Local Current Blog

A monster is set free (jazz): Minnesota artists cut improv album inspired by H.P. Lovecraft

"Hideous Monolith" cover art

Minnesota natives Joshua Norton and Luke Polipnick have recorded an improvised sci-fi jazz record, and are seeking Kickstarter contributions to fund the vinyl pressings. The two have been collaborating and producing this album as a companion to novelist H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, and the album will be aptly titled Hideous Monolith: Cthulhu Interpretations.

Polipnick, now based in Omaha, does double duty as a composer and guitarist. He’s best known for his compositions for avant-garde trio Volcano Insurance. Norton is a visual artist who is providing artwork for this vinyl project. The project also features collaborations from saxophone player Michael Lewis—who has worked with Andrew Bird and Bon Iver—and local drummer J.T. Bates.

The intent is to provide an audiovisual companion for Lovecraft’s short story, which focuses on Cthulhu, an ancient deity wreaking havoc in the author’s world. The monster in the story represents nihilism, creating and destroying at will. The record begins slow and ambient, symbolizing the monster sleeping. It slowly morphs into an abrasive soundscape by the end of side A, when Cthulhu awakens.

The duo strongly encourage listening to this project on a turntable, so the only way to get a digital download is by purchasing the vinyl. The project went live on Kickstarter last month; with eight days now remaining in the campaign, the artists have raised $1,392 towards their goal of $5,995. The pressing will be limited to 500 LPs, which would be delivered in May of this year. A $20 contribution will earn a pressing of the LP, with larger contributions earning screen prints from Joshua Norton’s Cthulhu-themed collections.

Polipnick told Hear Nebraska, “It’s not easy listening. It’s cinematic. It’s reminiscent of a narrative. If you’ve got a good imagination, you’ll get a lot out of it.”

Andy Moe is a student at the University of Minnesota.