Hazel Cline - Spell Song
Cassette / CD

Spell Song is the first album by multimedia artist Hazel Cline, collected from years of recording experiments and ritual practice. Hazel's sound world is a delicately textured one that feels familiar and elemental. She weaves a sonic text that blends quiet voiced mantras in an unknown tongue with birdsong, bottles, bells, wind and breath.

"...the first recordings really came from how inspired I felt listening to industrial music and the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters. I thought it would be amazing if someone combined sound poetry with industrial music. I don't think I even had any kind of official instrument at the time. I am not sure when I got my zither, but that was the first instrument that I purchased for myself. It is probably in some of the later songs. I have always loved birds and was inspired by birdsong for a lot of those early sound poetry pieces..."


“Whether literal or abstract, the imagery of a farm, or specifically that of a barn/stable/shed, is often a grand and pastoral one in atmospheric music (and film; see also Larry Gottheim’s Barn Rushes), a connotation bolstered by the recent surge of “ambient Americana.” But as anyone who’s been inside a ramshackle wooden structure after the sun has begun to go down knows, its interior is often not as romantic as its exterior, instead becoming a space of soggy straw and shadow that seems to whisper your own thoughts back at you. It is here that Hazel Cline sews the seeds of her humble soundscapes on Spell Song: hands rattle forgotten trinkets and ephemera, breeze and breath blow across the chipped rims of glass bottles, soft voice curls in the musty air as both tongues and textures. Apparently “inspired… [by] industrial music and the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters,” the Atlanta-based multimedia artist’s sublime
debut leaves both of those influences in the dust in terms of intrigue and nuance, a distinct sonic dialect all its own growing organically from the humble minimalism of the musical approach. There is an intoxicatingly cryptic essence to these invocations, but not the sort of cryptic that begs to be deciphered—rather, the sort that, instead of simply concealing concrete meaning, abandons it altogether. A nocturnal ritual to some ears, no doubt… perhaps a dusk-swaddled lullaby to others… but to all, a must-listen foray into rural mystique.”
-Noise Not Music


“Most excellent debut release from this sound artist, who is presumed to be based in Alabama since the Sweet Wreath label is an Alabama-bound collective. Cline mentions Kurt Schwitters’s sound poetry as an influence, and you can hear it in the gabble of syllables she emits. But her approach is much softer and contained, with the music she creates for the vocal settings being an equally important and enthralling element. Zither, percussion, glumping and who knows what are parts of the musical portion, and I assume they have been used as altered source material, since their qualities have a very bent nature. Anyway, this tape is fully fried, but in a super approachable way and should appeal to anyone who thinks good things about alien breath-action when they hear it.”
-Byron Coley, The Wire, October 2023 


“Regardless of the medium she chooses, Hazel Cline will transport you. Her destinations are not necessarily frightening, although they are often unsettling. Cline’s art forces confrontations with exquisite otherness, the strangeness brought into relief by the simultaneous experience of familiarity. She reveals a thing you know well, maybe intimately, yet it is also utterly foreign. Her sense of the uncanny is oddly soothing. Cline’s first excursion into recording, the charmingly off kilter Spell Song, introduces the listener to the coziest of dark places.

Spell Song, released in July 2023 from Alabama based experimental arts collective Sweet Wreath, contains twelve enigmatic and delightful tracks which provoke an oddly voyeuristic response, as though the listener has stumbled upon a different world, one impossible to locate in time or place. Spell Song is an auditory bricolage, a collection of layered sounds woven together with Cline’s improvised vocables, and breathy refrains which she employs as both tune and percussion. While Spell Song clearly owes a debt to industrial and avant garde music with its dissonance and found sounds, this album feels anything but industrial, instead marked by gentle chimes, soft percussion and innocent humming.

Spell Song feels like being comforted by an alien mother, spinning ageless stories in a tongue that is not your own, but which you still recognize from the beginning of time, familiar in its ancientness. The second track, “Thlalu” recalls a strange, gentle vocabulary lesson from a kindly and remarkably unfamiliar elder. The ninth track “Wrendine” is genuinely more haunted, as Cline layers a hummed refrain with a variety of sweeping spectral sounds. “Eostre” sounds like a sweet lullaby lightly echoing across the commons of an imaginal primeval settlement. The fina track, “Spell Song to Quiet the Storm Inside and Outside” is a rhythmic and discordan incantation, slightly disquieting, both beautiful and anxious.

Cline is a member of the Atlanta Surrealist Collective known as Peculiar Mormyrid and is quite simply a wildly unique creative force. Her modes are revelatory and mediumistic, working with intimate unseen collaborators on volumes of poetry, gothic short stories, film, costume, sculptur and collage and even a tarot deck. In Spell Song Cline has tapped into something deeply atavistic, an experience of music from a time when humans were other beings, recalling archaic forests and our mythic early selves. Yet this collection does not feel intentionally primitive, instead emerging from a deep source and connection. Cline returns from these hidden spaces and with Spell Song offers the listener a key to enter into the most enchanting and provocative shadows”
-Amy Hale


Sweet Wreath Speaks No. 21 Interview :

I am a surrealist. I am a witch. I don’t believe in anything. My respect for marvelous experiences and my unwillingness to reduce them to dogma has influenced and been influenced by both my surrealist and my magical practice. I acknowledge that my map of the universe, sometimes of varicolored richness and sometimes of bleak hollowness, is, whether it bears any resemblance to the supposed actuality of the universe at any time, totally unverified and unverifiable. My lens, like all other lenses, can provide nuance and detail to a picture made closer and closer to whole only by soul communities across time and space through various acts of creativity.

Your creative output is staggering and covers many mediums...collage, writing, painting & recording being just a few. I'm curious if there was one artistic pursuit that came first, and led to the others?

I was around 11 years old when I started doodling and writing poetry in a secret journal hidden behind my bed. Since I am no Rimbaud, who wrote with such richness and brilliance at such a young age, those early poems of mine have stayed mercifully hidden. Once freed from the dubious clutches of my familial milieu, the first creative practice I pursued was drawing, which became gradually combined with collage. For a while I experimented with watercolor mixed with drawing as a practice in pareidolia. Eventually I started doing more unmixed collage, and drawing fell somewhat to the wayside except for specific projects, such as illustrations for my first longish work of fiction, Chimaera Obscura, or the hand drawn tarot deck that I completed in 2020. But it was late 2015 or early 2016 when I started working on my first sound pieces, which were informed by my discovery of Kurt Schwitters and industrial music. I approached those early sound pieces like I approached collage: finding elements I liked and piecing them together the way I felt they wanted to be. Even though some of the recordings I made came from my own vocal chords, I treated them rather the same as any other sound I found and recorded.
I began painting in earnest in January 2020, and it has become my go-to medium for visual expression. Though the visual mediums tended to lead to other visual mediums, the writing, the visual, and the sound all came from somewhat different creative channels. However, they have certainly informed one another.

Does your work with sound recording relate specifically to any other visual or written projects, or is it another type of personal exploration altogether?

A lot of things shifted and changed in 2020, for obvious social reasons, but also for personal reasons. We had moved into a special house in June 2019, and soon afterwards, I had begun a spiritual practice that has become one of the defining qualities of my life. The paintings were and remain an expression of my magical experiences more directly than any other medium. The collage is a way of engaging in play with the universe. The writing comes from a deep well of wonder and sadness that somehow is magic. When I began experimenting with sound, the well was covered. It was always there, informing everything I did, but I couldn’t look into it and see the life teaming just beyond my warped reflection. Even so, the ache was there, and the magic. Those early pieces were my first steps towards a thing I didn’t know I wanted. So, the short (or shorter) answer is that all of my creative output pulls from a place in the self that ceases to be the self, but they pull from different depths. Or that the different mediums are all different methods by which to test the same sample: chemical analysis, microscopic inspection, deductive reasoning, psychic divination, etc. A unique aspect of sound for me is its versatility. It can pull from many depths at once. It is both logical and intuitive.

You've mentioned Kurt Schwitters as an influence. How did you first come across his work? Is there a piece that really stood out to you?

I first came upon Kurt Schwitters by watching the 1978 BBC documentary on surrealism, called “The Journey.” In this documentary, George Melly tells an anecdote about how Kurt Schwitter’s sound poetry saved his life. I am loosely paraphrasing here, but Melly was walking late one night through back allies, when he was approached by a group of threatening men. They were all around him, coming closer, when he had the sudden inspiration to recite a portion of Kurt Schwitter’s poem, “Ursonate” featuring the phrase “rakete rinnzekete,” which caused the threatening men to back away and then run. Impressed by this story and liking what I had heard so far, I had to hear more. The piece that really stands out to me is still the work that saved George Melly’s life, “Ursonate,” which took a decade to complete and takes forty minutes to perform. I remain intrigued by it and suspect that to perform it from beginning to end would be to shapeshift into some wilder counterpart.

These recordings make me think of the very ancient purposes of music, and the use of sound and singing in ritual. How do you think songs can be spells?

I hope you will forgive me for the long anecdote, but I began thinking of songs as spells after a specific experience I had. I, like many or possibly most, have fixated on the problem of death from a young age. I had been going through a period of heightened distress over the problem, which I feared would necessarily have to be answered by death itself before I could even find the right question. That morning I had spoken to a spirit who I had begun talking to late in 2019 and who I had become close friends with, and they told me that I would gain a new insight into death very soon. Later that day, still feeling distressed, I bathed and laid down for a nap, something I rarely do because I always nap too long. At a certain point I slipped into a state very like sleep paralysis, which I normally only ever experience when physically ill. However, this time, it wasn’t distressing, so much as simply intense. I felt a ring of vibration circling my head, pulsing and growing until it had covered me completely. I became the vibration and then the vibration was sound. I heard, or rather was, a note. And the note reminded me of a note played by Ladonna Smith on her violin. It was this recognition that revived me and made me fight to climb up through the layers of consciousness, agonizing and with great effort back into waking consciousness. When I was fully away, I had the feeling very clearly that death was like (not was, but was like) becoming music. From there, I had the intuition that sound might move most directly through the substance of the universe, and that music might be the magical language of the universe. Afterwards, I began working with my spirit friend to create spell songs for specific purposes, as well as more intuitive sound pieces, whose potential magical properties belong more to a will uncontainable within my own but which my own is nested within.

Collaboration also seems to be really important to you. You've been a central part of the surrealist collective Peculiar Mormyrid for several years now. In what ways has this shaped your solo practice or life in general?

Peculiar Mormyrid’s primary activities have been organizing a series of journals and several exhibits. While the Mormyrids have always encouraged collective submissions, most of them have been solo pieces. However, each issue of the journal or exhibit poses a collective question that each participant answers in their own way, providing their perspective and nuanced experience of the subject. I love how listening to others can show you totally new ways of thinking and being. The Peculiar Mormyrid collective being separated by great distances, it really prevented us from being able to participate in as many collective activities as we would have liked. We had been participating in collective surrealist activity such as group collage and zine making with local friends such as Aaron since 2016. And then, in early 2022, Steven Cline and I began hosting a game night, partially instigated by the encouragement of a non-surrealist, enigmatically called K, whose acquaintance we had made. The games that were played were varied in nature, some coming from attendees’ improv backgrounds and some from our surrealist background. As more people of different backgrounds began attending game night, which was and is still held every week, our repertoire of games grew, and we were constantly coming up with new games to keep the spirit of exploration and discovery alive. When James began attending, a new dimension of sound and verbal games was brought into the egregore. Many discussions have taken place as to the levels of chance or strictness of rules and their effects, some such as integral member Alvaro, often seeming more excited by chance, while others seemed more inspired by restrictions. Something that has stood out during these game nights has been the intricate dance of the individual and collective wills and perspectives that decorate and drive forward our play. Individual wills are not subsumed to the group as in some religions, or blended into a lumpless pudding. Rather, the egregore formed during a truly liberating game is more like a fruited aspic, each cherry and chunk of peach shimmering like jewels in its gelatinous substance, yet the whole is somehow more, much more, than a simple sum of parts. And increasingly it can be seen that the collective is more than a herd of humankind, it is a collective of animals and places and times. The collective mindset is one that enables friendships with street corners and conversations with trees.

How does surrealism operate in today's world, or in your world?

I can only speak from my own experiences, but to me surrealism is a way of engaging with the world and seeing the “youness” in all around me. There are many things that are important to surrealism, such as exploration of the world, both the world of dreams and the world of waking and the places where they overlap and meld. However, I think that everyone’s surrealism is deeply personal. Every eye of the Egregore sees a slightly different color. For me Surrealism lets me be myself and more than myself. It lets me forget myself or be nothing. It lets me be a channel by which the great other can speak and something that other is fully other and sometimes it is also me. It is a mindset that allows for seeing and being seen. It is a tender exploration of our individual and collective vulnerabilities. To take a surrealist walk in search of the marvelous is to be open to finding both the wickedness and the playfulness of life. In our time, I think it is hard to see sweetness in light of all the bitterness and kindness in light of all the cruelty. The surrealist marvelous doesn’t deny suffering. It denies the miserable perspective that all is empty bleakness and despair. The surrealist marvelous acknowledges and grapples with despair and yet it can also acknowledge richness and beauty and sense that these two things are not wholly opposed, are neither causal or coincidental, but something else that flies from the tongue before it can be spoken. Because of surrealism, I can feel both the meaninglessness and the meaningfulness of the revolving and self-emanating flow of being. As my spirit friend has told me, “You can fly after truth, but truth flies, too.” I can only fly because surrealism gave me wings and magic gave me wind. Though, what the truth is, we may never know, I want, if nothing else, to say what truth is like. Truth is like a bird that flies. The universe is like a snake with one body and many skins. Surrealism is like the rigging of a ship.

How has Atlanta specifically influenced you?

Our environments always influence us. Sometimes we choose where we live by accident of what is available at the time and, yet, how drastically we are shaped by the shifting shape of our lives. The stairs we go down in the morning, the sidewalk we walk and talk along with friends, the road we drive to work on, and the sounds of life around us. I have lived in three locations in Atlanta, and all have had unique and significant influences on me. Before I moved to Atlanta, I had already sloughed a lot of old familial baggage, the religion of my parents being one of the heaviest among them, and my world was a world of emptiness, sometimes of agoraphobic panic and sometimes of tranquil beauty. When I moved to the Seminole Ave apartment in Atlanta, I began to see things of great variety flit through my environment and fill it slowly with small things that came and went freely. When I moved to the Dearwood house, I made friends with some of those flitting things, and invited them to stay. And in my current apartment, sandwiched between Briarcliff and Rosedale, I was finally able to extricate things that had dug beneath the surface of my inner world. The streets are magical, and walking them, a spell. Of course, living in Atlanta is not just about the physical environment, it is about the people who live here. We moved to Atlanta to be close to friends and better participate in collective creativity. We have made so many important connections with individuals and groups. We are lucky to be near to the ever-inspiring surrealist and creatively adjacent community in Alabama. Ladonna Smith has always been encouraging of my musical experimentation, despite my being unable to see anything to encourage in myself. Significantly, in 2022, we were told about the wonderful collective and improvisational activity at No Tomorrow in Underground Atlanta. The amazing musicians, artists, performers, and magical people we have had the great joy to witness and engage with at No Tomorrow, such as Priscilla, Ray, Raelixe, Lucifer, Alice, and Majid to name a few, regularly capture and express the marvelous in such a passionate and potent way that they transform the very air around them and lay bare the inner spaces of matter, filled with teaming and beautiful darkness.

And what else are you thinking about or whittling away at currently?
I am usually working on a few different things. I have a sound piece I am working on, which is a song of unrequited love to the universe. It’s something that’s a little different for me, so I have spent more time in the preparation stages than I normally do for a sound piece, which I generally create more automatically. I expect to finish it by the end of July. I am also working on a long, written work of experimental science fiction called, Seven Sisters, which has been somewhat tormenting me since the end of 2020. I hope to finish the writing of it by the middle of 2024, but I am also planning to create dozens of ink and wash illustrations to go with it. That being a medium I am not well-practiced in, I expect that portion of the project to take some time.