Thursday, 30 April 2009

Gods behaving badly: Candid Cthulhu Camera

Before Lord Bassington-Bassington’s lecture about H.P. Lovecraft to a group of youthful Goths last night, His Lordship expressed some fears about associating with such young people. What if they used a rude language, played loud music or even - wore hats indoors?!

For a sense of security, Lord Bassington-Bassington brought along his bamboo-handled umbrella, to whack the youngsters if things got out of hand.

So imagine his disappointment when it turned out that the most shocking behaviour on this otherwise civilized night was perpetrated not by some young person with piercings or, but someone old enough to know better: One of the subjects of the lecture itself.

Great Chtulhu is aeons old and should certainly know better than to drink, smoke and cavort with human females. Such behaviour is simply intolerable.

Cthulhu is hereby grounded, and has to look after the Lovecraftian section of the library here at Bassington Manor.

(Thanks to Mr. Yngve Farmen for capturing the shocking scenes on his mobile camera).

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Man from Atlantis has gone home

Lord Bassington-Bassington has just learned that John Michell has returned to wherever he came from: be that the dust of the Earth, Atlantis, the command bridge of a UFO or some warp in time.

It would be futile for Lord Bassington-Bassington to try to top the excellent obituaries published by Fortean Times or Cryptomundo.

Still, Lord Bassington-Bassington would like to pay tribute to this extraordinary man, as Mr. Michell has been a leading influence on the development of His Lordship's character through the book Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist.

The book is a generous collection of short essays written for Mr. Michell’s column in a British magazine for adults (but not an "adult magazine" in that sense of the word), The Oldie.

The book itself is a masterpiece, produced according to the principles of sacred measure, and is a treasure for any bibliophile. Mr. Michell's penmanship was superb, and his sense of humour would win anyone's heart, no matter how skeptical the reader was towards Mr. Michell's mystical speculations.

Lord Bassington-Bassington’s Mullah once commented, upon reading Richard Dawkin’s annoying screed The God Delusion: “Dawkins makes you want to argue against whatever he says, even if you totally agree with him”.

Mr. Michell was quite the opposite: Michell made Lord Bassington-Bassington really want to agree with him, no matter how much he objected to some of his ideas. Not just because it was obvious that Michell was a wiser person than the humble Hound, but because Mr. Michell showed the reader what an exciting place this piece of rock we inhabit can be.

Lord Bassington-Bassington decided that it would be in the spirit of Mr. Michell to indulge in a bit of bibliomancy. Opening Confessions of... on a random page, the following passage simply leapt off the paper:

Having justified my emotional belief in Jesus coming to England, I then gave it up. When people insist the legend is true I remind them that there is no proof of it. On the other hand, when scoffers denigrate it I vigorously defend its probability. As a philosopher you have to be ruthlessly perverse.

And strangely, this paragraph culled at random expresses exactly what Lord Bassington-Bassington, who has no belief in magic whatsoever, has to say. Somewhere, John Michell is having the last laugh.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The numinous and the Moominous

Lord Bassington-Bassington is currently trying to read theologian Rudolf Otto’s classic study of the experience of the divine. Otto calls this experience the numinous.

(Rudolf Otto)

In short, Rudolf Otto describes the numinous as the “Mysterium tremendum et fascinans”; as the “wholly other”. For Otto the divine, the transcendent, is both terrifying and compelling, and utterly alien.

Rudolf Otto’s thoughts on the nature of the experience of the divine fits much better with Lord Bassington-Bassington’s ideas than those he meets in many contemporary theologians.

But being a sucker for cheap puns, Lord Bassington has started to suspect that while the numinous might be a brilliant concept, he might in fact prefer a term of his own making: the Moominous.

For Tove Jansson’s books about the Moomintrolls do indeed contain a wide variety of moments of an uncanny, supernatural nature.

(Possibly better than Rudolf Otto)

Lord Bassington-Bassington’s theory of the Moominous is still being developed, but if you want it defined through music and moving images, the short film below does the job admirable. The music is by Les Chasseurs De La Nuit.

A ruby on your turntable

It’s been clear for a while that vinyl records are making a comeback, and in the musical underground labels are springing up which devote themselves to lavishly produced vinyl editions (sometimes with MP3 downloads included in the price of the vinyl release).

But few records reach the level of aestheticism that recently launched German label Trumpets of Doom aims for. Describing itself as ”a non-profit record label for exclusive vinyls only”, the two releases the label has produced so far have been reissues of records highly regarded in the world of neofolk music.

The first release of Trumpets of Doom was Nidar by German group Sonne Hagal, captured on 10 inches of beautiful red marbled vinyl. It’s a bit like sticking a ruby on your turntable, really, and compliments the moody music beautifully. The release even manages to incorporate a "hidden track", something Lord Bassington-Bassington has never experienced on a vinyl record before.

The second release was the LP Birdking by Fire+Ice.

This album, first released in 2000, is a minor neofolk milestone and is where the characteristic musical style of runic mystic Ian Read reaches its apex. The record itself is on beautiful blue of white vinyl, housed in a stunning blue cardboard cover with a matching insert containing the lyrics.

It would be wonderful if these editions sold out, so that the idealists behind Trumpets of Doom can carry on the mission of neofolk and vinyl. Oh, and might Lord Bassington-Bassington be so bold as to suggest that Nature and Organisation are long overdue for a rerelease?

Thursday, 23 April 2009

HP Lovecraft: The band, not the writer

As Lord Bassington-Bassington is preparing for his lecture on Lovecraft next Wednesday, this will leave its mark on the Chronicles for the next week or so.

Today, the subject is Lovecraftian music.

These days, it seems that any "dark" band - anyone operating in Metal, Goth, Industrial or Dark Ambient - will drop some Lovecraft references into their material. Metallica have produced two Lovecraftian songs, just to take an example. In fact, there is so much Lovecraftian music out there that a whole book, The Strange Sound of Cthulhu, has been written about the subject.

But long before Metallica got their start, there was a band which perhaps paid the ultimate tribute to the Gentleman of Providence – by naming their band after him.

While it would be unfair to say that H.P. Lovecraft was a great band, they came up with some quite good tunes, heavily influenced by the psychedelic rock in vogue at the time.

Their stand-out track for Lovecraftian buffs should, without a doubt, be the song “The White Ship”, which is a small gem of dark, dreamy psychedelia. It does a good job of evoking the qualities of the original story, and in a time where bands seem to be attracted to Lovecraft for the cosmic horror and monsters, it is a gentle reminder that Lovecraft’s stories offer much more than this.

Oh, and how often do you hear songs that feature an antique ship’s bell? (The one used in “The White Ship” is from 1811).

Here's a rather charming recording.

The White Ship

The white ship has sailed and left me here again
Out in the mist, I was so near again
Sailing on the sea of dreams
How far away it seems
Sailing upon the white ship

Home through the night here in my darkened room
Sails of white across the misty moon
Floating across the sky
Burning into my eye
Sailing upon the white ship

Out of my mind nothing flows
Alone on the shore, but that's how it goes
Everyone knows
How the wind blows
The white ship

Out of my mind nothing flows
Alone on the shore, but that's how it goes
Everyone knows
How the wind blows
The white ship

The white ship has sailed and left me here again
Out in the mist, I was so near again
Sailing on the sea of dreams
How far away it seems
Sailing upon the white ship
Sailing upon the white ship
Sailing upon the white ship

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Dreams of Arkham

Like any truly original writer, H.P. Lovecraft has spawned hordes of imitators. Most of these plagiarists are content with stealing one of Lovecraft’s plots, inventing some new entity to give them at least the impression of contributing something new and then making their sad concoctions “contemporary” by adding a lot of gore and/or sex.

However, some sensitive souls touched by Lovecraft actually manage to create something that captures some of the Gentleman of Providence’s unique vision. And as Lord Bassington-Bassington is in the process of preparing for his upcoming lecture on Lovecraft, The Chronicles see fit to present two excerpts from Lin Carter’s poetic cycle Dreams of R’lyeh, and some pictures by Symbolist artist Harold Arthur McNeill.

II. Arkham

How much I loved the city’s ancient ways
Quaint cobbled streets, fanlights above the door;
Arkham preserved a softer, gentler lore
In this day’s turmoil, from lost nobler days.
I loved the crooked alleys, narrow, grey,
And gabled houses all awry…
But even then it had begun to die;
The very air was noisome with decay.

The river-mist, rank with rotten smell,
The crowded houses, slumped, ramshackle, thin;
Arkham was like a corpse whose outward shell
Preserved a lifelike semblance, while within
Worm, mould and maggot, in a wriggling slime
Bear witness to the leprous touch of time.

XXIV. The Dream-Daemon

In dreams the Daemon comes upon the hour
Of full moon over Arkham. And I see
The opal shores of seas unknown to me
Where Babel-tall, bizarre, the cities tower –
Black and basalt metropolis of myth
Athrong with ziggurat and pyramid
That scale dark skies where ebon moons are hid.
Is it a dream of Yaddath or of Ith?

Or some outré and undimensioned sphere
Beyond the cosmos? I seek not to learn
Upon what occult world those ruins rear,
Remembering those books I ought to burn.
This much I know: the cities and the shore
Were somewhere, somehow, known to me before…

Saturday, 18 April 2009

R'Lyeh rising

Lord Bassington-Bassington has accepted an invitation to give a lecture on the subject of none other than that Gentleman of Providence, "Grandpa" Lewis Theobald III, known to the unwashed masses as H.P. Lovecraft. The lecture is arranged by the Children of the Night, an Oslo-based association for young people of the Gothic persuasion.

His Lordship is looking forward to the event, which will take place on April 29, not just because two of his favorite DJs, the illustrious Forvridd & Molefunken, will be spinning discs before and after the lecture, but because it takes place at a café run by one of His Lordship's favorite Christian churches.

As a strange synchronicity, another of Lord Bassington-Bassington's favorite creative humans, Mr. Viktor Kvant of Scania, has produced another Lovecraftian motif. So The Chronicles hereby take the liberty of bringing Mr. Kvant's interpretation of the risen island of R'Lyeh to its readers.

As The Gentleman of Providence himself put it in The Call of Cthulhu:

Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come—but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.

Monday, 13 April 2009

How to get ahead in Industrial music

A few weeks ago, Lord Bassington-Bassington was asked if he’d like a promotional copy of a demo release from new band from the Netherlands. Always a hound for new sounds, he naturally accepted. And a few days later, a CD by a project entitled Hadewych dumped into the mailbox here at Bassington Manor.

Lord Bassington-Bassington thought there was something familiar about the name Hadewych, and sure enough, His recent studies in Christian mysticism paid off. The name seems to be a reference to the Christian mystic Hadewych of Antwerp, whose poetry contains powerful accounts of her encounters with the divine (see an excerpt from one of her manuscripts below).

The band operates in the Ambient and Industrial genres, with excursions into other genres (check out their sounds here) and, in all fairness, is still a band searching for its own identity. Which, of course, is normal – there are a lot of bands out there like that. What is quite unusual about Hadewych, though, is how the mastermind behind the project has realized that in a musical world where everybody with a computer has a project going on, with MySpace pages and CD-Rs and what have you, a project wanting to be noticed needs to march that extra mile.

So Hadewych’s demo comes in a hand-made wooden cover with a cloth inlay and loose inserts, as seen on the picture below. To top the already very stylish effect off, instead of a normal mailing envelope, the CD was sent in a cardboard wrapper with real leaves as filler material. When opened, this filled Bassington Manor with the scent of an autumnal forest, making Lord Bassington-Bassington’s nose quiver.

In a time where record companies have no clue how to make people buy their ugly pieces of plastic (the jewelcase has always been a plague on mankind), bands such as Hadewych makes Lord Bassington-Bassington remember why he started buying records in the first place. He will be following the further adventures of Hadewych with great interest.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

British street style

Lord Bassington-Bassington has been informed that (for some strange reason) it is good to get a lot of clicks on one’s blog. He has furthermore been informed that there are tried and tested techniques for attracting visitors to web pages. He will try to follow some of this advice.

So far, His Lordship has displayed pictures of nude females, but this hasn’t helped much in attracting readers.

The next logical step, in a time where some of the most popular blogs are fashion blogs such as The Sartorialist, is to write about fashion.

There is only one drawback to this: Lord Bassington-Bassington knows absolutely nothing about fashion. In fact, he is totally apathetic towards fashion trends, and generally refuses to put on any item of clothing introduced into the man’s wardrobe since 1967 (for obvious reasons).

Still, His Lordship does have a certain interest in style, so perhaps a few posts about style can offset his lack of fashion sense.

For the record, Lord Bassington-Bassington holds that style and fashion are not only different things, they are polar opposites. Somewhat harshly expressed, he holds that while style is an expression of one’s identity and values, and therefore tends to be static, fashion is an attempt to compensate for a lack of identity and values by constantly trying to reinvent oneself.

Great Britain isn’t just the place where modern men’s wardrobe was developed (with the help of such figures as Beau Brummel), it’s also the place where the best street styles have been developed. This delightful documentary, produced by the BBC, is an interesting history of the development of British street style. It is essential viewing for anyone interested in style, music or modern culture.

The film’s underlying thesis is that there is a continuity from the Teddy Boys and Mods of yore to the Casuals and Chavs of today. While this is undoubtedly true, the film also shows how the history of the development of street style is also a history of the decline of street style. As any sensible person seeing a sharp-suited Mod next to a tracksuited Chav will immediately admit.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

More of Mr. Larsen

Due to popular demand, well, one comment at least, the Chronicles hereby bring you some more pictures from Mr. Larsen of Of the Wand and the Moon's performance in Oslo. As well as some pictures showing the general mood of the evening. The pictures come from the camera of Line Synnøve Sørensen, and are reproduced with her kind permission.