As today’s episode explores the science of uncanny, scary and overall creepy music, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tracks with you. Be sure to check out the podcast episode and be on the look out that Wyrding Module interview post coming in the days ahead. So anyway, here are some tracks that come to mind in no particular order.
“Subtemple Session II” by The Wyrding module This is Christopher Gladwin’s latest Wyrding Module release and it’s chocked full of sinister ecclesiastic organ tones, spacey discordia and primal rhythms. This is just an excerpt but you can buy the full release right here.
“Hamburger Lady” by Throbbing Gristle This 1978 track from dark industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle packs a double punch, both sonically and lyrically unsettling in equal degrees of dread.
“Cowboys in Cuba” by Chris & Cosey This tracks’ a bit more upbeat and even a bit dancy, but there’s an interweaving sense of discordant menace weaving throughout. That’s Chris Carter by the way (whose solo work is also quite excellent) recording with his then-wife Cosey Fanni Tutti, both former members of Throbbing Gristle.
“Rock and Roll Station” by Nurse With Wound
Steven Stapleton‘s music often falls a bit too far on the industrial noise or experimental absurdity spectrum, but this track is damn near perfect. The looping, cut-up lyrics combine with the organic beat and cacophonous interruptions to create an overall feeling of entrapment within a time warp of either cosmic or psychotropic origins.
“Chariots of Pumpkins” by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth I love the synth stylings of Carpenter and Howarth, but I’ve actually never been much of a “Halloween” franchise fan. Still, this track from the third film is pretty incredible, making it perhaps the best thing about “Season of the Witch.”
“Tassels” by Aphex Twin
Richard James’s excellent “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” is loaded with tracks like this, resonate with haunting machine beauty and ranging from playful to chilling. This is one of my favorites, bringing to mind some alien and unknowable transmission from the outer dark.
“Teartear” by Autechre
This is just an abysmally bleak track from one of my favorite electronic acts. I recommend listening to this one on loop as you read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” or “Child of God,” because that’s exactly what I did.
“Loosen by Grip” by Distance
If your notion of dubstep is based entirely on the likes of Skrillex and that one Key & Peele sketch then you might not recognize Greg Sanders‘ work as anything related to the genre. His tracks are chill, contemplative and above all sinister. Here’s one I’ve played a million times.
“Die Eier Von Satan” by Tool
I’ve been a Tool fan since the “Undertow” days, so their dark vibe tends to do it for me. But this track off 1996′s “Ænima” is worth including here because it combines a grating, industrial ambiance with what seems a foreboding incantation. But of course the words are in German and are nothing darker than a cookie recipe. It ties in nicely with our podcast episode because, once more, context is key.
“On Teasing” by Nina Nastasia
Naturally, music doesn’t have to be brutal or alien to disturb the listener. So here’s something based more in indie folk than industrial discord. Singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia has a great talent for what I like to think of as haunted folk music. Her tracks often explore such topics as kidnapping and backyard ghosts, but here’s one that tells a sort of dark “Alice in Wonderland” story. Listen in as the music grows stranger and more fearful as our heroine descends into madness. It’s off the album “Road to Ruin” but I also highly recommend “The Blackened Air.”
“New Millenium Cyanide Christ” by Meshuggah
Finally, how could I not include a little death metal on the list? I’m not huge on the genre, but I’ve always loved Meshuggah. This early track of theirs encapsulates the sort of harsh, screaming, mecha-organic sound they’ve become famous for. Listen closely. It will bring dark dreams.
About the author: Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.