Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.2: I Seem to Have Become a Lovecraftian Hipster - By Mistake!

One might presume - given its appearance on a Lovecraftian blog - that the above item contains some strange manuscript narrating monstrous events; or artifacts whose existence calls in to question our current understanding of the archaeological record; or perhaps partially-consumed human remains.

Unfortunately it contains something worse.

Much worse: the sort of retro/vintage portable record player as beloved to hipsters as manual typewriters, kale, and penny farthing bicycles.

However, fear not, dear reader - I am not about to grow a lumberjack beard or start eating avocado-on-toast anytime soon; no,the reason for this purchase is because of today's Lovecraftian thing a day - and the one and only audio recording I currently own on vinyl: Cadabra Records' rendition of Lovecraft's Fungi from Yuggoth.

The Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle is, to my mind, the perfect distillate of the Lovecraftian weird aesthetic - if there is one piece of work which, for me, encapsulates Lovecraft's cosmic vision in its totality, it is this. Over the years I have collected various iterations and publications of the Fungi from Yuggoth, but have always been especially drawn toward audio recordings of the sonnets - the first of which being Fedogan and Bremer's outstanding 1987 version (scored by Mike Olsen and read by John Arthur), and recently re-released in a deluxe edition.

The big draw as far as the Cadabra version is concerned is Andrew Lehman's narration, which is close to sublime. The record itself comes in a beautiful black and silver gatefold cover, with an amazingly weird and horrific piece of interior art by Jason Barnett. So far, so good; indeed, on a first listen, this was shaping up to replace the earlier Fedogan and Bremer release as my favourite audio rendition of the Yuggoth sonnets.

However, taken as a whole, the overall mood of the piece is marred by the incidental music, provided here by Theologian; and it is not even the case that the music is bad - indeed, it complements the narration perfectly in many instances; even so, the equation which appears to have been applied throughout is: Lovecraftian music = weird atonality - the consequence of which are some jarring missteps when it come to the quieter, reflective, and more melancholic elements of the cycle (such as 'Evening Star', 'The Gardens of Yin', 'Continuity' and five or six others). Conversely, Olsen's music on the Fedogan and Bremer release reflects the changing mood and tone of the sonnets almost perfectly throughout. As such, that release has not yet been displaced as my favourite rendition of the Fungi from Yuggoth. Even so, the Cadabra version does come a (relatively) close second, and still remains a worthy addition to any collection of weird/Lovecraftian audio.

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