Sunday, October 31, 2021

Cadabra Records: bringing weird fiction to your turntable

Fall has always been my favorite season, with the air getting colder, the leaves changing colors, and the arrival of pumpkins, and specifically jack-o'-lanterns. I have found that the perfect companion to these times are the supernatural horror stories of authors like H.P. Lovecraft. A number of years ago, I came upon a record label, Cadabra Records, that specializes in releasing Spoken Word recordings of supernatural horror stories and weird fiction, all accompanied by spectral and eerie soundscapes.

Poster for an exhibiton of Joe Keinberger's art for Cadabra Records.

My first experiences with Cadabra Records were with two events in May 2019 that they put on at a small art gallery in Philadelphia, PA called the Convent. The first was a showing of artwork that the artist Joe Keinberger had done for Cadabra Records, to coincide with the release of an illustrated edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space. My brother and I had the opportunity to talk with Keinberger about our mutual appreciation for H.P. Lovecraft and also doom metal. The second event was a live reading of Thomas Ligotti’s short story The Bungalow House. It was read by the author and lapsed-ventriloquist Jon Padget, and was accompanied by the music of Chris Bozzone. All of this was to create a live representation of the spoken word edition of The Bungalow House that Cadabra Records had released. This was my first introduction to Ligotti’s work, and it left a lasting impression. It was one of the most powerful live performances that I have seen. Padgett has an incredible knack for performance, adding just the right intonations and emphasis to bring Ligotti’s story to life. Padgett’s reading was further amplified by the ambient and increasingly ominous soundtrack provided by Chris Bozzone. I was transfixed, almost in awe, during the entirety of the reading, being fully pulled into Ligotti’s world, revealing the “icy bleakness of things” and humankind’s inconsequentiality in the universe. The experience was one that I wish more people could have witnessed, and hope that once the COVID-19 pandemic is more controlled, additional live events can happen.

A short recording of some of the Live reading of The Bungalow House.

Cadabra Records is a vinyl-only label. While this might seem an odd choice in an age of digital media, it is very intentional. Playing a record takes more effort than streaming something digitally. This extra effort helps ensure you are singularly focused on the tale you are about to hear, rather than just putting it on to fall into the background. Furthermore, the presentation is very important for each of the releases, with excellent artwork commissioned for each of the releases, all printed on heavy weight tip-on gatefold record jackets. I have come upon some fantastic artists due to Cadabra Records, including Joe Keinberger, Jeremy Hush, Jason Bartnett, and Sam Heimer. Joe Keinberger has quickly become one of my favorite illustrators of the weird and fantastic, a discovery of which I can thank Cadabra Records.

Care is clearly taken to find the right person to read each of the stories, with notable voices like Andrew Leman (founding member of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society), S.T. Joshi (literary critic and leading H.P. Lovecraft authority), and the aforementioned Jon Padgett, of course. The musical scores are composed by equally talented musicians like Fabio Frizzi (legendary Italian Horror movie film composer), Theologian (power electronics/industrial), and Chris Bozzone. The combination of a talented, specifically selected voice actor, an evocative musical score, and striking and unsettling imagery help to elevate each of the presented stories to new heights. So much notable weird fiction was written a long time ago, and it is exciting for those old stories to be given new life by Cadabra Records. Each of the stories that Cadabra Records chooses to present stand by themselves, though this exciting new presentation of them is sure to introduce new people to authors that they may have overlooked.

The Bungalow House on the turntable!

I spent the eve of Halloween listening to Jon Padgett’s Origami Dreams and Thomas Ligotti’s The Bungalow House. Then on Halloween, I listened to one of Cadabra’s newest releases, a reading of autumnal poetry from Joe Keinberger's book of poetry, Macabria. Excitingly, it was read by Keinberger himself and the packaging features his stellar artwork. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Halloween, and look forward to doing it again next year.

If you have an interest in weird fiction, you need to look into Cadabra Records. In my mind, they are the most exciting record label running today. Maybe you will discover a new favorite author.

Buy Cadabra Records here.

Listen to segments of some of Cadabra Records releases here.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool post! You wrote: "Playing a record takes more effort than streaming something digitally. This extra effort helps ensure you are singularly focused on the tale you are about to hear,.." I think this is a great way to rationalize it, and I think it describes an important part of listening to vinyl records in general!