This week I have mostly been listening to…
Faux 80′s electronic horror/thriller movie soundtracks
The 80′s were fun weren’t they? A time of prosperity and cultural revolution? Possibly. Not too sure myself to be honest, given that I spent a lot of it being beaten on or battling rampaging hormones. There were two mainstays that got me through this tempestuous period in my life – heavy metal and horror movies. It’s the latter that I want to talk about (for a change).
You see, me and my grubby friends were obsessed by horror movies. Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, all were figures of stature to be revered and worshipped. Blue-tacked to the wall and emulated in back gardens with plastic blades. But that was the mainstream. The mainstream was easy, and thus not very exotic. It lacked the toxic allure of horror underground. Here dwells the Italians. And the Italians knew how to put on a face-splattering party which put them far on the wrong side of the censors, and thus on exactly the right side of us. The censor induced scarcity just made these nasty, splatter-filled yarns more alluring and seductive. The real things (ranging from bona fide cinema genius to poor quality soft porn with monsters) couldn’t hope to match our expectations of them. But still we searched, watching them, while our parents were at work, in sterile suburban sitting rooms, delighting in murder, cannibalism, exposed entrails, evisceration, castration and all the other needless violence, in all its parent bating wonderfulness.
I don’t get much time to watch that type of stuff these days, and my wife certainly doesn’t delight in these oddities in the same way that I do (or at all in fact), so I indulge my grimy pleasure on those seldom experienced occasions when I’m on my own. Some time ago I found some time to revisit surely the Italian splatter movie, Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombi 2 (aka Zombie Flesheaters). It’s a great film in every sense, ridiculous and sublime in equal measure, the hallmarks of a great splatter movie. And those zombies – surely the most terrifying of any genre film. But none of that is what stuck with me after watching it. What stuck with me was Fabio Frizzi’s masterful and somehow entirely unwholesome soundtrack. It’s mastrerclass in how to make synthesizers sound gritty and lurid – if cockroaches could play the keyboard, this is the music that they would make. Hypnotic and repetitive, it really stuck in my head, to the point where I was humming it to my baby son to lull him to sleep. I spent some time hunting down this soundtrack and others (by the likes of Argento collaberators Goblin) and indulged myself listening to them for a while before consigning them to the background with all my other various musical fads.
That was until last weekend when I happened on an artist, playing at All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Mogwai curated Alexandra Palace festival, called Umberto. His moniker is an obvious reference to Italian splatter movie extremo, Cannibal Ferox director Umberto Lenzi. Umberto plays music in the style of Fabio Frizzi, Goblin, and John Carpenter to create soundtracks to non-existant horror films. These synth-rock dirges are even named as if matched to the scenes of the films (Someone Chasing Someone Through a House, Everything’s Going to be Okay). It makes for very entertaining listening. And it turns out that he’s not the only one doing it. Under the pseudo-Italian pseudonym Antoni Maiovvi, German electronica artist Anton Maiof makes similar faux-soundtracks to imaginary thrillers. These albums tell a story, both of the artist and their obsession, and the narrative that the music illustrates. They bring the music, you bring whatever vile, grainy, poorly acted visuals you can concoct in that sick mind of yours.
The soundtrack connection aside, this is great, high-quality electronica with a darkened edge, akin to late-era Massive Attack or the strange-brew “witch house” of Salem (another recent discovery that I’m currently amusing myself with). Aside from the odd bit of dubstep (the nu-metal of the dance genre) it’s the first new electronica that’s excited me for a while.
With “retro” seemingly the only form of new music left, and much of that a dull rehash of a dull rehash of a well worn sub-genre, it’s great to see visionaries such as these mining obscure musical microcultures and mixing in the swarthy subculture of Italian splatter, to make something nominally original.
Now, if only I could find time to watch the actual films…