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Heavenly Realms, The - Sam Mcloughlin & David Chatton Barker

Heavenly Realms, The - Sam Mcloughlin & David Chatton Barker

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Folklore Tapes grow yet another branch of investigation through their new Mystic Series, which begins with the Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg, who spent the latter portion of his life living in England.

The Heavenly Realms unfolded from Folklore Tapes’ residency at Swedenborg House in October 2022. The house, in Bloomsbury Way, London, is the headquarters of the Swedenborg Society, an organisation dedicated to the study and publication of the works of scientist, philosopher and visionary Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

Sam McLoughlin and David Chatton Barker were invited to respond creatively to Swedenborg’s legacy, and it will come as no surprise to their followers that the duo took inspiration from Swedenborg’s mystical experiences. Swedenborg’s most renowned work, Heaven and Hell (1764), synthesised years of dreams, trance states and ecstatic communications with angels into a complete vision of the afterlife and the spiritual realms. In it Swedenborg meticulously details a stratified order of the heavens, an ultimate reality within which physical matter relates to spirit through divine correspondences emanating from a highest, purest echelon, God.

The duo approach this vision of eternity through music created entirely with a collection of antique clock chimes. As is often the case in their work, this seeming limitation is precisely what unfetters the project’s singular, expressive depths. The Heavenly Realms opens with a fade from silence to shimmering tintinnabulations and pealing chimes, a wave of sound whose undertow pulls the listener into collective memories of struck metal as timekeeper, summoner of souls and banisher of evil spirits.

It’s music held taut by oppositions, at once urgent yet calm, simple yet intricate, with angelic tranquilities humming above a grinding, plaintive underbelly. The drama of the music is as much horizontal as vertical. Choirs of overtones outshine their fundamental frequencies, entwined like Swedenborgian correspondences. Harmonics rising above the audible spectrum imply realms beyond perception, and a certain emphasis on each moment of sound in itself, as distinct from relations between moments, invokes a sense of timelessness, of eternity in each instant.

That’s not to say the music doesn’t develop. It charts a contemplative, meditative journey full of variety and interest - it’s just that the listener is invited to listen as much upwards, inwards as forwards. The Heavenly Realms’ most beautiful treasures are reserved for those who listen deeply. A revelatory sound-world manifests, a microcosm of the absolute.

Ramsey Janini

The Heavenly Realms follows the duo’s 2022 project and LP Environmental Meditation Music (released through Hood Faire), which saw hand built instruments placed in the landscape, allowing nature and the elements to play all the music that was captured.

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