Chilling (Not Chillout) Music
Every once in a while, some publication comes up with a list of the Scariest Bands of All Time. However, all the choices are shock rockers, i.e. people who wear clown makeup and shout a lot, all in the hope that it upsets their parents. That’s not the kind of music that I think is truly scary. The most frightening kind of music chills rather than shocks, getting under the skin and staying there.
Below is a list of the music that I find to be actually scary…
Aphex Twin (Richard D. James) demonstrates the difference between shocking and scary. His most famous song “Come to Daddy” provides some shocks, thanks in part to its horror movie-like video. But he has also produced ambient work which is genuinely eerie. His first ambient record was a dance music-inspired affair, but with volume two, things became slower, weirder, and darker. Most ambient music is suitable to help you sleep, but if you tried it with this album, you’d probably be awake all night, terrified. You might have heard some of these tracks in Chris Morris’s dark comedy series Jam.
The American singer-songwriter Jandek makes music that is an atonal mixture of folk and blues, with highly cryptic lyrics. The effect is a haunting ambience that is quite unsettling. The man himself is almost as creepy as his music. For many years he was a complete mystery; no-one knew his real name, nor anything else about him. He didn’t perform live, and the only way to buy his albums was by mail-order from his own mini record label. Recently, Jandek has become a little less secretive – giving a few interviews, and even playing the occasional concert. It’s now thought that his real name is Sterling Richard Smith, but no one can be 100% sure of that.
Ligeti was a twentieth-century classical composer, and a contemporary of Stockhausen. Both men shared the same love of the avant-garde, but while Stockhausen was weird, Ligeti was downright terrifying. He was born in Transylvania, so I guess that was destiny. The piece below is his warped take on a traditional Christian requiem. Requiems are supposed to help the living mourn the dead, but this piece seems to be aimed people who are dying themselves. You might know this piece from being featured in one of the (many) weird parts of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
No, really! If you only know of Scott Walker as one half of sixties’ pop favourites The Walker Brothers, then you are in for a surprise. When Scott first went solo, he recorded a series of albums of orchestral pop songs. But as the years went by his, output became less frequent and the material got progressively weirder. The music became almost Industrial, and his lyrics became much darker. His distinctive sonorous voice made the songs seem even eerier. You only have to look at the album covers to understand what he was going for; they look like something from Nine Inch Nails. One particularly creepy song of his is “Clara” from the album Tilt. It’s almost thirteen minutes of spoken word sections, creepy instrumentals…
Charles (Not Marilyn) Manson
Charles Manson was a singer-songwriter before he became a doomsday cult leader. Quite a career change, that. He was part of the Laurel Canyon music scene of the late sixties, and even penned a song for The Monkees. After being sent to prison for life for planning the Tate-Labianca murders, he carried on recording music from his prison cell. You have to admire his commitment, I suppose. His tunes may sound like pretty innocuous stuff, but one of his diabolical plans as a cult leader was to write songs with subliminal messages that would turn man against his fellow man. So who knows what’s really going on in his songs? Listen at your own risk…