DTL’s Black Lodge is out now from Cantaloupe Music on all digital services.
Featuring libretto by celebrated poet Anne Waldman and performances by Timur and the Dime Museum and Isaura String Quartet, Black Lodge is set in a nightmarish Bardo, a place between death and rebirth, where a tormented writer (identified as the “Man”) confronts demons of his own making in search of escape. With music and libretto created first, Black Lodge was later reverse-engineered into an episodic art film by director Michael Joseph McQuilken and Beth Morrison Projects, which premiered at Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O22 in October 2022.
“I think this is a piece that everybody can have their own experience with,” Little says. “As an audience, you have to meet this piece halfway – engage with it on its terms, and let it tell you what it’s got to tell you. And that will be different for everybody.”
In the first single, “My Childhood,” we find an off-kilter sense of empathy and connection with Black Lodge’s tortured protagonist, voiced by Timur . This haunting yet spellbinding track – channeling and quoting filmmaker David Lynch – mixes a mournful sense of longing with an undercurrent of dread, as though at any moment a rift could open up and swallow the Man whole. The sense of foreboding peaks as a menacing, disembodied voice (also Timur) suddenly growls the words “Look closer: pitch oozing out. Always pitch underneath. Millions of red ants crawling all over. Look closer.” Our connection with Timur’s character sharpens as our shared dread opens a window into the dark forces arrayed against him.
In the second metal-infused single, “Here, My Severed Digit (Part 2),” the tortured protagonist (Timur) channels a twisted devotion with an undercurrent of dread reminiscent of author William S. Burroughs. As the Dime Museum lays down a hard, lead-thickened rock groove, Timur’s vocals soar, and the Isaura String Quartet sends sparks off guitarist Matthew Setzer’s power chord onslaught. One can almost hear the “ugly spirit” descend, a catastrophic arrival shown in director Michael Joseph McQuilken’s film as a warped game of Russian Roulette initiated by the film’s other character, the “Woman,” played by Jennifer Harrison Newman, an early project collaborator. Trigger-pull after trigger-pull, the film builds tension alongside Little and Waldman’s slithery, unrelenting track. This is operatic heavy metal at its most gnarly, gothy, and sublime.
Drawing on the complex mythologies of such artists as William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) and David Lynch (Twin Peaks), Black Lodge fuses industrial metal and punk with classical string quartet and opera to create something wildly vivid and new. Writing on the premiere of the art film adaptation, The New York Times’ Zachary Woolfe commented that “…the music embraces Little’s longstanding interest in the grittier side of pop, the dark, pounding industrial ‘nu metal’ style of (I’ll date myself) Slipknot, Korn and System of a Down.” Others will pick up influences ranging from Nine Inch Nails and The Cure to Monteverdi, Mozart, and Mahler.
While Black Lodge echoes the dark, existential feel of previous David T. Little projects – Dog Days, Haunt of Last Nightfall, Soldier Songs – this new work pursues a new element that Little describes in his album notes. “I was seeking something beautiful in Black Lodge,” he writes, “though deep down I still believed Burroughs’ notion that ‘you have to live in hell to see heaven.’ I now see that I had both written myself into and out of that hell. In going through it, I found a new and healthier way of being that I didn’t consciously know I was seeking — a resolution the Man in Michael Joseph McQuilken’s artful screenplay is not granted.”
Soundtrack produced by David T. Little & Andrew McKenna Lee
Edited and mixed by Andrew McKenna Lee at Still Sound Music, East Chatham, NY
Mastered by Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering, Burbank, CA
Recorded by Jim Lang, Knobworld, Los Angeles, CA and Tommy Simpson, Macroscopik Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Additional recording by: Matthew Setzer, David Tranchina, Daniel Corral, Andrew McKenna Lee, Michael Joseph McQuilken, David T. Little
Album design by DM Stith
Film originally produced by Beth Morrison Projects
Executive Producers: Beth Morrison and Thurston Moore