ACL 2017 ~ Music for Haunted Houses

Would you enter into this house?  Maybe if your potential girlfriend had been captured by a slippery entity who enjoyed taking the form of a clown.  It struck a chord, arriving at just the right time, the far border of summer.  But It‘s success was more than timing; the writers and producers knew that the most effective horror is tampered by humanity and humor.  This is the allure of the haunted house; a good haunted house (or hayride for that matter) allows us to laugh and scream.  Haunted house music is also diverse, depending on the audience: from light scares (for the little ones) to all-out terror (for the resistant adults).  We’ve chosen a cross-section of such music for this year’s first “year-end” feature, publishing early to get us in the mood for Halloween!  Happy haunting, everyone!

Deison | Mingle ~ Innersurface (St.An.Da)
Deison and Mingle are frequent visitors to these pages, and their collaborations have been inspired by dark muses.  This may be the most percussive and electronic entry on this year’s list, but it’s also one of the most oppressive.  The pulses and chains of “Reverse” seem to signify an inevitable doom, a hole from which one cannot escape.  The liner notes hint that the duo may have arrived at its final destination as well; we hope for a hidden scene, a supernatural resurrection.

Original review

Elegi ~ Bånsull (Dronarivm)
We opened our original review with the words, “Is it Halloween yet?”  The album was out of place when it was released just before Valentine’s Day, but its heart is in synch with October.  The ghosts of excavated stories beckon from the attic, begging to be heard; but invite them in and they will stay.  The spirits of this set communicate through static, howls and slowly turning vinyl.  They didn’t like being ignored while we went to the beach, drank wine and lounged in the light.  Now their time has come.

Original review

The Holocene ~ Dead:Unearthed (Lugubrious Audio)
Haunted house music can be fun; just ask Peter Hamlin (The Holocene), a man in love with Hammer Horror and old VHS tapes.  He’s created a beautiful – yes, beautiful – tapestry of TV memories and nostalgic scares through a series of tape loops and added instrumentation.  Only “Burial Ground” is intimidating; the project as a whole is a testament to the allure of fearful sounds.

Original review

Jeff Russo ~ Legion (Lakeshore Records)
Not everything here is frightening, but the quieter tracks offer a necessary contrast: a false sense of security that mirrors the mind of the protagonist.  Those who have not yet seen the show are in for a treat; they’ll never hear crickets the same way again.  Two volumes of music were released this year, the first superior but the second worth a spin as well.

Original review

Marcus Fjellström ~ Skelektikon (Miasmah)
Marcus Fjellström passed away this September in the prime of his life and at the peak of his abilities.  A master of intelligent, frightening music, he leaves behind a gorgeous body of work that now will always seem abbreviated, like a phonograph needle yanked before the record has ended.  These final notes now seem like foreshadowing, as sad as they are unsettling.

Original review

Matthias Urban ~ The Galvanic Twitch (Dinzu Artefacts)
The music sounds like a laboratory filled with bubbling beakers and bottled body parts.  Sudden sounds disrupt the observers, but the autopsy continues.  These chemically-treated tapes have found new life, the cello and tenor sax squawking commentary like wisecracking assistants.  But when that twitch occurs, all smirking stops, replaced by nervous admiration.

Original review / Release page with sound clips

Sala ~ scare me not (Unfathomless)
This album represents the creeping, lurking dread that one doesn’t even notice at first ~ something is running through the rafters, scratching at the walls, or in this case, hiding in an abandoned industrial canister.  The fear is in the waiting; there’s no doubt the monster is there.  But when will it attack?  Imagine being a mouse in a snake’s cage, unsure when the serpent has eaten last.

Original review

Seldom Family ~ Audrey & Laura (Self-released)
This year’s Twin Peaks revival left us dazed and confused, underlining our unease about humanity while soothing our fears about the show.  Creating as many questions as it did answers, the mini-series built on the mythos in an admirable way.  The same is true of this homage, which adopts the spirit of the original series: on the surface, everything is pleasant, but underneath, something is not quite right.  The pleasure is in figuring out what it is before it’s too late.

Original review

S S S S ~ Just Dead Stars for Dead Eyes (Hallow Ground)
Originally released by the Haunter label just in time for Christmas, Just Dead Stars for Dead Eyes was picked up and dusted off, its viscera removed and replaced by Lawrence English and Hallow Ground.  To listen is to walk through a deserted reformatory, seeking refuge among the squeaky wheelchairs and spectral, clawing hands.  The claustrophobia increases as the record progresses, drawing to a surprisingly bright conclusion.

Original review

Sult + Lasse Marhaug ~ Harpoon (ConradSound)
Scrapes, drones, abrasion, dissonance, and atonalism: the album sounds like the inside of Captain Ahab’s head as he dreams of Moby Dick.  One can imagine the hammering and grinding, the tearing of chains and ripping of hulls.  There’s no bearing to be found, no respite, just the bleak sound of metal on metal.  The fact that the album was created by amplifying the innards of guitar, contrabass and percussion only adds to the sense of disorientation.

Original review

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