Amen to Zombie: October 1st, 2010

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

Sound Effects No. 21
More Death and Horror

Side 1

  1. Death of the Fly – The hydraulic press opens and shuts on “It” forever
  2. Vampire Feeding – A late night snack is good for the blood
  3. Death By Harikiri – The honourable way to die-Japanese style
  4. Sweeny Todd The Barber – Sharpen the razor, the meat pies are nearly finished.
  5. Wind Through Crack In Door
  6. Wind In The Trees
  7. Synthesised Wind (Electronic) *Just to set the scene and keep you chilled.
  8. Sea Monster – The foghorns call, and are answered by a slimy horror.
  9. Sharpening The Knife – A keen blade causes no pain.
  10. Falling Scream – Watch you don’t trip.
  11. Premature Burial – Pray it doesn’t happen to you.
  12. Wild Dogs – They don’t eat from tins.
  13. The Iron Maiden – Not a political point to be seen, just sharp ones.

Side 2

  1. Death In The Swamp – Watch where you tread, you might slip forever.
  2. The Sewer Rats – You’re not alone down here, I hear the patter of tiny feet.
  3. The Poisoned Drink – Cheers!-for the last time.
  4. The Rack – The hag laughs as you grow taller.
  5. Midnight Strangler – Lock up at night or you’ll run out of breath.
  6. Assorted Gun Shots – All electronic, so they can’t hurt-can they?
  7. At The Dentist – Open wide, there’s a drill coming to bore you.
  8. Time Bomb – The suspense will kill you.
  9. Death By Electrocution – The last shock you’ll get.
  10. Gouging Eyeballs – One down, one to go.
  11. Russian Roulette – Your turn to pull the trigger comrade.
  12. Death By Garrotting – Take a deep breath-just the one.
  13. Suicide By Gas – Gas Mark 10 for one hour, but don’t strike a match.

First find of the the looming Halloween sound effects recordings season and we got some heavy gear.  Found this one in a kind of pricey shop in Philadelphia.  But, just take a look at that cover.  Flyman-watches-Dracula-bite-a-woman-with-a-bare-tit-who-watches-a-man-get-pulled-by-the-rack-and-spikes-lowered-on-him-by-Death-as-another-man-drowning-in-sewage-and-a-wolf-and-a-dragon-watch.  This record could have cost $50 and I would have considered buying it.  Thankfully eight bucks did the work and this slice of vinyl was mine.
Right off the bat you know its going to be fun.  Death of a Fly, you can hear the hydraulic warming up and then the actual crushing of the fly sounds like Mr. Owl taking a bite of a Tootsie-pop.
This is my first run-in with any foreign Halloween sound effects recordings, and why not just go for cream with one drummed up by Mike Harding & Peter Harwood.  Both worked as producers/engineers for the BBC, and specifically M. Harding has worked in the Radiophonic Workshop. Not necessarily one of the main players at the Radiophonic Workshop, but has contributed to some of the vast Radiophonic catalog.
Firstly, if you’re not familiar with the Radiophonic Workshop, quite simply way back in 1958 the BBC built a small three room studio for the expressed purpose of creating any of the background music, theme songs, or any other type of sound that was not the human voice for all of the BBC’s original programing.  They did work for the radio as well. The collective essentially worked as the BBC’s private in-house band.  I’ve mentioned Library Music before and that’s exactly what the Radiophonic Workshop produced. Sort of.
Because of the progressive techniques and the fact that most of the staff at the RW had a lot of freedom, the material became wildly popular.  This lead to the BBC releasing some of their “library music” commercially.  You may have heard of Dr. Who. RW came up with that as well as tons of other really, really bad-ass Sci-Fi pieces, years before anyone was doing similar work in popular or even underground music.
Which brings us back to More Death and Horror.  Technically its part of a Sound Effects series, 21st in the series to be exact, but the idea behind the record and the fact that M. Harding is the main player here make it feel more like a Radiophonic Workshop release, but maybe its one from a sister label.  M. Harding is also responsible for such gems as Through a Glass, Darkly an official RW prog rock release and, of course, Sound Effects no. 13 Death and Horror and no. 27 Even More Death and Horror.
Even More Death and Horror has a perfect rating on Discogs and includes a piece called Torture Lab: AD 2500. So I’m definitely interested in tracking some more of the series.  Although it might be a difficult task, there are bootleg CD-Rs of the releases already cataloged at Discogs. At any rate I’m happy to have scored this one, and as a bonus I found a clear red flexi-disc in the sleeve.  Boosh.
Before we get to any review of the material, “suffocating inside this prison“*  its important for me to blab on here about something.  I find it interesting how what once was considered library music has now unfolded into a number of genres.  Or, alternatively, I’m marveling at advertising’s ability to influence.   Almost as if music consumers were tired of getting fed crap by the music industry, wanted what advertisers kept to themselves, and in turn became composers themselves.  Library music is the first island you swim to from the vast oceans of academic noise.  It’s the first chance for experimental sounds to be heard by the public more often than not.
We have become such keen consumers of products, that we now want to market ourselves.  We do so in the ways of the internet, YouTube and Facebook.  And instead of being sold a musical product, there are artists that have put it upon themselves to take stranger sounds from the grips of advertisers and bend them to promote themselves.  There have been countless New/No Wave, Techno/Electro, etc. artist that have come up through the 80’s have cited the RW as a key influence.
Delia Derbyshire is seen here beatmatching two reel-to-reels.  Years before New York and hip-hop and all the late 70’s explosion of dance music.  Delia was also responsible for the programing and execution of the Dr. Who theme and is the golden age pin-up of bridge trolls who stare at drum machines.  She was a sexy bird, but let’s get back on track.
As far as the two camps of Halloween sound effects records go, More Death and Horror falls on the side of pure sound effects.  No narratives or spooky stories.  Just a string of Polaroid type pieces of audio that do their best to bring to life their titles.  And where they fail, M. Harding puts it on you to make up better stories.  Which is why this feels more like a RW or library music record to me than a Halloween sound effects record.
Sidebar: I’ve got to come up with a good name for these types of recordings besides Halloween sound effects recordings.  Hmmm, maybe Spooky Sounds?
Anyway, the record is a fine collection of a wide variety of spooky sounds, mostly ending in someone’s death.  Which may beg the question that if you were to use this as source material for you very own radio play, it would be your one-stop-shop for interesting deaths.  Including “Death by Garrotting,” which is the most gruesome sounding, mainly because I didn’t know what garrotting was before I looked it up.  But from the edge to the label, it’s not much of a thrill.  It was fun to listen to the first time, checking back at the cover to see how the poor bloke was being put to death this time around.  But as a stand-alone record that you could just put on and be swept up into, it falls flat.  Not coming out of that gate strong, I do like this record for what it could be: source material. And I think that kind of takes away from what it actually is.  A well packaged cache of the sounds of people “dying.”  But Halloween-ing season is game on!
Goodnight out there, whatever you are
*quote attributed to Reginald VonVorst