With goth, death rock, black metal, horrorcore and the Death Waltz catalog alone, there’s enough spooky sounds in this grim, mortal world to open a whole music department at Spirit Halloween (if only!). Just like Spirit Halloween filling vacant spaces of ghost strip malls like clockwork every Fall, people everywhere are firing up their favorite ghoulish playlists, brimming with all varieties of nostalgia, novelty, and nightmares.
Music has a special ability to evoke real emotion and tension. While the iconic, cinematic themes and soundscapes from the master of horror, John Carpenter, certainly come to mind, some of the best Halloween songs are those that are not deliberately Halloween/horror movie-themed. I tend to go for sounds a little more out there and off the beaten path--songs that still strike a nerve at a disorienting pace that also sound like they were Frankensteined by an assortment of electronic components and experimental ideas, creating a mutated, abstract and almost supernatural form.
As a DJ who collects all manner of dark, experimental electronic music, the artists and producers whose unclassifiable, unsettling music is capable of startling people are among my favorites I’ve enjoyed around Halloween for much of the last decade. Dig in:
Les Vampyrettes - ”Biomutanten”
Les Vampyrettes formed as a one-off studio project between Can bassist Holger Czukay and the eccentric, legendary German producer Conny Plank in 1980, after Czukay suggested to Conny a new series of special singles called “horror with comfort.” With Conny’s openness and fondness for allowing artists to extract new ideas in sound experiments, they concocted “Biomutanten,” which is set at a lurching pace with a slow, dirge-y bassline rolled amidst shards of broken glass, tape loops and other noises. Meanwhile, the mutant German vocals (by Conny) tell a story about a car driver who breaks down near a slimy garbage place and is attacked by ominous monsters from within. You sort of know how this one is going to end, and it’s not going to be pretty.
Gazelle Twin - "Glory"
Gazelle Twin, one of my favorite electronic producers of the last decade, outfreaks most people in the most unsettling dystopian landscape. Exploring a variety of phobic, dysmorphic and antagonistic themes, the UK producer’s work ventures into a vast, fire-ravaged industrial wasteland with stellar choral summoning, distorted vocal effects, uneasy minor keys and booming synth stabs. It should be no surprise she has been tapped for numerous horror score opportunities recently (including the OST for The Power) and rightly so. Her music has, since the 2011 release of her ethereal, alien-pop debut, The Entire City, managed to capture those fiery and phantom spirits dwelling in the darkness and allowing them to feast in your ear holes. “Glory,” off her 2018 release Pastoral, is a horror scene come to life, with an eerie echo of godly/godlessness harnessing the power of Diamanda Galas’ most evocative works.
Lucrecia Dalt - "Tar"
If you have vertigo or a fear of drowning and you’re going to listen to Lucrecia Dalt, you better sit down or grab a life jacket. Stylistically minimal and rendered virtually beatless, the Berlin-based Colombian sound producer pours out arrhythmic loops, disorienting pulses, disembodied voices and sound treatments into organic, alien-like shapes and forms. Imagine what it must feel like sinking far below the surface of the ocean, unable to breathe, trapped in the depths of something so vast, you’re lost forever. That’s what Lucrecia Dalt does in her music. You continue floating deeper and deeper as the light falls away. Soon enough, you'll start hearing voices, guiding you into the abyss of a surrealistic nightmare. That’s what I felt when I first heard “Tar” off her 2015 album Anticlines. Like Gazelle Twin, Lucrecia has also been tapped for soundtrack/sound design on numerous Hollywood shows and film projects, including The Baby.
Fad Gadget - "Insecticide"
Fad Gadget’s Frank Tovey was no stranger to extremely physical performance and was sonically ahead of the curve when it came to experimenting with electronics. He had a chameleonic ability to craft a catchy synth-pop song without losing his experimental tendencies. He was the guy who inspired Depeche Mode to pick up synthesizers as he was smashing himself on stage and pulling out his hair, distorting his vocals, contorting his body and making an absolute sacrifice to his art. His stage antics didn’t hold him back in the studio either. On "Insecticide," a b-side single from his 1980 debut Fireside Favourites, his mutant vocals are born into an unsettling environment, spawning a heart-pumping freak-fest of relentless energy and aggression.
Demdike Stare - "Forest of Evil (Dawn)"
These hauntological riddim makers are no strangers to spooky sounds. Menacing, throbbing low end creaks through dark branches of dub and ominous ambiance that stops you in your tracks and unfolds into wobbly distortion and phantomesque filters sending radio-static signals and hypnotic transmissions reaching through your speakers like a poltergeist. The three fantastic 12” EP’s that make up the Tryptych compilation (Forest of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing, and Voices of Dust) are eerie, sonic feats of studio experimentation, manifesting into unique forms, identities and entities.
Not scared yet and want more horrifying musical madness? Check out the tracks below for even more strange, spooky, sonic weirdness. Happy Halloween from Analog Cases!