I like movie soundtracks – score. I like ambient music. I like heavy metal. I particularly love when two or three of those things can come together to create a sinister, creeping – creepy – mood. A sustained sinister creeping – creepy – mood, even. So I wanted to explore that today via five favourites. Five Songs For Friday has a downbeat, moody twist to it today, it’s about when the edge is softened slightly but is still very weird, dark and oddball. It’s about when sinister has a perculiar warmth to it. Here we go then…follow, if you think I know what I’m talking about (because I’m not sure I do, but where words fail music often succeeds…)
1. Nine Inch Nails, A Warm Place
I was a fan of Nine Inch Nails already, but what really propelled it was the use of this – and other pieces – and Trent Reznor’s overall conception of the soundtrack/score to Natural Born Killers. A classic use of music as a narrative treatment within and around a film. From there I started picking up any/all NIN releases. And you can see this and the other NBK tracks as the logical antecdents of the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross movie-score tropes now. All good things, but over just a short timeframe this piece does the business I reckon. It’s both sinister and calming. And that’s the sort of electric-skin-itch feel that I love when darker ambient music makes its subtle, softly-pulsing mark.
2. Burzum, Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitat
I did say ‘sustained mood’ – and so I doubt there could be much better than this, from Burzum’s black-metal classic, Filsofem – excerpted and put to subtle, stunning, striking, sinister use in the Gummo soundtrack (where I first heard it) it really deserves to be enjoyed in full. Such a calming antidote to much of the rest of the album. So perfect within the album and as an extract from it. Unsettling in the most oddly calming way. I want to say it’s nearly joyous…but that might suggest I have a body part or two tucked in my wardrobe…
3. John Carpenter, Assault on Precinct 13 [Main Theme]
Well we can’t talk about sustaining a calm but creepy mood – particularly referencing movie themes – without mentioning John Carpenter. His films manage that feat alone, but his music (which he mostly composes and performs) is the secret glue. And he’s taken now to performing it live on its own, to making new music in the style of his classic movie themes. I’m choosing this because to pick the more obvious ones would be…well…obvious. And yet, any Carpenter fan would have the Precinct music right up there high on the list. A master. So simple. So evocative, eerie and brilliant.
4. Aphex Twin, #8
And if we’re talking sustained then I should really link to the entire album, over two hours of largely beat-less, creepy music. Aphex Twin felt like one of the most profound and influential musical introductions – when I heard his music for the first time I tried to find all of it in a single weekend (and I’m still not sure that he didn’t record all of it in a single weekend, just staggering the releases, drip-feeding). There are albums I prefer over Selected Ambient Works Volume II but for the purposes of this discussion it is the Best Aphex Twin Album. Though you could find something to hold to from anything he’s done.
5. Pink Floyd, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Okay, so this is much more conventional rock/prog I guess – but hearing this on the Relics album, very early on in my Pink Floyd appreciation was key to so many things. It scared the shit out of me the way the best horror films do, but with that level of intrigue: you’re frightened but you’re coming right back! The build to this, the attempt to put the mood of psychosis into music, it still gets me to this day. Gateway-drug too, to Mike Oldfield and many, many other things…
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