Folk Romantique: An Interview With I Sing to Barbelo

As the antifascist neofolk community continues to grow, we are seeing an intersecting web of artists and projects form, the hallmark of artistic subculture. With this we have been chasing new projects from what are now old friends. That is true of the neofolk project I Sing to Barbelo, the new endeavor from Abigail Maven Goren who we have interviewed before for their bands Poppet and Lodge of Research. Goren dove more fully into the world of neofolk for I Sing to Barbelo, and developed a hauntingly beautiful collage with her first album Cathartic Rebirth, which meditates on the subjective experiences of gender and the totality of love.

We talked with Goren about what experiences drove this album, how present the idea of love is in the work, and how this amazing step forward plays into the larger world of revolutionary neofolk.

How did this project first come together?


I Sing to Barbelo was thought of in the summer of 2020, when I fell back in love with neofolk as a genre. I really wanted to create more in that style, especially neofolk that captures progressve themes. Around the same time I was grappling with the COVID pandemic, and moved to Western Washington from NYC for a change of scenery after college. During all of this I was dealing with a lot of gender dysphoria and confusion with my identity. I Sing to Barbelo was made to reconcile the queer side of myself with the side of myself that loves extreme and uncompromising music. A cover of the at-the-time recent Dorian Electra song “Give Great Thanks” (about BDSM as a metaphor for social inequities) was the first track I worked on knowing it was for a neofolk project, right before I moved to Tacoma.


How does gender experiences influence this project?

I don’t think any trans person truly experiences transness in the same way, although there are often similarities. A major part of my experience was reconciling the me who loves bizarre metal, occultism, asceticism and gothic imagery with the me who is a bisexual trans woman. Back in 2016, I became incredibly hyperfixated on the concept of asceticism and being a monk. When I realized that I wasn’t male in 2019, I realized that these dreams of wanting to do and consume everything I had to give up. Ironically I had to renunciate being a monk. This is the meaning of “so too must I give up being a monk as I continue on the road to gnosis.” Barbelo, the “Triple Androgynous Name” and an explicitly gender non-conforming female principle in gnosticism was a major figure embodying this sort of grand contradiction. Building a deeply mystical and mythical transness instead of assimilating into the LGBTQ community was important for me.


How does the concept of romance play into this album? What is the love in the work?


The love is in two parts:love for one’s self and embracing yourself as a total person, as well as love and support between trans people. 2020 was a good year to no one, and I was not the same. The ways of getting myself through this pandemic often focused on me connecting with other trans people online and sharing, agreeing, and disagreeing with our experiences. Compassion is a virtue we all need to learn, not only for others going through struggles of identity, faith, and gender; but also for ourselves, even if we think we’re doing fine.
How do you understand the concept of romanticism in your music?


Romanticism was a major selling point for getting into neofolk – In I Sing To Barbelo, I’m trying to create a deeply loving, emotional and romantic aesthetic, continued in projects such as Jouissance. It is not only a 19th century aesthetic and cultural movement, but at the time was an important gathering place for anarchists. Percy Blythe Shelly and his poem “The Masque of Anarchy” shows how this imagery can be used for liberation rather than continuing hegemonic oppression. I see a lot of aspects of wild and free Romanticism in the art of Osamu Tezuka, whose art I loved as a child. Anime iconography is an important part of the trans milleu online, and I think Tezuka’s art helps bridge the gap.


Talk a bit about your production process, what does it look like? How does it work on the technical side? How do you plan on doing live performances?


The acoustic sections (and some martial segments) were made from me sampling acoustic guitar loops on Logic Pro X. Every sound you hear besides my heavily reverbed vocals were created on Logic without any external instruments. All of the vocals were done in one shot, as well as the performance of synths and strings, giving it a raw and unpolished flavor. I can’t play acoustic guitar well at all, so as such I decided to sample and loop presets and reinterpret them in a way that is uniquely me. Likewise all of the covers were done in one take. If I did live performances I would rely heavily on loops of guitar riffs while I play synth lines and sing.


How does this stray from your earlier work?


I’d like to think that I Sing To Barbelo is an important marker in my development as a musician. My early dungeon synth as Poppet was made without a knowledge of dungeon synth (or even black metal) as genres. With this project I am trying to come in as a music enthusiast, not only for neofolk and martial industrial, but also hyperpop, which I was listening to a lot of at the time.


How did you select the covers you did? What themes were significant to you?


During the summer of 2020, I got heavily back into the experimental maximalist pop of 100 Gecs and Dorian Electra. It felt almost utopian in the time of a vast and deadly global pandemic, as well as it having a very tight-knit community who loved and held experimental, genre-blending music in high regard. While I have seen a lot of lo-fi indie folk covers of these songs, it was hard to find covers and reinterpretations in genres that truly mattered to me, so I decided to take my own irreverent spin.


How did the shared experience of 2020 affect your process?


As referenced before, no one had a good time in 2020, and even though it was an incredibly significant year for almost every aspect of me, it’s important to recognize that even though we may be going through intensely deep and personal struggles, we are not alone, we have each others backs. In the word of Martin Prince from the Simpsons “Individually, we are small twigs, but together, we form a mighty faggot.” If queer people work together against oppression, we are unstoppable.


What track is going to be in the new Left Folk compilation? How did you select it?


“Our True Love is Revolutionary,” which is a love song made for my girlfriend Jenny. This spoken word track is focused around the sheer power of trans relationships, If we learn to love each other and ourselves, we shall prevail. A trans lesbian relationship, at least in my experience holds no dynamic you see in a traditional straight relationships, rather it is rhizomatic, as opposed to being arborescent .It’s always fun to do stuff for people you love, especially in your own unique way.


What do you think the impact of building this explicitly antifascist neofolk community has been?


I have been much more involved in the antifascist dungeon synth community, but these circles have major overlap. I hope eventually we can see a project prolific enough it can properly replace harmful yet admittedly stirring works. As of now antifascist neofolk seems to be more rooted in dark and nordic aesthetics rather than the strange lysergic industrial of Current 93 I so love. Neofolk, like any genre, can be used to express any emotion and through any lens. We shouldn’t let nazis have a genre so rich in imagery and emotion.


What’s coming next?


I have some dark, atmospheric tracks with Poppet I am working on putting out, but my computers are in a state of disrepair, and as such it may take a while for the new Barbelo. Expect something soon for certain though! Creating unique music is my life.

Click here to listen to I Sing to Barbelo on Bandcamp!

I Sing to Barbelo is not on Spotify yet, but we will add it to our playlist when it is. Make sure to follow the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify!

Talking with Autumn Brigade About Neofolk, Marxism, and Independent Producing [INTERVIEW]

How did Autumn Brigade first come together? Was this your first project?
Well, I guess Autumn Brigade came from a lot of different things. Primarily it was from the music I was listening to around that time. Stuff like Current 93 and King Dude mostly. I guess the other factor that led me to forming Autumn Brigade was a response to what was going on around me at the time, politically speaking. The world is in a state of struggle and change, and I hope Autumn Brigade can have a positive impact on that change in order to help it be for the better!
In terms of Autumn Brigade? No, It was not my first project. Before starting Autumn Brigade I had a project called “STAGGH,” which combined elements of harsh noise, black metal, and drone. STAGGH was the first official named release I had on the Self Loathing Records label. Autumn Brigade came shortly after that, but it certainly won’t be the last project I ever work on!
What is the songwriting process like? What instruments do you use?
Most of the time songs usually come to me gradually over a period of time, gradually being shaped, improved and hammered out. Other songs come more quickly than that, but usually I take my time and make sure I’ve completely mastered a song before I sit down and record them. Everything that has been recorded by me has always been DIY, although when I was recording STAGGH, I did get help from some friends of mine in order to record it. With Autumn Brigade however, it’s just me recording my guitar into a music program and going from there, cleaning up the audio, adding samples and whatnot!
Does your music have a Marxist influence? How does that inform your work?
In general terms yes, but there are certainly other influences on the aesthetic and subject matter of Autumn Brigade as well. Marxism, as well as other different “isms” on the left have certainly influenced me, although primarily the works of Leon Trotsky and Edward Said. In terms of Trotskyism, The Russian Revolution is possibly one of the most important events in human history, we live in a world shaped by what happened during 1917. However, the bureaucracy came and decades of tyranny followed. Autumn Brigade; just like Trotsky, comes from that tradition of “neither Moscow nor Washington.” Several songs that are going to appear on the upcoming album are influenced by a number of struggles. That’s where Edward Said comes in, particularly his idea of Orientalism, and how Western civilization tends to pin the Orient as a place of barbarism and savagery. Songs on the upcoming album deal with a number of struggles, including the anticolonial movements in Northern Ireland and Palestine, and the failed Hungarian Revolution in the 50’s.
Of course, I would be lying if I said my Marxism is the only influence on Autumn Brigade. There is of course, the military aesthetic, which comes from more of a fetish standpoint than anything. In my eyes, there’s something sexy and seductive about people in uniform. Going off of that there’s also influences of the LGBTQIA+ and Kink communities which have influenced some of the lyrical content of my songs. Autumn Brigade is an expression of those things, as well as a way of flaunting my sexuality in a tasteful and interesting manner in front of others. The profits from the Split EP Lodge of Research and I did recently, go towards both the Baltimore Sex Worker Outreach Project, and the Trevor Project, since those are both causes Lodge of Research and I are deeply passionate about. The last influence on Autumn Brigade would of course be nature, I mean just look at the name of it! Autumn is the prettiest season nature has given us. I grew up going on hikes and camping in the woods and in mountains. Nature’s majesty has always blessed me in the most beautiful way possible. Even now when I’m bored I tend to go for long walks out in her domain!
What is Self Loathing Records?
Self Loathing Records is my own independent label. All of my solo work is uploaded there (except for of course the song Lodge of Research contributed for the split EP). It’s mostly because I want to have the rights and profits to my own music. If I venture off and start a traditional band, maybe demos and rarities would be uploaded to SLR, but other albums I did as part of another group would be either uploaded independently or on a different label.
How do you define your sound?
That’s an interesting question. I really haven’t put much thought into how I define the Autumn Brigade sound. I guess it comes from whatever I think sounds right. Hopefully in the future I’ll have access to more instruments beyond a guitar, which could compliment my skills nicely.
Why do you think its important to stand up to fascists in the neofolk scene?
Trotsky once said it better than I ever could, “If you cannot convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.” In all seriousness though, underground music scenes of all sorts have been seen as a refuge for fascists of all stripes. You cannot negotiate with people who want to see you dead based something as arbitrary as your religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and preference. The underground offers them a place where they can market their ideas to alienated youth and apolitical people. It’s our duty as members of an open society to prevent jingoistic bigots from being able to have a platform of any kind! Especially when people like our president are empowering them.
What Artists Had the Biggest Influence On You?
Autumn Brigade has been influenced by King Dude, Chelsea Wolfe, Zola Jesus, , Current 93,, and labor songs from around the world. A lot of the symbolism and aesthetics of Autumn Brigade are sort of a parody of Douglas P’s whole getup, the logo being something I fooled with and made into something Antifascist.
What’s coming up for you?
Like I said previously, there’s an album that’s coming soon! I had to take a hiatus from working on it for a bit since I was sick for a period of time, and that was affecting the recording of vocals since I sounded like I was dying of the plague. I’ve since gotten better, and I’m hard at work on the album!
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Check out these tracks from Autumn Brigade Below, and the split they recently did with our friend at Lodge of Research. Unfortunately they are not on Spotify yet, but check out our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify for other great bands.


Invoking Your True Self: An Interview With Poppet

Abe Goren is one of the most prolific artists we have ever covered. In just a few years they have released a couple of dozen albums and EPs under a number of different projects and genres. We first came into contact when writing about their masonic Dungeon Synth project Lodge of Research, our first endeavor into the growing world of Dungeon Synth that borders on the edges of much of the post-industrial that is our bread and butter. Now their syncretic style is back here with Poppet, a project that shifts between neofolk, Dungeon Synth, metal, and just strange eclectic weirdness, and so we wanted to jump back into it and talk with Abe about some of the concepts behind this project, which ranges from nordic mythology to the personal search for gender identity. Abe’s own journey is especially informative for us since it talks about the process many people have gone through in the edge genres where political consciousness clashes right up against the presence of far-right bands in the scene, and maybe even our playlists.
How did this project Poppet form?  What was the thinking behind it?
I started getting heavily into black metal around late 2015. Interest in projects such as Mütiilation, Aniroe, Summoning, I Shalt Become, Bal-Sagoth and sadly, some sketchier bands like Inquisition and Burzum were primary influences for making ambient black metal. I was using GarageBand at the time, and I had no access to drums or guitar sounds, so I used a monosynth VST called “festival lead” to create black metal noises, and then did vocals and synth pads over it. A Poppet is a doll used in British folk magic, essentially the Western equivalent to a so-called “voodoo doll,” I was very into occultism in high school, and as I started college, I got heavily back into occultism. I wanted a venue of music to discuss religions such as Tibetan Buddhism, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, Santeria, Rastafari, Sufism and Left-Hand Path Satanism, and started the product as such. I had released several songs from this project on Soundcloud before, but 2017 was the real watershed moment. I was friends at the time with a fairly right-wing friend, and I was in a black metal band themed around the civil war with him, called Quantrill. I was the resident keyboardist, but it was a full band, suprisingly multi-ethnic for such a sketch band too. It was probably the sketchiest project I was in, and it wasn’t that good either, essentially sounding like a worse produced Peste Noire. This project was posted on Atmospheric Black Metal albums and got terrible reviews. This inspired me to seek feedback for my music as Poppet, and in early 2018, I posted my Enter the Numinous Realm album on Bandcamp. A couple of weeks later, I got feedback from the dungeon synth community, saying that they really enjoyed my project and how weird it was. This inspired me to hang out with the dungeon synth crowd, and release more dungeon synth inspired music on a regular basis, I continued to use it as a basis for discussing Sufism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Kabbalah and Tibetan Buddhism, and made several friends I am still in correspondence with these days. I keep Poppet as a form of discipline, where I will constantly try to better myself and write more engaging and challenging works.
What challenged you to stand up against the right wing bands? What motivated you to stop supporting far-right musicians?
Back in 2015 and 2016, my politics could be understood as provocative. I had a very neoliberal attitude, thinking that whatever riled people up was the way to go. That said, I never dipped fully into reactionary territory due to me being Jewish, and having a close friend in high school who transitioned her gender. I had my first romantic partner in 2017, and being around that person allowed me to see how reactionary and provocatory politics were exactly that, and that in order to understand people you have to listen to them. In 2018, being around dungeon synth people actually exposed me to a wide gamut of more left wing ideas, and since I had such a plethora of amazing and non-sketchy bands in black metal, neofolk and dungeon synth to check out from that community I didn’t need to support sketchy bands. Whenever I listened to a far-right band and enjoy the music, it’s always tainted by the fact they’d kill me if they got the chance. Listening to non-sketchy bands I get the same pleasure with none of the guilt. This is why it’s important to build spaces with innovative music inspired by those bands but with none of those messages.
How did your own politics evolve in this time?
In 2015 I lived on my own for the first time, as I started college. Living in an independent space without my parents, I was exposed ot a lot of ideas on the left and on the right, and I was annoyed by a lot of the “radical ideologies” on the left. I had close friends with right wing beliefs, and the friends I had who were left-wing I grew distant from at this time from seeing them post on Facebook about bad shit all the time. My shift to the right was also motivated by me being a frequent user of the KiwiFarms from 2014 until mid-2017, a trolling website, which I maintain when it started wasn’t a hotbed of transphobia, islamobhobia, racism and ableism but rather an outgrowth of the same people who obsess over Chris-Chan. The site while intially funny, wore off quick and became a heavy obsession of mine. I posted bad deviantart pictures there constantly as a sort of discipline. Whenever I tried to correctly gender someone there, I was bombarded by many transphobes saying “don’t feed into their delusions.” I am glad I left that shithole. Even if it wasn’t as bad when it started, it was still really bad, and it just got worse as it continued. Around this time I started picking up on more and more esoteric far-right ideologies, which I liked because they were mystical and magical, and as a religion major, I didn’t like how communism as I knew it was “atheistic.” Around 2017, my politics matured after finding a partner, I read less about traditionalism and the esoteric far-right and cared more about being a good person than wanting to pick an ideology to shock. In 2018, when I was exposed to the dungeon synth community, I began reading about various kinds of leftism, and at the same time I was exposed to Marxist theories in my criminology class (despite the teacher having a lot of criticisms of Marx), which made me more motivated to read about Marxism. From there I’ve moved more to the left, which I find is a funny coincidence because it had to do with me becoming part of the DS scene at the same time.
Why do you think its important for other artists to do the same and speak out against sketchy bands?
I believe that everyone who isn’t a nazi (which is most people) into extreme music should be able to have their voices heard. If we support “free speech” the widest variety of opinions will be heard if nazis don’t get a platform. This is why I support bands that carve out a unique space in music, leftist or not, as long as they’re not nazis. We need to create a space where nazis aren’t the only people making creative and innovative music. I love this blog for this very reason, neofolk is an amazingly beautiful genre, ruined by some of the most backwards simpletons and yahoos into extreme music. If we want all ideas to be heard, we must remove people who will censor all other opinions if they got a chance to.
Why did you turn towards neofolk? How do you define this project?

Neofolk was something I was always aware of, even before I was aware of DS. I was a fan of Agalloch’s neofolk output, as well as Wolves in the Throne Room. Neofolk to me occupies a similar role to dungeon synth in how interludes of both sorts are often used in black metal songs. My album Infernally, I Wander, which we will discuss in more depth eventually, was created not out of a love for neofolk (that came more in 2019 when I dug deep into the works of David Tibet and Ulver) but out of me playing around with guitar sounds on Garageband, to create a sort of medieval vibe. My album Chapter I was a more conscious effort to recreate the sounds of neofolk at large, to capture a more singer/songwriter vibe of my music, rather than simple improvisation.

What relationship does dungeon synth have to neofolk?
Neofolk is unique as a genre in that it started out of the industrial scene, but got revived thanks to black metal fans listening to old neofolk records. Dungeon Synth grew out of black metal fans (sometimes the same ones) listening to industrial and ambient records and creating fantasy soundscapes out of it. Both genres attempt to paint classical and artistic music in the context of extreme music. There’s a reason why Wongraven’s Fjelltronen is both dungeon synth and neofolk, the dark folk scene grew out of Norway at the same time DS artists like Mortiis were making some rounds. I think both genres excel at capturing a haunting ambience, but both generes are flexible enough to also become agressive, intense and extreme in an occult context. They certainly both love their forests. Both genres are also similar because Dungeon Synth is largely distinct from the rest of synth and electronic music, you don’t hear as many drops, acid bass or drum patterns. Likewise, neofolk is distinct from folk music because it’s less “homey” and “rugged” and more decidedly “ethereal” and “ominous” in its sound. To compare Sangre de Muerdago to The Lumineers is like comparing Aphex Twin to Fogweaver.
How does the Norse tradition inform Þrymskviða? 
Þrymskviða was created when I was in Ireland, and getting heavily into the Norse Tradition. At around the same time, I was begining to question my gender and transition, which lead me to reading about certain kinds of runes such as Peord, Berkano and Gebo which weren’t as commonly touched by Heathens due to their feminine nature. I was especially drawn to the story of Odin living his (her?) last years as a woman, because of their Seidr practice, and as such was considered “unmanly” by Loki. I had always been drawn to Odin, and this more feminine aspect of Odin, was far more engaging than anything NSBM cultivated. I sought to tell a story of Norse and Germanic people defying roles of toxic masculinity rather than falling within those traps. Gender divergence has always existed, and I’d like to think that I captured an aspect of the mythos most metal bands either ignore or don’t know about.
How did your own personal journey inform Þrymskviða?
As mentioned before, when I was living in Ireland, I began to heavily question my gender, and identify less as a man and more as what I believe to be myself, to live authentically. The choral parts of this album were informed by a sketchy (and shitty) DS tape, that I thought I could improve on heavily. In one track, I started with male voices chanting but eventually changed them to female voices through my DAW. This is a not-so-subtle hint at the early stages of my transition at the time. These interests and new found interest in shifting my identity led me to learning about aspects of the Norse traditions that appeal more towards LGBTQ peoples than your average Brodinist.
What speaks to you from the Norse traditions?

I’m not too sure where to define my religion today, but its a fluid part of my identity. Like with most mythologies, I appreciate the nature of gender divergence within the Norse deities. They’re not fixed in one aspect. Many people hate Loki, but I find how he lived his life as a mare and got pregnant to bare Slepnir a fascinating case of how even in ancient tales, gender isn’t fixed. The runes are also endlessly fascinating, being very similar to my native Hebrew, in how each character serves a spritiual meaning and signifcance. Reading about them when first coming to a realization of my gender identity made me resonate with the far more obscure runes Nazis didn’t use. I did a split with a project called Peord, and Peord is inherently connected to women’s issues.

Your music really developed with Infernally, I wander? Why did you go in this direction? What was the thinking behind it?
That album was started while I was writing another album called Future Tense. I was messing around with guitar presets and ended up creating a beautiful medieval piece. That piece is the last on that album. For Infernally, I Wander I limited myself to two sounds on Garageband, a guitar and a flute. This limitation ended up making some bizarre music, and for this album, I leaned into my project’s outsider nature, of which I skirted around before. This embrace of weirdness, coupled with free flowing and creative song structures made an album I’m truly proud of. Afterwards I started to listen to more neofolk in order to bolster more creativity out of myself.
Walk me thorough how you are producing the music? What does the production process entail? Is it purely a solo project?
I initially started producing music through Garageband, using a midi controller, although often I use the Musical Typing setting. I will typically record an improvisation and then record another improvisation over that improvisation, but as I have learned more skills of how to edit sounds, I’ve been pushing myself to make more challenging and competent works of synthery. I will often include my vocals, and increasingly include drums. It is a solo project, but I actually have some group projects and remixes in store, not just with Poppet but with other projects. Now, I use Logic, which has multi-tracking, a stronger editing system and more VSTs, most of which are easily editable. This has greatly expanded my array of sounds.
How does your antifascist politics inform May the Braying of the Horn Smite Those of Hatred Great?
This album was created for three reasons, the first being how I felt there was a deficit in my music that wasn’t tackling political issues, around this time Dungeon Synth: No Fash Edition was created as a group, which I appreciate, but was also controversial as the group was mostly drama. Created on a bus ride to Belfast, I thought I wanted to make a tough and industrial album from my project. There was a micro scene called “tuff synth” embodied by bands like Xuthal of the Dusk, that revolve around distorted horns. The third reason I created the album was the most important. I was sick and tired of seeing antisemitic memes and sentiment across the internet. I am Jewish ethnically, and it should come as no surprise that I stand against Nazism and white supremacy as a result. As such, this album acted as a “diss track” towards people thinking dungeon synth needs to have more Pro-European themes, whatever that means. May the Braying of the Horn Smite Those of Hatred Great is a call to destroy those who destroy marginalized peoples and communities, using Biblical themes as an epic, sword-and-sandal backdrop from which to juxtapose conflicts against trans people, people of color, queer people, Jews, Muslims and politcal radicals against hegemonic powers-that-be.
What’s coming next for you?
Under one of my many other projects, Wagemage, I have a remix album of gabber versions of black metal tracks coming out soon. Under Poppet, I’m working on drum heavy dungeon synth, inspired by an irl friend’s Witch House project, wwithout. As long as I’m here, I’m gonna be pumping out more albums, and who knows what might greet you in the future!

We are embedding the albums that were mentioned here and we encourage you to check out all of Poppet’s library. We have also added Poppet tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so remember to add that as well.




MIDI Junkies of Dungeon Synth: An Interview With Lodge of Research

 

 

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.

And make sure to support us on Patreon if you can!