Rough Music by Simon Kurt Unsworth is the latest offering from renowned small press Spectral Press. Rough Music is Spectral’s first release of 2012 and effortlessly maintains the high standards set since its inception.
The story’s protagonist, Cornish, is an insomniac plagued by an aging bladder and aching back. The nightly interruptions to his sleep take a remarkably sinister turn when he begins to hear harsh, ominous music coming for ‘The Green’ outside of his house. Initially the offenders are hidden but as the weeks progress they begin to reveal both themselves and their intentions to the unfortunate Cornish.
Rough Music is certainly not a terrifying tale; rather it is a subtle one that preys on the conscience of its emotionally fractured central character. The torment that Cornish is subjected to is largely deserved but the quirky and unusual nature of it takes this story far beyond the realms of simple haunting and into bizarre new territory.
Simon Kurt Unsworth displays his excellent range of writing skills throughout the duration of Rough Music; he manages to build a creeping sense of unease and disquiet that culminates in a climax that will leave a distinct emotional sting with the reader. What makes Rough Music such a triumph is Unsworth’s ability to underpin strange events with poignant and believable emotional undertones. His ability to help the reader understand his characters’ motives and feelings give a connection that is often missing in modern horror stories.
Rather than a simple ghost story, Unsworth delivers a modern day morality tale tinged with themes of guilt, shame and self-loathing. The pacing of the story and the subtlety on display make Rough Music a slow burning, thoughtful horror story that delivers a powerful ending guaranteed to stay with the reader long after the final page.