Castles Made of Pixels

I don’t even remember Castlevania III : Dracula’s Curse. I don’t remember one single thing about the game, not even the music. Yet, I felt compelled to buy Mondo’s double LP release of the soundtrack a couple months ago. Compelled may not be the right word. Possessed to buy it, maybe? It’s like a sickness, folks. An addiction. Maybe it’s because I figured I bought the first two Castlevania releases, so I needed to complete the trilogy? That could be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Castlevania as a teen. That was one of the few games in my sad game-playing career that I obsessed over, but only three versions of the game. The original Castlevania on NES, Super Castlevania on the Super Nintendo system, and then Castlevania : Symphony of the Night on the original Playstation. Those three versions I loved and played like an idiot into the wee hours of the night. I’d load up on caffeine and frozen pizzas and battle all the ghouls and ghosts hidden away in Dracula’s various castles.

But not Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

But I gotta say, the music in that game was on point. For being 8-bit(or was it 16-bit by then?), the music really grabs you and pulls you into that world of darkness and doomed baroque romanticism. What’s most interesting is that the music reminds me of the neo-classical guitar of Ritchie Blackmore and that Swedish guy Yngwie Malmsteen. When I heard the second release in this Castlevania series I dubbed it “8-bit Yngwie”. It was sort of an inside joke between me and, well, nobody. Just me. Listen to the guitar/organ solos in Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” for the neo-classical reference. Imagine that done on 8-bit instruments and that’ll give you a good idea as to what I’m talking about.

The Konami Kukeiha Club is responsible for the music to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. I’m not sure if they’re an actual club, like with member cards and funny hats. I think they’re just an in-house music department at Konami that were responsible for creating music for Konami’s games. The list of club members is exhaustive, so I won’t list them. I’ll just say that there was a lot of work that went into creating the musical world in not only Castlevania, but so many other classic games that Konami gave us in the 80s and early 90s. What games? Contra. And a bunch more…probably.

I suppose I’ll just continue to keep buying these soundtracks up until I’m broke and selling them on Ebay in order to pay for college tuition or a ham sandwich for lunch. That’s what people with vinyl problems do. We justify these purchases with words and phrases like “nostalgia” and “childhood memories” and “collecting” and “I earned it, dammit!” I’ll have excuses till the cows come home as to why I need to buy these lovely pieces of plastic that are adorned with eye-popping artwork. Why?

Because I earned it, dammit!

Timothy Fife : Black Carbon

Timothy Fife seems to have locked into another realm on his Mondo/Death Waltz Originals debut Black Carbon. Within these three key tracks there seems to be worlds and entities that bubble up from the cascading synths and eerie oohs and ahhs he creates with nothing more than circuitry, wires, and electrical impulses. You get a feeling of traveling through space and time as you let the album roll over you. There’s both a sense of new age enlightenment and darker cult realms, sometimes in the same song. Fife is a student of both music and of the macabre, and he works them both into one momentous work of art on Black Carbon.

I first came to know Fife’s work on last year’s excellent Form Hell, a release by Fife and fellow synth enthusiast Christopher Livengood’s project called Victims. With Form Hell, Fife and Livengood released two immense tracks on the world that brought to mind the best of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and even John Carpenter. My eyes were opened to what serious voodoo Fife could summon with analog devices. When I’d heard Timothy Fife was releasing his solo debut album with Death Waltz Originals I knew it was going to be one of the best of the year. Well Black Carbon is here and it lives up to all my made up hype, and then some.

“Sydney At Night”, even before the music starts, sounds like an epic journey. It opens with the sound of evening overpowering you. Chirping creatures, distant winds, then electrical disturbances slowly take over in your head. Buzzing feedback, horror film dissonance, and eventually a synth melody makes itself known. Propulsive, electronic rhythm moves you along through a makeshift night sky. Blackness pushes over your face as chills take over your body. Musically we’re in komische territory, all bubbling synths and desolation. Beautiful, beautiful desolation. Fife has worked out a krautrock masterwork here. All 17 minutes are vital to the overall atmospheric beauty here. A frayed psyche never sounded so good.

For the digital-only crowd there’s a bonus track in “Alebedesque”. It’s a dreamy, hallucinogenic track that feels like you’re slowly falling through space. It suddenly switches gears and turns into an almost industrial noise track before dissolving into the atmosphere.

Lead track “Black Carbon” powers through a mere 3 minutes and some change, but what it accomplishes in those few moments feels like one hell of a journey. Those familiar with the Victims EP will find “Black Carbon” familiar and inviting. It’s an ominous riff with bits and pieces bobbing in and out of earshot that make you look around the room thinking someone is sneaking up on you. It’s short and sweet, but nonetheless overpowering.

We finally arrive at album closer “Low Plain Landscape”, a sort of aural journey into the ether. It carries new age tendencies; swaths of dense soundscapes that swell and collapse onto themselves, revealing new layers and emotions the deeper you get. It’s this gentle walk through the mist. “Low Plain Landscape” is the peace and enlightenment we searched for through the darker journeys taken before.

We began in the dark and have now reached the light.

Black Carbon is a stunning debut from Timothy Fife. He brings to mind many of the greats that came before him, but brings something completely his own to these excellent songs. There is a flow and continuity here that makes this record an engaging listen from start to finish. So put on your headphones, close your eyes, and get lost in Black Carbon.

8. 3 out of 10

Simon Belmont Blues

I remember it like it was yesterday(or maybe last week.) I spent a week at myCastlevania-image4 uncle Mark’s house in the summer of 1987. I went straight from the last day of school to his place where we’d hang out, eat junk food, and play video games. What I didn’t know was that my older brother was also heading over, though later in the evening after he got off of work. It was three dudes hanging out, stuffing their faces with pizza, watching horror movies, and playing NES games till the wee hours of the morning(I recall one night where my brother and I stayed up till my uncle got up to go to work the next morning playing 1942…oh, to be young again.) We’d rise around noon, eat a bologna sandwich, and do it all again. My brother and I would pile into his 1977 Cutlass and cruise over to the Concord Mall when we’d get bored. He bought Metallica’s Master Of Puppets on cassette that week, which then began my love of thrash and speed metal. We’d already gotten into Megadeth, Anthrax, and Suicidal Tendencies by then, but hearing “Battery” for the first time solidified the appreciation for all things heavy, loud, and scary for me. It was a week of learning, growing, eating, sleeping, and more eating and sleeping.

14017663_1066668100107102_1069778144_nOne night after my uncle got home from work he said he wanted to run over to the mall because there was an NES game he’d heard about and thought we might have fun playing it. We jumped in his car and headed to Kay Bee Toys and my uncle picked up what would end up being one of my all-time favorite video games. It was called Castlevania, and up to this point I was only a video game fan from a distance. Mostly because my parents refused to buy my brother and I a system, but also because I could never find a game that enthralled me enough to get obsessed with it. I’d rather be doing something else than sitting and playing digital basketball or riding a pixelated bike. I’d find out that Castlevania was different. We got home, popped it into the NES and what we found was another world. A Gothic realm where we played the protagonist Simon Belmont as he traveled the many layers and levels of Count Dracula’s castle, searching for the King of the undead himself. Each level has a boss you must defeat, and with each level defeated the bosses got harder(well, duh!). You battle Frankenstein and Igor, Mummy men, a giant bat, Medusa, the Grim Reaper, and then finally the big guy himself, Dracula.

The game immediately sucked me in and we spent the remainder of that week sinking into an NES abyss. I can only imagine we all looked like a bunch of bums sitting around in 2 day old clothes, hair a mess, and empty containers of bologna cascading from the trash can. It didn’t matter, because we had a goal: defeat Dracula. The game’s colors were bright and popped out of the screen, and the music was just as intense. For the time, it felt like an 8-bit symphony. All baroque and melancholy with intense bursts of energy when the game called for it. This was a game that begged to be played for hours and hours. Before Castlevania, games seemed to geared to either little kids or sports people. Nothing really combined horror with platform gameplay like that before. The goals were simple; walk along, whip the ghouls and monsters, collect hearts and extra weapons, kill the bosses, and don’t die. For me, this was the ultimate gaming experience. We didn’t beat Dracula that week, but we got pretty damn close.

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Back cover artwork by Becky Cloonan

There were other games that came afterwards that tickled my fancy; games like Kid Icarus, Trojan, Contra, and even a couple Castlevania sequels were fun and had a similar approach to gameplay, but none hit me like the original Castlevania. After finding a glitch in the game where the system would freeze up as you threw the death blow at the Grim Reaper(the last boss before Dracula), I figured out if you paused the game just as you entered Death’s lair and let it sit for a few minutes the game would have a much less chance of freezing. I beat the game finally, and life in the village turned peaceful once again.

Many years later(30 to be exact), I see that Mondo is releasing a 10 inch of the soundtrack to the original NES Castlevania with beautiful new artwork by Becky Cloonan. The first thought that pops into my head is “I must own that.” Why do I need to own a 10″ record with 8-bit music from a 30 year old video game? Why would a 42 year old man need something like that? Let me explain something to you, there is no “why?” when it comes to your childhood. There is no “why?” when it comes to nostalgia. There is only “because”. There is only “mind your business, pal.” Am I going to be throwing this thing on the turntable every couple of days and pretend whip at imaginary ghouls as the chiptune music blows through my 3-way Pioneer tower speakers? More than likely no(though I have already done that.) But will I pull this record out occasionally and play it to remind myself of all the fun and anger I felt over the course of my teen years playing and dying and starting over and dying again whilst attempting to rid the world of the evil Count Dracula? You bet I will.

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Inside gatefold sleeve by Becky Cloonan

I’m a collector of things I like, not things I’ll resell eventually, or use as collateral. I don’t buy something unless I’m going to enjoy hearing it. I don’t buy to buy. I don’t own museum pieces. I buy things that make me feel good and take me to a specific place in my head. Things that mean something to me. Castlevania exists in a chunk of my childhood that I look back at fondly and with much love. That week at my uncle’s house is one of them. Another is playing this Konami classic with friends stuffing ourselves with pizza and soda till 2am trying to beat the game. The anguish as the game would freeze on us one level before the end, and then the exhilaration of finally getting to the big man himself. This game didn’t make me into a video game lover by any means, but it did make me feel like I was a part of something. It was straightforward, simplistic in its goals, but hard enough to keep you coming back until you won. There were no fairies telling you to go the blue house in the haunted forest to find the purple key so you can open the green door in order to save the polka dot princess. Sorry, I don’t take orders well, especially from digital characters in a video game. Castlevania was simply walking through a castle killing monsters, devouring the hearts they left behind, and putting a stake through some bloodsucker’s heart. Simple. I wish real life were that simple.

So what happens if Mondo decides to put out Super NES’ Goldeneye? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Until then, I’ve got some ghouls to whip.

Long Arm of the Law

For a few weeks now I’ve been working on a new musical project. It’s a collaboration with one of my oldest friends. This friend is an amazing artist and illustrator. He’s created almost all of the album art for the Goodbyewave albums I’ve put out over the years. He’s also put me onto some amazing graphic novels since I’ve started that whole obsession. We’ve decided to collaborate on an audio/visual project together, where I will create musical pieces and he will use those pieces as inspiration to create art. I started a similar project with another old friend last year, and hopefully that will see the light of day at some point. Since starting this new venture, however, I feel I’ve been more inspired to create and my good friend seems pretty inspired by what I’ve created so far. Where that previous project was mainly me creating layers of guitar loops exclusively, this new venture is steeped in analog and digital synth, with guitar and electronic percussion layered throughout. It has been a long time since I’ve been this inspired and ready to create, so this has been an exciting time for me. I can’t wait to share this one when it’s done. It’s going to be pretty amazing. Trust me, folks.

IMG_2189So speaking of collaborations and musical inspiration, I dug out an album I bought way back in January called Law Unit. It’s a mega dose of heavy synth and ominous vibes. It was part of a group of LPs I picked up a couple weeks into the cold of the New Year that I’m just now starting to digest. Law Unit was sorely ignored until recently and I’ve come to appreciate and delight in its creamy, synth-y center and oily, grimy slickness.

Law Unit is the collaborative effort of Antonii Maiovvi and Umberto(Matt Hill.) Both of these names may not mean much to you, but on their own they’ve been creating Giallo-inspired heavy synth and Gothic music for years. Both names bring up visions of sweaty Italians on the dance floor under a mirror ball and horror icons Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Of course those names are supposed to make you think of Italian discos and the macabre masters of Italian horror. I have a feeling these two guys(Maiovvi is actually British producer/musician Anton Maiof) spent lots of time watching VHS copies of horror films and possibly indulging in plenty of 80s French club music and Giorgio Moroder. Nothing wrong with that. On their own, Umberto and Maiovvi make fine music. Umberto’s Gothic leanings are fun for those dark and dingy nights alone with nothing but you and the TV playing old 80s slasher films. Though, Umberto likes to throw in some bits of New Order and Depeche Mode to give the music a dance-y feel. Maiovvi on his own is more along the lines of house and techno music when not turning up the creepy factor(his split on the Foreign Sounds imprint with Slasher Film Festival Strategy is damn brilliant.) His Bandcamp page is overwhelming to say the least. But with Law Unit these two form a truly creepy and ominous duo.

The music? It’s heavy on the synth and tribal rhythms. It sounds like the soundtrack to some lost Abel Ferrara exploitation flick or some cult slasher film. Alien sex fiends, serial killers, creepy voyeurs, and demented cellar dwellers would surely blush at the sounds on this LP. Titles like “Gold Digging”, “Taxidermy”, “Butcher”, and “Defenestrate Thyself” pretty much sound like they read, as do “Icebox”, “Bonethugs”, and “Bloodsucker”.

Death Waltz Originals knows what their patrons like, as does Law Unit. They can also explain their artist better than me, too. So, let’s hear it Death Waltz/Mondo:

LAW UNIT feels like exactly that; to paraphrase a certain TV show, “a lone crusader in a dangerous world”. Like a one-car journey into the night of Hades, dissonant synths and intent percussion surrounding you at every move. The cacophony at times is terrifying, the apocalyptic feeling echoing through distant electric guitars and sampled vocal chorus, following you, hunting you. Or are you hunting them? But what makes this record doubly worth your time are the snatches of beauty, of wonder, hidden within Reflective synth lines, guitar, sometimes ambient, other times in the foreground. LAW UNIT is a masterpiece of hard beats and harder synths that you’ll want on your stereo when you’re making that next trip into the dark unknown. -Mondotees Website

I also quite like this quote, as I think it sums the record up nicely:

The resulting album is made up of ten dangerously cool and evocative cuts, the kind of tracks that put you in the mood for LA circa 2019, or the Detroit of 1987.

IMG_2191So yeah, Law Unit is this mix of industrial, dark wave, and experimental music that hits both ambient and melodic, brooding moods. I have to say that while I dig the work of Antoni Maiovvi and Umberto on their own, I feel that together they bring out the best in each other. This record is a great moment of collaborative artistic highs.

It had been awhile since I’d talked some heavy synth, so I thought I better make up for that.

So if you’re into this sort of thing, you should pick up a copy. There’s still some available on Mondo’s site. My local record guy snagged this for me from Light In The Attic, so there’s no excuse. Get this delightfully orange circular chunk of dark synth goodness and get lost in its Gothic world. I mean, LA circa 2019 is only 3 years away. And Detroit 1987? Yeah, I could see Robocop clomping around the Motor City annihilating thugs and crooks to the sounds of Law Unit.

Couldn’t you?

STOP. IN THE NAME OF THE LAW....UNIT.
“STOP. IN THE NAME OF THE LAW….UNIT.”

 

 

Panic Music : Pentagram Home Video’s ‘Who’s Out There?’

Do you remember that obscure film Who’s Out There? from back in 1986. It was one of those sleazy, creepy flicks released by Pentagram Home Video. According to the info found on Pentagram Home Video’s archived web page:

“There are many rumours about the production of the 1986 film ‘Who’s Out There’ but information is scarce. Released on VHS by Pentagram Home Video the film follows a soldier sent back from a future war to 1986 to prevent an alien bounty hunter from tracking and destroying his target. A relentless pursuer emanating a powerful telekinetic wave of hallucinogen that frighteningly alters reality for anyone within its range. The story unfolds over the course of one night, across the streets & through the underground bars & clubs of New York.” – Pentagram Home Video.

It was sort of like The Terminator-meets-The Keep-meets-The Hunger, or something to that affect. Besides all those neon-lit city street shots, the soundtrack was what I remembered the most. Recently Mondo reissued the soundtrack and I was able to grab a copy and relive the first time I watched that classic cult flick….but wait. There was no movie called Who’s Out There? from 1986. In fact, there’s no movie company called Pentagram Home Video. This is all just a figment of my imagination. Right? It’s just some strange, twisted dream. It has to be. Or maybe that evil telekinetic wave has penetrated the walls of my house! Maybe that alien bounty hunter is right outside my house! He’s here because of all those VHS copies of Pentagram Home Videos I never rewound when I returned them!

Well, not really.

IMG_1869Pentagram Home Video isn’t a movie company, it’s actually the name of a music project. Who’s Out There? is the name of its debut album that was in fact released on Death Waltz Originals just a couple of weeks ago. But the person behind Pentagram Home Video does an outstanding job of creating the feeling of listening to an actual score from some obscure little sci fi/horror flick from the 80s. Much like Slasher Film Festival Strategy, PHV likes to create worlds with these faux scores to films that only exist in the mind and imagination of the composer of said album. SFFS has done this beautifully on records like Crimson Throne and their newest, Psychic Shield. PHV is following suit and wonderfully. Who’s Out There? is this mix of eerie synths and minimalist dance beats. The songs are structured much like a score of some classic, creepy late night flick you’d come across while searching for some seedy T&A trash. The heavily edited softcore thing you come across on Cinemax isn’t cutting it, so you shift gears and land on the The Movie Channel and you find this creepy old 80s movie you think you might remember seeing as a kid. Vaguely familiar actors step in and out of the screen as their dead expressions are caught by nightclub mirror balls and strobe lights. Faces turn to hues of green, red, and purple as they walk down gritty, rain-soaked sidewalks with some ominous force following a few yards behind. Conversations are pointless and the dialogue cheaply written and delivered, but you stick around because there’s something alluring about the trashy celluloid that runs in front of you on your ancient tube TV.

And then there’s the score to this cult-y film classic.

The music pulsates and throbs along underneath the grimy exterior of the movie. It seems to pull you into the story. “Vision 1/The Ocean” sounds like it’s emanating from another dimension or from under ice, as “Opening Titles” makes this obscure piece of exploitative film seem much better than it deserves to be. Of course, this exploitative film only exists in your imagination, but the music on this album helps you suspend your disbelief and allows you to create scenes to get lost in. Most of these pieces are barely over a minute in length, but there’s a few that go on for longer. “The Pursuit” is over 7 1/2 minutes long and sounds like The xx scoring The Exorcist. There is a constant feel throughout this LP. It’s this electronic claustrophobia. It’s a melancholy madness.

IMG_1868I think what separates this LP from other like-minded efforts is the minimalist quality of the pieces. There’s something quite unique about Pentagram Home Video’s Who’s Out There? that keeps me dropping the needle on it. Nothing feels fussed over or overcooked here. Every beat and every synth engaging our minds has a purpose. Not too much and not too little. Nothing showy or cheesy. “A Powerful Hallucinogen” is one of my favorite pieces on this album. It’s a relentless excursion into the “Dark Passenger” in us all. By the end of it’s 4 minute run you feel the song is falling into absolute madness. A telling and beautiful piece. “End Credits” does feel like the end of a film. Gritty film running by the screen as a grainy sunset freeze frames with words slowly crawling from the bottom to the top of the screen.

It may not be a real soundtrack to a real movie, but sometimes those imagined pieces of art can be just as engaging. Very happy to have taken a chance on this one, and a great album for an overactive imagination to get lost in.

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Night Music : The Seductive Sounds of Miles Brown

I’ve been a fan of Miles Brown for over two years now. It started with a friend telling me I should check out this band called The Night Terrors back in January of 2014. “I think you’ll dig them.” Well, he was well aware of my fondness for eerie synth music, all things gothic, and horror films, so when I first heard “The Dream Eater” off their album Back To Zero I was on Discogs looking for a copy to buy. It was an eerie and oddly beautiful track that elicited both a dread and melancholy, like floating in space with no chance of ever getting home but still enjoying the view nonetheless.

Within a month they had released another album, the excellent Spiral Vortex, and by October had released yet another, the spooky Pavor Nocturnus. It seems Miles Brown, the lead synth and theremin player in The Night Terrors decided to step back and work on something a little more personal and so he recorded a record all by himself over the course of 2015. Released on Death Waltz Originals/Mondo back in December, Seance Fiction is a collection of tightly constructed heavy synth songs that are far more pop-oriented and less proggy than the Terrors records. Not only that, but Brown sings(and quite well I might add) on quite a few of the tracks. I think it turned out far more pop than even Miles Brown thought they would. It’s a nice change from his main gig, and it’s just a damn great record.

Miles was kind enough to take some time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions I sent his way.

J. Hubner: So tell me about Séance Fiction. How did the record come about? How long have you been working on it? 

Miles Brown: I actually started writing this album in the downtime between recording Spiral Vortex and Pavor Nocturnus. I had been touring a lot, with both the Night Terrors and Heirs, and we took a break while half of our members were living in Berlin.

J. Hubner: Did you have anything specifically in mind when you began writing these songs?

Miles Brown: My original idea with the solo project was to write some quieter, more restrained electronic material so I could do some more intimate theremin performances, without the volume and expense of dragging along the whole band. At this point The Night Terrors was starting to become quite a gargantuan production with lots of equipment and complex technical requirements. I wanted to make a mini version where I could just concentrate on playing the theremin and make it accessible to people who maybe weren’t that interested in having their heads blown off at a full band show. So while I was back in Melbourne for a while I started playing solo shows, and it was great fun. What I found, however, was that even though the concept was for a quieter situation, what I was writing at the time was actually really up and dancey. My mission with the theremin has always been to take it places it maybe hasn’t been before, and one of the many ideas I’d had for a while was to place it in the context of dance music. We’d started to move in this direction with the band on Spiral Vortex, but I realised perhaps this was crushing out some of the emotional content from the Terrors as a project. Also, I think I was starting to write a lot more in general, having a bit of a purple period as it were, and the stuff that was coming out was all over the places stylistically. A lot of it was obviously not suitable for The Night Terrors. So I just kinda took the brakes off completely and started to experiment with new songs live, adding things to the solo set and letting them evolve on stage, then going back and updating them. The solo thing took on its own life and I realised how fun it was to be writing music with the live audience’s reaction in mind.

brown twoJ. Hubner: What were some inspirations going into the album? It’s not a total departure from the Night Terrors in regards of mood, but it certainly feels more personal. It sounds like more of a pop-inspired album.

Miles Brown: Yes, that’s true. To be honest I’d always been interested in writing pop songs but every time I tried over the years there would be big scary prog monsters waiting at the gate instead. I’m a firm believer that as a composer you should always honour what is waiting for you when you open the channel to the creative netherworld. So maybe it was the case that there was a lot of weird stuff that needed to be let out before the poppier things could step through the portal. Also I think I had realised that while I will always have a responsibility to explore the theremin as a lead instrument, many of the ideas that were coming through were not suitable for that format. So, okay! Now I’m writing songs with lyrics and exploring a different songwriting voice.

J. Hubner: Another change here is that you’re singing on quite a bit of the record. That adds a whole other level to the record.

Miles Brown: The aim with The Night Terrors, as a largely instrumental project featuring the theremin, is to delve into emotional territory that is universal, and free from the constraint of spoken language. With the solo stuff I just allowed whatever came through in terms of lyrics to be what they were, and yes they were quite personal and a bit teenaged goth. Which I think is quite amusing.

J Hubner: Did you make the album completely on your own?

Miles Brown: Yes this is a 100% solo effort, using a pretty streamlined bunch of gear – all analogue. I think there are only five synths on the album: Roland sh101, Rs202, sh3a, JX3P and a Waldorf Pulse. Plus my Etherwave Pro theremin and a bunch of analogue drum machines recorded to tape and sampled. I recorded the album with my portable studio around Melbourne and Tasmania, and tracked the vocals at some studios around Melbourne. The only guest appearance is Jenny Branagan from the amazing Melbourne band Nun, who sang with me on the choruses for “Control”.

J. Hubner: How did the songwriting process work for you on this record?

Miles Brown: A lot of these songs come from just playing around with the equipment, finding things that are fun, and then adding more fun bits on top. I was exploring some of the more traditional uses of my gear, including the analogue sequencing and CV capabilities that the early Roland stuff is awesome for. For me it’s always about playing around til you find something that sounds “right”, and then making more passes until it sounds “finished”.

J. Hubner: Maybe you could walk me through the process in writing “Electrics”?

Miles Brown:Electrics” is actually one of the simplest tracks I’ve ever written. When we took in to for mixing I was surprised to see how few tracks it actually involves. Not like the band, where things can really blow out in terms of layers. It’s great to try and be effective with minimal resources. The lyrics to “Electrics” actually developed live – for my early shows I would just turn up the vocal effects really high and make up words on the spot. When I came to write “proper” words for “Electrics” I wrote down what I had been singing, just to see what the rhythms were like, and found that the temp lyrics were actually quite clearly about something already! So that was awesome, to realise that writing words can be done in the same way as writing melodies – just get out of your own way and see what is happening naturally.

J. Hubner: How different is your approach to songwriting on your own compared to writing in The Night Terrors? Do you like having that freedom of working on your own?

Miles Brown: It’s great to have the solo project so I can expunge some of my megalomaniacal tendencies without driving anyone else mad! You can certainly work very fast and as hard as you like. It makes working with the band a much looser and more enjoyable experience. Right now it’s interesting because I have just returned from a three-month writing trip in Berlin, and I have about 60 new pieces in various stages of completion. Some of it will be solo, some will be Night Terrors, and some of it is quite obviously neither of these projects. So these days it’s all about trying things out in different contexts and seeing where it feels right. I’m pretty sure there are four distinct projects emerging from this last bout of writing. One of them is definitely a Terrors album, and there are a few new solo projects taking shape as well.

seance fictionJ. Hubner: With all of the new pieces you’ve come up with on this recent Berlin songwriting excursion, could you ever see any of that writing energy going towards scoring for film? The Terrors’ stuff was all very cinematic anyways, so I would imagine it could be something you could walk right into.

Miles Brown: Absolutely. That’s something we have always been very keen to move into, it’s just a matter of finding the right project really. I have a lot of material that would lend itself to film music and also I’m really excited by the format of what has traditionally been involved in horror soundtracks. Particularly the pop theme song over the credits – I wish there was more of that these days. In the last year I’ve done a few things for film – a soundtrack for video artist Allison Gibbs’ art film Our Extra Sensory Selves which showed in Glasgow last July, and a theme song for a great little Ozploitation short called Insomnolence made by young Australian horror director Kiefer Findlow. I’m also working on some music for a short by Tasmanian director Briony Kidd, who runs the fantastic Stranger With My Face Horror Film festival.

J. Hubner: So how did you get hooked up with Spencer and Death Waltz Originals? Seems like an inevitable partnership.

Miles Brown: Spencer was a really vocal supporter of Back To Zero reissue on Homeless, so when we were releasing Spiral Vortex we sent him an advance copy and he was really into it. I suppose he saw us as fitting into his musical universe. When we did Pavor Nocturnus, the guys at Twisted Nerve sent him a copy and they organized to do a special Death Waltz colour variant just for his subscribers, which was really awesome. I really love how Death Waltz do that – recently the Crypt Vapor LP got this treatment which is particularly cool as he is also a fellow Tasmanian – in fact he played my album launch just a few weeks ago. So yeah, when I had Séance Fiction ready to go I sent it to Spencer to see if he might be interested. Lucky for me he was! It’s really great because lots of my friends are on there too – Antoni Maiovvi, Sinoia Caves, it’s like a big nerdy synth weirdo party.

more milesJ. Hubner: That sounds like my kind of party. Is there any extensive touring in the works? Any possible US dates?

Miles Brown: Yes! I’ll be heading back to Europe later this year and will certainly be heading to the US from there. The Terrors have never toured the US either so I imagine you’ll be seeing a lot of us in the near future.

J. Hubner: What was one defining record that changed everything for you? What record blew the mind of a teenaged goth Miles Brown?

Miles Brown: Definitely The Art of the Theremin by Clara Rockmore. To hear the instrument played with such gravitas and emotional depth made me totally reassess my ideas of what was possible. Until that point I had been getting off on Messer Chups, Add N to (X) and the weirder sci-fi uses of the instrument. Clara showed me that there was a whole world of feeling to be explored. Also the strange combination of old school classical pieces interpreted with this otherworldy voice was an intoxicating proposition. Her version of “Hebrew Melody” by Achron is still one of my fave pieces of recorded music ever.


Keep up with Miles Brown here and here, and grab a vinyl copy(or digital, your call) right here.

 

 

 

 

Psychic Shields VS Flesh-Eating Witches….GO!

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 wasFullSizeRender (25) 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.”

FullSizeRender (23)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.

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