Part audiobook, part radio play, Cadabra Records’ first release in their series of H.P. Lovecraft stories is as beautiful to look at as it is to listen to. Combining two of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories — the Sherlock Holmes inspired “The Hound” as well as fan favorite “The Music of Erich Zann” — Cadabra has put together a package that is sure to please fans of both Lovecraft and spooky vinyl.
Side 1 is “The Hound,” read skillfully by founding member of the HPLHS Andrew Leman. “The Hound” is a bit of a lark in Lovecraft’s catalogue; it contains a few nods to common horror and pulp tropes of the time without diving into the cosmic dread HPL was most known for. The performance by Leman is bewitching, always securing the listener’s attention by strategically placing a slight pause or stuttered cadence during the scenes where paranoia and madness grips the shaky narrator’s voice. Coupled with dark ambient background music, your mind is free to wander through the cold and musty landscape of an overgrown and long forgotten cemetery, always keeping an open ear for the “baying of The Hound.”
Side 2 is “The Music of Erich Zann,” a classic HPL tale also read by Leman. The story lends itself beautifully to this medium, mostly due to the fact that it integrates sound and music directly into the plot. When Leman reads about Zann playing his “viol” (an early instrument akin to a cello), the background music and strings rise to meet the narrator’s vocal tension. It makes you feel like you are right in the room with our narrator and Zann, watching him play and seeing the sheet music. It’s truly is an incredible experience and one that I can see revisiting quite a few times.
In a word: incredible. The front cover features a ghoulish depiction of The Hound from the first story, while the inside gatefold shows a fiery red city overlooked by Zann and his viol. The front and back covers are striking, but for me, it’s the inside gatefold that really put the art over the top. The artwork is printed on heavy, glossy card stock, and the insert is on nice brochure paper. The insert contains an absolute wealth of information about each story — written by Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi — as well as pictures, sketches and a brief overview of Lovecraft, Leman and artist Alan Brown. The vinyl itself is a cloudy purple, reminiscent of a light passing through a stormy sky.
The album is mixed well with no audible surface noise detected. Leman’s voice never gets too boomy, nor does the music ever overtake the vocal performance. This release is the perfect example of how listening to a story on vinyl should sound.
The release comes with two postcards, each adorned with the story title and it’s respective cover art. The sheer amount of information in the insert can also be seen as an extra, as it contains a full backstory for each tale which adds to the complete listening experience.
All of it.
“H.P. Lovecraft – The Hound & The Music of Erich Zann” is available on transluscent boris purple vinyl at Light in the Attic.