A couple of months ago I came across this great 12″ split by Antoni Maoivvi and a project called Slasher Film Festival Strategy. My friend John at Karma Records of Warsaw told me on Black Friday that he had this split arriving in the afternoon and that he thought I’d really dig it. I had heard of this split as Death Waltz Recording Company had issued it not long before that and it had sold out quickly. Figured I better grab this thing while I could. Very happy I did as it’s a great three-song collection of moody, dark synth stuff. This led me to looking into Slasher Film Festival Strategy.
Turns out it’s really just one guy. A dude from South Carolina named Christopher Ashley. Ashley was in hardcore bands in the early and mid-90s. The biggest was Murder Weapons, which released a single and recorded a full-length that never saw an official release. He seemed to not only enjoy hardcore and punk, but was a big fan of horror films in the 80s and the soundtracks that accompanied them. Ashley had some beat up synths and a 4-track cassette recorder and began making rough-around-the-edges synth music in-between Murder Weapons practices and over the years amassed quite a collection of self-released albums, a good portion on cassette tape. He’s been putting this horror soundtrack-inspired music out for nearly 20 years, well before the great heavy synth boom began just a few years ago.
I was pretty shocked by this, and at first when I read the project had been putting out music since 1998 I thought it was just a rue in order to build some kind of mystique around the music. Well I was wrong, as I heard from the man himself that he’s been indeed making music as Slasher Film Festival Strategy since 1998(I’ve sent Mr. Ashley some questions for a very in-depth Q&A. Hopefully that will come to light very soon.) I’ve since immersed myself in the world of SFFS, and it’s been an exciting and seedy journey.
Heading over to Foreign Sounds Bandcamp page you’ll find plenty of dark and moody synth tunes to indulge in. What? What is Foreign Sounds? Oh, well it’s the record label Ashley started to self-release his material, as well as other artists he finds interesting. Over there you can check out Slasher Film Festival Strategy’s Early Works 1998-2003. It’s some seriously lo-fi, gritty synth music that you’d swear was in some exploitative horror film from 1981. There’s tape hiss, sudden starts and stops, and a general feel of amateurish glee. That feeling of someone experimenting for the first time with a new art and they’re loving it. You can hear a definite progression from amateur to novice to someone that is starting to know what the hell they’re doing. You can even pick up a copy of this thing on cassette. That way you can listen to it once then hide it in the couch and forget about it for years so when you get rid of the couch the next owner can find it hidden while cleaning it one day. They can put it in their cassette player and wonder what the hell they just found(this scenario relies completely on the idea that future couch owner actually has a cassette player.)
There’s lots of good stuff to listen to from SFFS, but right now I’m currently entranced with his 2014 release Wet Leather. It’s a beautiful homage to those gritty and grainy exploitative slasher flicks of the late 70s and early 80s. Zombi-ish arpeggiated synth lines pushed along by antiquated drum machines, moody drones and mournful keys all encompass the world of Wet Leather. All the track titles refer to some made up scene or set piece. “Forced Entry”, “The Stalker”, “Shadow Lurker”, “Reflection of the Blade”, and “The Hunt” all work to build some made up narrative of some lost slasher film that never really existed. In this way Ashley is not only just making a synth record, but something more. Something to help fuel the dark imagination in all of us(well definitely me, anyways.)
The music is seedy, dark, and paints a picture of dank, dingy alleyways. City streets dimly lit with danger around every corner permeate this album. Late night drives into unknown and dangerous territory. This is music Abel Ferrara would surely have loved in some of his early 80s films. There are gentler moments, but even they have an air of danger lurking in them. John Carpenter is definitely informing the music a bit here, as is Goblin, Zombi, and even Boards of Canada. It’s a great collection of music.
I recently acquired a copy of Wet Leather in red and black swirl vinyl and it sounds great. The album sleeve was designed by Ashley himself and it truly looks like the movie poster to some lost horror film. It’s done up perfectly, really. For the vinyl collectors out there this is an artifact you must have in your collection.
Besides the Early Works collection, you can also check out Crimson Throne, a concept album written as a score for a sci fi film Christopher Ashley had hanging around in his head. That too is a great album, as is Psychic Shield. Psychic Shield is the newest SFFS album and will be getting a vinyl released on Death Waltz Originals very soon.
So go put on that old leather jacket, a ski mask, and some dirty gloves and enjoy some Slasher Film Festival Strategy. Just forewarn the wife and kids what you’re doing. To be on the safe side, of course.