F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror is one of the classics of the silent film era. This telling of the Dracula story is notable for Max Schreck’s iconic and eerie performance as the vampire, Count Orlok.
Similar to my soundtracks for The Fall of the House of Usher and Lot in Sodom, I’m now working on a soundtrack to Nosferatu. This will take a long time – probably another year at the very least – but in the meantime I’d like to present a little preview showing the work in progress.
This excerpt is a bit of a tease, since it doesn’t feature either Orlok or the protagonist, Hutter. To set the scene, unknown to the citizens, the vampire has just arrived in the city of Wisborg on board the ship Empusa…
Watson and Webber go to great lengths to replicate Poe’s sound in their silent film, especially at the end when, as Madeline leaves her encasement, the screen is filled with texts that read “crack,” “ripped,” and “scream.” The words don’t simply appear on the screen, but they flutter or jolt about, sometimes with letters upside down, sometimes backwards, with a variety of striking typefaces. This sequence perfectly replicates on screen what Poe was trying to accomplish in his text.
Hands of Ruin, on the other hand, needs to juggle both the Poe text and the images from the Watson-Webber film to fully capture Poe’s usage of sound.
I’ve been a big fan of Jo Quail’s music since I heard her playing live some years ago. Jo uses an electric cello and live looping to build up intricate, spell-binding music. A little while ago I approached her after one of her shows and asked her if she’d be willing to let me remix one of her tracks. I figured she might be a bit wary of letting some random guy have a go at remixing her beautiful music, so I’d prepared a bit of a spiel about what I’d done previously so that I could reassure her that her music would be in safe hands. But before I’d even got started she said, “yeah, go for it!” So that was that.
I’ve remixed two tracks from Caldera, her second album: Laurus and Jhanoem the Witch. I’m honoured that she has allowed me to remix them, and thrilled to see them released today.
This is my second album. Written over the last five years, it is a more diverse and also a darker album than Empire and Dust. As well as the neo-classical elements that will be familiar from my previous work, there are harsher industrial sounds and dark ambient passages.
This album wasn’t easy to make. The oldest track dates to before the release of Empire and Dust, and the others were created at various points over the last five years. Over that time my techniques have changed a fair amount. And my desire to create something harsher than Empire and Dust led me to experiment with more aggressive electronic sound manipulation. That meant that when it came to putting the tracks together into an album, each track had its own palette of sounds and fitting them together into something cohesive was a challenge.
Difficult as it was, I think the end result is more interesting for being the product of that struggle.
You can get the album on Bandcamp. I’m very grateful for your support.
My second album, Schism, will be released on 31 October. It has taken over five years and hasn’t been an easy process. Indeed, I had thought that the album was almost finished two years ago… but I was wrong. After Empire and Dust I wanted to create something harsher, and I’ve had to push myself to learn how to do that. While I don’t expect to ever be entirely satisfied, I think that with Schism I’m on the right path.
You can hear a preview from the album on Bandcamp, and you can also pre-order it there. Please know that your support is always very much appreciated.
After my “Is all martial industrial the same?” post a couple of years ago, Sage L. Weatherford, editor of Heathen Harvest, reached out to me and asked if I’d like to do some writing for Heathen Harvest. I had some trepidation about this. Writing is not something that comes easily to me. Indeed, I would even describe it as painful. I’m one of those writers for whom every word goes onto the page accompanied by an inwardly-directed curse at how stupid it sounds.
So I said yes.
Over the course of a year I wrote thirteen articles with a schedule of one per month (enforced by Beeminder):
The Hands of Ruin soundtrack to The Fall of the House of Usher is available today. I’ve been very happy with how this first attempt at writing a soundtrack went, and I think it stands up as a piece of music even apart from the film, so it’s a pleasure to now give it a release of its own.
Even though it was made some years ago, I’m still rather proud of the soundtrack to The Fall of the House of Usher that I made in 2012, and I’ve wanted for a while to give it its own release. This is a modern soundtrack to the 1928 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story by American avant-garde cinema pioneers James Sibley Watson Jr. and Melville Webber. While there are a few things that I might change if I were to re-write it today, I think it does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of melancholy and dread in the film, and I think it also stands as a good piece of music apart from the film.
Many thanks to Malwina Chabocka for creating the wonderful cover art for this release.
A mix of neofolk, martial industrial and related music, old and new, with a bit of neoclassical to start things off. I’ve heard quite a bit of music lately that I’d like to share. Some of these are things I’ve also reviewed for Heathen Harvest:
Caroline Jago is the composer and multi-instrumentalist behind Seventh Harmonic and Shadow Biosphere. We hadn’t met before, but a few weeks ago she sent me a nice message on SoundCloud. She mentioned that she’d be open to collaborations, and since I’ve done a couple of remixes and enjoyed the process I suggested that I might remix one of the tracks from Garden of Dilmun.
As it happens, that was something that I had been thinking about even before Caroline got in touch. I’ve been familiar with Seventh Harmonic for some time, having seen them playing live at shows in London on a couple of occasions, and one of the things that has always struck me about their music is how dense the sound is. I’m someone who leaves a lot more space in my music, so I’d wondered what they might sound like with a more open mix. So that’s part of what I’ve attempted to achieve with my remix of Mneme.
I love doing remixes because it’s an opportunity to learn deeply about how other people write music. I’ve always worked on my own, so I only know my own way of making music. But when I do a remix I’m always struck by how differently other people approach melody and the structure of their tracks. Like many electronic musicians, I’m perpetually afflicted by loopitis, and remixing has shown me how musicians that I admire avoid that trap.
This month marks Garden of Dilmun’s fifth anniversary, so I was very pleased that this remix could be part of that celebration.