“I’m living next to myself. My stomach is gone. I cannot be whole until I tell you this. Please, let me confess. Let me exhale. I’ve done something irreversible.” Bludgeon, Pt. I (The Laws of Man), The Golden Pith, Dominic Francisco
Who is Dominic Francisco of Bound Unto Root?
Dominic Francisco is a horror creator who produces, writes, and narrates horror and fantasy fiction. This fiction is presented in the form of audio projects featuring original scores. Working under the name Bound unto Root alongside colleagues James Fixx and Nico Rivers, Francisco and team blend music, atmospheric sound mixing, and poetic storytelling to evoke an oniric framework where opposing forces can meet: ego and the other, past and present, blame and forgiveness.
His most recent project, The Golden Pith, is a collection of various audio projects created over the last couple years. It compiles three primary stories: “Bludgeon,” the tale of a man whose life is irrevocably changed when he hits someone with his car, “Sufferer’s Skin,” a twisting anthology of self-analytical musings, and “Canopy,” the exploration of an artist’s relationship to the act of creation. According to Francisco, “[The Golden Pith], started out as a fun way to express concepts I’d had floating around my head for years, but then a life event morphed it into a processing mechanism. It became more of a need than an exercise.”
Inspired by golden age horror radio, the passages in “The Golden Pith” are weird, and I mean that as a compliment. Francisco has a background in theatre, which he explains comes in handy during the creation process. The album’s extensive list of related genres might seem disjointed: jazz, classical, spoken weird, lo-fi rock, new age, trip-hop, experimental pop. However, the whole is more than a sum of its parts.
Maybe it’s because it’s some of the most recent media I’ve consumed, but the vibe very much reminds me of Phil Tippett’s Mad God. Mad God because of the way the narrative twists and turns, focused heavily on evoking a vibe (and not a cozy one). As Francisco explains, “I try to make horror that creates a sense of atmosphere rather than super grounded scenarios. I’m primarily inspired by how emotionally evocative music can be and try to recreate a similar sensation in my format.”
The album also reminds me of David Lynch. After hearing all the bands he likes to feature at the end of episodes in Twin Peaks: The Return, I can easily see him listening to The Golden Pith as a bedtime story before falling asleep. Especially since you can buy the album as cassette tapes. I just feel like Lynch is the type of person to listen to spoken word horror soundscapes on cassette, you know?
What scares Dominic Francisco of Bound Unto Root?
“By far kidnappers scared me the most as a child, but these days it’s pretty much just snakes, heights, and the internet.”Dominic Francisco
When asked what kind of horror he likes, Francisco listed survival horror that’s centered around a set of rules or a game, psychological horror, and anything that “dives into the abstract.” He cited “Midnight Mass” as a recent piece of horror content that he’s enjoyed, describing it as “a character study with fantastic imagery.” But his original interest in horror stems from something much deeper, the primal experience of swapping stories with friends:
“I think hearing scary stories around the campfire as a kid is what got me into horror. When I was young, horror movies freaked me out too much to do anything more than peek at a scene here and there and then get nightmares for a month. Those campfire stories provided the horror thrill without having to engage with anything visually, so it was more palatable. But then you’ve got to sleep in the woods with those words turning into pictures in your head, so your imagination makes it more terrifying in a sense.”
Scratch beneath the surface of any horror content and you’ll find the fundamental fears that strike at the heart of its creators. There’s a reason you see me talking about fungus so much. When asking Francisco as to the purpose of horror, he replied, “I’d say it’s typically about engaging with danger in a safe environment. Whether that’s primarily about exploring ideas or pure thrill-seeking or something in between depends on the specific piece of art.”
That balance between thrill-seeking and exploration is present in the various pieces of “The Golden Pith.” The opening story, Bludgeon, strikes you at the heart of emotion, from its music to its blood-soaked tale. Meanwhile, Canopy, the closing narrative, is a coming-of-age confrontation of artistic ego. It begins “Dominic beamed,” blurring the line between artistic voice and artist, confronting what it means to create. The story features the titular golden pith, described as “a place of humility, gratitude, and confidence. The intrinsic blessing of imagination, the clay of dreams. Creation for its own reward, without comparison, for the sake of doing one’s best, no retroactive plea for perfection, no flagellation for mistakes. Genuinely.”
We see throughout The Golden Pith a deliberate self-consciousness. It is a carefully crafted collection of stories that is often self-referential, willing to tread ground and then retread it as its characters attempt to understand the concepts they grapple with. Like The Babadook or Midsommar, it is a cathartic kind of horror. The creator figure in The Canopy, the Golden Pith version of Dominic, best encapsulates this in his approach to confronting his own misgivings: “He would combat the world around him as only an artist knew how. To sculpt the figure of his burden.”
Really in depth and thoughtful review. This work deserves your attention.!
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Thanks so much! 🙂
Thanks for the article. Not my typical reading, so appreciate learning about this author/his genre. His quote “The intrinsic blessing of imagination, the clay of dreams. Creation for its own reward, without comparison, for the sake of doing one’s best, no retroactive plea for perfection, no flagellation for mistakes. Genuinely.” Loved it. c. xx
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Same here! It was a genre of art I’d honestly not encountered much before but was so glad to come across it. Glad you enjoyed 🙂