When I bought my iPod, Chester taught me what was to become its main use: listening to music at night. No longer distracted by things on your screen or people on the street, you perceive the music at its full potential. Compositions that usually wouldn’t grab your attention shine with a new aura when you close your eyes and pull the blanket tighter around you. Sometimes when you fall asleep, the music seeps into your dreams, bringing them another layer of unreality.
I remember going to sleep once with Arvo Pärt’s Symphony no.4 (“Los Angeles”). Very chill stuff, consisting of only slow movements. However, the album ended with a fragment from Kanon Pokajainen, whose choral lines were a little stronger than the previous droning of the string orchestra. I was asleep when the chanting began. A sense of alarm overcame me, tainting the peaceful dream I was floating in. What was that noise? Did someone break in? I blinked and realized I fell out of bed, while the choir was still roaring in my earphones.
But that’s not what I wanted to write this guest post about.
A few weeks ago I was browsing the beautiful Ruthless Forums. There’s a fellow named Dimitri who rarely posts there, but when he does, he shares all kind of weird and hard to label music. I usually don’t know what to pick from the selection he posts. They all feel alien to me, so I tend to choose the ones with the most interesting covers. “Music for Thomas Carnacki” is one of those.
Who is this Thomas Carnacki and why does he need this bizarre music? Turns out he is a fictional character, a victorian Mulder who was solving supernatural mysteries involving ghosts and long forgotten rituals. The present album is actually the soundtrack to a radiophonic performance of one of the Carnacki stories.
I really don’t know how to analyse this record from a more technical point of view. I have no clue what musique concrête is and my experience with theremins and various “prepared” musical instruments is limited. What I can say is that the material on this album feels very heterogenous at a first listen. The tracks share a common eerie atmosphere, but tend to shift constantly in expression, making you check your player from time to time. I guess it’s normal for this kind of soundtrack.
Even if some parts may sound too weird to you, keep listening. You will be rewarded. The more experimental bits have grown on me after a few listens. I liked the protagonist’s three themes so much that one evening I decided to put the album to the bed test. I must have been tired, because I fell almost immediately into a pitch black slumber. It didn’t last long; when “The Samaa Ritual” began, it shook me to a state of half wakefulness. I squinted warily at my dark room and I froze. Upon the armchair’s back sat perched the hugest raven I have ever seen. It seemed to be staring right at me, playing a devious waiting game. I waited, too, but I didn’t last more than ten seconds. Out of my bed, I ran and turned the light on. My eyes fucking hurt, and there was no raven. Just the shirt I threw earlier on the armchair. Cool story bro.