Melting Wizard

photo by Daylin Paul, 2014.

“Doom folk,” says Twin Cites-born musician and artist Croix Clayton, by way of describing his new single, Melting Wizard. “Kind’ve folk, kind’ve drone; like drone sludge,” he explains. It’s also the latest track on Blood Of The Young Records and Press, and that veteran Minneapolis label’s first purely digitial release.

The track itself—partially recorded in Minneapolis and finished in Taiwan—features Clayton on guitar, synthesizer, and voice; and Taiwanese musician Betty Su on erhu, a traditional Chinese upright fiddle.

Over a long (thirteen minutes and thirteen seconds long, to be exact) cycle of gravelly verses Clayton intones about Meso-American mythology, churning up a sound that recalls Nick Cave, Current 93, Leonard Cohen, and even Burzum or Sunn’s more sedate moments. When combined with Su’s erhu track (which she nailed in a single take, reportedly immediately after hearing the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” for the first time) it produces a commanding effect, reminding us of the consequences that await those forlorn souls who dare chuck spears at the sun: “it’s the story of a battle between two gods,” Clayton elaborates.

“Tonatiuh is the sun god…if you’ve ever seen the Aztec Solar Disc, then you’ve seen his fanged face. The god who picked a fight with him was Tlahuizcalpantehcutli, the Morning Star, who wants to rule the whole day, not just the dawn, you see…but the sunlight blinds him when he throws his spear at Tonatiuh, and it falls back down and goes right through his head, transforming him into Itzlacoliqui (“Knife Eye Bundle”) a blind god who represents judgement, punishment, and coldness. Instead of eyes he just has an obsidian knife, a tecpatl, hanging there. I imagine he’d be a good god to have on your side against the White Walkers,” he laughs. “In fact, as synchronicity would have it, Itzlacoliqui presides over a 13-day period on the calendar, which we just happen to be in the middle of right now.”

The message resonates long after the song has stopped playing—gritty enough to scare the hell out of you, but enticing enough to put on repeat, like the chant of a Buddhist priest high off his ass, or a gloomy church hymn ghosting along a forgotten shore.

That was enough to attract the ear of Blood Of The Young label founder and music fanatic Nick Thompson, who began putting out music via the Twin Cities-based label in 1999. The company went on hiatus in 2005, but returned in 2011 as a combined record company and book publisher.

This was perfect for Clayton (currently based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan) who, in addition to having played music as a member of Young Quitters, Bravo Team, The American Monsters, Ashcroft and Thank You, has also authored The Gate of Xibalba Or The White Road, a non-linear science fiction saga written using, among other things, surrealist automatism, and the cut-up technique made popular by William Burroughs and Bryon Gysin. The book is available for worldwide mailorder via BOTY’s site.

As a visual artist, musician and performer, Clayton’s work has appeared at the Walker Art Center, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and most recently at Taichung, Taiwan’s Lei Gallery, where he presented Zona Corazon, a series of photographs he took in Guerrero and Morelos, Mexico, while writing the rough draft of Gate.

In celebration of the 15-year anniversary of BOTY’s first release (The Khayembii Communique 7”, May 1, 1999) “Melting Wizard” is currently available to for free download, all this month, at a freshly rebuilt and relaunched, where you can also snag a copy of The Gate of Xibalba Or The White Road.

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