music and horror.

Here are a couple tunes from my old YouTube channel that seem to have relevance to this blog, with its focus on fictions of horror and terror.

First up is “A Thought Through Shadows” by avant-garde band Venus Handcuffs. V.C. was a collaboration between Susanne Lewis and Bob Drake, both of whom worked in Thinking Plague and 5uu’s. From my description at the channel: “A project between Susanne Lewis and Bob Drake from 1985-86. Recorded with ‘decaying equipment in an abandoned yogurt factory.’ Their friend and collaborator Chris Cutler describes the album as ‘sounding like a spirit photograph.’ This is not the best track from the album, in my opinion – that honor goes to ‘Fur Man,’ which has been uploaded elsewhere. This stuff blew my poor little mind when I first heard it, and still does. Unease is a good word to use here.”

Images included in the video are by Jacques-Andre Boiffard (the famous S&M photo he took which ended up on a Naked City record cover), Richard Oelze, Tobias Schalken, and Albin Brunovsky. I particularly like the Schalken images not only for their depiction of women embracing black amorphous specters straight out of Bulwer Lytton’s The Haunted and the Haunters, but because he shares a last name with the painter who inspired a J.S. LeFanu story. (Also, Lytton may deserve his grief for writing some awful prose, but “The Haunted and the Haunters” is still a tremendous tale).

On the other end of the musical spectrum, this is a song by famous western singer Patsy Montana. This is an odder version of this song, a radio version she did with Jack Wayne and his Bar-10 Boys. The mixing is strange, with Montana’s periodic yodeling sounding like it was recorded in a shower, causing an intentionally unsettling (and simultaneously humorous) echoing effect. The video leads off with a beautiful painting by Simon Garden. This ghost apparently manifests itself by yodeling in the cellar, in the hall, etc. The locals burn the house to ashes, but “her yodel is still around.”

This song is not from my channel. It is a slow and gorgeous track by noise-rock band The Jesus Lizard.

Supernatural tales, and ghost stories in particular, are at heart about the past breaking into the present – whether silent as a cat-burglar, or thunderous and unsubtle as a siege – and leaving its thumbprint behind. This thumbprint is disquieting for a number of reasons. On the one hand, this intrusion is against nature, or allegedly so, and therefore monstrous if not in fact then in apprehension. On the other, this temporal gas-leakage reminds us that at some point, we too, will join with and become the past. History interpellates the reader in these stories, and says, as in the Medieval folk legend, “As I am, so will you be.” But above and beyond this, the past intrudes upon us because it wants to remind us that it does not exclusively own death, any more than we exclusively own life.

This song, which details the narrator stumbling upon a corpse in a cornfield, seems to me in the tradition of the Medieval tale where the three merry nobles come upon Death. The lyrics begin, addressing the cadaver in question:

“Your life is gone, your youth is over.

Years of cheer, reduced to this –

A crumbling mess on a September morn.”

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