Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Ghoul-Kin - Seesar

Album: Ghoul-Kin
Artist: Seesar
Catalogue no: N/A


1.      The Time-Travelling Ghoul-Kin
2.      The Hanging Witch
3.      The Evil-Looking Boy
4.      The Disappearance of 1926
5.      The Eve of the Battle of Sarkomand
6.      The Negotiations with King Randolph
7.      The Coronation of the Chieftain

Seesar is an American musician and sound creator, now transplanted to Shanghai, China, after having studied music in London, UK. He’s always been interested in the Lovecraftian Mythos as inspiration for cycles of musical composition, and Ghoul-Kin, his second release on Sombre Soniks, is based entirely around a single character: Richard Upton Pickman. The name is most associated with the tale ‘Pickman’s Model’ (1927), wherein the titular character is associated with ultra-realistic painted depictions of strange creatures, which Seesar here denotes as Ghoul-Kin. Over the course of the tale, Pickman himself becomes one of the Ghoul-Kin, and disappears to parts unknown. He is encountered again in ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ (also 1927) in which he has been transformed into a ghoul, and on this recording Seesar constructs a narrative connecting the two tales. 

Seesar categorises his compositions as Lovecraftian Futurist, embracing as it does the concepts of the Lovecraft Mythos and the ideas of the Italian Futurists. The music itself is created via the use of unfamiliar instrumentation (such as bicycle tyres and spokes, suitcases, hairbrushes and combs, and a television wall mounting bracket), which has the effect of forcing us to think of sound in new ways as well as stripping away any specific cultural associations. The overall effect is to tip us into an alien landscape, where dissonance and consonance exist in a state of nervous tension, where positive and negative are practically one and the same quality.

But, as noted by the artist, it isn’t necessary to understand the academic underpinnings of the compositions to get something from them, or to find oneself enveloped by the atmospherics delineated here. The music is slippery, in the sense that the sounds employed are organically-structured even though there is intention behind every note. And if we tap into the mindscapes of Lovecraft’s Mythos stories, these dreamlike assemblages, disjointed and freeform as they may appear to be, do in fact make complete sense – after all our ordered world is adapted to the mental and physical view we have of our reality and so it must follow that the worlds Lovecraft envisioned are themselves fully adapted to the mental and physical frameworks of the creatures inhabiting them. Outsiders will find them disorientating and perhaps sickening.

Having noted that herein lie works which very much stray outside the bounds of what most would define as music, nevertheless it isn’t cacophonous, atonal, or dissonant. In fact the squeaks, scrapings, screechings, percussive elements, crackles, and strange voices coalesce into something which is strangely beautiful and beautifully strange. The moods essayed here have the same goals as those of dark ambient, or noise – they’re meant to take us out of ourselves, to transplant us out of the familiar and comfortable, to a reality whose components and guidelines differ vastly from our own.

Being conversant with most of Lovecraft’s work, I can say that the atmospheres described in his work have been captured very closely by the seven tracks put forth here. I’ve heard other musical interpretations of Lovecraftian aesthetics, mostly dark/cinematic ambient, which paint a picture of brooding malice and poison, but for me Lovecraft depicted the utter banality of the monstrous and uncaring neutrality of the ‘gods’ inhabiting his imagined universe – these ‘creatures’ neither cared about us nor noticed our presence, and they merely acted out their natures according to their kind. Viewed in this context then, these compositions contain a kind of aesthetic whose definition is neither good nor evil - it just is as it is. For me, that is truly Lovecraftian.

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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