A playlist for Halloween

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Der Tod als Erwürger (1851) by Alfred Rethel.

It’s a fact (sad or otherwise) that a substantial percentage of my music collection would make good Halloween listening but in that percentage a number of works are prominent as spooky favourites. So here’s another list to add to those already clogging the world’s servers, in no particular order:

Theme from Halloween (1978) by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth.
What a surprise… All John Carpenter‘s early films have electronic scores and great themes, Halloween being the most memorable, and one that’s gradually infected the wider musical culture as various hip hop borrowings and Heat Miser by Massive Attack demonstrate.

Monster Mash (1962) by Bobby “Boris” Pickett.
The ultimate Halloween novelty record. A host of imitators followed the success of this single while poor Bobby struggled to be more than a one-hit wonder. It wasn’t to be, this was his finest hour. Available on These Ghoulish Things: Horror Hits for Halloween with some radio spots by Bobby and a selection of other horror-themed rock’n’roll songs.

The Divine Punishment (1986) & Saint of the Pit (1988) by Diamanda Galás.
Parts 1 & 2 of Galás’s Masque of the Red Death, a “plague mass” trilogy based on the AIDS epidemic. These remain my favourite records by Ms Galás; on the first she reads/sings passages from the Old Testament accompanied by sinister keyboards, making the Bible sound as steeped in evil and metaphysical dread as the Necronomicon. On Saint of the Pit she turns her attention to French poets of the 19th century (Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval & Tristan Corbière) while unleashing the full power of her operatic vocalizations. Einstürzende Neubauten’s FM Einheit adds some thundering drums. “Correct playback possible at maximum volume only.” Amen to that.

The Visitation (1969) by White Noise.
An electronic collage piece about a ghostly lover returning to his grieving girlfriend. White Noise were David Vorhaus working alongside BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneers Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson to create an early work of British electronica and dark psychedelia. The Visitation makes full use of Derbyshire and Hodgson’s inventive tape effects and probably accounts for them being asked to score The Legend of Hell House a few years later. Immediately following this is the drums and screams piece, Electric Storm In Hell; play this loud and watch the blood drain from the faces of your Halloween guests.

Zeit (1972) by Tangerine Dream.
Subtitled “A largo in four movements”, Zeit is Tangerine Dream’s most subtle and restrained album, four long tracks of droning atmospherics.

The Masque of the Red Death (1997) read by Gabriel Byrne.
From Closed On Account Of Rabies, a Poe-themed anthology arranged by Hal Willner. The readings are of variable quality; Christopher Walken’s The Raven is effective (although I prefer Willem Defoe’s amended version on Lou Reed’s The Raven) while Dr John reads Berenice like one of Poe’s somnambulists. Gabriel Byrne shows how these things should be done.

De Natura Sonoris no. 2 (1971) by Krzysztof Penderecki.
More familiar to people as “music from The Shining“, this piece, along with much of the Polish composer‘s early work, really does sound like music in search of a horror film. His cheerily-titled Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima is one piece that won’t be used to sell cars any time soon. Kubrick also used Penderecki’s equally chilling The Dream of Jacob for The Shining score, together with pieces by Ligeti and Bartók.

Treetop Drive (1994) by Deathprod.
Helge Sten is a Norwegian electronic experimentalist whose solo work is released under the Deathprod name. “Electronic” these days often means using laptops and the latest keyboard and sampling equipment. Deathprod music is created on old equipment which renders its provenance opaque leaving the listener to concentrate on the sounds rather than be troubled by how they might have been created. The noises on the deceptively-titled Treetop Drive are a disturbing series of slow loops with squalling chords, anguished shrieks and some massive foghorn rumble that seems to emanate from the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker. Play it in the dark and feel the world ending.

Ouroborindra (2005) by Eric Zann.
Another collection of sinister electronica from the Ghost Box label (see this earlier post), referencing HP Lovecraft and Arthur Machen’s masterpiece, The White People. Spectral presences haunting the margins of the radio spectrum.

Theme from The Addams Family (1964) by Vic Mizzy.
Never the Munsters, always the Addams Family! If you don’t know the difference, you must be dead.

Happy Halloween!

Previously on { feuilleton }
The music of the Wicker Man

Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys

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The great Hal Willner is doing his eclectic thing again. A marvellous collection of folk ballads. Nice cover as well, from Howard Pyle’s celebrated pirate paintings.

Disc: 1
1. Cape Cod Girls—Baby Gramps
2. Mingulay Boat Song—Richard Thompson
3. My Son John—John C. Reilly
4. Fire Down Below—Nick Cave
5. Turkish Revelry—Loudon Wainwright III
6. Bully In The Alley—The Old Prunes
7. The Cruel Ship’s Captain—Bryan Ferry
8. Dead Horse—Robin Holcomb
9. Spanish Ladies—Bill Frisell
10. High Barbary—Joseph Arthur
11. Haul Away Joe—Mark Anthony Thompson
12. Dan Dan—David Thomas
13. Blood Red Roses—Sting
14. Sally Brown—Teddy Thompson
15. Lowlands Away—Rufus Wainwright & Kate McGarrigle
16. Baltimore Whores—Gavin Friday
17. Rolling Sea—Eliza McCarthy
18. Haul On The Bowline—Bob Neuwirth
19. Dying Sailor to His Shipmates—Bono
20. Bonnie Portmore—Lucinda Williams
21. The Mermaid—Martin Carthy & the UK Group
22. Shenandoah—Richard Greene & Jack Shit
23. The Cry Of Man—Mary Margaret O’Hara

Disc: 2
1. Boney—Jack Shit
2. Good Ship Venus—Loudon Wainwright III
3. Long Time Ago—White Magic
4. Pinery Boy—Nick Cave
5. Lowlands Low—Bryan Ferry w/Antony
6. One Spring Morning—Akron/Family
7. Hog Eye Man—Martin Carthy & Family
8. The Fiddler/A Drop Of Nelson’s Blood—Ricky Jay & Richard Greene
9. Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold—Andrea Corr
10. Fathom The Bowl—John C. Reilly
11. Drunken Sailor—Dave Thomas
12. Farewell Nancy—Ed Harcourt
13. Hanging Johnny—Stan Ridgway
14. Old Man of The Sea—Baby Gramps
15. Greenland Whale Fisheries—Van Dyke Parks
16. Shallow Brown—Sting
17. The Grey Funnel Line—Jolie Holland
18. A Drop of Nelson’s Blood—Jarvis Cocker
19. Leave Her Johnny—Lou Reed
20. Little Boy Billy—Ralph Steadman

Previously on { feuilleton }
The music of The Wicker Man
Davy Jones

Le horreur cosmique

hpllibrio.jpgI’ll be in Paris this week so some French-related postings are in order.

Michel Houellebecq’s HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (which I still haven’t read) has been in the news again recently, with a number of reviews appearing in UK newspapers and magazines, most of which present the by-now rather tired spectacle of reviewers who normally wouldn’t give any of this nasty pulp stuff a second thought having to take Lovecraft seriously because Houellebecq is a serious author. (“He’s a bad writer!” they bleat. And Lou Reed is a bad singer; you’re missing the point, you fools.) The Observer last week had one of the better ones. Last year the Guardian published an extract from Houellebecq’s book.

Curious how often it requires the French to make the Anglophone world look anew at marginalised elements of its own culture; Baudelaire championed Edgar Allan Poe, it was French film critics who gave us the term “film noir” when they identified a new strain of American cinema and the Nouvelle Vague writers and filmmakers were the first to treat Hitchcock as anything other than a superior entertainer. The French have always liked Lovecraft so it was no surprise to me at least when Houellebecq’s book appeared.

Oddly enough, the only association I’ve had so far with French publishing is the use of my 1999 picture of Cthulhu’s city, R’lyeh, on the cover of a reprint of HPL stories from Houellebecq’s publishing house (above). Something I’ll be looking for in Paris if I have the time will be more of Philippe Druillet‘s Lovecraft-inflected work. Druillet has been working with the imagery of cosmic horror since the late 60s and even illustrated the work of William Hope Hodgson, one of HPL’s influences and an English writer the broadsheet critics have yet to hear about. Take a look at these pictures for stories written before the First World War then go and look at some stills from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. What was once the preserve of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines is now mainstream culture.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Davy Jones
Charles Méryon’s Paris

Main

hz.jpgIt’s the same every year, the weather gets hot (30C today) and out come the Main CDs, although the march of progress has meant importing them into iTunes this time round. For some reason Main’s Hz collection (6 EPs, later a double-disc set) is especially suited to warm temperatures, partly due to remembrance of them being released one a month during the hot summer of 1995.

Main seem somewhat neglected now despite being in the vanguard of a particular brand of ambient abstraction that emerged throughout the 1990s. To redress the balance slightly, here’s a David Toop interview from The Wire conducted just as the Hz project was getting underway.

Main‘s multi-layered, mud-encrusted textures suggest everything from radio interference to insect chatter. The group’s Robert Hampson talks to David Toop about reinventing the guitar and the mystery of electroacoustics.

DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE on sand, water, skin, steam (and follow it). Main is texture: the interiority of the guitar. The electric, effects-augmented guitar is transitional technology, a mid-point between the dextrous physicality of traditional instruments and the imaginative space of the electronic studio. But also a return to the untempered crystal world of harmonic complexity, a reversal of the pure, precise clarity of classical acoustic guitar, back into the droning resonant strings of an Indian tamboura, bottle tops rattling on a Shona thumb piano, or spider’s egg sacs buzzing on gourd resonators lashed under a Central African xylophone.

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