MONOLITHIC UNDERTOW by Harry Sword
130 x 196mm, 456 pages, black and white printing, perfect bound, softcover, 2022
Monolithic Undertow alights a crooked path across musical, religious and subcultural frontiers. It traces the line from ancient traditions to the modern underground, navigating archaeoacoustics, ringing feedback, chest plate sub-bass, avant-garde eccentricity, sound weaponry and fervent spiritualism. From Neolithic beginnings to bawdy medieval troubadours, Sufi mystics to Indian raga masters, cone shattering dubwise bass, Hawkwind’s Ladbroke Grove to the outer reaches of Faust and Ash Ra Temple; the hash-fueled fug of The Theatre of Eternal Music to the cough syrup reverse hardcore of Melvins, seedy VHS hinterland of Electric Wizard, ritual amp worship of Earth and Sunn O))) and the many touch points in between, Monolithic Undertow explores the power of the drone – an audio carrier vessel capable of evoking womb like warmth or cavernous dread alike.
In 1977 Sniffin’ Glue verbalised the musical zeitgeist with their infamous ‘this is a chord; this is another; now form a band’ illustration. The drone requires neither chord nor band, representing – via its infinite pliability and accessibility – the ultimate folk music: a potent audio tool of personal liberation. Immersion in hypnotic and repetitive sounds allows us to step outside of ourselves, be it chant, a 120dB beasting from Sunn O))), standing front of the system as Jah Shaka drops a fresh dub or going full headphone immersion with Hawkwind. These experiences are akin to an audio portal – a sound Tardis to silence the hum and fizz of the unceasing inner voice. The drone exists outside of us, but also – paradoxically – within us all; an aural expression of a universal hum we can only hope to fleetingly channel…