Gazelle Amber Valentine is one half of sludge / doom / death metal two piece Jucifer, formed in Georgia, USA in 1993. For more than seventeen years Gazelle and her bandmate (and husband), drummer Edgar Livengood, have adopted a nomadic lifestyle. The pair live, tour, rehearse, and sometimes even record in their Winnebago, towing the literal wall of amplification Valentine utilises on stage in a trailer behind them. The duo describe this life as an endless tour, and they can easily find themselves playing live shows in twenty or more countries in a single year.
Jucifer’s music can be (and usually is) harsh, aggressive, and loud, but its subject matter and lyrical content are not necessarily what people might expect. 2008’s L’Autrichiennewas a concept album based around the French Revolution accompanied by extensive historical notes, while 2013’s За Волгой для нас земли нет (“There is no land beyond The Volga”) dealt with the Soviet Union and WWII. Equally though, there is a strong sense of Americana embedded in much of Jucifer’s music and lyrics; dark folk sounds and sensibilities; finger-picked banjo and violin strings, and dissonant, melancholic melodies. Nowhere is this side of their work more apparent than in Gazelle’s solo album Devil’s Tower I, released in 2013.
All of this – the nomadic life, the artistry, the power and intelligence of her writing – made Gazelle Amber Valentine someone I was very keen to approach as a contributor to Spirits of Place. Her essay, entitled “I Have Trod Such Haunted Land”, ended up being the first in the book and remains one of my favourites. Even though her internet connection can be intermittent as she and Edgar continue their never ending tour, Gazelle was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the book and her contribution to it.
Not far from where I live there’s a landscape that’s soaked in apocalyptic imagery. Thornton is a wild and sometimes bleak place, on the hills above Bradford, where the Brontë sisters were born before moving to Haworth, the place they’re more usually associated with, six miles away.
Thornton is farmland and scrub, beautiful in the summer sun, foreboding and often impassable in the depths of winter. There’s a place called World’s End View, from where you feel it really is possible to sit out the apocalypse. There are scattered communities with Biblical names… Egypt, Jerusalem, and Jericho, which even had its own monstrous walls in the Victorian era, massive ramparts that edged the road through and held back the mountains of waste from the stone quarries.
Fresh for #FolkloreThursday, Greg Taylor has posted Maria J. Pérez Cuervo’s Spirits of Placeessay “The Palace Built Over a Hellmouth“, about El Escorial on the southern slopes of Mount Abantos, over on the Daily Grail website.
Only a king or a queen has the power to move the capital of their kingdom to their preferred location. For King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598), this place was at the very centre of the Iberian Peninsula, not far from the city of Madrid, in an area called El Escorial on the southern slopes of Mount Abantos. Here he vowed to build his life’s plan: a royal residence that would also be a pantheon, a monastery, a library, a museum and a centre of studies. To bring it to life, he hired a group of architects, experienced masons and theologists, who evaluated the terrain positively but, given the monarch’s interest in esotericism and alchemy, probably warned him of an ancient legend: that the Devil himself had lived in a cave at the foot of the mountain, after he was expelled from Heaven and before he opened up seven doors to enter his new abode in the Underworld. The location of one of these doors was El Escorial.
Magical techno-futurist, Spirits of Place contributor, and generally lovely guy Damien Williams conducted a Tarot interview with me about the project, it’s origins and it’s future. You can read the full interview at technoccult.net
Copies of the limited, signed edition of Spirits of Place are still available HERE
Stories are embedded in the world around us; in metal, in brick, in concrete, and in wood. In the very earth beneath our feet. Our history surrounds us and the tales we tell, true or otherwise, are always rooted in what has gone before. The spirits of place are the echoes of people, of events, of ideas which have become imprinted upon a location, for better or for worse. They are the genii loci of classical Roman religion, the disquieting atmosphere of a former battlefield, the comfort and familiarity of a childhood home.
Twelve authors take us on a journey; a tour of places where they themselves have encountered, and consulted with, these Spirits of Place.
It’s a book about place and our relationship to it; how ideas and stories and events become embedded into locations. And how people interact with those places; how they change the way we look at and think about ourselves and others.
Pye Parr has done us an amazing cover, which you can see a fraction of above. More of that, and the book’s actual title, will be revealed in the next fortnight or so when it goes on sale.
Keep an eye out here, and on dailygrail.com, and prepare to get very excited.