Get spooked this Halloween with these three disquieting records
Akira Yamaoka – Silent Hill: Original Soundtracks (Konami Music Entertainment; 1999)
Lauded for their tense, foreboding atmosphere and ground-breaking, psychologically charged themes, the Silent Hill games are perhaps best known for their incredibly effective and gut-wrenching soundtracks composed by the one and only Akira Yamaoka. While later entries in the series put emphasis on Yamaoka’s emotionally bare trip-hop pieces, the original title features one of the most nerve-wracking soundtracks in the medium. A dark ambient album rife with the industrial sounds of clanging, cold machinery and ear-splitting circuit failures, Silent Hill truly made the most of its limited hardware without sacrificing quality. Even divorced of its original context, Yamaoka’s score is simply unnerving in the best of ways, like a thick, billowing cloud of dread, slowly suffocating every inch of life in sight. Though the game may not quite stand the test of time, Akira Yamaoka’s mark on the medium is still present, re-shaping the use of music in video games just as film did decades prior.
Scott Walker – The Drift (4AD; 2006)
Oh, Scott Walker. Where to begin? Once a pioneering baroque pop artist known for his unconventional arrangements and signature warbly croon, Walker soon suffered a sharp decline in sales, only to release what were essentially traditional pop cover albums in order to satisfy executives. After a lengthy hiatus, he returned a new man; though the vulnerable singer/songwriter was still present, his voice almost intact, his demeanour had taken on entirely otherworldly form. While 1995’s Tilt showcases his bold new deeply expressionistic direction, 2006’s follow-up The Drift remains one of the most confounding, troubling and deeply terrifying musical experiences of the 21st Century. Through increasingly intricate and disquieting arrangements, Walker croons his way over a veritable backdrop from hell, often evoking a sermonizing cultish priest figure. “Clara” is particularly unsettling; following a series of volume swells and brass strikes, a legion of cicadas begins buzzing infernally while the sounds of a man punching a piece of meat and grunting simultaneously suddenly find their way into the mix. The Drift is proof that some artists only grow increasingly ambitious with age; it also happens to be a towering nightmare.
Current 93 – I Have a Special Plan for This World (Durtro; 2000)
By no means a conventional band, Current 93 have always been defined by their overly atmospheric, densely unnerving brand of folk; utilizing noisy elements of industrial music, frontman David Tibet and his peers utilize a slew of traditional instruments to render a serenely apocalyptic and lethargic package of the highest order. None of this beauty is present on I Have a Special Plan for this World, a single song, 22-minute EP. Comprised entirely of ambient drones, field recordings, a tattered, circuit-bent Speak and Spell from hell and the cold, didactic narration of Tibet reading a poem by famed horror writer Thomas Ligotti, the resulting concoction is absolutely horrifying. The EP takes on the form of a madman’s diary, each section fragmented by the infernal broken toy regurgitating broken information and surrounded by a mounting sense of dread and discomfort. Though the initial fridge-like hum and the lack of conventional “music” may not be for everyone, I Have a Special Plan for This World is an experience worth taking, if only to ensure that you still have a pulse.