There is a slow, whispered creep that comes from Lodge of Research, a solo project that comes at the intersection of neofolk and dungeon synth. A melancholic flute and single keyboard notation accompany barely spoken words, reminding you of the masonic inspiration of secrets, ritual, and esoteric knowledge that has driven its creation.
We did an interview with Lodge of Research about their process, what they are doing with the Dungeon Synth genre, and why there is no middle ground with fascism.
How did Lodge of Research come together? Is this your first musical project?
Lodge of Research is not my first musical project, my first serious one was Poppet (dungeon synth/occult black metal with some scant neofolk influences). Lodge of Research was founded essentially to have a more coherent space in my music for neofolk. At the time I was making it, I was listening heavily to Current 93 and the Legendary Pink Dots and reading a lot about Freemasonry and esotericism.
Initially I was inspired to make a bass heavy neofolk project as a joke – Having slap bass as a sound inspired by Seinfeld. However, when playing around with this slap bass sound on Garageband, it made me realise it could work as a legitimate project. Being inspired by the Legendary Pink Dots and John Fahey’s Mill Pond, I wanted to make a project which sounded like it, so I grafted all of these influences together and created an esoteric and bizarre neofolk project.
Take me through your music writing process. Is it a fully solo project? What instruments do you use? How do you build your songs?
My project is fully solo and I use Garageband, and occasionally a Casio CTK-2400. I start off with synthesizing sounds on Garageband – I choose presets and add reverb plugins. I then play the track in musical typing, typically in a minor scale. I then add another instrument and play against that instrument. Afterwards I add vocals, usually they are ad libbed. Most of the music is completely improvised, coming up with stuff off the top of my head as to what works best.
What is Dungeon Synth and how does it relate to neofolk?
Dungeon Synth is a subgenre of progressive electronic that draws heavy influence from black metal aesthetics. It is a genre that focuses on atmosphere with lo-fi keyboard sounds. You may have heard of artists such as Wongraven and Mortiis before, and they essentially took the black metal sound while removing the black metal. Neofolk is very similar, a lot of black metal artists have started neofolk projects as ways to continue their themes while changing their sound.
Other bands, such as Falls of Rauros, have incorporated a neofolk sound into their music, much as bands such as Summoning have incorporated a Dungeon Synth sound. Both Dungeon Synth and neofolk are heavily influenced by minor key scales, nature, occultism and the woods in particular. I define my sound as influenced by both because it is composed entirely on digital instruments, primarily MIDI. As a lot of dungeon synth sounds like dark folk tunes played on cheap Casios, the sounds tend to blend quite often.
This unique process of ad libbing and electronic meshing has created something intensely original, how do you define its genre and type?
My sound is bass heavy, experimental and industrial neofolk with occasional harsh vocals. The music is improvised, bizarre, surreal and working class.
I try not to spend money to create or promote my music at all, instead creating what I can when I can and always trying to improve.
What are some of the driving ideas behind Lodge of Research?
My interest in fraternal societies such as Freemasons and Oddfellows drove me to create a thematic neofolk project. Dungeon Synth, the scene where I came out of, is heavily dependent on thematic projects, I see that less in neofolk, so wanting to create a thematic project is my way of making my mark. Freemasons have this fascinating and in depth system of allegories and rituals, coupled with a really old school aesthetic that would translate incredibly well to ambient music. I’m not a Freemason, although I highly respect their work. Songs are also influenced by Thelema and witchcraft. One of my songs was my attempt at creating a song about how I was initially attracted to occult fascist imagery, citing them as “symbols of great power” but I’m unsure if the message got lost in translation or not.
Do you feel like you are really a part of the neofolk scene?
I feel more distant to them than I do the Dungeon Synth scene. I find it easier to reach out to those contacts in neofolk who I might already know from interacting in the Dungeon Community. As a lot are fans of both, I find it easy to reach out. I love the sound that neofolk is able to make, the themes it is able to cover, but I often feel like its power is mishandled by the wrong people. I try to listen to bands in the genre that either aren’t fascist or use it simply as an aesthetic choice and make that clear. This makes listening to martial industrial much more difficult, as I can’t tell half of the time. I never plan on making a collaboration with someone like David Tibet, because I’m in a different scene and a different world. Lodge of Research I think is most powerful when there is one person operating it, although I certainly am open to splits. I also identify heavily with the folk-horror side of the genre, which is more cinematic in nature than expressly political. In order to be truly apolitical you have to denounce fascism, pretty simple.
Why is antifascism important to you?
Antifascism is important to me because of my identity as a Jewish person with autism growing up in New York City. I do not have a shadow of a doubt that practically everyone I know and love in a fascist state would perish. The most insidious thing about fascism, in my eyes, is that while it may claim to have a diversity of opinions and those promoting it shares a “diversity of thought” their opinions are ultimately destructive, violent and disastrous. I vehemently disagree with an anti-diversity sentiment from growing up in the center of Brooklyn, New York and being exposed to a wide, wide, wide variety of culture. Being in the metal scene, fascist iconography and symbolism has always been a presence, and I understand when someone wants to use it to shock. However, I feel like people using such imagery have to ask themselves if they want to invite the company of people who unironically believe the things they are using for shock value. I’ve seen people in metal communities fall down right-wing rabbit holes, ultimately leading them to say things they wouldn’t have said when I first met them. Therefore it is important to destroy the systems that enable destructive behavior.
How do you think more artists can stand up against fascism in the neofolk scene?
I think it’s pretty simple. Don’t do collaborations with artists who have been accused, and if you do so, make sure they aren’t fascist, have it on record. I truly believe having more explicitly antifascist neofolk bands (and not simply black metal mixed with neofolk, but honest-to-Baldr neofolk) would help create a community for fans to find before getting that death’s head tattoo. I think having a neofolk presence at antifascist concerts and benefit shows is also important, I absolutely hate folk punk with every fiber in my body (except Blackbird Raum), so having more musical diversity is important for getting more people to be actively involved in the fight against genocide.
What artists do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?
I recommend Deliverer and I believe that you’ve had an interview with him in the past.
Incredibly nice guy who makes dark accordion music with fascinatingly vivid iconography.
I also recommend Rabor, who is an antifascist rarity in the russian scene. His music is very bright, homey and atmospheric and puts a smile on my face when I listen to it.
Evergreen Refuge is another great artist, and also a great person. They are a pleasure to talk to and share ideas with, as well as being an anarchist.
As for the classics (I.E artists I’ve never met), I take a lot of influence from Ulver, Current 93, Sangre de Muerdago, Legendary Pink Dots, Incredible String Band, Alan Stivel, Richard Thompson, Gae Bolg and the Church of Fand, Elk, Falls of Rauros, Dead Raven Choir and Agalloch, amongst others.
What’s coming next for you?
I’m working on a Poppet album that should be coming out soon – that takes heavy influence from neofolk, amongst other genres. I’m experimenting with writing my songs out beforehand and committing them to song structures. I’m always looking to improve, change and vary my sound. I don’t have immediate plans for a new Lodge of Research record, but there might be one soon. May the words of what I said chisel your soul anew!
We are sharing tracks from both of Lodge of Research’s albums below from their Bandcamp, but they are not on Spotify yet so we cannot add them to the Antifascst Neofolk playlist on Spotify.