Archive for the ‘H.P. Lovecraft’ Category

SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“The Birds” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

“Some people keep birds as pets in their home.  Not you.”

This is a groovy song with some cool pauses with staccato drums and a heavy riff.  The song is littered with lots of samples of “They attack!” a sample that has been used regularly since in various shows.

Mike’s got a nasty fuzzy sounding bass while Page plays the organ rhythm.  At the end Trey and Mike play each other a solo off (complete with bombastic drums from Fish).

The set’s penultimate song, “The Birds,” showed off what Phish meant in the Playbill when they called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House one of the heaviest albums of all-time. They feasted on a groove that recalled the best of Traffic, Black Sabbath and Abbey Road era Beatles. All the while, a spoken word sample of “They Attack!!” was worked into the sound. It was on “The Birds” that Mike Gordon shined most as he connected with McConnell and Fish on a dark and dirty progression that Trey shredded over. The song continued with Gordon and Anastasio facing off against each other and dueling it out for a few glorious moments as Page hit his keys for more “They Attack!!” samples. Eventually, [they] hooked up on an intense progression they worked over with Anastasio unleashing a wave of riffs that would’ve made Jimi Hendrix proud.

The ending is some pounding staccato chords with samples of “They Attack!”  It’s a very strong ending.

[READ: October 16, 2017] “The Treader of the Dust

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

This story opens with a quote from The Testaments of Carnamagos.

John Sebastian had had a debate and argument with himself.  He was typically a recluse but he was so upset, he had left his house for three days–an unheard of absence. (more…)

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catSOUNDTRACK: LORDE-“Royals” (Live on KCRW, August 2013).

lordeLorde is evidently a huge hit in her native New Zealand.  Not bad for a sixteen year old.  And, indeed, her voice is not bad at all for a sixteen year old–she sounds much older (and perhaps it’s not even worth mentioning her age, but KCRW did, so I will too).  She has a deep and sophisticated voice (in the way that young Fiona Apple blew me away with the intensity of her voice on her debut).

The song itself is quite plain (as are all of the songs on her entire KCRW performance).  There’s primarily percussion (some really interesting choices there), simple keyboard notes or washes and (quite often) multi-layered voices–all prerecorded).  And she sings over the sparseness with her powerful throaty voice.

Interestingly, for being a popular success, her songs aren’t all that poppy.  They are certainly not bubblegum and some of the tracks are quite dark.  (Although lines like, “let’s go down to the tennis court, talk it up like yeah” certainly don’t speak to any depth).  And yet the songs are “topical” according to Lorde herself.

“Royals” might be the least interesting of the tracks during the set, and while I like it, I’m not sure why it became so huge.  But fair play to her.

[READ: August 8, 2013] “Four O’Clock”

This book is a collection of H.P. Lovecraft works and items associated with him.  Like this story from his wife Sonia H. Greene.  In theory Lovecraft did not edit this piece (I venture no opinion) and so it stands as her own story.

It is a very simple story.  Indeed, there is hardly any plot and only one character.

In this story the narrator (never identified as man or woman) says that at about 2 in the morning she knew it was coming.  And it is coming at, yes, four o’clock.  The narrator is terrified of what is coming and for much of the story, we don’t learn a thing about what it is.  We just know through ever escalating fear, that it is coming.

At four o’clock. (more…)

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Miskatonic University Press Weird Tales compendiumSOUNDTRACK: YUCK-“Rebirth” (2013).

Yuck-Rebirth-608x608-88e4ecb86a2dbcb086211620179bd14d6dbe5221-s1Yuck put out a great albumin 2011.  And then a principal songwriter and singer Daniel Blumberg left the band.  So they regrouped and are coming out with Rebirth (due in the fall).  This track is very My Bloody Valentinesque–big echoey guitars with gentle vocals on top of them.

The big difference comes in the bridge which seems a little more pop than most MBV songs. The chorus also has a few guitar notes that stand out as unechoed notes which also break the shoegaze vibe in a very interesting way.  The biggest surprise comes at the end when the song turns into mostly drums with a bit of a keyboard/dancey feel. It’s just a touch to show that they are not simply mimicking shoegaze, they are using it in their own way.

I’m excited to hear what else the come up with.

[READ: August 8, 2013] “The Horror at Martin’s Beach”

This short story was written by H.P. Lovecraft’s wife, Sonia H. Greene.  Apparently Lovecraft then edited/reworked it before publication in Weird Tales (when it was titled “The Invisible Monster”) although it seems every anthologized version has the “Martin’s Beach” title.  For more about Weird Tales issues, check out Yankee Classic.

I’m not sure how much work Lovecraft did on this story as it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of his own work.  Indeed, it is a fairly straightforward story with none of the gods and supernatural eerieness that Lovecraft puts in his work.  Which is not to say that this story doesn’t have  supernatural elements, it’s just not Lovecraft’s supernatural elements.

In this short story, a group of sailors of the coast of Gloucester fought with an undersea beast for 40 hours before subduing it. The beast was huge–nearly fifty feet long and ten feet in its cylindrical diameter.  Although it was clearly a fish, it also had small forelegs.  Its skin was thick and, most peculiarly, it has one, giant eye.  After it was dissected, scientists determined that despite the enormity of the creature, it was only a baby–simply a few days old. (more…)

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hpl;oveSOUNDTRACK: PINKISH BLACK-“Razed to the Ground” (2013).

pinkishblackAfter playing No Age, Lars Gottrich came in to show what real heaviness is with a new song from Pinkish Black.  Unlike most of Lars’ songs, this was neither death- nor speed- metal.  Rather it has a very 80s goth sound.  But it’s more Birthday Party than Sisters of Mercy.

There’s no guitars, just loud drums (with a lot of cymbals), a pulsing bass keyboard riff and some spacey high keyboard notes thrown along the top of the song.  There are elements that I liked about the story.  However, the synths in the solo give it a very cheesy horror movie feel and I have to admit that although I like a lot of bands from the era, this feels like a pale imitation.

[READ: June 20, 2013] “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Whisperer in Darkness”

Both of these stories appeared in Michel Houellebecq’s H.P. Lovecraft book, but I wanted to treat them separately for ease of searching and discovery.

After my long history with Lovecraft and after reading Houellebecq’s book, I anticipated being blown away by these stories.  And so, with my expectations so high, I was naturally disappointed.  I was especially disappointed with how normal these stories seemed.  Houellebecq made me think the stories were practically non-narrative in form—that they eschewed all manner of conventional storytelling.  That his writing was so weird that no one would publish it.  But in these two stories everything seems completely normal.  Psychologically these stories are different, but aside from content, they are fairly conventional stories.

Maybe they aren’t mind blowing because they were written nearly 100 years ago and the entire world has changed drastically since then.  It may also be because I have read all of the derivatives of Lovecraft enough that there’s nothing new in his work.  And it may also be that in the past 80 years, we have thought of things that are much scarier than these, in part because of Lovecraft himself.  Or maybe I would have been into them a lot more had I read them when I was a teenager.

“The Call of Cthulhu.” (more…)

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hpl;oveSOUNDTRACK: NO AGE-“No Ground” (2013).

An ObjectI’ve been hearing a lot about No Age lately, but I don’t really know much about them.  I keep thinking they are a different, older band (although I can’t think of which one for some reason).  Anyhow, this new song from their new album is a simple, propulsive rocker.  It starts out with some echoing guitar notes until the fast, fast bass comes in.

It’s followed by some quickly strummed guitars and low sung, almost chanted vocals.

The song feels like it builds speed throughout, although I don’t think it actually does.  I didn’t realize that there were only two guys in the band—and that explains their limited musical sound.  But unlike a number of other two person bands that I’ve really enjoyed as of late, this song feels a little flat.  There is some appeal to it, but overall I want a little bit more.

[READ: June 16, 2013] H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life

I have been “into” H.P. Lovecraft for about thirty years.  Interestingly, I had never read anything by him in that time.  I got into him via Dungeons and Dragons which had a whole selection of monsters from the Cthulhu mythos.  And then Metallica did a song called “The Call of Cthulhu” and even though I bought several of his paperback collections and proudly displayed them, I never read them.  When McSweeney’s imprint Believer Books published this little title by the practically Lovecraftianly named Michel Houellebecq, I was excited to read it, too (because at this time I had assumed that I had actually read some Lovecraft).  But like my Lovecraft books, it languished on the shelf.

Until now.

I decided that it was time to finish off some of those McSweeney’s books that have been sitting on my shelf for years.  And this was on the top of my list. (more…)

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fiddleblack-issue-8SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Adrenaline (1995).

adrenalineMy friend Cindy recently told me that the Deftones were playing nearby. I hadn’t realized that they were still together–there was some personnel issues a few years back.  But indeed they are and even released a new album last year.  So I got their latest album and really liked it.  This made me go back and listen to their earlier stuff too.

I came to Deftones with Around the Fur, so this debut album is less well known to me.  And yet, there are two songs that I absolutely love on this disc and which easily put Deftones above so many other heavy bands of the era (I’m not willing to say nu-metal because it’s stupid and Deftones transcended the genre from their first album).  “Bored” and “7 Words” are masterpieces of controlled rage and tension.  “Bored” opens the album with this aggressive guitar noise, letting you know what you’re in for, but the chorus shows how Chino Moreno is a master of his diverse use of vocal styles.  Especially after a few soaring choruses (he has a great singing voice) when he whispers the final verse.

The way “7 Words” open is practically like Jane’s Addiction–an noisy aggressive guitar with a big bouncy bassline and some intricate drumming.  Chino’s voice comes in like an impatient whisper.  It’s a great start.  Then when the chorus comes in (basically just the word Suck repeated over and over), the guitars bring in a Soundgarden vibe.  It’s really a great track, wonderful to crank loud.  And there’s no long ending.  It’s just done.

The rest of the album plays some interesting textures and sounds.  They are a very riff heavy band with a lot of screaming (that would change over the years), but they are never ordinary.  Some of the tracks aren’t as memorable, but it’s a consistently interesting album.  And, for the time, it was quite original.  The way the riff plays against the vocals on “Minus Blindfold” is very challenging.  The opening guitar riff of “Root” is very punk but the discordant guitars are really very metal.  There’s some great moshing riffs on the album (“Nosebleed”) along with some really interesting guitar sounds (see “Engine No. 9”).  And the drums really stand out for all of their intricacy.  Not all of the songs pack the same punch, and, after knowing their later stuff, the album is a little samey, but it’s a good start and a great opening salvo.

[READ: February 20, 2013] “Hideous Interview with Brief Man” 

My friend Andrew sent me this and described it as a mash up and David Foster Wallace and H.P. Lovecraft.  And indeed it is.  Although I admit my Lovecraftian knowledge is there, it’s not very deep, so I’m not exactly sure how Lovecraftian this is, but it is definitely Wallaceian, as you can tell by the title.

And indeed, the story is constructed like a story from DFW’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: there’s a series of answers and a series of questions posed just as the letter Q.

It took me a couple of questions to realize that the Brief Man being questioned is Wallace himself and as the story comes to an end, it becomes apparent that this is an interview with Death.  It’s a fascinating idea, one that will likely ruffle the feathers of Wallace fans.  And yet Mamatas has done some of his homework about Wallace.

There’s some obvious parts, like titles from his books being used in the answers, although they do work very well in context and flow naturally.  The less obvious sections seem very true to the spirit of Wallace.  The writing style doesn’t really ape Wallace or his interviewing style which I think is addressed by the comment: “there could be no worse fate than being known for exactly the sort of person you actually are.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EARTH-All Tomorrows Parties, October 5, 2011 (2011).

Anyone who likes Black Sabbath a lot knows that they were originally called Earth.  About mid way through this concert, the lead singer/guitarist of Earth says that he grew up listening to Black Sabbath and reading HP Lovecraft, so Earth is clearly something of a tribute.   Incidentally, he grew up in Manalapan, NJ which is just down the road from us.

All of these bona fides means that I should love Earth.  But I have to say that although I didn’t dislike this show at all, it’s really not my thing.  Earth creates long droney songs.  I tried to measure a couple of BPM of songs and came out with 60 for one song and 42 for another (by contrast Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” is 180 BPM).

The songs are all instrumental and range from 8 to 12 minutes.  Again, nothing objectionable about that.  Indeed most of the songs are cinematic and cool sounding.  My problem with them is that there wasn’t a lot of dynamism in the songs.  The bass wasn’t crazy heavy or loud or chest rattling (as I had been led to believe Earth’s bass was).  The melodies were pretty, but it came across as soundtrack music–for a very very slow zombie chase, perhaps.

According to some basic history, Earth used to be a heavier, noisier band, but have morphed away from that, and I suspect I would have liked their earlier stuff a bit more (although the one older that they played, “Ouroboros is Broken” wasn’t that much different from the rest.

NPR broadcast most of the All Tomorrow’s Parties concerts, and I enjoyed listening to them all.  But Earth is just not my thing.  You can check it out here.

[READ: October 20, 2012] “A Farewell to Yarns”

I mentioned the other day that I read one complete piece in the three Outside magazines since I subscribed.  It was this one.  The thing that I have enjoyed about the Outside articles that I have cherry picked is that unexpected writers pop up to write an essay.  So here’s Ian Frazier, comedian and essayist, writing for Outside.  Weird.  (Or maybe not so weird, he’s an Editor).

And, unlike many of the other things I’ve read in Outside, Frazier is not, repeat not going to do anything brave or daring or stupid, he’s just going to muse about a topic.  I like it.

Basically, this whole piece is a compliant about how with everything documented and digitalized it’s impossible to tell fibs about the one that got away or as he calls it, “an outdoorsman’s sacred right to exaggerate.”  What I like is that he takes us all the way back to ye olde mapmakers who wrote Here be Monsters which leads to this wonderful idea that I have never considered “the pictures of the monsters must have been accurate; how would the mapmakers have known what to draw unless eyewitnesses had told them?”

And he moves on through those who spied the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.  He even talks about one I had ever heard of, a hidden city in Siberia called Gorod Koka-Kola, built during the cold war as a reproduction of an American city, they speak English and live and behave like Americans–perfect for spymasters to practice   Genius–and how would anyone ever know if it existed in remotest Siberia?

But Fraizer’s greater point is that “Lies make the wild scary and alluring.”  He grew up in Rural Illinois afraid of the Argyle Monster who haunted Argyle State Park–and, boy, how many adventures he had or dreamed of having back then. (more…)

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