The new album from 400 LONELY THINGS, produced by WILLIAM BASINSKI, is a dark ambient, sample-based séance to the Banning Mill - a real-life decaying "mansion" and haven for artists, freaks and misfits in the backwoods of the American Deep South in the 1970s-1990s - and an extraordinary piece of art that lived there.
An archaeological excursion in found sound - wandering through the art and memory of a real place, "Mother Moon" is an origin story for 400 Lonely Things. In the 1990's, Craig Varian was fortunate enough to frequent the Mill in the years before it closed. It was here that he was exposed to the artwork of Richard Scott Hill. The impact is hard to overstate.
Built on the Snake River in the early 1800's as a textile mill, it operated until the late 1960's and when its doors closed on that era, and reopened on another. In 1971, the Mill was purchased by a young wealthy "eccentric" (to use the vernacular of the time). He was openly gay in the deeply bigoted Old South, a collector of fantastic and surreal art, a drug enthusiast, an owner of at least one mental illness, and a self-described entrepreneur with a vision. In the years that followed, he turned this sprawling, mildewed structure into a private hippie art collective, music venue and refuge for Southern misfits - gays and gender-benders, visual artists, musicians, mystics, ghost-hunters, wizards, pagans, intellectuals, poets, nerds and psychedelic explorers by the dozens drifted in and out, creating their own alternate universe in its hundreds of rooms.
One of these artists was Richard Scott Hill. Hill's work stood apart from everything else at the Mill. It was all black and white or hand-coloured photography - typically stark portraits of people - almost always wearing masks. These photos were disturbing and disarming, hilarious and crazed, unsettling and aggressively surreal in their confrontational simplicity. His work both captured and fed into the Mill's sinister yet playful undercurrents of mania and depression. By the conservative 1980's, the Mill became a very different place. A dark and quiet ectoplasmic hangover haunted its rooms with just a handful of tenants, remaining so until its doors closed for good in the late 90's.
Varian had friends that lived there, and after hearing quiet legends of the Banning Mill since the late 80's, was finally able to visit. While the Mill itself was transformative enough, turning down a disused hallway, Varian encountered the image on the cover of this album and quite simply became a different person. A lifetime spent as a Southern misfit had led to fruitless artistic, philosophical, spiritual and psychedelic pursuits as relief. At this time, an obsession with visual collage and audio sampling had been brewing and upon seeing this image, boiled over. He realized that the sounds and images he'd been seeking had been sought by many others and that for a time, these seekers had lived here in the secret winding halls of Banning Mill in the wilds of the Deep South. In particular, this nude cow-faced woman was the Minotauress who sat at the heart of that maze.
Since the days of the Mill (and Varian's subsequent purchase of Hill's "Minotauress" shortly before the Mill closed), Craig Varian, along with best friend and musical partner Jonathan McCall, found a thread of music they'd been consistently making yet had previously failed to notice - melancholic instrumentals with weathered sampling at its core - going back to their earliest recordings in the late 1980's. Eventually, this music was called 400 Lonely Things, and eventually an album would be attempted to honor both the Mill and Richard's "Minotauress".
The Mill has been closed for about 25 years now and all that remains of it is a gutted skeleton covered in yellow caution tape. After a dozen albums, Jonathan McCall has since passed on to the next realm. But this album, born out of that first visit to the Mill, is finally here - an imaginary soundtrack to the many years of solitude the Minotauress spent hanging in that musty hallway.
For this album, Varian reached out to Mr. Hill and a friendship and artistic relationship has developed. Richard - now in his 80's and an established figure in the established art world - still creates fantastically bizarre works daily from his home studio, just a mile from the remains of the Mill. He says that the music of 400 Lonely Things is from another dimension and he hopes you enjoy it and his previously unpublished art gracing the cover.
Presented in a 6-panel spot-varnished digipak.