Cotton Epistles : Prologues To A Nonoscillatory Cosmotheosophic Oxycaryum Purge Physics; or, Three Shrinking Butterfly Preludes in C#

by Dhampyr

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Erases Eraser Heavenly chamber music-inspired electronic, with lots of folk and ambient elements. The ghostly and paranormal textures tie the album together. Favorite track: pills like white elephants.
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    Cassette + Digital Album

    Cotton Epistles unprofessionally dubbed onto C60 cassettes. Edition of 50.

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'Cotton Epistles' is the electronic meanderings of one Harley Lethalm.


"Oh, the existence of the black metal lifer. I wonder what goes through one’s head on a daily basis when all there is to do is channel one’s angst and hatred into a churning maelstrom of seething darkness? Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a huge black metal fan, and Dhampyr is the Killingly, Connecticut, one-man black metal project of Harley Lethalm. I’m just trying to get inside his head is all. I love black metal, but I certainly don’t embody the part.

When I think of black metal, though, I’m drawn by that “metal” word, expecting fast, technical feats of musical barbarism. Dhampyr’s new tape for 5CM Recordings, a decidedly un–black metal label, doesn’t exactly do what I expect it to – and that’s precisely what its strength is. See, Lethalm and anybody else who can play fast and bark loud can play traditional black metal. But can the average scenester pull back and allow the dark expanse of a modern wasteland to breathe itself into existence without bludgeoning it to within an inch of itself? That’s where Cotton Epistles: Prologues to a Nonoscillatory Cosmotheosophic Oxycaryum Purge Physics; or, Three Shrinking Butterfly Preludes in C# (hereafter, simply Cotton Epistles, because c’mon) stands out: it proves that black metal and electronic soundscapes aren’t necessarily that dissimilar from each other.

So it turns out that Harley Lethalm isn’t the average black metaller, and God bless him (or Satan, or whoever). He’s got this, ahem, electronic soundscapes thing down, filling his compositions with slow-building post-apocalyptic tension, mixing ambient synth work with darkwave passages for the ultimate in experimental gothiness. Take “notre jeunesse blanc blanc: allegro II – le mystère des saints innocents,” for instance – a seven-minute shuddering mood piece that borders on IDM at points, but I think it’s something that can transcend the boundaries of audience. There’s also a creepy sample of Judy Garland (I think) weeping her way through “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the end of the tune, and it’s a perfect way to end the song.

Then there’s the tracks that are just full of dread, like “une théologie demi-heure détude rose et bénédictions dépinards délirantes,” indebted to Raime and their ilk for an almost industrial barrage, but denser and more subterranean. See also “my abishag, my abigail, my suntag, my rumi-hun halifax” for a lesson in how to incorporate trip hop into this whole thing. And perhaps the most interesting mid-album run, featuring “pills like white elephants,” “pour katherine, que les dauphins se félitent a vous tous eaux oubliées et tout lamour que nous avons volé lar,” and “these loch ness blues,” borders on folk, with the acoustic guitar Lethalm’s main focus here. All are coated in effect and haze, and all seemingly come from another plane of existence, where American folk huddled inside a hard drive and became infested with viruses before being discovered by Dominick Fernow.

Of course “telecapathia” and “valse dun morloc tordu” have a Nine Inch Nails vibe, and both sound perfectly in place nestled among the rest of Cotton Epistles, especially surrounded by noise/drone pieces at the album’s close. And with that, Harley Latham achieves something with his Dhampyr project that he may not have with simply another black metal release: a stunning variety of moods, textures, and sounds that cohere better than they have a right to. So know this – I still love black metal, and I still love hearing its adventurous offshoots. Check this one out – it’s a remarkable example of the latter."


"5cm is always handy for an interesting, under-the-radar tape grip. This peculiar little rectangle of sound on the Des Moines, IA imprint from Dhampyr fall squarely into that zone. Dhampyr, which sounds like it would pass for the moniker of a Batman villain, is owned and operated by one Harley Lethalm. Which, oddly enough, sounds like the given name of a Batman villain. Lethalm isn’t gonna dose you with some knock-out gas from the tip of an umbrella or slowly dip you into a vat of acid though. Nah, Lethalm has only the best intentions with this beefy titled C60 “Cotton Epistles : Prologues To A Nonoscillatory Cosmotheosophic Oxycaryum Purge Physics; or, Three Shrinking Butterfly Preludes in C#”.

I’m in the dark as to how much of the material on this 12 track cassette was actually created by Dhampyr and how much of it was sampled, manipulated, and mixed in the pot. It could be 0%/100%. It could be 100%/0%. It could be 50%/50%. The only reason I bring it up is because of the deep potpourri sea of sounds that flows through the tape. One minute you’re treated to gritty, sardine canned techno that is intoxicated with gloomy drone. All compressed and depressed. Then, after finding yourself ankle deep in a drug-folk haze out, you wash up on a resort shore. Cool breezes, chill waves, cold drinks, and locals playing for tips with their toes in the sand. Whether original or borrowed, Harley Lethalm zig zags for an hour, wringing this assortment of material like a wet towel. All the aforementioned, and much more, is kneaded with the occasional sample from a Leonard Cohen book on tape or a heavily depressed version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, making for a fine trek. I don’t really care which route Dhampyr took to reach this destination. We got here, safe and sound, and made excellent time."


"At the risk of sounding lazy, I want everyone to know that I am copying and pasting that title every time I put it somewhere. It made the link pretty long and is also giving the latest Fiona Apple album a run for its money on longest title award although, you know, that last Fiona Apple album was something I listened to only once and then quickly tried to forget about.

This cassette by Dhampyr begins with an audio clip and then transitions into a piano piece. It picks up with blissful loops in an electronic sense that could be an instrumental version of The Prodigy only is seemingly harder and thus more closely related to something which I cannot describe. High pitched sounds come out in a combustion way and then an audio clip is spliced in with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" being sung complete with crying.

You know, I don't read as much about this site on the internet as I probably should, but one post did come up in my newsfeed once on Facebook and it had Dhampyr mentioning a review I had written. Someone commented and said that they wished I hadn't compared Dhampyr with something emo like mewithoutYou. If you want to know why Dhampyr is compared to something you deem to be "emo" then just go back and listen to Dorothy cry her eyes out, son.

Ambient tones come through next in that hollow glass way followed by the chugging of a locomotive. Darker guitar notes come in, like something out of Metallica, and then we take a turn for the almost country side of things with a rhythm that seems to saunter. This becomes something with a bit more of the drama, like the soundtrack to the original "Beverly Hills 90120" because, yes, they felt the need to remake that show. I somehow remember Dhampyr being heavier than this but perhaps I am mistaken.

As Side B begins it has the quiet calm of static which is joined by some of those somber, relaxing tones. In many ways it does make me feel like it would be played while one was at a day spa though I cannot speak from experience. It's just so quiet and not what I expected from Dhampyr but it still just so good. Some blasts come through as I begin to think it might pick up, but it continues to drone, floating through space without a care in the world or perhaps even a way of breathing. It's like an amplified version of releasing a helium filled balloon into the sky and watching it drift up, only at a slower pace.

Though it is fair that the piece evolves into a loop of drums and synth type of sounds that could be from the soundtrack to something from the 1980's only at a sped up rate. This changes into a driving type of drum march that is equal parts metal and hip hop (It could go either way, I'm not really sure) I've been listening to the David Guetta song "Rise" a lot lately because, you know, Wrestlemania season, and I am getting a little of that vibe from it.

Things do pick up to please those looking for such sounds as we get into this somewhat distorted guitar riff that could be from one of the faster paced songs on "The Fragile" era Nine Inch Nails (almost like the cover of "I'm Afraid of Americans", but not) And I'm sure there might be something else on the "Resident Evil" soundtrack I could compare this with but every time I try to learn more about heavy electronic music my mind ends up elsewhere.

A few more sounds of which I cannot quite explain but tend to loop and wind end this cassette and I'm not one to ever really read back past reviews before reviewing something new because I feel it affects my judgement but I can say that I do recall Dhampyr sounding heavier than this on prior releases but it doesn't really matter because good is good and this is damn good."



released February 25, 2015

Dhampyr is Harley Lethalm.

The Unexpurgated Mermaid Matrices Vol. 05 recorded by Felipe Arancibia.



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5cm Recordings Des Moines, Iowa

5CM Recordings is small time label based out of Des Moines, IA.

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