Chris Gladwin Discusses The Wyrding Module

Subtemple Session II Image courtesy Chris Gladwin

If you tuned in to our episode "The Science of Uncanny Music," you sampled some sinister sounds and thought-provoking insight from musician Chris Gladwin. As promised, here's a complete interview with the man behind The Wyrding Module. Be sure to explore his latest release "Subtemple Session II" as well as his work as one half of Team Doyobi.

How did The Wyrding Module come about?

Most probably from years spent watching horror films, 70's/80's ScFi TV shows and exposure to Prog-Rock as a child, courtesy of my parents. I have been making music in the vein of The Wyrding Module for quite some time; I am still finding and recycling material that is almost 14 years old now. Back then I didn't know what to do with it, too gothic and vaguely stoner-doom-drone to be worked into my main musical outlet "Team Doyobi" (with collaborator Alex Peverett.).

It began to leech into my "Dr Derek F." solo moniker in the form of horror film samples worked into John Carpenter inspired electro/acid. Then I started getting into bands like Coil, Nurse With Wound and Throbbing Gristle through a friend who also had an interest in the Occult. At the same time I was developing a growing obsession for Kraut-Rock/Kosmische Musik to satisfy my inner hippy.

Gradually something that had been nebulous doodlings began to coalesce into a concept nurtured by these influences. It really came together when I chose the name for the project. Initially the "Weirding Module" (I'm a massive fan of Lynch's Dune), I changed the spelling after finding out there was already an act with that title. When I did some research into what "Wyrd" meant, it all started to fit into place.

It felt like something that had always been lurching in back of mind had finally come to the surface; a vehicle to combine my fondness for all things umbral with electronic music making. With the exception of a one-off gig around 2002 of proto-Wyrding Module (which had a loosely pastoral noise-folk? feel), it's been stuff I've kept mostly to myself. Relatively recently, changes to the way I produce electronic music have allowed me to realise the project to an extent that I feel comfortable giving it a public airing.

What sort of mental journey should the music of The Wyrding Module takes us on?

A dark and surreal fever dream of forgotten places where things that ought to crawl, walk and conduct peculiar orgiastic rituals under gibbous moons... Some Wyrding pieces have an intentional narrative quality; a soundtrack to an imagined Lovecraftian horror film I'd love to make. "Mellifluous Ichor From Sunless Regions - Chapter 1" is very much about that. I had in mind a cyclopean sunken alien cathedral being summoned from the ocean depths and the unwholesome revelations it may contain.Whether that imagery translates I don't really know, but it helps me formulate a composition and sound palette.

Other works are about establishing a certain atmosphere or designed to engage more carnally, hinting at occult operations and altered states of mind. Also I like to explore more meditative territory or create things that possess a narcotic warped beauty. It is not my intention to make something unrelentingly disturbing and psychological corrosive; I want the darkness in my work to be transcendental and seductive.

To what degree do you believe uncanny music is intrinsically effective on the mind and to what extent is it cultural and contextual? How does this influence your approach to the Wyrding Module sound?

It is a synthesis of the two I think. There are responses to certain sounds that are rooted in our biology and evolutionary ancestry that are modified by culture. When I consider my own work a lot of it is cultural context, it draws heavily upon well-established motifs found in horror and science fiction films. Also track tiles and imagery are just as important in setting-up the appropriate atmosphere. Production techniques can heighten the effect adding an air of authenticity in a hautological sense (e.g. pitch drifting, tape hiss, vinyl crackle, narrow EQ). All these components are liberally applied to a Wyrding Module track.

However, going deeper into the aesthetics of "uncanny" sound, I believe there is something happening on a more primal level. There are qualities of sound that engage carnally and stimulate our primitive minds triggering "fight or flight" responses. They are qualities I find difficult to express, but it's that feeling I get in my gut when I produce something nasty (curdling organ drones, discordant shrieks, throbbing motrik rhythms and gelatinous synth spluttering's.). Perhaps there are similar qualities found in animal warning/distress vocalisations, extreme elemental noises or maybe even sound associated with mating behaviours ( a certain scientific study produced interesting results when Manchester clubbers were played the mating song of the Haddock.).It is definitely something physical, sometimes even accompanied by seemingly involuntary motion and face contortions, you know the type, guitarists do it a lot (I think Dick Dale describe it as his "smelling the s***" face?).

I believe there are material properties of sound that prod the reptilian/ichthyic ancestral parts of our brain and auditory systems. Chemical changes in our bodies are triggered and the more contemporary parts of our minds allow us to experience this alarm mechanism as a kind of pleasure, as we know we are safe, its only music. If it were experienced in other circumstances, like finding yourself lost in the woods at night after eating the wrong mushrooms, it might produce a less pleasant response. It's a subject that really fascinates me and I could go on at great length, getting into things like "Rorschach" audio and the properties of music/sound used in rituals, but I'll be appropriately occult about it.

You make use of both tribal beats and ecclesiastical motifs, as well as elements of early synth, industrial and dark ambient music in the Wyrding Module. How does this all factor into the concept of the wyrd?

The writing of H.P. Lovecraft is of particularly influence on the concept of the Wyrding Module. His preternatural take on the occult where ancient gods are extra-terrestrials and quantum physics is applied to witchcraft, locate his work more towards science fiction rather than supernatural horror. It is something that resonates with me and ties in with my own speculation on such matters. With The Wyrding Module I want to explore the possibility of making something gothic and mystic, yet also electronic and contemporary, much like the "Wyrd" itself, weaving "the patterns of the past into patterns the future."

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.