Cthulhu Rising

Cthulhu Rising

Reuben Bradley




Reuben Bradley (drums)
Taylor Eigsti (piano)
Matt Penman (bass)

Dark and mystical, the nightmarish tales of famed horror author H. P. Lovecraft set the tone for Reuben Bradley’s bold new album on Rattle Jazz

Cthulhu Rising employs a musical language that is markedly different to those demonstrated on Reuben's previous Rattle Jazz releases, the Tui Award-winning Resonator (2011) and the Tui nominated Mantis: The Music of Drew Menzies (2012). Featuring two-time Grammy-nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti (USA), and equally renowned ex-pat bass player Matt Penman (NZ/USA), this new album is a treat for lovers of beautifully constructed, superbly played contemporary jazz.

“To me, Lovecraft’s ability to cascade a reader into unexpected places has distinct parallels in the modern form of jazz,” says Bradley. “I really wanted to explore that with this album.” The compositions themselves are mostly through-composed, creating an atmosphere that puts listeners in ‘the space’ as much as in the notes. Using the rhythm and articulation of key quotes from the stories, soothing waves are punctuated by odd phrases, and there’s a sense of fantasy and demise that Lovecraft fans will savour, and jazz fans will relish.

Augmenting Reuben's dark and edgy drumming, Taylor Eigsti’s lyrical virtuosity on piano and Matt Penman's graceful precision on bass compliment the contemporary breadth and depth of Reuben's complex but always engaging (at times witty) compositions.

The Cthulhu Rising tour is set to hit main centres in New Zealand and Australia from 7 June this year. Tour information can be found at:




Cthulhu Rising

Produced by Reuben Bradley 
Engineered by Aaron Nevezie at The Bunker, Brooklyn NYC (USA)
Mixed by Steve Garden at Garden Shed, Auckland (NZ)
Artwork by Freeman White
Design by UnkleFranc
Printing by Studio Q

    Prologue (1:11)
    Clay Horror (7:36)
    Inspector le Grasse (7:14) 
    Johansen's Voyage (5:22)
    The Price We Pay (5:27) 
    In His House at R'lyeh (2:42)
    The Esoteric Order of Dagon (5:01)
    Cthulhu Fhtagn (2:37)
    Erich Zahn (5:11) 
    Shadow Out of Time (7:51)
    Epilogue (2:51)

All compositions © Reuben Bradley 2015
Inspired by the work of H. P. Lovecraft (except The Price We Pay by John Greaves)
RAT-J-1025 (June, 2015)




First, in passing, a comment about the consistency of packaging of CDs on the Rattle and Rattle Jazz labels: they are excellent and make the CD into an art object. That is enhanced especially on classical albums associated with the Wallace Art Trust where a work from that collection is included in the cover with a short biographical note about the artist.
As with ECM albums, there is also a consistency about the cover images to the extent you get the feeling you should “collect the series”. If you have been doing that, you'd have quite a shelf of Rattle/Rattle Jazz albums . . . about 60 or 70 all up would be my guess.
This is the third album on Rattle Jazz lead by Wellington drummer Reuben Bradley – following the excellent Resonator (2011) and Mantis ('12) – and comes in a cover showing a striking portrait of the man whose work has impelled this project, the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. The album title and pieces allude to the figure of Cthulhu in Lovecraft's scary stories, a mythical sea creature which, like the Kraken, can rise from the depths.
This is dark and unsettling stuff, and the music by Bradley, Grammy-nominated American pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Matt Penman (one of New Zealand's finest jazz exports) leads the listener in to these areas, but not just by creating some rather obvious spook-circus. Rather, Bradley writes pieces which, while sometimes high on drama (the opening passages of Clay Horror after the Prologue), are also insinuatingly melodic. The last third of Clay Horror for example includes passages by Eigsti which are stately and almost Victorian before some rippling post-bop and some stentorian chords.
The effect therefore is one of keeping the listener not just on edge but frequently ill-prepared for the next change of direction. At a pinch you might think this all somewhat prog-rock in the manner of King Crimson, albeit realised by a piano trio. Holding all this together is Bradley's geometric drumming which shapeshifts the rhythms, and Penman's bass which can sing as much as ground the music. There are also some quite breathtaking passages here – the muscular Johansen's Voyage is utterly compelling to the point of painting aural pictures of the frequently terrifying third chapter in Lovecraft's weird short story The Call of Cthulhu.
The gentle ballad with blue inflections The Price We Pay which follows is part of the tension-and-release character of the album . . . although when we get into In His House at R'lyeh you can feel the shadows and claustrophobia close in as Bradley fills the available space. A feeling echoed in Eigsti impressively furious and repeated figures on The Esoteric Order of the Dragon, and again on the pounding, brief Cthulhu Fhtagn (Bradley really the key performer here).
Cthulhu Rising is an ambitious and perhaps even esoteric cycle at the interface of jazz, imaginary soundtrack, classical composition and, improbably, prog-rock. But, necessarily dark though it may be in places, it also swings aggressively (The Shadow Out of Time) and hits some more tender places. Cthulhu would be an unwelcome guest, this album certainly isn't.
Oh, and on the cover . . . . don't Lovecraft's eyes kinda follow you around the room?
By Graham Reid, Elsewhere


When I first heard this recording, what mostly grabbed me was how deftly drummer Bradley, pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Matt Penman captured the spirit of this HP Lovecraft themed album… the sense of mystery and hidden danger within the quaint & picturesque countryside… a sort of crosshatch of straight-ahead jazz warmth and rhythmic tension infused with some rock and pop action to boot. But over time and with repeated listenings, what startles me most about this excellent recording was, plain and simple, the top shelf musicianship. The interplay between the trio members, whether focused on a unified goal or wandering off in their own directions is about as masterfully executed as anything on this year’s Best Of list. This plus the vivid lyricism, sometimes emotionally jarring, sometimes gorgeous and sublime, is a huge reason for this album’s massive success. Each time I listen to this album, my esteem for it grows, and even as I type this on the eve of publishing my Best of 2015 list, slotting it at #11 doesn’t seem to do the album justice.
By Dave Sumner, Bird is the Worm


루벤 브래들리는 뉴질랜드 웰링턴 출신의 드럼 연주자이다. 뉴질랜드와 호주를 중심으로 활동하고 있기에 국내에는 아직 생소한 연주자이기도 하다. 이 앨범 또한 뉴질랜드 레이블 래틀 재즈에서 발매되었다. 글쎄. 생소하기에 신선하다고 할 수도 있겠지만 이 앨범은 이 드럼 연주자가 뉴질랜드/호주를 중심으로만 활동하기에는 그 음악적 역량이 아깝다는 생각을 하게 만든다. 아니 그 전에 확실한 주제와 그에 걸맞은 작곡 그리고 그 작곡에 걸맞은 연주로 이루어진 앨범은 연주자의 지명도에 상관 없이 그 자체로 우수하며 감상의 감동 또한 대단함을 확인하게 해준다.
드럼 연주자가 이 앨범에서 주제로 삼고 있는 것은 작가 하워드 필립스 러브크래프트이다. 러브크래프트는 공포 소설의 역사를 장식한 인물이다. 국내에도 번역되어 소개기도 한 그의 소설들은 문학적인 측면보다는 그 상상력에 더 높은 평가를 줄 수 있다. 특히 1928년 “크툴루의 부름”을 시작으로 만들어낸 크툴루 세계관은 그의 상상력의 절정을 보여주는 것이었다. 크툴루는 인간도 포유류도 없던 과거 지구를 지배하며 살던 고대신의 하나인데 그것이 현대에 다시 깨어나 인간들에게 공포를 선사한다는 내용이 그의 소설의 주를 이룬다. 이러한 그의 작품들은 스티븐 킹, 딘 쿤츠 같은 공포 소설가들의 영향을 주었으며 아예 그의 작품을 가져온 같은 영화가 만들어지는가 하면 메탈리카 같은 헤비 메탈 그룹의 음악적 영감이 되기도 했다. 이 외에도 게임에도 차용되기도 했다.
루벤 브래들리도 피아노 연주자 테일러 에익스티, 베이스 연주자 맷 펜멘과 함께 트리오로 녹음한 이번 앨범에서 그 타이틀이 말하듯 이 러브크래프트의 소설 가운데 크툴루 신화를 주제로 한 음악을 들려준다. 공포 소설이 주제이기 때문인지 트리오의 연주는 록에 버금가는 강력하고 단단한 사운드로 이루어졌다. 특히 “In His House At R’lyeh”, “Cthulhu Fhtagn”같은 곡은 고틱 록의 트리오 버전이라 해도 좋을 정도로 강력하다. (앨범에서 유일하게 그가 아닌 존 그리브스가 작곡한) “The Price We Pay”같은 발라드 성향의 곡도 있지만 음산한 분위기는 그대로 지속된다. 그래서 절로 러브크래프트의 소설에 대한 관심을 자극한다.
그런데 여기서 주목해야할 것은 그 음산한 분위기가 트리오의 막강한 호흡과 역동적 연주를 통해 이루어졌다는 것이다. 배드 플러스가 초기에 넘치는 에너지를 바탕으로 한 질주감 강한 연주로 쾌감을 주었던 것처럼 이 트리오도 꼭 크툴루 신화를 알지 못하더라도 숨을 쉴 틈을 주지 않는 긴밀한 이어짐만으로도 강렬한 인상을 준다.
록적인 강렬함이 앨범 내내 이어지기는 하지만 그렇다고 트리오가 (어쿠스틱) 록을 지향한다고 생각할 필요는 없다. 앞서 언급한 탄탄한 호흡은 재즈에 대한 공유를 바탕으로 하고 있기 때문이다. 특히 테일러 에익스티의 피아노 연주는 그의 리더 앨범에서보다 더 발군의 기량을 드러낸다. 맷 펜맨의 베이스 연주 또한 확실한 선으로 곡마다 부여된 서사적 진행을 이끈다.
강렬한 연주이기에 감상자 또한 고온의 한증막에서 오랜 시간을 버틸 수 있을 정도의 체력을 비축한 상태에서 감상을 시작해야 한다. 그래서 한 번 듣고 나면 곧바로 다시 듣기에는 버거울 수 있다. 하지만 그 한 번의 감상이 주는 여운과 무게감은 매우 길고 크다. 한번의 감상으로도 영화나 소설 몇 편을 보고 읽은 듯한 느낌을 준다. 이것은 근래 발매된 어떤 트리오 앨범도 이를 따라잡기 어려울 것이다.
Jazz Space

This intriguing, album from Wellington drummer Reuben Bradley delves into the (1920s horror fantasy) world of H.P. Lovecraft, telling a musical tale of Lovecraft’s kraken-type space deity character Cthulhu. Recorded back in 2013 at the Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NYC, and mixed and mastered in 2015 by Steve Garden at his studio in Auckland, this horror-fantasy-jazz suite (and I mean that in a literary way) mixes the unsettled darkness of Lovecraftian imagination with Bradley’s sharp-edged, sinuous, hypnotic jazz. Written by Bradley for piano trio – with himself on drums, American pianist Taylor Eigsti and ex-pat Kiwi bassist Matt Penman – ‘Cthulhu Rising’ is a fantastic listen. Much like the stories by Lovecraft, this album will keep you on the edge of your seat (but much safer to listen to before you go to bed than reading a Lovecraft tale), frequently taking you in unexpected directions, and building delicious musical tension and release, before ramping up the tension again. Bradley heightens the drama by including readings of excerpts on some of the tracks, which adds to the atmosphere – reminding the listener of radio plays, or War Of The Worlds (the musical – albeit in this case, jazz rather than rock). If there were any nitpicks to make it would be that I wish there were liner notes: a set of Lovecraftian-styled notes about the suite would have gone down a treat. However, this Rattle release is a recommended listen for any jazz fan, and indeed anyone who enjoys a good literary tale in musical form.

The rather weird-taled title drummer Reuben Bradley has chosen for his latest trio venture is taken from and inspired by the works of horror writer H P Lovecraft, specifically The Call of Cthulhu. Within that context and with a spoken word introduction by Garrick Haggon to the world of the malevolent subterranean monster, there's some vivid and at times unsettling pieces highlighted by Clay Horror and The Shadow Out Of Time, with Bradley and bassist Matt Penmann providing the punctuation marks for pianist Taylor Eigsti to reign lyrical, bleak and melodramatic. It's great contemporary jazz with the kind of rich imagination that Lovecroft would have approved of.

Geographically isolated in the South Pacific, New Zealand (aka Aotearoa in Māori) is somewhat off the beaten jazz path, but nonetheless hosts thriving scenes in Auckland, Nelson, Queenstown, Tauranga, Waiheke Island, Wellington and elsewhere. Three recent releases take the island nation’s artistic pulse. Raised in New Plymouth on the North Island, alto saxophonist/composer Hayden Chisholm now resides in Europe (Cologne and Belgrade), where he’s developed a singular technique for microtonal intonation. Although Breve, his new trio effort with the late pianist John Taylor and bassist Matt Penman, favors a traditional approach to tuning, Chisholm’s swooping bends and fast keening vibrato (both strongly suggestive of Johnny Hodges’ style) expose many notes pitched ‘between the cracks’. His sound also recalls the ephemeral, singing quality of Paul Desmond, with a light but firm command of the upper register, which mimics a clarinet or flute. The ample space afforded by this ballad set fosters close, democratic interaction among the players and a notin-a-hurry ethos, which, along Chisholm’s attention and sensitivity to tonal detail, add up to a meditative, highly listenable date.
Lower Hutt-born pianist/composer Jonathan Crayford is a Renaissance man, working in film, painting, sculpture, photography and scientific projects. The cover of Dark Light, his ninth album as a leader (and first for Rattle Jazz), shows a shadowed palimpsest with cryptic mathematical notation, auguring the densely layered music within. Aided by the supple rhythm team of bassist Ben Street and drummer Dan Weiss, Crayford untangles his knotty arrangements with flow and finesse: the crab-like lines of “Skyscraper Scaffold” scuttle along; the title track’s 4-long, 2-short beat pattern pulses hypnotically; and the seemingly incongruent sections of “Rita Finds the Light” segue effortlessly. “Galois’ Candle” sounds a bit like Bach’s famous prelude (BWV 846), only Crayford’s version is darker, prodded by dry-snare accents. “Augmented Waltz”, with overly mannered blues moves, is less successful.
Hailing, like Crayford, from the Wellington region, drummer Reuben Bradley delivers his third album as a leader (all on Rattle Jazz) with Cthulhu Rising, inspired by and often quoting from H.P. Lovecraft’s gothic horror stories. Just as the writer evoked eerie scenes through extraordinary language, Bradley reveals his vision via through-composed, rhythmically complex scores. “Johansen’s Voyage”, for example, has a 3-phrase, 29-beat structure (7+11+11); “Erich Zann” has a 15-beat structure (7+8); and “The Esoteric Order of Dagon” is organized into 42 beats [(6x5)+(4x3)]. Sounds complicated, but the music invariably swings, thanks to the prowess of pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Matt Penman. As on Chisholm and Crayford’s albums, there’s a collective feel: soloing serves the form, rather than the other way around, though Eigsti is more intrepid on the last mentioned track and “Shadow Out of Time”.
NYC Jazz Record magazine (PDF, see page 18)

If you are a fan of horror stories no doubt you have H.P. Lovecraft in your collection. Drummer Reuben Bradley is obviously a fan as his latest album is named after one of the late author’s stories - Cthulhu Rising - a nightmarish tale. Furthermore, Bradley follows the tale with his musical meanderings of differing intensities.
Track titles including Clay Horror, Inspector Le Grasse and In His House at R’lyeh are close to chapter titles. The chilling tale’s atmopshere is created early on via heavy drum rolls, crashing cymbals and a strong piano build. This introduces a short narration where a clay creature - a cyclopean beast with tenticles and a human face is described. Muffled beats follow courtesy of tom tom drums and formidable bass lines. Insistent organ notes reveal a bumpy journey for Johansen’s Voyage and then its time for a poignant ballad The Price We Pay.
The tracks In His House at R’lyeh and The Esoteric Order Of Dagon provide the listener with a true appreciation of the tight chemistry within this trio consisting of Bradley on drums, Taylor Eigsti on piano and Matt Penman delivering the bass. If one has a vivid imagination and is fond of dark mysteries, Cthulhu Rising is one to totally absorb. From the military-type atmosphere created by the build and rhythmic pace unfolding in Cthulhu Fhtagn and further delving into the journey of darkness via Erich Zahn while sensing a touch of optimism during The Shadow Out Of Time, this album’s pace, time signatures and arrangements will command. One has to hand it to Bradley for his skill in taking the listener to unexpected places via his sense of fantasy, musicianship and clever phrases.