Category: Book Reviews (Page 1 of 2)

Martin Bladh & Karolina Urbaniak – The Torture of the 100 Pieces – Book Review

Authors: Martin Bladh & Karolina Urbaniak
Title: The Torture of the 100 Pieces
Text: Martin Bladh
Photography: Karolina Urbaniak
Foreword: Jack Sargeant
Publisher: Infinity Land Press
Released: 2020
Format: Hardbound, 280 pages, over 100 illustrations, 200x200mm




NSFW / Trigger Warning!!!!




The Torture of the 100 Pieces takes us on a visual journey across eight years and the landscape of Martin Bladh’s flesh. We follow this journey through the gaze of Karolina Urbaniak’s camera lens. The book uses as reference, George Bataille’s obsession with Lingchi, an ancient Chinese method of torture, which was brought to his attention by a set of photographs, gifted to Bataille by the psychoanalyst/psychiatrist Adrien Borel. These photos display the execution of Fu Chou Li by Lingchi or ‘death of 100 cuts’. These photos fascinated Bataille for the rest of his life, and he spoke of them often, which in turn led Martin Bladh to develop his own obsession with the photos and theme.

It is not at all unlikely that Martin Bladh would decide to undergo such an intense series of acts/performances in order to craft such a unique book as this. Going back to his first publicly released experimentations with short film, we see Bladh in 2009’s DES (included in Epicurean Escapism I) experimenting with the visual aesthetics of his own death and mutilation. However, at that point in time, Bladh was using insinuation and paints/makeup/chalk in order to bring these concepts to realization for the audience. We had to use our imagination a bit in order to get the full effect.

It wouldn’t be long after the DES short-film, before Bladh began to take these themes a drastic step further. Inflicting actual bodily harms upon himself, and allowing Karolina Urbaniak to document the wounds…

So, The Torture of the 100 Pieces is a literal documentation of the tortures of Martin Bladh, through the selection of 100 photographs. We are given the visceral and often repulsing images in an incredibly clear and magnified presentation. Karolina Urbaniak really shines with this release. Her photography skills have graced the covers of several excellent albums, as well as the pages of an ever-increasing number of books, almost exclusively through Bladh & Urbaniak’s own Infinity Land Press. Karolina Urbaniak has previously honed her skills in the use of macro-lenses, which bring into detailed focused incredibly tiny subject matter. This skill/technique lent itself especially well to the works in this book. Some of the photography takes a step back, we can see portions of an arm or a quadrant of the torso. Yet, other photographs are extremely magnified and detailed, closing in on a tiny wound, which may only cover a very miniscule area of the body, but in which the colors of the incised, burnt, or bruised are brilliantly displayed.

The subject itself is grotesque. It would/should turn the stomach of many. But, for those that are brave enough to take a tour of the ‘woundscape’ of Martin Bladh’s body, you are in for a truly once in a lifetime experience. To my knowledge, no other artist has taken these themes remotely close to the lengths Bladh has within The Torture of the 100 Pieces. Images like these would only previously have been seen in rare instances within the pages of some true-crime book, medical journal, or the like. The closest we can come to seeing a willing participant create such acts/art is in the chaotic life of G.G. Allin, who infamously took to the stage in order to do a reading, which instead descended into an alcohol-fueled assault on his own flesh with a halved beer can. But, that performance was chaotic and spontaneous, in no way did it appear deliberate, and certainly not considering aesthetically worthwhile documentation.

Bladh and Urbaniak have delivered a true horror in these pages. But, the way they have done it is as methodical as a clinical trial, documenting every step in a process which doesn’t always have a clear conclusion. Often, Bladh inflicts the damages upon himself, and Urbaniak takes the role of photographer. But, at other times Urbaniak is forced by logistical necessity to take the reins of the act of violence. When necessary, she inflicts the wounds, then returns to her camera, to document the handiwork.

While the images themselves are absolutely the main focus of this book, they are not its entirety. There is a lengthy intro section of the book. Starting with a thoughtful essay by Jack Sargeant, the stage and audience expectations are set for the horrors that are to follow. We get a historical look at similar acts/documentations and a clear picture of Bladh’s visual and literary motivations for such a hellish journey. The introduction is followed by a lengthy back and forth, a conversation which never happened, but is superimposed upon the pages nonetheless, between Bladh and Georges Bataille.

Georges Bataille -1943

Moving forward, we are presented with a format which follows through the majority of the book: a chosen selection of writings on the left page and one of the 100 selected photographs of Bladh’s mutilated body on the right. Bladh chose each of the text snippets from his extensive collection relating to this topic. We are presented with snippets from many of his own previous works, like Marty Page (which I reviewed here), To Putrefaction and The Rorschach Text, to name a few. But there are also a great deal of other authors chosen: many quotes from Georges Batille, some from Antonin Artaud, Stephen Barber, Dennis Cooper, Elliot Leyton, and many more. Some from newspaper clips, some from medical texts, others from biographies of serial killers. Brought together in a controlled chaos, similar in stylistic execution to that of Bladh’s own collages, like the one pictured below from his brilliant book, DarkLeaks: The Ripper Genome. (which I reviewed here)

The actual body of the work is divided into eleven sections, which separate the photographs and chosen texts into some semblance of a thematic categorization. Sections with titles like ‘A User’s Guide’, ‘Practice & Injury’, ‘(Ab)use of Power’, and ‘The Stage of Terror’, show different aspects of the work. For instance: I would say section IX: The Theatre of Atrocity is quite beautiful in its presentation. If such a word could ever be used for such horrors. The wounds in this section take on brilliant colors, truly beautiful to witness, if one can separate the actual content from the aesthetics with which it is captured by the infinite talents of Karolina Urbaniak. Swirls of bright purple, pink and red co-mingle, with absolutely no indication of what the wound may be, or where on the body it is located. Totally abstract and removed from our ability to understand it’s greater horrors hidden within, we are able to focus solely on its aesthetic beauty.

While the images are arguably horrific from the very start, they seem to get more grotesque as we move further into the book. Growing up with “cutters”, I have seen many gnarly wounds created by the knife. Since the first section is dedicated to these sort of wounds, I was not particularly surprised or horrified by the content, though it was still fascinating. However, as I moved deeper into the book, the ‘originality’ of the wounds became more and more apparent. As the originality increased, so too did my level of horror in witnessing such imagery. Imagining the thoughts and feelings of Bladh as he underwent many of these ordeals was almost too much to bear at times.

The above mentioned increase in tension, on a psychological level, was brought to a climax in the final pages of the book. The end is dedicated to selected entries from Bladh’s ‘Wound Journal’. Here we are presented with descriptions of the instruments of destruction which were used to inflict the wound (for example: sandpaper, wire, staple-gun, hot-iron, etc.), date of infliction, location, timestamps, descriptions of the acts of inflictions, levels of pain experienced. Then these are often followed up with descriptions of the time-frame and process of ‘clean-up’.

Where as the majority of the book managed to keep the body-horror somewhat separated from the reader, in that the specific wounds, locations, and means of infliction were never explained to us, this final ‘Wound Journal’ made it impossible for one to remain at a distance. Reading the hourly and daily ordeals which followed these inflictions allowed/forced me to experience the horror that Martin Bladh was feeling, to some extent. One could never truly appreciate the lengths he went to, in order to deliver this work; but, the ‘Wound Journal’ brought me a bit closer than I was fully comfortable/prepared to be in these endeavors.

This feels like the culmination of so many of Martin Bladh’s works and themes, throughout the last two decades. Since the early days of IRM, we’ve grown accustomed to Bladh’s morbid fascination with body-horror. In the early days it was through his lyrics. Then later it became even more apparent to us through his short-films. Now, since the foundation of Infinity Land Press, Bladh has drawn us closer and closer to his ultimate performance. It could be obvious, in hindsight, that he was working on this behind the scenes, during the creation of albums like IRM – Closure, and books like Marty Page. But, honestly, I couldn’t have imagined (and still barely can) the lengths that Martin Bladh would go to, in order to share his ultimate vision of this Theatre of Cruelty with his audience. I truly hope that this experience has given him some level of closure in this direct physical involvement with his art. It is disturbing to imagine how much further he could/would go in the pursuit of his conception of art. This is truly a work of art, a body of art, a horrifically mutilated body of art, which fans/followers of his work just can’t afford to pass up on. This is Bladh’s blood, flesh and tears given to us, his legion of disturbed art-viewers. He has put more into this work than, dare I say, any other artist I could imagine. The cutting-off-of-the-ear famously done by Vincent van Gogh literally feels like child’s play in comparison to the oft-repeated deeds captured in this book.

I think there is something great to be said about these ordeals being done by a man that appears to be properly sane. These acts weren’t committed by a lunatic, in the midst of a psychotic frenzy, or an alcoholic deep in a fog, not even realizing what they are doing. This was deliberately planned, prepared for, and documented by Martin Bladh and his Infinity Land Press partner Karolina Urbaniak. The acts never seem to be regretted afterward, the two never seem to have second-guessed the project, once commencing work. As mentioned at the beginning of the book, this isn’t S&M, there is no underlying sexual gratification that we aren’t noticing. This book was crafted specifically for a purpose, and the fact that eight years later it has been released through their own publishing house, which has already built up such a reputation for high quality content, now feels like it was all meant to lead to the release of this book.

Highly recommended but only only only for the strong of heart, mind and stomach. Seriously…

Reviewed by: Michael Barnett

La Delaïssádo – New Printed Fanzine Review

Since Desiderii Marginis is the first interview in La Delaïssádo, let’s have a listen to his latest album while reading!

Early in 2020, a little after the full realization of what Covid-19 had in store for the world, I received a very interesting e-mail from a fellow named Bertrand from France. He explained that he’d been a writer and co-editor at Convivial Hermit Magazine and the Obsküre webzine for nearly 20 years, and was now ready to spread his own wings and delve into a printed fanzine of his own creation. He asked me to be one of the interviewees for the first edition and I gratefully accepted.

So, here’s a bit of an overview of what you can expect in this first issue and how you can get your hands on one of the 199 copies, before they are gone forever. And last but certainly not least, I asked Bertrand some questions, myself, which well help give a bit of extra background on Bertrand and his motivations/ambitions going forward.

Let’s start with the physical aspects of the zine. It’s a soft glossy covered 172 pages in the A5 format. It is presented in black and white only. For a fanzine, which will certainly be making its way all over the planet, I think this was the right choice. The presentation is very clean, and the readability is top-notch. While, the costs of production were likely able to stay relatively low, which is why he’s selling these for a mere €6.50. That low price also helps to negate some of the incredibly high shipping costs that the world has been experiencing of late.

As for the name and content of La Delaïssádo, Delaissado is an Occitan word meaning “abandoned”. The zine covers a number of articles, crossing a swathe of topics. The first being a lengthy conversation with Desiderii Marginis, the renowned dark ambient musician. Followed by an interview of Laurent Clement of the Dead Seed Productions record label. Then, he interviews me, journalist behind a dark ambient zine. Then, he has an article about the very interesting historical location of Montsegur. And so forth. As you can see, La Delaïssádo comes at journalism in a very similar way to This Is Darkness, focusing little on the need for strict adherence to format, and more on introducing readers to a breadth of interesting topics, seemingly compiled only at the whims of the writer(s), but still managing to be of a cohesive whole concept.

I was expecting to only see music related articles in La Delaïssádo. But, upon reaching the fourth article. I found a very interesting historical take on the French site of Montsegur, which I had a basic awareness of, on account of the possible Cathar connection to The Curse of Oak Island, a tv show that follows a treasure-hunter/archaeologist motley crew as they throw all sense of monetary concern to the wind, in search of the fabled lost treasure, which the Knights Templar left somewhere on Earth, or not… What followed in La Delaïssádo was an incredibly well prepared look into the Cathar history of the site, and the story of its ancient seige and destruction. The narrative was presented from the first-person perspective of Bertrand, La Delaïssádo‘s editor, recounting his first trip to the location for some basic hiking and sight-seeing, which turned into a more spiritual experience than he’d expected.

There were four more articles that were interesting divergences from specifically musical topics. Inside the Den of a Dreamer: Gustave Moreau’s Museum takes us on a ‘textual tour’ of the beautiful museum in Paris, which had previously been Gustave Moreau‘s workshop. The interview with Amy Cros explains what brought her to study Occitan languages as well as how and why their preservation is necessary. Laura-Lee Soleman is a French plastic artist. She works in a style that would be considered quite dark to many. She explains how music, film (particularly those of Béla Tarr) and life-experiences can lead one to creating different forms of art for different reasons. And lastly, we are given a very interesting interview with the owners of the Brasserie Ouroboros, a unique craft-beer brewery in the Auvergne region of France. While the beer is the main attraction here, increasingly this brewery, perched in a little mountain village named Freycenet-la-Tour near Le Puy-en-Velay, is becoming a hot-spot for concerts, which often include the likes of black metal and other dark/occult/alternative styles.

Readers will also find, scattered throughout this issue, a number of reviews, most closely resembling the format/length of those we are used to seeing in Noise Receptor. These reviews mainly, but not exclusively, focus on recent dark ambient and black metal releases. Other articles included focus on: Jean-Philippe Jaworski, Forêt Endormie, Cioran Records and Hecate.

For the rest of this article, let’s have a look at what Bertrand had to say to me about the zine’s first-issue-development and what we can expect in future issues.

Michael: France and Occitan language seems to be very important to you, as it plays a prominent position throughout this first issue. What is it that drew you to focus on this region/culture? Have you always been interested in such things relating to (your) heritage, or has this interest increased as time passes?

Bertrand: We French are a self-centered bunch as is common knowledge. Joking apart, you do raise a good point with this: in recent years, I have found that my curiosity toward people and their occupations tends to have me look ever closer to home sweet home, not in a flag-waving “support your local scene” movement, but at some point I just seem to have lost some of the impulse for canvassing the unlikeliest recesses of the globe in search of bands and styles no one has ever talked about – sometimes for a reason. On a personal level, I am very much aware of my heritage as you put it, which is inextricably bound up with the Occitan influence on culture, architecture, landscapes, and people since the Middle Ages. Occitania, more specifically the broad area from Auvergne (where I live) to the South-Western Pyrenees, is where I spend most of my vacation time. I am not a huge traveler but I got around a fair bit across Europe on account of being a compulsive hiker and museum rat, and I easily enjoy myself everywhere, but the sense of belonging is real. It is true that the fanzine partly reflects this. What can I say, if an article can get someone interested enough to look up either Auvergne, Dordogne, Aubrac, Languedoc, Pyrenees, or all at once in a search engine and maybe contemplate a trip, then huzzah I guess.

Michael: It seems fairly evident that you are a huge fan of black metal and dark ambient music. Will these be your major musical focuses going forward with La Delaïssádo, or will you be covering anything/everything that tickles your fancy? If the latter, what other genres are we likely to expect to read about?

Bertrand: I curse myself on a regular basis for the irrepressible urge to flesh out my album collection in a dozen parallel directions, but I think spreading a zine too thin would do it a disservice. As much as mono-themed zines present challenges of their own, I also see a need for limits, at least as long as one hasn’t maxed out their street cred. As it were, extreme metal, dark folk and dark ambient are the genres I feel most comfortable talking about, so even though classical music, 70’s prog/rock and electro/IDM make up a fair share of my time with music, small chance I’ll cover these genres beyond the occasional review, except if nailing a super exciting interview through some chain of circumstances. In fact the Forêt Endormie interview in #1 encroaches on classical music talk to some extent, but I’m certainly not competent or even willing to discuss classical music as a “specialist”.

Michael: You clearly have a great appreciation for art, in its many forms. But, I noticed throughout the issue that you mention not being very good at several different artistic formats. Do you consider your writing to be your main artistic talent, or do you have any other focuses: painting, music, sculpture, etc?

Bertrand: I have never applied myself to practicing music or drawing nearly enough to be able to determine if some calling is asleep inside of me, though I’ve dabbled in creative undertakings a few times and still strum the occasional chord with all the nimbleness of a dead plant. So yes, writing is what I do, though to speak of a talent… I took up to gardening recently, if that counts?

Michael: Do you have any plans for a set release schedule, or will issues release whenever the timing is right?

Bertrand: If I’m being 100% honest here, La Delaïssádo’s first issue was a work of obsessive commitment for the better part of nine months (being my first solo editorial project from A to Z) but I went at it like a blinkered horse chased by a swarm of hornets, not paying much attention to its cohesiveness as a magazine and (mis)using the cracked page design software in ways I certainly wouldn’t replicate now that I’ve learned the ropes. As a result, and to keep it brief, I am both pleased on the whole with it and very much aware of a hundred shortcomings, and also so spent that I’d rather lay the “classic” way of doing fanzines (interviews, reviews, articles, rinse and repeat) to rest for the time being. Right now I have a wholly different book concept in mind, which I’m pretty excited about, but it’s all very early-stage. La Delaïssádo will return with near certainty for a second serving but there is no schedule whatsoever. Might be in two years, might be in five. “Whenever the timing’s right” sounds like a plan. I’m not out to retain a readership, that much is clear.

Michael: Thanks so much for covering This Is Darkness in your first issue! I’m really pleased with how the entire zine turned out, I had no idea what to expect when you first approached me about an interview, last year. I hope we will find some way of collaborating again in the future!

Bertrand: Thank you for having me on your excellent platform in return. It does feel odd to be interviewed as a zine editor, especially just after a debut issue that has sold fewer than 100 copies so far, but nothing is sacred anymore in this time and age. I will be sure to keep a close eye on the developments at This Is Darkness!

Be sure to grab a copy of La Delaïssádo here before they are all sold-out! There were less than 100 copies left at the time of writing this, and I’ve already been told that several friends have purchased copies over the last few days. So no slacking! Support independent journalism and fellow genre-lovers that put in such time, effort, and capital, to make something like this come to be a reality!

Written by: Michael Barnett

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

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