Wyrd Question Daze : Beneather

Hi I’m Lewis Young aka Beneather. Sad, ambient, dreampop submerged in gently fuzzy tape loops. Sunken broadcasts of half recalled memories. Distant, partial and obscured. I’m releasing a few tracks over the coming months leading up to my debut LP in May 2022 on WIAIWYA Records. Cinematic songs combining Grouper’s wistful deviations with the warm fuzz of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, the nocturnal hum of Emeralds, the crackling collapse of William Basinski and Low’s glacial pop melancholy.

I’m a multi-instrumentalist, producer, designer and filmmaker currently living in Walthamstow, London. Beneather is my solo project next to my day job as long-time composer and collaborator in The Leaf Library. Vocals are provided by abstract vocal experimenter, artist and fellow Leaf Library contributor Melinda Bronstein whose recent debut album ‘In Reverse’ landed in some highly respected ‘best of 2021’ lists. This initial track – ‘Dreamgaze’ is a pulsating, gauzy vignette inspired by the Jack Thorne play adaptation of acclaimed Japanese film ‘After Life’. If we could pick one memory from our lives to bring with us into eternity, what would it be?

I curate my social media feeds to hopefully be an interest space for inspiration – crafting collages and OpenGL processing video experiments. You can check them out here:

Intstagram Twitter

Where did you come from and where are you going?

I started as a guitarist in noughties math-rockers Tea with the Queen, shifting to bass for multi-harmonied Naomi Hates Humans before returning to thumping roots as drummer for The Leaf Library. Objects Forever – our imprint label created by The Leaf Library – really provided me with the vehicle to jump back into experimental song craft, inspiring the genesis of Beneather. I just needed to make a project which spoke to all the aspects of music I’ve loved creating as a multi-instrumentalist. Plugging things into things to make satisfying little electronic loops, then layering extremely minimal bass and guitar lines with a lo-fi aesthetic. Melinda and I spent a few days in the studio – picking out objects, patterns… items that could inspire a thread of instinctive wordless melody. I took that expressionism and sliced it to pieces, rearranging it into ambient vocal hooks.

A collection of inspiring objects, including Boots the cat

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Well, Beneather is an exercise in hypnotic simplicity. Experimental, dream-like music built on layers of scratchy tape loops. The inspiration for this direction, as time slips through our fingers, is thinking about how we perceive our personal history, the journey of recollecting memories.

How we process what we remember and what we don’t. Some moments are strong and clear, others feel lost. I’m fascinated by the way we observe our history. How a thought has vague edges. A road we can’t quite recall the end of. Missing faces. Faded buildings. Fond memories become hazy and meandering. So yeah, leaning into that feeling of looking at pictures, old family videos – how much of that memory can you hold on to? Where do things start drifting away?

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell

I think these days, like many people – I can combine all of these into one answer: good ol gigs. Not our current socially-distanced facsimile of gigs, the proper sweaty, grotty over-capacity versions. Never thought I’d miss being squeezed into a loud little venue and being sensorily bombarded for a few hours so much! Here’s hoping we can properly get back to that soon.

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

Well unsurprisingly this is a source of constant inspiration for the music I make. That ambiguous area between good and bad dreams. A  vivid feeling of being in a space (usually at school or playing gigs as a teenager) where you are in the process of doing something but then the context changes and you’ve totally lost control. You carry on, but that drumkit you were playing has turned into a table and people are gonna find out pretty soon! The dream is always very contextual around where I grew up. I have a complicated relationship with my hometown – I haven’t been back there since I left for university in 2003. Mining memories of how paths and places connect up gives me good starting points.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

Well, whilst on the subject of where you grew up… I had this weird thing where there was another kid, same age, at a different school – lets say on the slightly more wrong side of the tracks – that looked EXACTLY like me. Creepily so. Think his name was Kai (cool name). This eventually came to a head – pinned to a wall by some rough dudes in a pub, resulting in me trying to plead with them that I was not the person they thought I was. This Kai dude then walks in the pub – queue some Looney Tunes double-take moves – and them chasing him off down the street. Come to mention it, I never saw him again… hope hes ok.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

Like most creative types, the last few years has made us all think about our immediate spaces with much more detail. I think we’d all agree that the world around us not only drives new ideas but also gives us bandwidth to spend time with our ideas, moving around and digesting them. Being enclosed in a small space – in this liminal state – like many I really struggled with inspiration and expression. We absorb so much from the world around us, both ambiently and precisely. Creating music when all you’ve known for weeks is the same few rooms and endless emails – it makes any form of escapism that much more vivid.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

Well that escapism can take many forms. We took for granted those connections we had with friends, the ease and fluidity of it. I don’t really have much family anymore, my friends are my family – so finding ways to stay in touch with friends has been virtually my single goal. Im a big gaming nerd, so forming structure in my week to play games online with friends has kept me sane and connected. Particularly a game called Deep Rock Galactic where you act as a team of space dwarves, mining resources off an angry alien planet. The highlight being: the main spaceship has a bar in it, so we can all meet up as weird space dwarfs, drink tankards of space ale and dance to weird dwarf space rock. Its pretty great.

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke

My dad was the drummer for a band called Leafhound – a 70s Zepplin style big riff band. They released a record around that time (Growers of Mushrooms). it went largely unnoticed. In the following 40 years – the record has attracted cult status for both its killer fuzz rock but mostly for its artwork (I encourage you to go look it up). Its now a vital collectors item. An original pressing of it recently sold at auction for £15k. I shit you not. Moral of this story: if your record doesn’t hit when it comes out, theres still hope. Also, make sure you’ve got some great artwork.

First single “Dreamgaze” out now

The Phoenix Guide to Strange England, County by County: Hookland by David Southwell

Best experienced in the PDF zine

The Entombed Toad, Lower Constantine

Many Hookland pubs have bars with windows in their fronts or tops for gleeful display of some local curiosity. While the grisliness of objects behind glass at The Witch’s Hand at Ludbury and The Sorrow Rope at Crowford have earned them some infamy, those hostelry counters containing the strange rather than sinister are often overlooked. This is certainly the case with The Entombed Toad.

Originally a pub catering for quarrymen at the nearby Mutland Pit until it closed in 1921, The Entombed Toad is long, one-storey stone building on the northern edge of Lower Constantine. With its weather-withered sign and low-profile, it is easy to drive through the village and miss the establishment entirely. This would be a shame, for though it serves only Midwood ales, Half-Jack Half-Jenny (a locally produced perry) and assorted apple brandies, it is welcoming to visitors – which is more than can be said for many pubs in this guide. It also takes a relaxed approach to letting drinkers eat sandwiches or food obtained elsewhere on the premises. In fact, the landlord will direct those wanting a snack to Penny Bakery a few hundred yards down the road, recommending their dead-men’s arms and herb and cheese scones.

Displayed under the window cut into the oak bar top is the item from the which the pub takes its name – an entombed toad. Closer inspection offers you the grey, mummified flesh of a Bufo bufo surrounded by a curved depression in large piece of local limestone. However, it is far from a common toad for it is said to one of several found encased in stone at Mutland Pit in 1856. What makes the story of the entombed dead amphibian story even more strange, is the claim that when the rock holding them was cracked open, not all of them were dead.

An account written by the Hookland naturalist and antiquarian Rev. Valentine Darrow at the time details their supposed discovery. According to Darrow:

‘I went to the quarry where rumours of marvels are in common circulation and with permission of the owner Mr. Mutland, spoke to his workers. I found them solid men without hint of mendacity. They tell of striking a large piece of limestone and finding inside a grouping of fist-sized oval-shaped cells with no communication with each other. In this ancient prison or crypt, were several toads. While most were dead, six of them began to react to their sudden freedom, moving from corpse-like stillness to a curious crawling within but a few minutes.

While the preserved Bufo bufo were harvested for talismans and lately, the selling to interested collectors of such curios, their resurrected companions escaped into the higher part of the surrounding area. The part of the rock they were found in was 15 feet below the surface and of the sort that is much filled with ancient shells and other marine substances. I was unable to purchase one of the entombed creatures as tales of such Lazarus Toads are not unheard of in the county and as such, are much prized by certain cunning folk and the overly superstitious.’ *

* The Nature Notes of Valentine Darrow, (Richard & Horlick 1931)

David Southwell is an author of several published books on true crime and conspiracies, which have been translated into a dozen languages. However, these days, he mostly writes about place.

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