Monday, August 17, 2009

English Heretic's "Tales of the New Isis Lodge"

Oh man, if ever an album was designed for me.... a British society known as "English Heretic" has recently released an album inspired by the rituals carried out by Kenneth Grant's New Isis Lodge from 1955-1962. Entitled "Tales of the New Isis Lodge," it could very well be the first album of music inspired entirely by the writings of Grant. From the website:

"Probably the first Musical inspired by the creative occultism of Kenneth Grant, Tales Of The New Isis Lodge presents 65 minutes of lush and occult exotica issuing from a transplutonic transmitter. Drawing its structure from the ultra decadent and ornate rituals described in Grant's book Hecate's Fountain English Heretic guide you through Egyptian pre-history to the fungi of yuggoth, re-imagine flower power in an indian tantric idiom, describe the workings of Chinese sorcerers, realise the neither-neither hidden within the jump rhythms of Count Basie and invoke Choronzon in the Crimson Desert. Aeons in its reification and packaged in delicious artwork, stylised as a homage to Grant's Typhonian tomes."

CD Track Listing:
1] Typhonian Museum Piece
2] She Comes In Kalas
3] Tales Of The New Isis Lodge
4] Earth's Lament To The Stars
5] Cult Of The Ku
6] Vevers Of The Void
7] Les Voltigeurs
8] Secret Organization Of The Zotzil
9] Rite Of Kepra
10] Demon Feast / The Dagger Of Bou Said

From the album's liner notes:

"Tales of the New Isis Lodge is a homage to the creative occultism of Kenneth Grant. It is a conscious attempt to fight the ambivalence and lack of imagination which critics of Grant employ in their attacks on his colourful other-world view. More specifically, this release is probably the first Musical based on the rituals of the order that Grant headed between 1955 and 1962 and draws its primary structure from his book "Hecate's Fountain." First published in 1993, "Hecate's Fountain" is a study of what Grant terms Tangenital Tantra- anomalous ricochets that occur during ceremonial magic. Each track has been inspired by one of the ultra decadent, ornate lodge workings that illustrate Grant's attempts to explain these Tantra. The value of the anecdotes for this project is Grant's wondergully choreographic eye- indeed one of his key phrases throughout his work is the term "oneric perichoresis." According to the magical lexicographer E.E. Rehmus, the word perichoresis, bastardised by Machen to explain the interpenetration of strata of reality, shares its etymology with choreography. Most importantly, Grant's work has a deep and often eccentric musicological vein. His rituals are accompanied by soundtracks- Lovecraftian flutes, off-kilter Petro drums, the ghost of Lelia Waddell's violin, "the glissading shawms" of the Drukpa and Nyingmapa Buddhist sects of the Bhutan, teh Jump rhythms of Count Basie, the insectival chatterings of the Old Ones. It is this lush cocktail of occult exotica broadcasting from the Abdominable Plateau of Leng that "Tales of the New Isis Lodge" attempts to capture."

Naturally, I had a huge interest in getting this album. Kenneth Grant is my favorite occultist (and these days, the only occultist I can be bothered to read), and his books have been an endless source of inspiration to me. "Grimoire" is heavily influenced by Grant's occult theories, and it was Grant's theory of "The Mauve Zone" (first mentioned in "Hecate's Fountain") that gave me the name of my netlabel. "Hecate's Fountain" has been my favorite Grant book for years now, mainly because I love reading Grant's descriptions of the rituals carried out by his New Isis Lodge. I don't even care if Grant is making it all up... it's still great writing. So the idea of a group doing an album based on these rituals was very exciting to me.

I got the album in the mail today. First off, the packaging is very clever: the cover is designed to resemble that of "Hecate's Fountain," with a funny illustration of Grant and the logo of the New Isis Lodge, while the back cover replicates Grant's magical sigil. The liner notes give the background material for each track. It appears that the music, words and arrangements were all done by one guy, Andy Sharp, though some violin was provided by a Phil Legard on one track, and another guy named Arild Stromsvag does spoken word on a few songs. The album was recorded in Suffolk, from 2007-2009, and is a very well-done and professional-sounding affair, mixing atmospheric rock music (featuring much cosmic guitar and keyboard) with alien-sounding electronic experimentation (the liner notes mention how the rock aspect is a sly wink at Grant, who railed against the dangers of rock music in his book "Outer Gateways"). Many samples are utilized on the songs, including Boris Karloff's "The Mummy," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," Count Basie's "Jumping at the Woodside" (one of Kenneth Grant's favorite songs, naturally), Crowley chants, etc. Much of the words are taken from Grant's texts themselves, along with H.P. Lovecraft's "The Fungi From Yuggoth," Crowley's "Book of the Law," an invocation to Nyarlathotep, a 1933 journal on the Cult of the Ku, etc. The tracks "Vevers of the Void," "Secret Organization of the Zotzil," "Rite of Khepra" and "Les Voltigeurs" are particularly well-done, though all of the tracks are great in their own way. It is obvious that the people who created this album did their homework.

The liner notes conclude with a summary of the album itself: " an absurd attempt to cast the chaos of Grant's waking dream as a West End Musical now playing somewhere beneath Soho, in the venereal theatres of Parfaxitas."

Mauve Zone Recordings highly recommends English Heretic's "Tales of the New Isis Lodge," not only to fans of the books of Kenneth Grant but also to admirers of good music in general. It can be purchased from the English Heretic's website here: