Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.165: The Delaware Road

It’s questionable whether the rhizomic beast which is The Delaware Road could formally be described as Lovecaftian; yet there are a number of tangential Lovecraftian associations arising from it which, I think, nominally legitimate said classification.

What, then, is The Delaware Road? Played out across multiple media platforms (a cd, a performance piece, a poem and a partial screenplay) The Delaware Road is an event which encapsulates elements of folk and speculative horror: powerfully influenced by the work of Nigel Kneale, cosmic and otherworldy forces manifest by way of strange occult rituals encoded in the audio archives of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop (originally based in the Delaware Road, London), all the while intersecting with nightmarish bureaucracies, the threat of nuclear apocalypse, and Cold War paranoia in 1960s Britain.

A chilling spoken word piece - fraught with occult significance - provided by Dolly Dolly (whose Lovecraftian pedigree is evident in his recently released A Dollop of HP) is the fulcrum of The Delaware Road, framed by various hauntological scores evocative not only of classic, optimistically speculative 1970s British TV shows as Tomorrow’s World, but also of the far more terrifying atonal experimental electronic sounds which formed the backdrop to so many of the folk-horrific children’s programming of the period (think Children of the Stones).

I had the good fortune to witness The Delaware Road performed in the setting of Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker in 2017.

Built in the 1950s, Kelvedon Hatch was a Cold War era bunker meant to function as the site of regional government in the event of a nuclear strike against the UK. Decommissioned in the early 1990s, it has since become something of a cult tourist attraction. Its functional, brutalist architecture - alongside the now-retro but strangely unsettling machinery dotted about the place - gives Kelvedon Hatch bunker the Quatermassian/Lovecraftian feel of a location in which nameless experiments using largely incomprehensible technolgies and occult physics once quite likely may have taken place; this may be the precise reason why The Rizen was filmed there, also in 2017: a low-budget British science-fiction horror movie, The Rizen takes as its central conceit the weaponisation of occult physics by the British military in the 1950s, with the intention of calling forth Lovecraftian horrors from beyond time and space.

Perhaps one of the most curious aspects of the Kelvedon Hatch performance of The Delaware Road was the appearance of British snooker superstar Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis, who was wandering around the event looking vaguely lost; apparently not - he has, it seems, an abiding interest in avante garde electronica, and lives in the vicinity of Kelvedon Hatch. The universe is, it turns out, stranger and far more incomprehensible than we thought.

As something of an aside, regular readers of this blog might be interested to know that the Kelvedon Hatch performance of The Delaware Road also formed the basis of one of the field reports from last year’s Horsingdon Transmissions.

So there we have it - The Delaware Road forms a curious bookend to the last few days of Cold War-themed Lovecraftiana. And in this I am reminded of a point which Charles Stross raises in the afterword to The Atrocity Archives: that there is something about the Cold War (at least for those of us who lived through it) which frames it as an intrinsically Lovecraftan moment, when billions of people stood powerless against the cold indifference of vast state apparatus - an apparatus which treated its citizenry as little more than a statistical problem in the aftermath of unleashng monstrously destructive cosmic forces in the name of abstract and meaningless ideologies.

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