In Death’s Dream Kingdom is an ambitious compilation inspired by Eliot’s 1925 poem ‘The Hollow Men’ featuring Lanark Artefax, Pan Daijing, Peder Mannerfelt and more names from the world of experimental electronics.
Houndstooth – the label arm of London’s Fabric club – celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2018. Since launching with an EP from label regular Call Super almost five years ago, it’s released music from Special Request, Throwing Snow, Aïsha Devi, Marquis Hawkes and many more – mostly under the category of club music. However, the label is kicking off its fifth year with something a little different: a 25-track compilation of experimental electronics inspired by T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem ‘The Hollow Men’ that will roll out track by track over the next few weeks at a dedicated microsite.
Titled In Death’s Dream Kingdom, the 25-track project features exclusive tracks from Peder Mannerfelt, Pan Daijing, Lanark Artefax, Sophia Loizou, Hodge, Shapednoise, Roly Porter, Batu and many more artists working in the darker fringes of experimental music and techno. According to Houndstooth A&R and label manager Rob Booth and Fabric label head Rob Butterworth, the project is pitched somewhere between a compilation and a playlist, a reaction in part to how music is consumed in the streaming era.
“It’s an attempt to use the malleability of the playlist format to episodically build an album that’s greater in scope than a typical compilation,” Booth and Butterworth tell FACT over email. “By debuting and releasing new tracks over a number of days it allows time to absorb the release gradually as it grows into the completed work. It’s definitely not meant to be listened to passively – the theme is designed to create deeper engagement. We felt it was possible to curate a work of this size that cohesively held together if we found the right framework for it – the choice of title helped define that.”
The framework – T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem ‘The Hollow Man’ – was partly a comment on the European psyche after the devastation of World War I, specifically the soldiers left alive that did not make it to “death’s dream kingdom” of heaven or hell. The poem has been referenced throughout popular culture: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and Burial’s favorite video game Metal Gear Solid 2 are a few of the places it’s been quoted, and its evocative imagery makes it ripe fodder for musical inspiration.
“We knew the artists we wanted to work with so we needed something that would inspire them in the same direction to create something that held together,” Booth and Butterworth explain. “We thought of many different fields of art when looking for the right way to create that inspiration; philosophy, painting, architecture, but ultimately decided on poetry. T.S. Eliot is a favourite and this poem in particular – the line just jumped out straight away. We felt it would set both the right tone and leave lots of room for experimentation.”
The project also serves as a way for Houndstooth to cement its commitment to experimental sounds. “There’s been a lot of experimentation on the label but we’d never actually done one single project that focused purely on this type of music, so we had to rectify that,” say Booth and Butterworth. “We wanted to create a structure that would allow us to do this in an interesting way and one that could lead to further releases of this type.”
In Death’s Dream Kingdom will be hosted on a microsite with two new tracks premiered and added every weekday until the compilation is completed. There will be a full digital release too with a limited edition print available to pre-order. It will be accompanied online by art by Rotterdam-based Taiwanese artist Jazz Szu-Ying Chen alongside biographies and words from the artists on their tracks. “It’s a companion piece to use when listening and work in the same way liner notes do on a physical release,” Booth and Butterworth explain.
01. Otto Lindholm – ‘Cain’
02. Pan Daijing – ‘The Island Within’
03. Lanark Artefax – ‘Styx’
04. Petit Singe – ‘Komm Wieder Mit’
05. Peder Mannerfelt – ‘Post Sense Perspective’
06. Tomoko Sauvage – ‘In Some Brighter Sphere’
07. Pye Corner Audio – ‘Box In A Box’
08. Sophia Loizou – ‘Shadows of Futurity’
09. Abul Mogard – ‘Trembling With Tenderness’
10. Par Grindvik – ‘Speaking Their Minds’
11. Koenraad Ecker – ‘Rat’s Coat’
12. Roly Porter – ‘Without Form’
13. Hodge – ‘Sunlight On A Broken Column’
14. Gazelle Twin – ‘The Dream Ends’
15. Shapednoise – ‘Ghostly Metafiction’
16. ASC – ‘Tessellate’
17. Batu – ‘Zoo Hypothesis’
18. We Will Fail – ‘Carbon Trail’
19. Peter Van Hoesen – ’98 Lines’
20. Spatial – ‘Haunted Dance Hall’
21. Yves De Mey – ‘Solemn But Fading’
22. Mindspan – ‘Accept Things As They Are’
23. Kangding Ray – ‘Glacier’
24. ZOV ZOV – ‘Post Six’
25. Ian William Craig – ‘An End Of Rooms’
Listen next: FACT mix 581: Pan Daijing