When we got Cloud Rat’s LP Moksha in to the CVLT Record Store, both Sean and I were like, who did the art for this? Who created this stunning dark and beautiful scene, taking a bird as light and airy as the hummingbird and somehow imbuing it with the intensity and heaviness of Cloud Rat’s music? The answer – Brian Uhl. Uhl is an artist who takes his craft seriously, and eschews modern digital techniques for traditional, tangible ones. He works in ink to create furious texture and movement in his surreal scenes. While some of his work is overtly dark in its theme, much of it is symbolic in both its subject matter and in the strong shapes he creates. At times Uhl uses the space of his canvas to frame his compositions so that they float in a tarry abyss like sigils for Hades nobility. For other pieces he fills his page with dot work, creating tactile, gloomy scenes. Below find a selection of his work…
All photos & text by Luana Magalhães
Arguably the most intense, harrowing performance of the whole festival, Amenra were pure catharsis – the outpouring of pain and anguish was evident in each blood-curding Colin Eeckhout scream and every resounding note of their instruments. Most massive sound of the weekend too – the soundcheck before the show alone was enough to nearly rearrange internal organs.
Text and photos via Caroline Edge
The city of Camgüey in the east of Cuba is known as ‘The Maze’, its twisting streets built to confound marauders in the 16th Century. Whilst I was lost in its labyrinth serendipity took hold and I met a man who wanted to show me his pet crocodile. Strangeness begat strangeness and later, in the humid night, he led me deep into a barrio of wooden houses. From a hut cold light and the sound of drums streamed into the night. Smiling faces welcomed us into the space, dense with bodies, ripe with the scent of death and swarming with flies. An altar filled half the space laden with fetishes and sticks; a Halloween mask, a desiccated snake, crucifixes, dolls; all covered in black, congealed blood. My companion whispered in my ear that beneath these sacrifices lay a vessel filled with human remains. And then the ceremony began.
Palo Mayombe is a religion developed by the slaves transported to Cuban plantations from the Congo in Central Africa. The religion is practised through ‘houses’ which often have differing practises and beliefs, although ceremonies typically include spirit possession and blood sacrifice. The hierarchy of each house is structured like a family, originally providing a substitute for those separated by slavery from their blood relations.
Palo symbolism reflects a diverse heritage. Rolled up suit trousers echo the clothes of plantation workers, Cuban cigar smoke feeds totemic objects and Catholic iconography is synthesised into Palo belief. Paleros believe that the spirit world, populated by their ancestors, is all around them. In the Palo ceremony reality and spirit are brought together through music, drumming and dancing. By feeding and veneration spirits are encouraged to possess the worshippers and speak through them. Palo is a product of intense transculturation, transcending linear time and physical location. It provides a coping mechanism for its believers throughout the upheavals of slavery, revolution or exile.
‘African’ religions were practised underground in Cuba until the abolition of slavery in 1886. As Spiritualism became internationally popular during this time religions like Palo came out of the shadows. After the 1959 Revolution, Cuba embraced its African heritage and the government took a stance of tolerance towards non-Christian religions. Palo and other Afro-religions, such as the more widely practised Santeria, became accepted and increasingly popular. Today Cuban exiles have made their religions internationally popular, especially in the USA. However, Palo beliefs have been easily confused with voodoo or labelled as Satanism, with accusations of grave-robbing levelled at devotees. As the religion does not have a top down hierarchy and centres on the individual’s relationship with the spirit world is it is difficult for believers to challenge these misrepresentations.
Text & Art by Glyn Smyth
When starting out on a work commission I’m always looking for new ways to tackle the subject matter. Whilst it’s always tempting to jump on the first or most obvious idea that springs to mind, I’ve come to realise it’s always more rewarding to view the artwork process as an “exploration” of the idea. That allowing yourself the freedom to wander off the most direct path, uncertain of your exact destination makes for a far more interesting journey with a greater prize at the end…
I was fortunate in the fact that both Caleb and the label seemed receptive to a fresh approach and were happy to entrust me with a great deal of creative control from the outset. After some brief initial discussions I received the album tracks, lyrics and the title – “Savage Masters”. Whilst familiar with earlier Zozobra material these new songs were faster, leaner and more aggressive. Images of wild creatures immersed in fierce combat sprang to mind. A tangle of beasts fighting over a crown. The unhindered savagery of the animal kingdom.
Yet the lyrical content told a different tale. The lyrics hinted at an internal anguish and being subject to forces beyond ones control. References to serpents, venom and weaponry was suggestive of ritual more than that of warfare.
And there were repeated references to an unidentified female force…
“Screaming hear left defenceless..offer my seed to her sword”
“Drink from her rain when it’s burning and acid”
“And the goddesses weave wicked spells…”
In this light, the original etymology of the Spanish word Zozobra (meaning ‘anxiety’, ‘anguish’ or ‘worry’) seemed more relevant than references to the communal catharsis experienced by the burning of “Old Man Gloom” in Santa Fe each year. Nevertheless, this relatively modern ritual (the first Zozobra burning was in 1924) has roots in “The Burning Of Judas” festival once practiced widely in many orthodox Catholic countries but perhaps today most strongly associated with Mexico…
At this point the identity of this unseen female entity became apparent to me. The goddess in her dark aspect…whether appearing as the Santa Muerte of recent popularity, Mictecacihuatl of Aztec culture or as the Lady Of Guadalupe. She arrives from the West and may represent death, though is something more than this. An arbiter of divine justice. A shape shifting Divine Mother who’s chthonic nature is revealed by the light of the moon. An inverted cross of orthodoxy suspended over a river within Mictlan. The High Priestess. A savage master.
How many of you have a photo of you as a small child screaming on the lap of some tarted-up potential child molester, aka “Santa Claus” or the “Easter Bunny”? Parents can’t seem to resist these photo opportunities, and for some reason our society has decided that these pseudo-christian holidays should be marked by photos of our children on the laps of grown men in weird furry suits…makes sense in a twisted way I guess. From the photos below, obviously most children are not down with this; their inner weirdo radar goes off like crazy and the result is a photo of sheer terror. Some misguided children look happy to be nestled into their tormentor’s lap, but I’m sure the nightmarish faces of some of these homemade bunny suits still haunted them years later. Speaking of which, many of these suits are not of the modern day made in China clone variety – they are fashioned by hand from the mind of a madman. Their faces are a mirror into the soul of humankind and our absolute lack of respect for the spectacular beauty of nature. They are fucking creepy and nothing like real bunnies. Even Jesus would be terrified, and he was a zombie. Enjoy!
I have always been into art that gives a voice to those that don’t have one. I remember being young in the 70′s and having my mind stimulated with all of the revolutionary creativity that was happening around me. A big part of what got me hyped about the punk movement was it’s use of art as a weapon for change. When I first saw a Crass cover, I knew it spoke to me but I did not know that the artist was influenced by German artist John Heartfield. He was a true warrior for change and used his creative spirit as his gun to fire at the Racist & Fascist Nazi regime in Germany. John Heartfield showed the Nazis that he was not afraid of them by manifesting powerful photomontages that spoke out against their fakery! His influence on the Anarcho Punk movement is evident even today. Discharge used one of his pieces for the Never Again cover and this image has become a part of punk history. Today CVLT Nation salutes John Heartfield with a huge photo essay of his work, plus we are showing the documentary Zygosis: John Heartfield and the Political Image!
I have never understood the appeal of ventriloquism. There is something infinitely creepy about ventriloquist dolls; maybe if the acts were more along the lines of weird and horrifying I would enjoy them more. I really wonder about people who do ventriloquism. The dummies always have the weirdest, most exaggerated faces, with huge staring eyes, bulbous noses and cheeks stretched into a grimacing smile. No wonder so many horror films have featured talking dolls. Also, their voices are terrifying – all high and squeaky and manic. I just don’t like them. But if I feel like freaking myself out, I can stare at photos of vintage ventriloquist dummies for hours, feeling the thrill of a chill down my spine. So if you feel like that today, check out a wonderful and weird gallery below…
A friend of mine for over 30 years, Dan Clements of EXCEL, is selling something that he never thought he would – his hand-drawn Suicidal Tendencies button down created by Ric Clayton RxCx is up for auction on Ebay for $3,000. I know that many people reading this will say, why so much? Because this is really a one of a kind piece of punk rock history. Back in the day, having a shirt created by Rick was way more than just a badge of honor! These shirts were just as important to us as a biker’s cut is. If I had the money, I would buy it from from Dan and then put it in the L.A. Punk Museum. Read a recent interview with Dan below, plus check out the details behind this auction…Venice for LIFE!
100% AUTHENTIC, ORIGINAL OWNER, ORIGINAL HAND DRAWN SUICIDAL TENDENCIES BUTTON UP DRESS SHIRT. THE SAME ONE WORN ON THE LEGENDARY 1983 DEBUT ALBUM, THIS ONE IS DISPLAYED ON THE BACK COVER IN ALL IT’S GLORY. ARTWORK BY RxCx aka RIC CLAYTON, WHO CREATED THE ENTIRE VENICE DOGTOWN SUICIDAL IMAGES THAT STAND THE TEST OF TIME. THIS PIECE WAS ON IT’S WAY TO THE LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK MUSEUM BUT DUE TO A PERSONAL EMERGENCY, I MUST SELL THIS TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. INCLUDED IN THIS AUCTION IS THE ORIGINAL FIRST OFFICIAL RELEASED T-SHIRT 1982 AND THE VERY FIRST STICKER 1981. THIS IS A ONE OF A KIND AUCTION NEVER TO BE REPEATED. I HAVE HELD ON TO THIS MEMORY FOR OVER 30 YEARS AND TO MY KNOWLEDGE, I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS AN ORIGINAL HAND DRAWN SUICIDAL SHIRT LEFT OF THAT ERA…Words from the seller…