of its culture industries, its 24/7 libraries of entertainment housed in the clouds – is a party winding down.

It is a 35 year old man looking in the mirror and pretending he is still fresh out of college, unable to see the dermal signposts of middle age beginning to extrude themselves on his face.

The artwork in the first song, “Settler Class” is by Irving Norman. The artist in the second is Stanislaw Boryowski.

Thanks to artist Paul Rumsey for mentioning Norman in the comments at True Outsider.

Kym Amps provides a chilling synth-driven song about a ghostly woman stalker. I’m having to disguise my voice, I’ve even changed the way I write. You won’t recognize my face; I never look the same way twice. 

Blues artist R.L. Burnside is at his best, for my money (what little of it I have), in “Goin’ Down South.” The main riff induces hypnosis and each note sears like hot iron, clashes in the ears like a butcher sharpening cleavers. I’d rather be dead and six feet in the ground…

4 thoughts on “music and horror no. 3: you won’t recognize my face.

  1. Thanks, Rich. “Checkpoint Charlie” is very nice. I notice they name one of their songs after an Aickman tale! (Your Tiny Hand is Frozen, from the ‘Causeway’ LP.) I’m going to have to do more investigating on them, that’s for sure.

    This reminds me of your music-while-reading post; I have it bookmarked with the intention of going over it fully to check out all the recommended sounds. I remember some of it I was familiar with, but quite a lot of it was unknown to me.

    Speaking of which, I know I prodded you a bit about the Aickman/Barnes post, and I’m glad to see it’s up – I would have made a substantive response, but I’ve still yet to read “The Inner Room.” I’ll have to get one of those new Faber editions.

    • Yes, I’m pretty sure I heard of Aickman via Reigns. I held a brief email correspondence with singer/guitarist Tim a few years back, and he bigged-up Aickman as well as lots of decent ’60s Japanese horror cinema.

      Your Atonist material is lovely and corrosive, or corrosively lovely. Do you perform live? And I’d never heard RL Burnside, so thank you for blowing my mind.

      • No, we’ve never played live. I would like to at some point, but my friend is generally on the other side of the country. That’s certainly the nicest thing anyone’s said about those recordings, so thank you. I’m glad Burnside has the same effect on you as he did me when I first heard him.

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