Category: Book Reviews (Page 1 of 2)

Bladh / Urbaniak – On The New Revelations Of Being – Review

Authors: Martin Bladh / Karolina Urbaniak
Title: On the New Revelations of Being
Release date: December 2018
Publisher: Infinity Land Press
Libretto & voice – Martin Bladh
Sound, visuals & production – Karolina Urbaniak​

On The New Revelations of Being is a multimedia work based on Antonin Artaud’s apocalyptic manifesto from 1937. It envisions the end of the world and the death of God through a series of cataclysmic occurrences of Artaudian cruelty. The piece was originally performed as a part of Artaud & Sound: To Have Done with the Judgment of God, at the Visconti Studio, London, on 15th September 2018. This final event in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of Artaud’s death, after previous events at Cabinet and Whitechapel Gallery, focused on Artaud’s experiments with sound and noise, and on contemporary responses to them. This CD/DVD set contains the full audio recording, the backdrop film and the full libretto from the performance.

On The New Revelations Of Being is quite a bit different from the usual products that we’ve come to expect from Infinity Land Press. However, the quality and attention to detail are no less spectacular than the rest. Infinity Land Press, the publishing house run by Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak has come to be known for its books focused on topics that are often outside the comfort zone of most publishers. Transgressive to say the least. But, unlike some other companies working in this transgressive environment, Infinity Land Press doesn’t ignore the artistic for the sake of the shocking.

Thatcher’s Tomb by Stephen Barber and Three Nails, Four Wounds by Hector Meinhof (read our interview with Meinhof here) are both examples of this dynamic. Often horrifying and demented stories stand equally with the high levels of writing capabilities of their authors. So often the more transgressive a book, the more juvenile sounding the author. Which for me totally ruins the experience, and has stopped me in my tracks from writing several reviews of books which I went into reading with too high of high expectations. That has yet to be the case for a book from Infinity Land Press. Nor, has it been the case for the majority of the books I’ve read by their friends over at Amphetamine Sulphate. Though I would say Infinity Land Press definitely seeks a higher standard and manages to achieve it time after time.

On The New Revelations Of Being breaks from the standard formats usually incorporated by Infinity Land Press in several ways. It is a truly multi-media work. The content spans a brief but still impressive booklet, an audio CD and a DVD. As one might imagine, it’s impossible to consume all three of these at the same time. However, they are all different versions of the same thing. This at first might seem a bit counter intuitive. But, it ends up working out very nicely.

The first thing that must be understood about On The New Revelations Of Being is that it is a sort of quasi-play. Performed via vocals, visuals, and soundscapes. Karolina Urbaniak contributes the backing music and sound-effects, as well as the creation and/or compilation of all the visuals. The booklet works in the way that a programme from a play would. It includes some information about each of the artists as well as the transcripts of Bladh’s words. So the booklet/programme should be used alongside either the CD or the DVD. Both CD and DVD contain the same piece, but one can be taken along with you in the car and the other can be viewed on your television. Of course, I recommend the DVD for the full experience, but I’ve also quite enjoyed listening to the CD version on long drives.

It must be said, though at this point shouldn’t be surprising, that this piece is going to contain visuals and topics which the average person might find quite upsetting, even traumatic. I won’t go into detail on the topics covered nor the footage shown within, because that would take the fun away for those of you willing to take the journey. I realize more and more that my reviews are not a place to summarize a product, they are a place for readers to find recommendations and technical specifications of a release. I personally don’t read or watch previews of shows/films because they insist on ruining the surprise. I will try to never do that to you guys.

The literary content of this project, as well as it’s execution by Martin Bladh, are both the expected evolutions of Bladh’s repertoire. He covers the apocalyptic, the literary, and the victim/executioner in increasingly sophisticated and honed ways. His writing is becoming increasingly poetic, not meaning that it is showy for the sake of looking refined, but that it is becoming sharper, more potent, more vicious, while simultaneously holding a beauty that is all distinctly Bladhian.

We are lucky to have the transcript of his words in the programme, it is very helpful because at times his voice can fall to a very light whisper and at other times a thundering roar, worthy and occasionally reminiscent of his IRM legacy. While the whispers can fall to an almost inaudible level, he gives each word its due attention. There is no sense of it being muffled. Even at the lowest of volumes his vocal performance is potent. And kudos to their recording/production skills for managing to capture those whispered words so clearly. It really adds to the feel of the performance.

I’m quite impressed with the continued honing of Karolina Urbaniak’s musical capabilities. She has likely learned some of these tricks of the trade in her many years covering the post-industrial / power-electronics scenes and also possibly from Martin Bladh more specifically, and he may or may not have learned some of them from Jarl, or more likely Bladh and Jarl learned these things side-by-side through their many years together as the lauded IRM. Regardless of where, why, or how Urbaniak came into the role of music/soundscape creator, she is showing serious signs of professionalism, this doesn’t sound like the haphazard early works of a noise artist, it sounds like the proper score to the apocalyptic events being describe therein. Urbaniak’s talents in audio/visual combination are the most evident during the section of the piece where Martin is screaming “Shit. God.” repeatedly. Urbaniak splices together a collage of video footage of various disastrous events: volcanoes erupting, lions tearing at the flesh of their prey, waves crashing upon rocks, building demolitions, and so on. At first we are able to discern the sounds from each other, as they match up with the video footage of similar events, but as the video footage moves faster the sounds begin to melt into each other and we are cast into a totally enthralling cacophony of post-industrial noise.

On The New Revelations Of Being is certainly not the normal or expected fare of Infinity Land Press. But in subject matter and quality of execution, it is right on par with the rest of their catalog of releases. As with every release I’ve held by them thus far, I would highly recommend On The New Revelations Of Being to those willing to step outside the box and experience a unique journey through the twisted but beautiful minds of its creators.

Written by: Michael Barnett

All photos taken from On The New Revelations Of Being and are used exclusively by permission of Karolina Urbaniak. All rights reserved by Infinity Land Press.

David Lynch – Someone Is In My House – Art Book Review

Art: David Lynch
Title: Someone Is In My House
Release date: 19 February 2019
Pages: 304
Publisher: Prestel Publishing

David Lynch, Bob Sees Himself Walking Toward A Formidable Abstraction, 2000, oil and mixed media on canvas, courtesy of the artist.

After years of relative silence since the release of Inland Empire, David Lynch has been in the spotlight for the better part of the last three years. Twin Peaks: The Return set things in motion. For the first time since the early 90s, Lynch was on the minds of the mainstream masses, not just his usual rabid cult fan base. For those of us always wishing more focus would be put on Lynch’s many artistic endeavors outside of film, this has been a dream come true. All things Twin Peaks are back in commercial production, Blue Velvet finally received its Criterion Collection debut, the long lost Thought Gang (Lynch and Badalamenti) album was released.

David Lynch, Boy Lights Fire, 2010, mixed media on cardboard, courtesy the artist. Collection Bonnefantenmuseum

In the realm of books, we’ve also been fortunate. Nudes, reviewed by us, was released in late 2017. A 240 page art book packed with nude photography of women taken by David Lynch. That was followed by the semi-autobiography Room To Dream, also reviewed here. Now, 2019 is starting off with another huge art book featuring the works of David Lynch.

David Lynch, Couch Series #9, 2008, digigraphie, courtesy the artist and Galerie Karl Pfefferle, Munich

Someone Is In My House is the companion book to the currently running exhibition of the same name in the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, Netherlands. The exhibition will be running through 28 April 2019! Someone Is In My House showcases a multi-media selection of works, spanning the last fifty years. There is everything from pencil and pen sketches on torn out sheets of paper and collections of matchbook sketches to photography from ventures which would lead to the books and exhibitions of The Factory Photographs and Nudes.

David Lynch, untitled (Lodz), 2000, archival pigment print, courtesy the artist.

Someone Is In My House will be indispensable to the avid Lynch collector, but this book truly shines as an introduction to Lynch’s various art forms. Whereas books like the aforementioned The Factory Photographs and Nudes are straightforward art books, filled front to back with full-page photography, Someone Is In My House has a good bit more text, along with the large and beautiful images! We are given much more context for many of the included pieces. The various writers give us a bit of Lynch’s history to go with the images, as well as a number of examples from famous artists in history as comparison/contrast. Those familiar with Lynch’s history will find a handful of interesting details to be gathered, but these chapters/articles will prove highly useful to the reader that is only familiar with Lynch through film/television.

But there is plenty to attract the die-hards. The vast section “Works on Paper” is worth the price itself. Page after page of sketches, doodles, and an impressive number of lithographs give us one of the deepest views into Lynch’s subconscious yet. The matchbook collection, which I’ve heard about many times before, is presented here as well. Particularly as I gazed at these matchbooks for extended periods of time, I realized I’d be happier at my desk with this book and a cup of coffee than I would be seeing the matchbooks in person. Each stroke of Lynch’s ball-point pen seems to lead off into another universe yet to be uncovered.

David Lynch, Pete Goes To His Girlfriend’s House, 2009, mixed media on cardboard, courtesy the artist.

Paintings/Mixed Media is the other largest section of the book. This section would also be worth the money on its own. We are finally able to sit and gaze upon so many of these strange works that have been mentioned, or shown in passing in a documentary. Incredible pieces like “Bob’s Second Dream” are shown in full, but also have a close-up where you can study the writing and textures. Extracting meaning from the letters/words oddly strewn throughout many of these images can be an exercise in itself. Some of these works, which I’ve not enjoyed as much as others in the past, have given me the opportunity to gaze upon them in context, among other connected works, and a new appreciation for them has been sparked.

David Lynch, untitled (Lodz), 2000, archival pigment print, courtesy the artist .

The photography section is quite small, which isn’t surprising as Lynch’s photography has been presented to the public in books more than his paintings. But it still manages to feature some wonderful highlights, like the notorious “Chicken Kit” and “Fish Kit”. The “Chicken Kit” in particular shares disturbingly equal portions of humor and horror. There are also selections from the Factory and Nude photo collections, to give readers a taste of what they can expect in those books (the selections in this book appear to be exclusive, not re-used from those other books).

David Lynch, Girl Dancing, 2008, lithographie, courtesy the artist and Item Editions

The book is rounded out with a biography, further reading, selected exhibitions and selected filmography sections to help lead new Lynch fans off to discover more about this auteur.

David Lynch, Distorted Nude #4, 1999, archival pigment print, courtesy the artist

At roughly 10″x12″ and over 300 pages, Prestel has crafted a physical manifestation of Someone Is In My House worthy of its artistic content. The sturdy hardcover edition has thick pages and the images don’t present too terribly much glare when reading under lamp light. I would highly recommend this to the avid Lynch fan who already has a few of the other art books, or to the newcomer to Lynch’s art-life outside his film-directing career.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Martin Bladh – Marty Page – Book Review

Author: Martin Bladh
Title: Marty Page
Release date: September 2018
Pages: 56
Publisher: Amphetamine Sulphate

Note: I have also, simultaneously, published a mix which was inspired by this book. Please have a listen now, or as you read the book in the coming weeks.
Listen on Mixcloud here.

Martin Bladh has for many years used audio and visual art forms to illustrate his fascination/obssession with death. This has been done through his music as Martin Bladh, IRM, and Skin Area. But he’s also explores these topics in books, stage performances and film. He often focuses particularly on the chemistry between torturer/executioner/abuser and victim. These roles can also, at times, be played out by a single person. Bladh spoke about this dynamic a good bit in his book DES (2013), as illustrated by the serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who would act out his erotic/homicidal fantasies in front of a mirror to create a cognitive separation between himself and his reflection/victim. Marty Page takes us deeper into these ideas from a different angle.

Martin Bladh has created a book which finds a different (possibly even more affective) way of bringing the audience as close as possible to the topic. Marty Page documents a four day period of deviance in the life of this fictional character, Marty Page. The book follows a time line which is the structure for the entire story. We are given a sort of voyeuristic look at what could be the journal, or death note, of Marty Page as he is used in a variety of different ways as a model for his captor.

He spends hours in silence, bound, gagged and blindfolded, kept in waiting for the next event. His captor will free him for long enough to enjoy a film, musical album, or painting, only to return him to his shackles shortly thereafter. Sometimes we are given Marty Page‘s reflections on what he’s seen in the film, or a dream he had after listening to some album. We are also given notes written to him by his captor.

All these little tidbits come together to form a truly multi-media experience. As I read Marty Page, I took time-outs myself to watch the noted films, listen to the albums, or gaze at the paintings, before returning to the story. This helped me form a closer bond with Marty Page. I could imagine myself in his position, witnessing events as they unfolded. This, of course, becomes a more terrifying and uncomfortable situation to vicariously experience as the story heats up.

I’ve mentioned Marty Page‘s captor. But, they are one of the more interesting and thought-provoking dynamics of the story. We are given plenty of information about the victim himself, the first page of the book gives us a sort of character sheet, describing his physical features as well as his various favorite artworks and artists. The captor is a different story. We are able to read letters from the captor to Marty Page, and (possibly) letters from Marty Page to the captor. I don’t want to go into any more detail on this dynamic, but I recommend paying close attention to the people to which each of these letters are addressed.

Marty Page is quite short, as are all the books I’ve obtained which were released by Amphetamine Sulphate. But, making a multi-media experience out of the book, as I did, following through on each indicator (film, album, painting, etc.), stretched the experience out over several days. I have to admit, I quite enjoyed this format. Becoming part of the story, in however small or insignificant a way, the reader is able to feel the story unfold in a much more personal way than if we had just speed-read through it in a few hours.

I stumbled upon the Amphetamine Sulphate publishing company because of this book by Martin Bladh, who I generally make it a point to stay updated on. But, now that I’ve looked further into them, I have purchased several more of their books, and will likely be reviewing a few of them in the coming months. The books are short. The two I have are both around 50 pages each. But, the price tag is quite reasonable, both these books were $10 each with little postage cost added. They aren’t going to win any awards for aesthetics. These really are booklets, not books. But, the stories contained within are incredibly interesting, and a bit controversial at times. Philip Best, co-owner of Amphetamine Sulphate, is no stranger to controversial topics, and he goes a step further with this company by creating a platform for other controversial writers. This was the same reason I started following Infinity Land Press, run by Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak. They touch on topics that are equally interesting and taboo. In this brave new age of the generic, a time when everyone seems to only be interested in conforming to some stereotype so they too can have 100,000+ followers on Instagram, it is essential for my being that I find these companies on the fringes of society which are willing to dedicate their hearts and capital to showing these most diverse/perverse elements.

Written by: Michael Barnett

David Lynch – Nudes – ArtBook Review

Photography: David Lynch
Title: Nudes
Release date: November 2017
Pages: 240
Publisher: FondationCartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France.

Photos courtesy of FondationCartier. ©David Lynch

I first happened upon David Lynch in 1999. Lost Highway was playing on the Independent Film Channel. After those two hours, I would never look at cinematography the same way again. The darkness was all-encompassing. The actual events of the story were less important than the feelings the viewer experienced. A focus on mood and atmosphere build the basic foundation for David Lynch‘s oeuvre. Whether you came to his works through Blue Velvet, Eraserhead or Mulholland Dr., you likely found a similar love for his particular brand of darkness. Ten years after his last film, David Lynch has re-entered the spotlight in a big way with the return of Twin Peaks for a third season. That new season turned out to be about as complex as his most challenging films, and proves that he still has the drive to crush all expectations of what any particular form of art should seek to accomplish.

©David Lynch

During the excitement, which is still resounding from that new season of Twin Peaks, Lynch has recognized how many followers his works still attract. I’ve already reviewed his new [semi-auto]biography, Room To Dream. (Read the review here.) In Room To Dream, we were given a much better picture of how important art, in its many forms, is to David Lynch. Whether it is a doodle on a napkin, a painting, a lithograph or a photograph, Lynch has as much love for still art as he does for film. The style and format in which these works are created is incredibly varied.

“I like to photograph naked women. The infinite variety of the human body is fascinating: it is amazing and magic to see how different women are.”
                                                – David Lynch

Nudes has a specific focus. Nudes gives us a large collection of David Lynch‘s photography of the nude female body. With that said, many are likely to find little sexual nature in Nudes. Of course, the nude female body will likely draw some level of sexual attraction from people, but it certainly isn’t the focus. The feminine form and the integrity of the models are well honored here. This is not pornography, soft-core or otherwise. This is dark art. The darkness here really can’t be overstated. It is one of the main features of the collection. It is as prevalent as the female body itself, if not even more so.

©David Lynch

Those familiar with David Lynch: The Factory Photographs will find similarities to Nudes in style. Lynch created both these collections using a similar aesthetic template to that of some of his films, specifically Eraserhead and Inland Empire. We get that industrial district at night feeling. In the black and white sections of Nudes, in particular, we may find ourselves dehumanizing these images, with the skin losing its natural tones and taking on something less lively, less human.

©David Lynch

The color section of Nudes uses the female body in much the same ways, but the mood changes drastically. Throughout the color section the photos have a warm hue, with the yellows of the skin and reds of the lips standing in bold contrast to one another. The lips are one of the most moving features throughout this section. Thinking of scenes from Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet, one would already realize how important lips are to Lynch’s aesthetics. Those close-up scenes of all these dames-in-distress, as they speak quietly into a phone, immediately comes to mind when browsing this section.

©David Lynch

Another important element in this collection, aside from the women and the darkness, is smoke. It’s used in a variety of ways, both in the color and B/W photos. Sometimes it is a languid exhale from the rosy lips of a model, other times it lingers in the air between the model and the camera in a purely atmospheric fashion. In both instances, it greatly adds to the seductive aesthetic as well as the mystery.

©David Lynch

Often, the true nature of the photograph is obscured. It can be almost impossible at times to discern which part(s) of the body is even on display. Delicate and pale skin illuminates the pages, as the body is only slightly revealed. The difficulty in discerning the parts of the body we are seeing adds the same sort of thing to this book that I love about Lynch’s films. Everything is not as it seems. Each photograph is not only a new pose, maybe a new model or a new location, but it is also a new mystery. We can spend a decent amount of our time contemplating and analyzing each photo.

©David Lynch

Every extra moment I can spend with the book makes me feel all the more pleased to have purchased it. This won’t be something that you will flip through quickly and toss aside. Each page deserves time and thought, worthy of the extra care one takes when confronted by an artist of top calibre. Lynch has created a collection which seems so simple in its preparation, but manages to draw the same level of admiration as some of his most complex works. Unlike many of his paintings, drawings and animations, we can see very close connections to his film aesthetics in this photography.

The physical book itself is brilliantly presented. FondationCartier pour l’art contemporain has been working with Lynch since they hosted his David Lynch, The Air Is On Fire exhibition. Since then, they’ve published his art-books The Air Is On Fire (2007), Snowmen (2007) and Works on Paper (2011). Nudes is hardback, 25 × 34 cm, and 240 pages featuring 125 black-and-white and color photographs. I honestly have never owned an art-book that nears the physical quality of this one, so I can’t speak too much on comparing it with other similar editions.

©David Lynch

I would highly recommend Nudes to lovers of photography of the human form. But, I would also feel confident that many lovers of his films, particularly the noir-esque films, will find plenty to enjoy in this collection. I spent most of an evening browsing it the day it arrived, slowly absorbing each photograph. I’ve since gone back and enjoyed the book several more times. In each instance, I’ve been incredibly pleased with the experience. It’s really exciting to see Lynch rising once again to the surface of the art world. I’m hoping this book will be a commercial success, because we really need more like this, and it would seem that Lynch has mountains of unpublished art that he can still share with the world. To many people, Lynch is one of the greatest artists of our time, I will be firmly in that camp until someone can finally convince me otherwise.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Antonin Artaud – Artaud 1937 Apocalypse – Book Review

Title: Artaud 1937 Apocalypse:
Antonin Artaud – Letters From Ireland – 14 August to 21 September 1937
Translated & Edited by: Stephen Barber, with notes and an Afterword
Photographs by: Karolina Urbaniak
Artworks by: Martin Bladh
Published by: Infinity Land Press
Release date: May 2018
Pages: 120

Cover art by Martin Bladh

Artaud 1937 Apocalypse publishes the letters Antonin Artaud sent to several of his correspondents during the period in 1937 when Artaud was visiting Ireland. Artaud left Paris for the island of Inishmore off the western coast of Ireland, then proceeded on to Galway and Dublin. During this time, Artaud sent a number of intriguing letters to a select few of his friends and correspondents. In these letters Artaud gives their recipients a general outline of his new purpose in life, and his reason for traveling to Ireland. The disturbing content of these letters is the body of and inspiration for this book, which is now able to be utilized by a much greater audience, as it has recently entered the public domain.

Until the release of this book my knowledge of Antonin Artaud and his work was lacking. I opted to begin reading the book before digging too deeply into the biography of the man. As I read, I realized this book and this man are both incredibly complex and interesting topics. So I decided to take a deep dive into his life and his works. What I found was a man of singular peculiarity. A man that could be equally as charming as he was denigrating. Yet, even with his strong anti-social tendencies and his phases of increased mania, Artaud managed to keep a devoted group of close friends and followers throughout his life, and to leave a lasting legacy after his death. These opposing forces are likely to be at least partially responsible for Artaud’s variety of art in its many forms. As I learned more about the man, and then began to read the book again, a greater appreciation for it certainly arose.

Endpaper collages by Martin Bladh

Speaking at the Theatre Sarah-Bernhardt at the ‘Evening Devoted to the Works of Antonin Artaud’ on 7 June 1946, Louis Jouvet said, “Artaud described long ago with unusually acute foresight, the essence of theater, what the theater may be like tomorrow, what the future holds for such forms as radio and films. In a work called The Theater and Its Double, this true seer formulated the essence of what we are all seeking in our own ways today. He forecast the genres now being revised. On language, acting, actors and direction, on expression and psychology in drama, Artaud wrote incisive predictions and, as far as dramatic phenomena can be defined, definitive ones.” Jouvet is referring here to Artaud’s analysis of the world of theatre during their time, as well as the concept and affect of his ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ which is described in the Encyclopædia Britannica as a “communion between actor and audience in a magic exorcism; gestures, sounds, unusual scenery, and lighting combine to form a language, superior to words, that can be used to subvert thought and logic and to shock the spectator into seeing the baseness of his world.”

Yet, Artaud 1937 Apocalypse doesn’t really deal with any of the topics of art. It instead focuses solely on Artaud’s vision of a coming apocalypse, in which he sees himself as the primary antagonizer of the lost masses and their false conceptions of the holy realms. His vision is an amalgamation of Christian and Hindu concepts of a triad of divine power. Both of which are one and the same, and both of which are misunderstood, as he sees it, by the followers of said faiths. In his letters Artaud not only illustrates his own role in this coming apocalypse, but he explains to his friends how they are also connected to the upcoming events, and how the elements of the heavens themselves will war amongst each other. The letters can vary from a quick warning of some upcoming event to a detailed explanation of how and why various of his correspondents should abandon their current preoccupations and join him in this effort which he sees as the difference between a new beginning and the end of everything. Some letters include spells, protective or destructive, depending upon the recipient. Many of the letters included pleas for money, something Artaud was desperately lacking from this period forward.

Photography by Karolina Urbaniak

Interestingly enough, the events of this book, of course, took place not long before the second World War. The apocalypse may not have unfolded as Artaud had imagined it would, but some version of an apocalypse certainly left its mark on humanity during those years. Ironically, I suppose, Artaud actually had no influence on WWII whatsoever, as he spent the entirety of the war in a series of psychiatric hospitals. During this period, he was repeatedly subjected to electro-convulsive therapy numbering in the dozens of “treatments”, which they likely used on him, at least occasionally, as punishment for unwanted behavior. Needless to say, this trip to Ireland, and then his immediate institutionalization upon return to France is likely the most chaotic and troubling part of his life.

Infinity Land Press took no shortcuts on this one. While the book is only 120 pages in length, there is plenty of interesting information here to absorb, over multiple readings. The book is hard-bound with a bound silk bookmark. The cover-art, created by Martin Bladh (IRM, Skin Area, Infinity Land Press), is a collage consisting of three images of Artaud’s face, each from a different period. There are also collages by Martin Bladh on each of the inner endpapers. Karolina Urbaniak provides the utterly magnificent photographs dispersed throughout the book. She took all these photos herself, on a trip to Ireland, in preparation for the book, where she followed the path of Artaud’s historical travels. The power of these photos in the narrative can’t be understated. Urbaniak captures scenes that seem almost otherworldly in their uniqueness. Jagged rocks protruding from the ground as far as the eye can see, violent waves colliding forcing a torrent of water into the sky, and the foundations of long forgotten structures make up the subject matter of these photographs and paint a vivid picture of the world Artaud was witnessing around himself during this period.

Photography by Karolina Urbaniak

The final element to this book is the work of Stephen Barber. Barber has been an authority on the works and correspondences of Antonin Artaud for years. His contribution here takes Artaud 1937 Apocalypse from an aesthetically pleasing collection of letters to a well rounded English translation and commentary. Artaud wrote all these letters in French, so one of the major undertakings of this book was to create an English translation which would still capture the electrifying wording used by Artaud. Though I don’t speak French, and therefore can’t have a true judgment here, from my history in Ancient Greek and Latin translation, Barber seems to have done an excellent job of creating wording which will feel natural to English speakers, yet also captures that brilliance/insanity of Artaud’s wording. Barber’s contributions are rounded-out with an Afterword, which was very helpful for me, in understanding the greater context of this work. He has also provided notes throughout the book, making it a potent resource for English reading scholars on the topic of Antonin Artaud.

We won’t all get the full appreciation immediately from this work. As I mentioned before, Antonin Artaud is a complex man, one that worked in a variety of different creative fields, and left his mark on more than one of them. But this is a wonderful place to get into his works for the first time. Having this version of Artaud in mind as I dug much deeper into his legacy, it made for a more interesting journey, similar to the “in media res” (into the middle of things) situation, I would equate my experience with a movie starting in the action of some later scene, then taking you back to the beginnings to explain the lead-up to this event. With that said, I would highly recommend Artaud 1937 Apocalypse to die-hard lovers of Artaud. But, it will also be an enlightening work for those new to Artaud, and possibly the catalyst for a greater journey into the works of Artaud and/or his friends, such as André Breton, in the surrealist movement. The physical book is a delight to witness and the content within is no less appealing.

Review written by: Michael Barnett

Book design by Karolina Urbaniak

David Lynch & Kristine McKenna – Room To Dream – Book Review

Authors: David Lynch and Kristine Mckenna
Title: Room To Dream
Publisher: Random House
Release date: 19 June 2018
Pages: 592

In our dark ambient community there should be few people unfamiliar with the name David Lynch. The soundtrack to Eraserhead is still wildly popular 41 years later, with a recent re-issue selling out in no time. The Eraserhead soundtrack is a testament to Lynch’s natural understanding of dark ambient atmospherics. These rich textures and layers of drone, wind, and industrial noise evoke a dark vision of the not so distant past and, on an emotional level, a sense of claustrophobia and social anxiety. Going forward to 2007, Lynch worked with his in-house sound engineer Dean Hurley to create The Air Is On Fire, a thoroughly dark ambient music experience which was created as a soundtrack to accompany his art exhibition of the same name. While these are certainly not the only two times Lynch has dabbled in what amounts to dark ambient, they are solid proof of his dark ambient sensibilities.

Since the release of Eraserhead in 1977, Lynch has been slowly climbing the ladder to cult superstar status. His relationship with the movie industry, film critics and fans is one that is constantly changing in dynamics. Love him or hate him, most people that have experienced enough of his work to properly judge have some strong opinion. This has never been an issue for Lynch. He has almost always worked in a way that puts the integrity of the final product as the only important concern. On the very few instances that he’s strayed from this goal, he’s learned his lesson the hard way, becoming even more committed to his internal vision with each passing project.

The current, and possible life-time, culmination of all his experiences comes in the form of Twin Peaks: The Return. The revival of this series, twenty five years later, put Lynch into the spotlight in a way he hasn’t experienced since the success of Blue Velvet and then the original Twin Peaks series. Mulholland Dr. got people talking, but it was more of a slow-burner, taking years for many people to come around to its aesthetics and sensibilities. Twin Peaks: The Return had no trouble with its launch. Lynch has graced covers of popular magazines over the last two years and his body of work is being discovered by many new and younger people. Simultaneously, his older followers are taking the time to re-evaluate their feelings about his other works.

In this climate and at this point in his career, now seems to be the perfect timing for Room To Dream to hit the shelves. Though we likely all hope to have many more productive years for Lynch, we must realize the world is a violent and dynamic place. There is no time like the present, and Lynch has luckily deemed it necessary to sit down and give us the best details to-date of his life and experiences in it. Those ten years between Inland Empire and Twin Peaks: The Return have given Lynch the rest he needed, but also gave him time to properly evaluate what he wants to be remembered for in this world after he’s dropped his body. That really shows in Room To Dream, it’s easy to see that Lynch may not be on the exact path he envisioned, nevertheless he is confident in his past and eager to see what the future holds.

People searching for an answer to the final episode of Twin Peaks: The Return will find no solace in the pages of Room To Dream. Lynch has repeatedly stated, in regards to numerous projects, that telling us his version of “the truth behind the story” would be doing a disservice to the viewer. And indeed I’ve returned to Inland Empire, Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway so many times that I’ve long since lost count. Even last night, re-watching Inland Empire for the 20th+ time, there were new ideas and possibilities jumping out at me.

However, those interested in what made Lynch the man that he is today, and why he decided to take this direction with his art, will find a treasure trove of information. In Room To Dream each chapter has two sections, a biographical format by Kristine McKenna sets the foundation for the narrative, giving us many quotes from the people relevant to Lynch during each given period (Everyone from Dennis Hopper to Michael Cera). McKenna is able to speak with authority on these topics, as she has been one of Lynch’s most trusted interviewers throughout the years, and has previously written a number of articles on the subject of his life and work. The second part to each chapter is then written by David Lynch. Lynch reads the previous section, then gives further details, caveats, and corrections to the “popular narrative” of his life and the meaning/direction of his various works. Since we are able to hear Lynch’s take on the topic it gives us the best of both worlds, a standard biography which is paired with a sort of memoir/autobiography.

There were disappointments and failures along the way, like the crumbling of the mesh that held Dune together, and the subsequent critical backlash. But Lynch bounced back from Dune with the masterpiece Blue Velvet, and he bounced back from the death of the Mulholland Dr. television show with a feature film version that many consider his magnum opus. Room to Dream takes us through these ups and downs and gives us an idea of Lynch’s thought process when navigating these projects and life-changing events.

Throughout the narrative there are few truly negative statements made about Lynch. This doesn’t seem to be an omission so much as a reality. By all accounts, Lynch is a ray of sunshine and a pleasure to be around. But like in so much of his body of work, things aren’t always as they seem. While it seems absolutely true that Lynch is a delight to be around, he also suffers from a great deal of social anxiety. We need look no further than his debut film Eraserhead, seeing the tribulations of Henry Spencer as he attempted to navigate social norms. These differing extremes, being the nicest guy in the room and also being the most self-conscious, may be partly responsible for one of his Lynchian trademarks, showing opposing moods and atmospheres pushed to their very limit and then fused together in a chaotic orgy of raw emotion and symbolism.

Emotions abound in Room To Dream for the reader. The way we are able to experience the feelings and stories by these many many people whose lives have been changed for the better by Lynch is quite heart-warming. But, we also get the negative vibes. I can’t help but feel a real disappointment, knowing Ronnie Rocket will likely never see the light of day. Knowing how much footage was destroyed in the editing of a certain film, and how many of those deleted scenes could have made it back into a director’s cut. But again, these ups and downs are part of the journey with David Lynch. Who doesn’t remember the elation of hearing the announcement of a third season of Twin Peaks? Only to be followed by an announcement that Lynch had pulled out of the project. Then the subsequent campaign by the actors to get the film/show back in motion. It was a turbulent process, and yet somehow it was almost magical.

Room To Dream isn’t the key to all the secrets behind Lynch’s filmography. The closest you will get to that is the haphazard attempt by so many film students seeking to fit his work into some category, genre, or psychological framework. What you will get from this book is a renewed appreciation for Lynch’s body of work, not just in film, but also in music, painting, drawing, print-making, sculpture, photography, etc. Room to Dream is about showing how Lynch has, in fact, given himself room to dream. Just as his films so often give the viewers “room to breath” in those long and mundane sequences, we see how Lynch’s life has been plotted out in a similar fashion. After a lifetime’s work, Lynch finally has room to dream and we will all certainly be awaiting the day that his works will grace the screen once more. In the meantime, though, Room To Dream uncovers a plethora of various works that we may have missed by Lynch over the years. I suggest you keep a notepad close by when reading this one, there will be so many things to check out later to further enrich our appreciation for Lynch not just as an auteur of the film industry, but as a first-class artist across countless forms of media.

Review written by: Michael Barnett

Room To Dream is available in hardcover, e-book and audio-book formats, with readings by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna.

Mortiis – Secrets of my Kingdom: Return… – Review

Author: Mortiis
Book: Secrets of My Kingdom: Return to Dimensions Unknown
Release date: March 2018
Publisher: Cult Never Dies / Crypt Publications

Mortiis is a name that needs little introduction in the dark ambient community. His work on Cold Meat Industry in the 1990s helped to spawn a new genre, which he called dark dungeon music at the time. What was once a light scattering of artists creating music in this style has, over the past few years, turned into a blooming community of eager artists and listeners. These sounds have slowly been re-labeled as dungeon synth.

After years of keeping distance between his Era 1 sound and his current industrial rock sound, Mortiis has recently reexamined his Era 1 material. Understanding its impact and realizing its value to the dungeon synth community Mortiis has since started the process of re-releasing all material from that first era. New vinyl and cassette editions have been crafted for his Era 1 releases. All these vinyl editions have had their cover-art reimagined by David Thiérrée.

Secrets of My Kingdom: Return To Dimensions Unknown is the final element in the re-invigoration of Mortiis‘ Era 1. The first edition, originally titled just Secrets of My Kingdom, was released in 2001 on Earache Records in a limited leather-bound edition of 850 copies. By that time Era 1 was becoming a fading memory for him, and The Smell of Rain was driving him into new and uncharted territory. Nonetheless, those 850 copies found homes. Since that time, the book has continued a life of its own in the second-hand trading/selling world. Through this year, especially with the recent bloom of interest in Dungeon Synth, the original book was easily selling for $150+ in the used book and band merch markets. With all this excitement around the world about dungeon synth, multiple featured Bandcamp Daily articles, exponentially growing Facebook groups and message boards, high quality new record labels being established, Mortiis decided to reexamine this book to see if it still had potential and relevance 15 years on. Deeming its pages worth discovery by this new dungeon synth community, Mortiis went about the process of updating and re-releasing the book.

For those familiar with the original version, everything you may have liked about the content will still be intact. All the original illustrations by Juha Vuorma and Mark Riddick have been retained, as well as all the original text. But this edition has been expanded in many ways. Readers will immediately recognize the new, aforementioned cover-art by David Thiérrée. The book starts with some reflections on the original book and it’s re-imagining, before jumping right into the original material. This is then followed, starting on page 154, with a large section of original notes, handwritten lyrics, and unused texts. These are all direct photocopies of the original texts/sketches, and they are given explanation where needed for context. There is then an extensive interview with Mortiis, covering many topics related to his Era 1 work and its legacy. There are also interviews with artists Juha Vuorma, Mark Riddick, and David Thiérrée; as well as Mortiis‘ contemporaries Forgotten Kingdoms, Balrog, Chaucerian Myth, Proscriptor of Equimanthorn and Absu, Tomas Pettersson of Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, and finally Albert Mudrian of Decibel magazine. The book closes with 26 illustrations by David Thiérrée which are based on the texts in the book, and were used for select Mortiis performances in 2017.

I didn’t truly appreciate the Era 1 work of Mortiis until well passed it’s prime. Like many, I didn’t fully discover dungeon synth until this most recent boom in popularity. Then, like so many others, I began working backward, discovering the material which has found such a warm place in the hearts of Mortiis fans for over two decades. Even Mortiis had to go back and sort of rediscover/reevaluate his own material, after so many years of disregarding Era 1. Whether you believe Mortiis sincerely returned to Era 1 out of a genuine longing to revisit his roots or, alternatively, you think this is all an opportunity for a cash grab, I don’t think this issue should matter too much to those genuine fans of Era 1 Mortiis. My opinion is that he is being genuine and is very pleased to see such renewed interest in his early work. But even if he isn’t being genuine, we cannot deny that it is wonderful to have access to new cassette and vinyl editions of some of his classic albums. A new edition of Secrets of My Kingdom will be very welcome to newer Mortiis fans that discovered the original book, but found that they could not possibly afford to curate a copy for themselves. It will also be welcome to any longtime fans that may have sold, lost, or destroyed their original edition, and have since had a longing for its return.

Critically, Secrets of My Kingdom: Return To Dimensions Unknown has its ups and downs. The original text by Mortiis isn’t necessarily the most eloquent or engaging material. Reading through the poems, I’m not surprised that Mortiis continued with his music career and set this written medium aside. Nevertheless, the original text accounted for the sales of the original edition, and is the main attraction for this reissue. What Mortiis lacks in poetic technique, he makes up for in depth of content. Those that are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the greater story and framework behind Era 1 Mortiis albums will find this collection indispensable. The second positive element, and a reason I was interested in buying a copy, is the addition of context and commentary. Reading Mortiis‘ reflections on this book, years after its inception, and seeing how it has impacted others helps give new fans a better idea of Mortiis‘ history from an emotional standpoint, rather than technical. I was also very impressed with the work of David Thiérrée on the vinyl re-issues, so I was eager to see the final section of the book with his graphical interpretations of Era 1 events, characters, and scenery. I would have liked to see Thiérrée’s illustrations in a larger format, rather than two per page, but this is understandable, as Thiérrée likely intends to sell these works as original art and so his section of the book should be seen more as a catalog of his Mortiis works rather than a section of full size prints, like we would expect in a proper art book dedicated to his work. In regard to the physical book itself, I haven’t held the original, but I gather that the original leather-bound edition may have looked a bit nicer than this new – hardcover but not leather-bound – edition. Of course, this can be easily explained away by a preference for availability over obsession with quality. The fact is that a second leather-bound edition likely wouldn’t have seen as many copies manufactured, and would also have cost a good deal more to purchase.

I would recommend this edition to any true fans of Mortiis‘ Era 1 material. There is a wonderful array of material to enjoy here. Even if you have already read the book’s original text, this new edition comes with so much extra material that it should still be worth the purchase price. I haven’t sat down to a deep reading of the original text, but I enjoy reading a few passages here and there, especially while listening to his Era 1 material. The large sections dedicated to interviews are really helpful for giving older fans a look at Mortiis current mindset on Era 1, but they also give the younger fans a deep look at where Mortiis fits into the great world of music. If all this sounds enticing, then I highly recommend Secrets of My Kingdom, but if you are likely to feel that the original text isn’t up to par, and also don’t care much for the added insights, then I would recommend you stick to books by authors that have dedicated their lives to creating fiction. This is, undeniably, a book for the dungeon synth community.

Written by: Michael Barnett

All Internal by Terence Hannum – Book Review

Author: Terence Hannum
Book: All Internal
Release date: 30 April 2018
Publishing House: Dynatox Ministries

I briefly met Terence Hannum at the APEX Fest 2015 here in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s involved in a number of different things around the music and art scene here, and so it was only a matter of time before we crossed paths. Most interesting to me was his musical work as the singer/synth/electronics guy in the band Locrian. He recently released his debut as part of the Lynchian sort of darkish synth-pop group The Holy Circle on Annihilvs Power Electronix. He’s also recently begun to release albums and perform solo as the power-electronics project Axebreaker. While all these projects are quite interesting to me, they all dance around the edges of dark ambient, and I’ve yet to properly cover one, though I have listened to and enjoyed all three of these named projects repeatedly.

Hannum’s first novella, Beneath the Remains, released in 2016 and focused on a young boy in Florida, as he dealt with the aftermath of his older brother’s disappearance. It often raised feelings of nostalgia, yet there was a darkness that always lurked beneath the surface, creeping up through various events as the story progressed.

Two years later, Hannum returns with his second novella, All Internal. A story which takes a deep look, literally and through allegory at some of the darker elements of the age of social media, and the underbelly of video-clip internet porn and webcam modeling. But, Hannum doesn’t simply give us a standard tale of someone’s misfortunes. All Internal instead takes the horror/ sci-fi/ weird-fiction route, with a large helping of graphic (sexual and otherwise) detail along the way. In this way, Hannum is able to blend together his passions for fine writing and cultural politics, highlighting his more academic side, with his loves for darker topics, previously explored through his musical projects and artwork.

All Internal takes some pretty interesting twists and turns along the way. Not knowing what to expect next, or understanding the context in which something is happening adds a lot to the overall effect here. So, I won’t be going into the actual storyline in any detail in this review. Instead, I’d prefer to focus on the reasons why, and type of person that may enjoy this sort of story.

Hannum’s writing style on All Internal makes use of quick snippets of information. Scenes/chapters which may only last for 1 – 3 pages on average. I find this to be an incredibly potent writing style in our current culture, where the average person consumes the majority of their news through headlines and talking points, not in depth articles and discussions. A time when presidents make their case for policy in 280 characters or less. But, any possible disdain for this situation aside, these short paragraphs really do make for a meaningful reading experience. When you are able to consume a section of text, and then stop to think about its possible deeper meanings.

As for deeper meanings, there is a lot to unpack here. One could innocently read through this 100 +/- pages of text without taking any allegorical meanings or greater contexts into consideration. Which would be fine. But it is quite interesting to dig into the topics and scenarios presented, and wonder exactly how much more Hannum could be conveying. As I read through the story, I took note of various ideas arising, things that seemed to parallel Hannum’s narrative.

One huge and recurring theme, for me, was the question of the soul. Hannum clearly points out the question of mind or body. But, this question is taken to its furthest extents. Do we have free will or are we slaves to our ritualized patterns. Is the mind really telling the body what to do, or is the mind just noticing that the body is doing, without any ability to influence. Another important topic that seemed, to me, unavoidable when reading All Internal, is the question of women’s reproductive rights. Or in an even broader sense, humanity’s ability to fully comprehend and then influence decisions on reproduction in relation to the planet’s overall population and ability to sustain itself.

Hannum’s writing style is certainly modern. The topics I believe he is alluding to are front and center in modern times. But, as I read All Internal, I also felt that Hannum found a lot of influence and inspiration from the weird-fiction authors of the 1920s and 1930s. Maybe this is just because of my constant saturation in this topic, but I seemed to notice some striking allusions, or at least nods, to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and maybe even more of Clark Ashton Smith. Without going into any detail that would speak directly to plot twists, there were several moments, especially in the second half of the story, as Hannum begins to unveil more specifics of the story’s framework. Whether I’m right or wrong to make a connection there, I would certainly say that fans of those authors, and more modern authors like Neil Gaiman and Thomas Ligotti will certainly find things to love. In many respects, Hannum takes these sorts of themes and steps the intensity up, to something more on par with our current societal norms/boundaries.

All Internal is a quick and enjoyable read. One that you could knock out rather quickly, if the story so engrosses you. Or, one which you can casually read in these short 1-3 page sections, over a greater period of time. While I already loved Beneath the Remains, I found All Internal more stylistically in line with some of my favorites, and so I would want to recommend this as well to our readers, many being generally fans of the same sorts of stories and films. I found my playlist of dark ambient awaiting review was the perfect accompaniment to this story, at certain times playing things on one end of the spectrum, but as the story took twists, I was adjusting the music’s themes accordingly. An all around enjoyable experience. I’m definitely hoping Hannum does more future work in this vein!

Review by: Michael Barnett

DARKLEAKS: The Ripper Genome – Infinity Land Press – Book Review

Authors: Jeremy Reed, Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak
Book: DARKLEAKS – The Ripper Genome
Release date: 16 April 2017
Publisher: Infinity Land Press

Infinity Land Press is continuing to prove itself to be one of the most exciting new developments in the world of book publication. Since the company’s inception a few short years ago, they have already brought together a combination of art-books and psychological treaties which firmly set them apart from anything that could be considered a normal format. The Void Ratio by Shane Levene and Karolina Urbaniak brought together photography and poetry to form a powerful picture of the life of mental destabilization matched to crippling drug addiction. Altered Balance by Jeremy Reed and Karolina Urbaniak delivered an unorthodox variation of a tribute to Coil, through the memoirs of Reed and the emotive monochrome photography of Urbaniak. The Rorschach Text by Martin Bladh showcased his brilliant use of collage in creating a narrative. Many of these elements have come together in DARKLEAKS – The Ripper Genome to form what I consider to be the best work yet by Infinity Land Press. Bladh, Reed and Urbaniak bring to the project their own unique talents forming a powerful portal which transports readers throughout landscapes and thoughtscapes to help us understand the inner workings of this so-called ‘ripper genome’, the tendency throughout recent history for various people to share in a sort of template which draws them toward murder as an art form or even a religious rite in some instances.

As explained by Stephen Barber in the introduction, Reed and Bladh both perform their own sort of ‘cuts’ throughout the book, bringing their work in harmony with the knife work of Jack the Ripper. As they narrate stories bringing other figures throughout history into the context of a sort of split personality disorder, believing or disbelieving themselves to be Jack the Ripper reincarnated, they are in essence becoming part of the story themselves, taking on the murderous knife work of Jack the Ripper through their own media. Jeremy Reed makes ‘cuts’ into various times of history, embodying historical figures such as Burroughs, Baudelaire and Sickert. While Martin Bladh’s cuts are even more literal. Martin uses the scalpel to cut the pieces for his collages which at times bring the faces of two or three different men together, as if drawing them all into a set narrative. For me, the most frightening example of this was toward the end of the book where he combines Aleister Crowley, Anthony Hardy and the physician who was believed to be Jack the Ripper himself, adorning the right page. With the clippings from three articles detailing the works of these three men on its opposite. The combination is a fitting example of the way this entire book works. We are given snippets, flashbacks and narrated accounts of the thoughts and desires of so many different people throughout recent history, since the time of Jack the Ripper. This amalgamation of swirling narratives comes together to form a picture of this ‘ripper genome’, this hardwiring of the brain in some people which naturally inclines it toward these savage deeds.

Reed moves between the narratives of the victim, the killer, and random figures who aren’t sure if they are the killer or not, as well as people who glorify the killings. The story of Brother Martin (pg102) combines a little of all these elements. It takes the perspective of the victim, as the killer excitedly tells her the supposed old tale of a Brother Martin who killed many people, including his sister. She is spooked and leaves, having nightmares about the man. A few days later he finds her in the streets, exclaims that he is Brother Martin as he murders her.

Sometimes Reed will only focus on the atmosphere of the London streets, always coming back to the presence of a thick fog. He uses colors, emotions, disjointed narratives and allegories to bring the reader stumbling toward an understanding of the whole theme. To add even more complexity, and often disorientation to the mix, Reed hops from prose to poetry and back again. Some tales from the view of our modern times, others taking place in the late 1800s – early 1900s.

Reed moves for a section through the streets of London, blinded by fog from the Thames. He recollects a conversation with Sleazy of Coil, they reminisce about Balance, alcoholic turned visionary. About how they created music which recollected their time travels, rather than trying to induce them for the listener. Sleazy relates a story about how him and Balance had witnessed the Jack the Ripper murders in a mushroom-induced interpersonal vision. The killer was Michael Maybrick, they concluded, a sort of celebrity/pop star in his time.

We find out, through various newspaper and magazine clippings toward the end of the book, much of what we may have been missing throughout the narrative. For example, we find that, “After the stroke Sickert would have ‘ripper periods’ in which he would dress up like the murderer and walk about like that for weeks on end.” Many examples could be shown of what at first seems to be random, disjointed snippets later proving to be crucial elements of the whole.

Martin Bladh takes on a more direct form with his writings. Each piece of text is accompanied by a collage… or vice-versa. The text is most often an imagined or real note written by a murderer to the police. Taking on the persona of the killer himself, Martin uses misspelled words, archaic phrasing, and a sharp sense of humor to lure the reader into the mind of the killer. Sometimes the notes seem to be written by more than one person, is the note from the killer or is it a fake written to seem like it is by the killer? Martin makes this conundrum central to his narrative. Sometimes the killer will take on the mantle of godly vigilante, as showcased in Martin’s work ‘Good Morning Amen’ on page 109. At other times Martin will take us directly to the crime scene, with a detailed list of the wounds and positions of the murdered body. As if he is the contemporary crime scene investigator.

The last piece in this brilliant collection is only included in the Limited Edition Boxset. A six track CD brings some of the sections of DARKLEAKS to life in the form of spoken word over a dark and cinematic soundtrack. Karolina Urbaniak, on her first foray into music, produces a set of tracks which reflect the disjointed snippets of story. Her soundscapes include many field recordings. We hear footsteps, dripping waters, slashing knives and screaming victims in their death-throes. Over this backdrop the tracks are distributed between Martin Bladh and Jeremy Reed with spoken-word excerpts from the book. Bladh, also vocalist for IRM and Skin Area, takes on one of his more chilling vocal styles reading several of his notes written by the killers. While Reed recites some of the more poetic clips from his works. With the disc being full of spoken-word elements it should be looked at as its own individual addition to the set, not as a background listen when reading. Each track helps color the stories in even more detail, bringing each segment to life in a totally different format from the written words and collages.

For anyone that is already familiar with the works of Infinity Land Press, this purchase should be a no-brainer. As described above, I truly believe DARKLEAKS brings together the finest elements of each of its contributors. The years’ experience of Reed and Bladh are brought to a pinnacle on DARKLEAKS. While the experimental elements of the accompanying disc prove to be an utter success. This could be the perfect entry point for discovery of the works of Infinity Land Press, giving readers a bit of an introduction to many of the contributors to other works in their catalog of releases. DARKLEAKS is a whirlwind of emotions and contrasting styles which keep it fresh and engaging from introduction to conclusion.

Written by: Michael Barnett

In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft by W. Scott Poole – Book Review

Author: W. Scott Poole
Book: In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft
Release date: 13 September 2016
Publisher: Soft Skull Press

H.P. Lovecraft can be found everywhere these days. His stories are constantly being reprinted. His ideas are used in films, games and musical compositions. I found my way to his work through one such project, the Lovecraft Gods series on Cryo Chamber. Seeking to understand the meanings of his system of Gods, I began to delve into Lovecraft. But, with so many stories, many of which only barely touch on any of the structural order of the Gods, the task proved to be daunting. This is when I came upon In the Mountains of Madness.

In the Mountains of Madness is a 300 page book which serves as a historically grounded biography as well as a means of connecting Lovecraft‘s legacy to current trends in the entertainment industry. W. Scott Poole is certainly not the first author to set out on this task. Where his telling becomes unique is in its attention to fact over myth or prejudice.

Most books in the market on Lovecraft serve one of two purposes: to glorify his life and legacy, or to provide a highly critical antithesis to his cult followers’ works. Authors like S.T. Joshi and August Derleth have dedicated their lives to furthering the influence of H.P. Lovecraft, and to covering up his less desirable traits in the process. Their opposition most significantly focuses on his deeply held racist beliefs. One of the victories of the opposition was the removing of the “Howies”, the award busts of Lovecraft, from The World Fantasy Convention.

Lovecraft in 1915, age 25

Poole manages to walk the thin line between these two camps. Throughout In the Mountians of Madness he consistently shows both positive and negative aspects of Lovecraft as a person. He is able to achieve this goal because of his focus on historical accuracy above all other considerations. This has led S.T. Joshi to voice some of his criticism against the project, even while contributing to its accuracy by way of an interview conducted by Poole. Poole has the necessary nuance to admit that S.T. Joshi is the most dedicated and accurate of Lovecraft scholars, while simultaneously attempting to debunk some of Joshi‘s long-held beliefs/findings on Lovecraft.

Poole leaves himself open to lavishing Lovecraft with the deepest praise where due. Speaking of a correspondence between Lovecraft and Robert Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian among other tales of swords and sorcery), Poole states, “Lovecraft writes to Howard in an early 1930 letter that ‘the basis of all true cosmic horror is violation of the order of nature and the profoundest violations are the least concrete and describable.’ Perhaps no better short description of the chills Lovecraft administered to his readers has been written.” Yet moments later Poole states that, “Unfortunately, most of their letters are unrelievedly boring. Both are contemptuous of immigrants and African Americans and pour into their missives venomous indignation about the ‘mongrel hordes’ allegedly swamping the United States.”

Oct ’79 cover of Heavy Metal Magazine

The question of Lovecraft‘s racist leanings is revisited often throughout In the Mountains of Madness. Poole argues against the excuse of Lovecraft‘s position being a product of his time, by showing evidence of some of his closest friends attempting to change his views on these topics. Yet, Poole simultaneously admits that since Lovecraft had very close friends which held these opposing views, he clearly wasn’t given to shouting down those with beliefs contrary to his own. In conclusion, he admits that the topic is very complicated and both sides of the argument have valid points, while neither camp will ever fully admit to the complexity of the matter.

Poole speaks in detail about the women of Lovecraft‘s life, from his mother and aunts to his Jewish wife of a short-lived marriage. Speaking of his wife, we are shown a perfect example of the complexity of his racist leanings. The fact that he was able to marry a Jewish woman and still hold derogatory views about her heritage is very telling of these complexities.

Poole convincingly explains how it was unlikely that Lovecraft‘s mother played such a negative role in his life contrary to many previous biographers. Pointing at numerous documented events throughout Lovecraft‘s history, he shows how Lovecraft‘s mother, through allowing her son to indulge all of his unusual interests, gave him the perfect foundation for becoming the revolutionary author which he is now remembered to be.

Providence, Moore

As the book draws near its close, Poole gives us a brilliantly presented overview of the most recent happenings related to Lovecraft. Poole speaks about Providence, a new graphic novel series by Alan Moore which focuses on a character who is very much like H.P. Lovecraft and explains how Moore has managed to capture the essence of the man behind the books, with all his flaws and short-comings. Poole then goes on to document a vast and international list of stories in which Lovecraft himself is the main character, leaving readers with a huge catalog of books and comics to track down, if one so desires.

Poole‘s attention to minute details, and his ability to objectively analyze Lovecraft‘s life events, gives readers the means to accept Lovecraft for his achievements as well as his flaws. Then, he gives an informed overview of the legacy of the man, through all the adaptations of his works into various entertainment media. So, in these roughly 300 pages, there is a great deal of important information for readers new to the life and writings of Lovecraft. Yet, there is also some much needed criticism of the years worth of analyses of Lovecraft as a person, giving well-read fans plenty of new information to analyze. At a relatively cheap price and having just been released in 2016, Poole‘s In the Mountains of Madness should be a must-read book for anyone and everyone with any interest in H.P. Lovecraft.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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