horror film director Wes Craven once claimed that Hollywood’s modern-day fairy tales where countless bodies fell under the hand of monsters both human and plastic, were all “boot camps for the psyche.” While the visual may overwhelm the senses into titillation, numbness, or utter indifference, it’s arguable that audio is more haunting. Pure sound forces the imagination to go beyond what any camera can film or computer can generate, and to envision what confuses or terrifies the mind. It’s the same sensation of being alone in pitch darkness with no idea of when the evening will end. All rational thought is dissolved into the primal instincts of the hunted. Oh, and using music to scare the snot out of treat-or-treaters at your door is always a gas.

To make your Halloween 2005 special, we compiled our favorite songs and albums that frighten, haunt, or make us check under the bed every night for abused-kids-cum-masked murderers with mattress-piercing daggers, as well as some music not usually known to be scary, but under the right circumstances can make the survivors envy the dead.
Happy Trick or Treating!
Stylus Magazine



Abruptum – Obscuritatem Advoco Amplectere Me [DSP; 1993]
Released in 1993 by Euronymous’ infamous DSP records, Obscuritatem features “Evil” on guitar, keys, and guttural ambience, and dwarfin fiend “It” providing immolation, screams, and occasional frantic percussion. Showcasing two long tracks with the same title—“Obscuritatem Advoco Amplectere Me”—this recording marks black-metal’s first true foray into sonic experimentation; moving far from genre fundamentals, and towards a realm like the masochistic feedback and vocal squelch of early Masonna, (i.e., the Fistfuck Masonie 7” and Like a Vagina cassette). The legend has been steadfastly maintained: “Evil” laid down the terrifying dog whistle keys and loosely grinding guitars, while “It” burned and soldered and cut away his own flesh—reacting in bloodcurdling shitstorms of shriek. The artwork set out hand-in-hand with the sounds contained therein. First pressings raised high the colors: Abruptum’s logo lay like a crowned hill of jagged daggers; the reissue heralds the Nekromantik: From Totenkopf, with Love. Enthralling and repugnant, Obscuritatem remains impossible to top and nearly impossible to take.
[Stewart Voegtlin]



Animal Collective – Here Comes the Indian [Paw-Tracks; 2003]
On Here Comes the Indian, Animal Collective approached the true essence of Halloween. They have the pagan erasure of identity, the communal revelry, the id party—a nuance and sentiment that can get lost whilst stuffing one’s face with baskets of budget candy or trying to figure out how to “spook” neighborhood children with unconvincing paper skeletons. It’s the rare, haunted hayride when things go wrong, as the driver ceases to answer questions and the groan of the forest envelopes small dirt roads. An aggressive group therapy, the band scream at each other over thickets of digital waste, rhythms pile into scree, grooves melt into a kind of séance, and the whole experience swirls with the same ambiguous fright/freedom delirium that gives Halloween its allure.
[Mike Powell]

The Apples In Stereo – Her Wallpaper Reverie [spinART; 1999]
Okay, modern psychedelia, cheerfully twee, a clutch of great songs: “Strawberryfire,” “Questions And Answers,” the mighty “Benefits Of Lying (With Your Friend).” But spliced between the songs of this mini-album are instrumental snippets, all chilly music boxes, redolent of Gilman Perkins' “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I once listened to this late at night on headphones, and “Les Amants” alone had me scrambling for the stop button. It sounds like the Hounds of Tindalos coming out of the corners to get you, or that poor woman finally smudging free of the wall.
[Ian Mathers]

BBC Radiophonic Workshop – BBC Sound Effects, Vol.13 – Death and Horror and BBC Sound Effects, No. 21 – More Death and Horror [BBC; 1977 and 1978]
“Devised and produced” for the BBC in 1977 and 1978 by Mike Harding, these two bizarre discs are intended as aides for amateur theatrical or film production. I dread to think what kind of amateur theatre group or filmmaker would find use for them, because the sound effects contained within are gruesome. Side One of Death And Horror kicks off with “Execution and Torture: 1) The Guillotine 2) Arm Chopped Off 3) Head Chopped Off, 4) Sawing Head Off;” and so on and so on—just reading the back cover is chilling enough. It details the contained noises of a myriad mélange of “Monsters and Animals” and “Creaking Doors and Grave Diggings”—each section comprising a number of short (often only a couple of seconds) effects. The second installment, More Death And Horror, places more emphasis on ambience. The pieces are longer, but no less unsettling and have an even more descriptive array of titles, such as “The Rack—The Hag Laughs as You Grow Taller.” To be honest, many of the effects here are so strange that even with the tracklisting it’s hard to tell what they’re supposed to be. “Hammering Nails Into Flesh” from the first record sounds more like someone tapping pencils into a bar of soap (which is actually scarier, if one thinks about it), but the non-stop nature of these miniature, wordless, aural horror operas makes them terrifying if, say, you chose to listen to them alone and late at night, perhaps on Halloween. The second disc of the two claims to be on “blood red vinyl!” There’s a copy in my office (it’s a strange office) and I can confirm that it is—I just wonder whose blood… .
[Nick Southall]

Bomb 20 – Field Manual [Digital Hardcore; 1998]
David Skiba aka Bomb 20 makes political music that hangs listeners from lampposts as "enemies of the People." On Field Manual, the teenage Berliner used his sampler as a shotgun, extracting the raw sensations from scenes and trailers of Hollywood carnage, and pierced it all with breakbeats and distortion. Digital Hardcore head Alec Empire dropped the catch phrase, "Riot sounds produce riots," but Skiba placed you right inside the anarchy with no place to flee and no option except to join the crowd. His hip-hop and hardcore techno beats don't so much skitter as march across a battlefield's carrion pits in a tank, smothering everything in their path as Public Enemy's Bomb Squad test-fired years before. Most profound for our post-9/11 age is a sample from Dead Presidents wherein a desperate husband assures his wife there is nothing immoral about his planned bank robbery. An explosion cuts. A child then tells us, “The blood our family spilled marked the beginning of the most violent century the world has ever known….Mama, why do they hate us so much?”
[Cameron Macdonald]

The Bonzo Dog Band – “Look Out, There’s a Monster Coming” [From Gorilla, BGO; 1967]
Fuck anyone who wants to paint The Bonzos as some kind of musical wing of Monty Python. This ain't no goddamn Oxbridge smirk-a-thon, this is as simultaneously as relaxed and horrifically disturbing as that front page of The Sun from a few years back that showed a corpse lying down in the middle of a suburban street. The BDB here pair their usual well-spoken, white-boy jazz with something of a bossa-nova kick, before launching into a song about a man who cuts off his own leg before getting a mail order bride, and then gets attacked by a monster, or becomes one himself. It then descends into vocal distort and the repetition of the song title—you know, the kind you hear in your mind a few seconds before waking up in a petrified sweat.
[Dom Passantino]

Glenn Branca – “The Ascension” [From The Ascension, Acute reissue; 1981]
The cliché goes that you see your life flash before your eyes right before you die. When I hear the first several minutes of Glenn Branca's "The Ascension," I imagine an entire American city's life flash by as it collapses in a thermonuclear attack. Passing are centuries of dreams, struggles, love, loneliness, confusion, and triumph—from the Indians and the colonists to the industrialists, the workers, the artists, the idealistic schoolteachers, the social workers, the bohemians, and the office temps. Branca's electric guitar symphony performed this piece when the Americans and Soviets were face-to-face and waiting for a nuclear strike. The musicians, featuring Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, thicken the air with rapidly strummed chords that bring that image to life. They then break up into a choppy march that lead up into utter, cathartic noise—as if running for cover from the nuclear attack, and then dancing in the streets to celebrate what's left of their lives in the face of certain death.
[Cameron Macdonald]

Brutal Juice – “Kentucky Fuck Daddy” [From Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult, Interscope; 1995]
Hmm? Oh, only the best horror soundtrack yet untapped. American horror films tend to resist anything other than literal readings, so crazed harmonized screams like "Now I've got you begging and bleeding/ Now you know there's nowhere to hide... Now I'm ripping and tearing because you're so tight (so tight)" are just what the doctor ordered. Jagged time signatures, a dungeon of guitars primed like lasers, and those magnifico vocals. Hey, what you bleed is what you get.
[Brad Shoup]

Burzum - Hvis Lyset Tar Oss [Misanthropy; 1994]
Varg Vikernes of Burzum reduced Fantoft—one of Norway’s most storied churches—to ash; was connected with nearly a dozen other church burnings; stabbed bandmate Euronymous before ventilating his skull with the blade, and managed to record a slew of apocalyptic masterpieces before he was finally frog-marched to prison. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss—Norwegian for “If the Light Takes Us”—seamlessly integrates monotonous keyboards into more traditional metal structures, resulting in sonic sagas to soundtrack the Eddas. The first track, “Det Som En Gang Var” (“What once was. . .”), with its saw-blade guitar line, and surging and glacial synth is the undisputed standout. The musical equivalent of Vikernes’ Norse nationalism, “Det Som En Gang Var” alludes to an ideology that had swiftly moved from mental incubator onto tabloid front pages: Christianity has desecrated the Holy Sites of my forefathers; I will tear them down. Just as frightening without knowing who’s responsible for the sound, Hvis is one of the most magnificent and malignant records made.
[Stewart Voegtlin]



Julee Cruise - Floating Into the Night [Warner Bros., 1989]
Floating Into the Night is a pop album by a pop singer; the only difference is that Julee Cruise’s svengalis were David Lynch and Angelo Badalementi (who composed music for nearly all of Lynch’s noir-surrealistic films). Essentially, Floating Into the Night is a gaunt, dreamy blend of 50s sex-kitten negative space, new-age romanticism, dark synth balladry, and an unnervingly absent humanity that verges on the sublime. When Cruise monotonously whispers clichés like, “Why don’t you come over to my house,” it’s not clear she actually exists; if she does, it’s hard to tell whether she wants to fuck you, cut you, or both, and it’s in the niche between that the album hangs, strikingly erotic and deeply unnerving.
[Mike Powell]

Eazy-E – "Sorry Louie" [From Str8 Off Tha Streetz of Muthaphu**in Compton, Relativity; 1995]
Hallowe'en's got no truck with me, boy. Take your mortal dread and that metaphor-for-societal-decay and break 'em with a baseball bat; Eazy's got a Louisville Slugger to loan. To a bangin' West Coast scarescape, fitted with a wailing choir, Mr. Wright kicks three tales of people who just had to die beneath his ash. First guy thinks he's gonna rob Eazy while he's playing Nintendo, second guy ambushes him in a car on the beach or something. Then Eazy lays one down for the CV: "I'm a muthafuckin' psycho and I don't give a fuck about 'em/I kill the nigga and cut off his dick, so you know I got 'em/'cos I ate his brain, left the nigga for dead/Now it's a gallon of blood, drippin from under his bed.” Out of nowhere, a little boy appears. "The little nigga sayin 'Don't kill my mother,'" Eazy grins, "so I bashed his head in with my Louisville Slugger." Just like an O.G. Cryptkeeper. Only, you know, funny.
[Brad Shoup]

David Essex – “Window” [From David Essex, CBS; 1974]
Grannies’ favorite David Essex isn’t the first person to come to mind for a list of horrifying music, not when he was always ready with a cheeky wink and a winning smile, but how these records ever passed as MOR baffles me—many of them are way more out than many “noted” 70s obscurities. “Window” is the oddest duck with the most obviously ruffled feathers. There’s a rising, horror-show bassline, reverbed drums, a proto-grime synth, and there’s vibes and strings that fade into echoed siren sounds. And then there’s Essex, singing as a frightened child worried about open windows and clowns. Offhand and creepy, affecting a kinda weird reggae lilt, Essex sounds like whatever it is that’s out there, beyond the window, until it all falls apart with thick and woozy synth chords descending like cold night, detached backing vox, and a little girl’s voice crying, “Mommy, mommy, I’m scared.” Brr.
[Patrick McNally]



Serge Gainsbourg – “Cargo Culte” [From Histoire De Melody Nelson, Polydor; 1971]
And there are times when I'm on that country lane, speeding toward that town, and I dare myself to snake a hand into the back seat, needling myself with the notion that maybe this time I'll brush an unfamiliar, corporeal surface. But on those city nights, the dread transmutes, and nothing feeds that existential edge like Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire De Melody Nelson. "Cargo Culte" draws its gloom over seven glorious minutes of pensive bass, slices of strings, and a gigantic shadowy cloud of a choir. Serge himself tugs at you with his offhand whisper, paying tribute to Papuans who pray for aircraft wreckage, before chipping in with a prayer for his beloved to plummet herself. It's terribly disquieting in that best way Halloween must have been, or ought to be. The last words on the track are exchanged between Serge and the titular Melody (as played by the teenaged Jane Birkin). Simple stuff: "What are you called?" "Melody." “Melody who?" "Melody Nelson"—but it's like she's reciting her catechism right before the deluge. The choir swells, wails, consumes everything in its path, and the record ends. I've never heard this album in the hug of daylight, and I don't think I could.
[Brad Shoup]

Goblin – Suspiria: Original Soundtrack [Cinevox reissue; 1977]
Film soundtracks have been an ideal vessel for spreading new ideas and approaches to music. And with horror films, designed to keep audiences in a perpetual state of unease and uncertainty on the edge of their seats, covering one’s eyes (but not one’s ears) has been a regular event. Claudio Simonetti’s Italian group Goblin’s bricolage approach to using anything and everything that may cause a shock—be it jazz-rock, disco, or prog—led to a series of excellent soundtracks in the 70s and early 80s. Their soundtrack to regular collaborator Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria matches the film’s cold, overwrought irrationality, alternating passages of bass-heavy, muscular prog with resonant hand drums, analog pulses, and echoing deep-space explosions. On tracks like “Sighs” and “Witch,” Goblin take delight in the play of textures and timbres that shouldn’t mesh, being forced together to create disquiet. Subtle treatments of reverb and effects processing create unsettling, acoustically baffling spaces that mirror the twisted, deadly geometry of the ballet school/witches’ coven featured in the film.
[Patrick McNally]

Lil’ Markie – “Diary of an Unborn Child” [from Lil’ Markie Volume 1; MF Family Ministries, unknown release date]
Here’s a tip for any prospective pro-life songwriters; try not to be utterly fucking nuts. Several decades of political, moral, and scientific baggage hangs heavy upon the air and only a sensitive and mature approach will really do the issue justice. Choosing an incarnation of the devil himself to adorn your LP cover is a poor start. Deciding that the weighty topic of abortion is best documented in the form of the tragic journey of an overly-personified and hugely irritating foetus is also ill-advised. But when you perform it in a voice resembling that of an unusually lucid Donald Duck, you’ve finally stepped off the plank of sanity protruding from good ship Rational Thought and plunged deep beneath the ocean of dementia. Since we’ve already come this far, why not also set your narrative to some soft organ sounds while you elongate lines like, “Whhyyyyy diiiiid you kiiiiill meeee, Mooommyyyyy?” to taste-defying lengths? Just in case anyone hearing it remained unconvinced that termination was the only possible option.
[Peter Parrish]



Krzysztof Penderecki – “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” [Written 1960]
The first—and only—nuclear attacks in history are credited to the United States. In order to “force” surrender, Truman gave the green flag to the Enola Gay. Thirty seconds over Hiroshima later and 120,000 people—95% civilian—were vaporized with twice as many slowly killed from the lingering rot of atomic fallout. Krzysztof Penderecki—while not hibakusha—assembled 52 string instruments, and the hands and voices of the Katowice Polish Radio Orchestra & Chorus, and proceeded to tie a steel string around America’s tirelessly pointing digit. Miles-high tone clusters, feral whistling, frantic pizzicatos; gruelingly twisting glissandos cave into popping, slapping, sliding scratches—what’s left is warbling, fuzzed out skeletal tones which eventually succumb to a roiling low-end that evaporates in air. “Threnody” folds the ear’s physiology into a black metal box and casts it into the core of the sun. At times brittle, roiling, and quiet, at others claustrophobic, it’s one of the most terrifying pieces of music ever penned.
[Stewart Voegtlin]

The Poppy Family –“Where Evil Grows” [From A Good Thing Lost: 1968-1973, March; 1996]
The Poppy Family, the husband-and-wife duo of Susan and Terry Jacks, are an exemplar of one of the things that was so great about the 70s—normalized weirdness. There are no harsh or dissonant sounds in their albums, just melodic, folkish sunshine pop that sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on The Partridge Family. But listen closer and you realize there are dark clouds blocking out the sunshine: every single one of their songs is about death, madness, loss, or the profound unfairness of the world. “Where Evil Grows” is instantly catchy, powered on an electric piano bassline that somehow sounds like a cheap mid-80s Casio keyboard and a primitive motorik drum machine that mixes with real drums (or is it all unreal-sounding real drums, or all drum machine?) The Poppy Family harmonize sweetly and icily over the top about how every time they look at each other, evil grows inside of their minds while spatters of sitar splash around them.
[Patrick McNally]

Elizabeth Clare Prophet – Sounds of American Doomsday Cults, Vol. 14: The Church Universal and Triumphant, Inc. feat. Elizabeth Clare Prophet [Faithways International; 2001]
A church congregation silently watches excerpts of MTV videos from the likes of Madonna, Van Halen, and Huey Lewis and the News. Their spiritual leader, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, informs them the artists doing their song �n’ dance are lost souls seduced by fallen angels. That’s one moment caught 20-odd years ago in The Church Universal and Triumphant, Inc., a new age group/doomsday cult headed by a woman who claims to channel the spirits of Jesus Christ, Shiva, Buddha, and Hercules, to name a few. But the true creepiness lies not in Elizabeth’s prayer to condemn a laundry list of 80s pop stars to the Lake of Fire, and rather in how she prays: exhaling forth thy divine spirit like a Tourette’s-stricken auctioneer yelling on a street corner. The first response is impulsive laughter, followed by queasiness, and then an odd feeling that you’re getting brainwashed into awaiting her orders.
[Cameron Macdonald]

Radar Brothers - And the Surrounding Mountains [Merge; 2002]
Cabin fever, the Donner party, conquistadors slaughtering Aztecs, demonic possession in the woods, Salem trials, smallpox blankets, bear attacks, snipers in Vietnam, Croatoa, bat country, communication breakdown, chains of command, vendetta, starvation, exposure, scalping, colonialism; the bad dreams of exploration, coming back again. I have no idea what's happening in the mountains, but it terrifies me, especially when Jim Putnam sings it all so sweetly. By morning, all demons will be gone, he says, but nowhere does anyone say we'll last the long night.
[Ian Mathers]

Dimitri Shostakovich – “String Quartet No. 8” [Written 1960]
Dimitri Shostakovich slept troubled sleeps. A renowned composer during the most horrific stretch of Soviet Russia’s history (he lived from 1915-1975), his work walked—and occasionally blurred—the line between exultant and mockingly grotesque, as apt to draw ominously raised eyebrows as state-issued adoration. In 1948, the government issued a decree accusing Shostakovich (and Prokofiev, among others) of “formal perversities;” which in the totalitarian fever of the times was tantamount to saying “Watch your fucking back.” Though his large-scale symphonic work was politically oriented, his chamber work was often more personal. By 1960’s “Quartet No. 8,” he had been chilled by the “disappearance” of several of his friends. The vibrancy of his torment, fragility of his spirit, and distortion of traditional harmony while still remaining firmly not avant-garde coalesces into a deeply moving and sometimes terrifying piece of music—the aural autobiography of a man near-broken by fear but with presence of mind and hope enough to translate it to art rather than suicide.
[Mike Powell]



Shel Silverstein – "Freakin' at the Freakers Ball" [From Freakin' at the Freakers Ball, Collector's Choice reissue; 1973]
Shel Silverstein's beloved children's poems and stories about the fantastical, the humbling, and the absurd gave two generations fond memories of a giving tree, a king with a mouth sealed by a peanut butter sandwich, and "Ickle Me Pickle Me Tickle Me Too." Uncle Shel was also a dirty old man who drew cartoons for Playboy, though, and here with a barefooted bluegrass band in tow he invites one and all to an orgy that's got ladies across the rainbow and more: "Black ones, white ones, yellow and red ones/Necrophiliacs looking for dead ones/The greatest of the Sadists and the Masochists, too/Screaming 'Please hit me' and 'I'll hit you.'" Our man brings in the let-it-hang-out libertinism of the 70s: "F.B.I. dancing with the junkies," and makes it all look like a shambolic mess more scary than laughable. I can hear faint laughter from Shel's cloud in heaven now that this song is easily found in the children’s section of your local record shop on the recently issued The Best of Shel Silverstein compilation.
[Cameron Macdonald]

Siouxsie & the Banshees – Juju [Polydor; 1981]
The trick is that this isn’t in any way, shape, or form, a “goth” album. The treat is that it really doesn’t matter; Juju has enough darkness, mystery, and creativity to please dodgy darklings and casual spook-searchers alike. Whether it’s pushing your parents down the stairs (“Spellbound”), freaky artwork taken to obsessive levels (“Head Cut”), or the unabashed horror of “Night Shift,” Siouxsie and the boys don’t let up with the mischief for a moment. John McGeogh rarely had a better Banshees moment than this, and his ghostly, ghoulish guitar sound is all over the record like a spindly web of razor-wire. Just when you think it might be safe to look under your bed again, “Voodoo Dolly” leaps out and attaches itself to your face. Beginning as a languid tale of tormented submission and ending as a whirling, hypnotic commotion orchestrated by a demonic conductor, it’s the dramatic culmination to a 40-minute suspense piece. You’ll never look at that collection of Victorian dolls owned by your weird relative the same way again.
[Peter Parrish]

Small Faces – “Itchycoo Park” [From There Are But Four Small Faces, Columbia; 1968]
It all began one innocuous night when the household had bedded down and the clocks were hovering around the 2 a.m. mark. Abruptly pulled from the depths of my drool-pickled slumber, I realized the gloaming had been cruelly shattered by the parochial bluster of Small Faces. On venturing downstairs to neuter the racket, me and another householder concluded some kind of timer had been accidentally set, so we cleared the stereo’s memory to ensure it didn’t kick off again. However it did… and with fervid regularity. As long as nobody was present in the room, the stereo would leap into life, skip to track 14 on some poxy “Best of the 60s” CD and then blare out “Itchycoo Park” (only that song and only that disc) at a belligerent volume until plug and wall were divorced. In the dead of night and alone in the house; those opening chords are shit-scared personified. “What did you do there? We got high….”
[Adam Park]

Sonic Youth – “Halloween” [From Bad Moon Rising, Blast First; 1985]
Mudhoney – “Halloween” [From Superfuzz Bigmuff plus Early Singles, Sub Pop; 1990]

In Sonic Youth’s version of “Halloween,” Lee and Thurston’s guitars form a spider web across which Kim Gordon hisses vague come-ons and sweet nothings designed to get you all caught up in her goo, ready for the kill. Tambourines and bells made of overtones clang in the background; that’s the funeral procession waiting for you. (Yeah, I know that it’s about Henry Rollins really, but what is Henry if not a man who wears a Halloween costume 365 days a year?) Mudhoney’s cover version does the expected—feeds the original through fuzzzz, amp noise, and snare cracks while still retaining the original’s insistent slither. That is until it explodes into a wah-smeared version of the Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and then, even better, on top of that a cover of the Misfits own super-dumb and super-rocking, “Halloween.” In that, Glenn Danzig memorably exclaims, “This day anything goes/Burning bodies hanging from poles/I remember Halloween.” Well you would remember that, wouldn’t you?
[Patrick McNally]



Dusty Springfield – “Spooky” [From various records]
Halloween isn’t really about scares. It’s the last night of the year anyone’s scared because it’s so chock full of signifiers of horror that it reaches overload, and becomes pure goof. And so is “Spooky,” a durable chestnut that’s been recorded by folks as diverse as Martha Reeves, disco producer Meco and members of the Walker Brothers, and Bauhaus. But it’s Dusty’s version that’s deservedly the classic. Here, Dusty flows across the electric piano, tambourine, and conga groove with languid, soulful grace and a seeming complete lack of effort. The soft ebb and flow of the horn section echoes her confusion at her lover’s lack of commitment. The only thing Dusty’s version is missing is the song’s best couplet, “Just like a ghost you’ve been haunting my dreams/So I proposed on Halloween”! Check Lydia Lunch’s uncharacteristically sweet and restrained version from her excellent straight-up pop album, Queen of Siam for the best delivery of those.
[Patrick McNally]

Striborg - Misanthropic Isolation [Asgard Musik; 2003]
Van Diemen’s Land, essentially a massive penal colony in the mid to late 1800s, is a realm junked with jungle mythos, aboriginal mysticism, and flagrant nature: Flora and fauna with fangs. It’s also referred to as Tasmania, and called home by Sin-Nanna, the one-man wrecking crew behind the now-defunct Kathaaria, and current operating vehicle, Striborg. Named for the god of winds in Slavonic myth, Striborg has been an effective and prolific guise for Sin-Nanna since 1998. Misanthropic Isolation, originally released in ’98, is a ghoulishly nebulous recording that reconciles Sin-Nanna’s predilection to ambient drift with the easily recognizable sonic filth typified by Ildjarn’s early recordings. Beginning with static stabs and washes of rain that challenge notions of the lowest fidelity, Striborg carves songs free of their fat, leaving them weakened and anorexic. Guitar trebles into a new meaning of thinness; surface noise pops, cracks, and hisses, drawing darkly around vocals that writhe like meat overtaken by maggots. Completely and utterly fucking bleak.
[Stewart Voegtlin]

Suicide – "Frankie Teardrop" [from Suicide (First Album); Bronze; 1977]
Suicide's tale of a freshly scarred Vietnam vet who shoots his family and himself bears traces to an old-fashioned murder ballad in its storyline and repetitive structure (the title even alludes to "Frankie and Johnny," perhaps). But proto-industrialists Martin Rev and Alan Vega trade folk instruments for barren machines, whose relentless hum throughout the track's ten minutes brilliantly echoes the creeping suffocation of young Frankie's life after the war. The conclusion, "We are all Frankies/We are all lyin' in hell," calls to mind Sufjan Stevens's recent attempt at identification with serial killer John Wayne Gacy—but Vega's claim is more believable insofar as he really seems to embody both sides. There's an element of lip-licking relish in his mocking sneer, "Let's hear it for Frankie!" that slides, with disturbing ease, into a vulnerable "What have I done?" Most chilling, though, are the nonverbal moments, a series of puncturing screams and aftershock groans that often rise from long stretches of silence with the anxious abruptness of being jolted from a nightmare.
[John Cunningham]

Scott Walker – Tilt [Drag City; 1995]
Scott Walker is, for all intents and purposes, a comedic performer. The color of his humor, however, is what makes him fascinating. He could convincingly manage a song from the perspective of a downtrodden businessman whose only source of empowerment and freedom was to solicit whores after his children had gone to sleep. Darkly funny, yes, but his mannerist, empathetic croon was pushed almost to the point of grotesquerie, creating an embittered cabaret as haunting as it was humorous. Tilt, only his sixth solo album since the close of the 60s (and the second with original material), is like a blast of wind in the wake of an ice storm, a phantom reprise. Notoriously bleak, the album’s humor—if present at all—is pushed to the brink, Walker tremulously wielding his own innards on slate-gray dirges draped in strings that slide like blood on glass and anchored by quasi-industrial drum thudding. “Difficult,” but an enlighteningly exhausting experience.
[Mike Powell]

Whitehouse – Birdseed [Susan Lawly; 2003]
A hailstorm of beatless digital noise topped with jagged verse of rape, abjection, and fear, Birdseed is a horrific album not simply because it’s “scary,” but because the duo grinds away at the parameters of human compassion without ever fully nullifying them. Beginning with the lines “CAN I SUGGEST YOU: GET FUCKED WHILE YOU LIE ABOUT CHILD MOLESTING GROPES AND PARKBENCH FLASHERS AND PERVERT CREEPS?” Birdseed rarely lets up. By the time you reach the album’s core, weakened, exhausted, and desensitized, the uncharacteristically subdued “Cut Hands Has the Solution” finally digs beneath your skin: “QUESTION: Did you ever hurt yourself to make somebody sorry? How often do you pretend to be sick? You ever wanted something very much but never told anybody about it?” It doesn’t simply shock, it isn’t just cheap thrills for depraved minds, its gnarled pathos preempts that desire, it wants to disturb you for even trying to sublimate your own humanity via its extremism. In doing so, it subtly makes a tiny incision, and burrows.
[Mike Powell]



Wolf Eyes – “Dead Hills” [From Dead Hills, Troubleman Unlimited; 2002]
The obscured, grotesque mash of skulls, feathers, and skeletons on the cover of Dead Hills offers a brief hint of what’s inside, but it’s nothing compared to the actual experience. Wolf Eyes, without uttering a word—at least not one that’s decipherable—create a sound that exists as decay, a lyric-less voice that paints a picture of rot and decomposition with broken electronic equipment, homemade noise machines, and pillaged tape loops. This track is bruised, ugly, and deformed—and, of course, one of the best things they’ve ever done. But the haunting and endlessly ominous sound of “Dead Hills” isn’t comprised of confrontational destruction, death, or anything immediately jarring. Instead, it’s the sound of things falling apart, being slowly torn to shreds, and crumbling to dust—the kind of stuff that festers in your mind and sticks with you for much longer than you’d probably like.
[Ryan Potts]

R.H.Y. Yau – Coagulation: Selected Works 1996-2000 [Auscultare Research; 2003]
People can trust a kindergarten class with Randy Yau. He’s a mellow, patient chap who is always willing to teach about sound art. He co-runs the great 23five, Inc., a San Francisco nonprofit that educates the public about sound art through installations and field trips for school kids to listen to and record the noises around them as music. He also massages listeners’ bodies with vibrating, low-frequency drones in his “Infrasound” project. It’s just that when you give Yau a microphone, he can exhale some of the Earth’s unholiest sounds. Inspired by “Aktionism,” or the psychotramatic music that pushes moments—whether it be pure noise or awkward silence—to the extremes of sensation. On Coagulation his screams, roars, and growls are magnified 1,000 times in reverb, along with the smacks of the mic hitting his mouth. The result is Man and raw electricity battling to conquer each other while distortion and reverb flail about. And it’s music that will send the trick-o-treaters running.
[Cameron Macdonald]

Various Artists – AuralOffalWaffleTenPintsOfBitterAndABagOfPorkScratchings [V/VM Test Records; 1999]
I once saw someone take a dart in the eye at the Stockport train station. As if that weren’t enough, at that exact moment the Hogwarts fucking Express whistled past with a couple of helicopters and camera crews in tow. Suffice to say it was one of the more surreal moments of my life thus far. Somehow, then, it is no surprise that V/VM come from Stockport. Probably best sampled through their pig-sick label compilation AuralOffalWaffleTenPintsOfBitterAndABagOfPorkScratchings, V/VM represent the sound of hell writ-large through an ungodly mating of silicon, oscillators, and every other debased aural manipulation technique within spitting distance. Whether they’re sticking Wham! down the waste-disposal, putting The Beatles before a digital firing squad, or merely mauling you with serrated electronic nastiness that defies description, V/VM do it with such relish that you’re left all the more unsettled. If Richard D. James were half as scary as he thinks he is, then V/VM would be the darkest cough-medicine nightmare he’d ever experienced.
[Adam Park]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-10-31
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