During certain periods in life, creativity goes beyond serving as an outlet for dealing with stress, beyond being a welcome distraction, and becomes a compulsion. It is at this moment, when creation starts to bridge the gap between superfluity and intrinsic necessity, that some of the best art is realized. For Sam Simkoff, the creative force behind Le Loup, a similar cathartic tumult resulted in The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium Assembly.
Created during a time of personal crisis, The Throne is a cataclysm, an escape, and a journey. Inspired largely by Dante’s Inferno (also a journey conceived by a man in a time of crisis), here an emotional catacomb is traversed circle by circle. From Dante come apocalyptic scenes, rendered from personal feelings of hopelessness and impending disaster. Descent and escape are the central themes of “canto i” and “canto xxxvi”, which take their titles from the first and last chapters of the Inferno, respectively.
Simkoff encountered the works of both Dante and another artist, James Hampton, during the initial writing of the record. The Throne takes its title from a piece of folk art that was meticulously built over the course of nearly fifteen years by Hampton, starting in the ‘50s. An engulfing homage to another heavenly realm, Hampton was a harried, outsider artist who kept his work a secret in a shed adjacent to his home. Consisting of 177 individual pieces that were painstakingly assembled from everyday objects, Hampton’s throne became a delicate shrine to the transcendent.
More than a thematic influence, Hampton’s work served as a model for pouring personal turbulence into work in a frenzied manner. Le Loup also takes the subtitle of album centerpiece “le loup (fear not)” from the crown jewel of Hampton’s throne, a placard at the top of his work wrought of tin foil, urging the viewer to “Fear Not”. This hopefulness, in the face of uncertainty and despair, shines through on the epic album closer “i had a dream i died.”
The complex themes of The Throne are characterized by mounting tension and dramatic swells, coupled with an engaging emotional resonance that lifts just as much as it illuminates. Simple melodies plucked on a banjo are buoyed by keyboard lines, improvised percussion, and sometimes as many as a dozen overlapping and intertwining vocal tracks, creating a complex and lush soundscape which shrouds itself only long enough to surge into hugeness. Conceptually abstruse while remaining fundamentally personal, The Throne is a collection of rushing narratives that connect the individual struggle of each of us to the death of the universe in a manner that is both intimate and unshakably vital.
The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium Assembly is the debut from Washington DC’s Le Loup, and the second release on Hardly Art records.
Le Loup is:
Sam Simkoff – banjo, keyboards, vox
Christian Ervin – computer
Mike Ferguson – guitar, amp, vox
Nicole Keenan – keyboards, french horn, vox
Dan Ryan – bass, percussion, vox
Robert Sahm – drums, percussion
May Tabol – guitar, vox
Jim Thomson – guitar, amp, vox