music for lighthouses

by Dave Clarkson

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Includes unlimited streaming of music for lighthouses via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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Released on Linear Obsessional Recordings label 12 Dec 2014 as a free download and a limited numbered edition of 50 CDRs. Each hand stamped CD is enclosed in a frosted plastic flexible case with blue card liner and a half size facsimile of an old postcard of Leasowe lighthouse. Also includes pdf book.

Catalogue Number: LOR57
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"All the best horror movie directors know that less is more when you’re trying to put the heebies on people. The creak on the stair and the howl in the night – that’s the real terror, much scarier than actual blood and guts because the imagination does the heavy lifting, dreaming up a fate far worse than any hack with a camera could.

Dave Clarkson gets that too, as proved by the four tracks on Music for Lighthouses. As enigmatic as the structures they celebrate, these pieces are ominous sound collages, created from field recordings gathered from the UK’s north-western coast combined with analogue synth murmurs and other minimal instrumentation.

Although inspired by memories of childhood, the album is a much more eerie and unsettling listen than you might expect. The less-is-more aesthetic helps create the mood of unease, with sounds hovering on the just within hearing, like shadows that linger at the edges of vision. It’s a fine antidote to much of the ponderous ‘dark ambient’ music currently in circulation, whose melodramatic sound design resembles pantomime rather than true blood-chilling freakiness.

Clarkson is something of a veteran of the underground music scene, with a discography that stretches back to his cassette works under the Central Processing moniker in the 1980s. Since then he’s released a gaggle of CDs as Illuminati, and has recently started with working with Alistair Stray in an abrasive duo called Psychic Frequencies. The latter’s October 2014 release, Projecting Disorder, is well worth investigation.

The restraint and well-judged topology of the compositions on Music for Lighthouses are, no doubt, partially a result of this experience, enabling Clarkson to create introverted, almost claustrophobic soundscapes in which the internal and external worlds seem to merge. Sounds that you’d think would be comforting – the crash of waves on the beach, the breeze, the cawing of gulls – are inverted, instead becoming harbingers of doom.

In The Whistling Sands, the sounds of the sea and the wind, gathered from the Leasowe coast in Merseyside, become oppressive shrouds for echoing whistles and electronic sizzles. Clarkson took his inspiration for this track from MR James’s 1903 story, Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad, and this piece perfectly embodies the mysterious atmosphere of that story (and its 1968 film adaptation), part horror tale and part chronicle of mental collapse.
It’s so desolate, in fact, that the seagull calls heralding the start of the following track, Hilbre Island 53​.​375 N 3​.​2175 W, seem shockingly dissonant, erupting with an almost metallic burst of noise. Once the shock of these sounds has faded, however, this piece is relatively tranquil. The field recordings – this time of the Hilbre Island nature reserve – are interwoven with simple melodies from the Bloom generative music app and occasional percussion and chime interventions. Still, I can’t help finding the constant gull noise a tad unnerving, a feeling accentuated by an occasional hollow booming sound in the background (probably the wind, but you never know, right?).

Any respite from anxiety is only temporary, however, as the second half of the album brings the fragile walls of reality crashing down. In Lantern to Black Sea, heavily echo-ed drum kicks and synthetic electronic tones disrupt the peaceful wave sounds. It is like being in some kind of prison, similar to that in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, where an illusion of bucolic peace is ruptured to show the coercive forces beneath.

Moments of lightness, when they do come, only accentuate the sense of existential dread. The simple glockenspiel melody in Longing and Loneliness, for example, is disconcerting rather than comforting, a ghost from the recesses of memory. And while Clarkson’s own notes to this piece position it as soundtrack to the everyday duties of the lighthouse keeper – “trimming the wicks, replenishing fuel…climbing the stairs…..winding clockworks , cleaning lenses, windows…. climbing the stairs” – I can’t help feeling that this mundanity is hiding something much scarier, the long guitar phase and reedy rustle heralding an oncoming psychological storm".

"From the press release I was attracted by the fact that Dave Clarkson has a solo project called Illuminati, which, at one point, provided incidental music to the film of the media art installation 'Human Avatars' together with Vini Reilly (Durutti Column). Always a good name to read and it made me curious about that while I was listening to his most current solo release, which contains field recordings made at Leasowe Lighthouse, the oldest brick built lighthouse in Britian. He recorded these onto cassettes and perhaps (the promotional text suggests so) adds some electronics, percussion and guitar to them - although I seriously doubt 'percussion'. The opening piece is a very low end rumble, hardly above the threshold of hearing, while the second piece deals with a blot of bird sounds, but there might be, pushed all the way to the back some faint electronics (but for all we know this might also be some residue of a previous recording on the cassette). Some of these recordings were made in 1983 or so I read, perhaps using some old ferro tape? The cover mentions also some software, which might be used to further transform these recordings. 'Lantern To Black Sea' is another dark (nay, black!) piece, nearly inaudible, while 'Longing And Loneliness' is more alike the second piece but with some delay effects and surely a synth burping in the background. I thought this release was quite all right. not bad".

Dave Clarkson may be known to some as Illuminati, under which name he’s made a few records of experimental ambient electronic noise, some with evocative titles such as Ocean Almanac and Searching for the New Land…before that he was Central Processing Unit in the 1980s, a project about which I’ve not been able to find out much. Suffice to say he’s not one of the purist-isolationist school of ambientsters, since he lends his talent to radio, film, and media installations, and collaborations with Vini Reilly. His Music For Lighthouses (LINEAR OBSESSIONAL RECORDINGS LOR057) is intended primarily to be an evocative listen, one informed by childhood memories as much as anything else, so although some location / field recordings are used, they are largely used as triggers for buried memories, to open the gateway to exploring an inner landscape. The ‘Hibre Island’ track has plenty of lapping ocean sounds and seabird sounds, but already you can tell he’s coming at this from a different angle to one of the nature-loving scientist types who often end up being released by Gruenrekorder. That’s because he’s preceded this recording with ‘The Whistling Sands’, an extremely low-key episode of barely-there murmuring sounds that transport the listener into a dark, bleak and lonely beach, straight from the geography of the mind…’Lantern to Black Sea’ is similarly pitched somewhere between field recording and ambient music, combining gentle seashore wave sounds with unobtrusive and near-chilling moments of distilled electronica sounds, which twinkly like pointillist stars in the black night. Clarkson describes “many hours spent exploring the surrounding land and coast in the shadow of Leasowe lighthouse”, suggesting that the time devoted to such a contemplative experience is equally as important as time devoted to making the music. A beautiful item, limited CDR with insert (mine is a photo print of a lighthouse). From 3rd December 2014.".


'Longing and Loneliness' on Future Music Radio with Matt Warren (Tasmania) - Dec 2014.
'Longing and Loneliness' on Parrot Talk' / Sound Projector Radio Show with Ed Pinsent - 23 Jan 2015.
'Longing and Loneliness' on Towards the Margins 19 / Shaun Blezard - 05 Jul 2015.
'Lantern to Black Sea' on Towards the Margins 39 / Shaun Blezard - 22 Nov 2015.


released December 12, 2014




cavendish house Manchester, UK

Cavendish House is home to music involving Dave Clarkson - either solo, in collaborations or in bands.

Since the 80s, Clarkson has recorded solo experimental/ electronic music under the names CPU, Illuminati and his own name. He also played drums in White Cube and co-formed the electronic improv group Triclops as well as the duo Psychic Frequencies.
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