High Mountain Tempel's new CD, A Screaming Comes Across the Sky, includes the song "Fluctuat Nec Mergitur," which pays homage to Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the Church Universal and Triumphant.
"She had a free cable-access TV show [until the early to mid-'90s] that aired in San Diego late at night," explains Eric Nielsen (also of Maquiladora and Buzz or Howl). "She would channel the ascended masters and go into these trance chant sessions. They were sure that the end of the world was coming, and they dug into the earth to build these huge fallout shelters [mainly in Montana, but one was built in Santee]."
Prophet's church doctrine includes fairies, elves, mysticism, alchemy, and paranormal beliefs. According to bandmember Keith Boyd, fluctuat nec mergitur means "She is tossed by the waves but is not sunk." The track includes samples of Clare Prophet's voice.
"There is a disturbingly beautiful pulse she develops as her prayers progress, which is both mechanical and organic," says Boyd. "Her sermons dealt with the rules and methods of obtaining and developing spiritual power. We ran the samples alongside a field recording of insects, as they share this combination of sonic elements. We also felt the hive mind aspect of the cults and bugs were a perfect mirror to each other.
"California and cults have a connection that goes deep into the fabric of what makes this state what it is," says Boyd. "California is a blank slate for an endless parade of fools, seers, crackpots, and healers."