Slasher Film Festival Strategy have taken up quite a bit of real estate up in my head since November of 2015. My first foray into the grimy and creepy world of SFFS was with the split they did with Antoni Maovvi. I was really impressed with what I’d heard on that three-song EP, so I went and ordered a copy of their album Wet Leather. That album was a collection of seedy sounding synth pieces that could’ve easily fit into exploitation films like Ms. 45, New York Ripper, Maniac, and a plethora of early 80s grindhouse slice ’em and dice ’em direct-to-video slasher flicks. You know the ones, the movies that ended up in the back room of the video shop alongside cult classics like Deep Red Hatchet Murders, Nightmare, Alone In The Dark, and Happy Birthday To Me. These were the movies you rented when your big brother took you to the video shop on a Friday night. Your parents were going out with the neighbors to grab a bite, drink one too many draft beers, and then head back to the neighbors house to play cards till a fight broke out or someone fell asleep on the toilet. Good times. Those were the nights where you got to see those movies that were collecting dust on the video store wall. The movies your mom told you “No way!” when you asked her for the fifth time if you could rent ’em. That’s what the big brother was for. He’d let you rent whatever you wanted just as long as you were preoccupied while him and his girlfriend snuck off to his bedroom to spin mom and dad’s copy of The Doors’ L.A. Woman and Billy Squier’s Don’t Say No. SFFS is the sound of those movies; some good, some bad, some godawful, but always left you with a strange feeling of being transported to that world. Those movies saved money on budget by hiring some guy to score their shoestring budget slasher with nothing more than a drum machine and a synthesizer. What should’ve been just as cheesy as the film itself actually turned the film into something better. The desolation and loneliness that emanated from those processed string sounds and digitized bass notes turned the b-slasher flick into something more. At least something more than what was committed to film.
That’s the vibe you get from SFFS. I picked up their most recent record, the Mondo/Death Waltz release Psychic Shield. This one feels less jagged. It feels less sordid and sticky than Wet Leather. There’s a softer approach to the musical pieces this time around. There’s also a definite narrative that C. Ashley had in mind. Here’s the description of the album concept via the Mondotees website: “PSYCHIC SHIELD tells the story of a religious cult of flesh-eating witches who use their religion to lure unsuspecting victims to their gruesome deaths. The survivors of the cult use the Psychic Shield to protect them, as they battle to the death to make sure the cult and its members burns to the ground – forever.”
That lighter touch has elements of Fabio Frizzi, Rob, and even bits of Air if you sit and really listen. I’m also reminded a bit of some of Michael Mann’s early 80s fare. Some Tangerine Dream mixed with French pop. It’s all very easy on the palate. If the greasy and scuzzy sounds of Wet Leather made you want to shower after listening for five minutes then Psychic Shield may just be your in with Slasher Film Festival Strategy.
With each purchase of these heavily inspired 80s synth albums I wonder if I’ve hit my limit. Do I need to keep this pace up? I’ve heard plenty of these synth-heavy artists already. Why keep getting them? And just as I’m thinking maybe I’ll take a break from them I get someone into one of these artists. Then I hear a new record with a new vibe and I’m inspired to keep listening. I’ve heard plenty of rock ‘n roll, do I stop buying rock ‘n roll albums? The Stones are great, and so is Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but once I heard Let It Bleed, Houses of the Holy, and Paranoid I didn’t say “Okay, I’m good.”
No way, man.
If you got your ears to the tracks you will keep hearing great stuff coming down the pike. Another take on an old formula. That’s what Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax did. They took those Sabbath and AC/DC records and put ’em through the speed metal processor and added a healthy dose of hardcore. Tangerine Dream opened doors and minds to new horizons and showed us all what could be done with “processed” sound. But innovation and creativity in the world of synthesizers didn’t stop with them. It kept evolving. Bands like Sinoia Caves, Night Flights, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Nightsatan are just a few examples of bands innovating what can be done with synthesizer music. Slasher Film Festival Strategy are as well, of course. They’re mixing music with film, well at least with film in mind.
I’ve talked about them before, and I’ll probably talk about them again. So give them a listen. Psychic Shield is a good place to start.