Welcome to Mouthing Off’s Music of the Month for June – a playlist of horror. This time we have a truly haunting and unsettling collection of songs, fitting of many of the dark and disturbing practices we, here at Mouthing Off, have been investigating and discussing over the past month. With the ongoing string of stories and leaks, which have unveiled a shocking web of celebrities reportedly involved in paedophilic activities – we have shared our concern and will continue to do so. This week we have begun to question the motivations behind Tony Podesta’s art collection, indulged in the fantasy of a sickening, supernatural tale of an unfortunate journalist and now we present a playlist every bit as sinister and unnerving.
While I will be discussing a variety of points throughout this article – so ready yourself for a bit of a whirlwind – I would first like to give a brief walkthrough of this month’s playlist – explaining why I have included this selection of songs and what I like about them in particular.
First up, ‘What’s He Building’ by Tom Waits, a song that I feel perfectly sums up, not just the feeling around Mouthing Off,but demonstrates exactly what the playlist is aiming to achieve: raise questions and concerns through a very direct discourse. This chilling track – with the most sinister spoken vocals – captures an investigative nature balanced with the expert story telling of our great team.
After our haunting introduction, we are met by a grouping of alt-rock songs, featuring the likes of; The Cure, The Clash and Dead Kennedys – something a tad more comfortable than ‘What’s He Building’. These musical giants are however preceded by Pink Floyd – who are fast becoming a regular occupant of our MOTM playlists! ‘Careful with that Axe Eugene!’ is a perfect example of how the use of sound effects, or just irregular noises, can take something quite innocent and harmless and make it so abruptly dark. The use of a women’s harrowing scream turns this relatively average alt-rock/psychedelia song into something extremely menacing.
After the old, familiar sounds of some of our rock favourites, things peel off towards a slightly more upbeat, but far eerier soundscape. ‘We Do What We’re Told’, by Peter Gabriel, isa rather sombre number by his standard, it is a speculative journey through the minds of those participating within Stanley Milgram’s (1961) social experiment, in which the candidates were divided into two groups with one subjecting the other to a series of electric shocks when instructed by ‘scientists’ (see the film ‘Experimenter‘).
After a succession of rather abstract songs, which have let the eeriness stew, we reach a concentration of sounds more appealing to the classically trained ear, although no less horrifying I assure you. While the classical compositions used within horror films, such as The Shining or The Exorcist were potential contenders, it is Krzysztof Penderecki’s ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima’ that certainly takes the cake (or bomb in this instance) as the most jarring and disturbed of all non-vocalised performances. Its very name alone brings up tense emotions, gut-churning imagery and nightmare inducing thoughts. However, it is upon hearing the jolty stringed instruments, creating a sound reminscient to that of a never ending air raid, that one is sent into a spiral of madness, tunneling down to the very core of the horrors man can put upon his fellow man.
‘The Murder of the Lawson Family’ by Carolina Buddies and ‘Knoxville Girl’ by The Louvin Brothers are gruesome tales of murder, although they are both upbeat enough to lull you into a false sense of safety and comfort – which for some reason seems to make it all even more sinister.
I have opted to conclude the playlist with a trio of songs that come from three of my favourite films – ‘The Killing Moon’ from Donnie Darko, ‘Goodbye Horses’ from The Silence of the Lambs, and ‘Bad Moon Rising’ from American Werewolf in London. All send vivid images through my mind. Some are not even that unnerving, those scenes which pan down an American suburban street or even a transvestite dancing somewhat erotically. But the associations which these songs conjure are certainly memorable pieces of imagery. The emotions I have felt provide something that very few other songs can offer, despite not being the most obviously sinister.
Up until this point, I have largely spoken on subjective basis, so let’s have some facts. Why is it that music, or sound, can have such a profound effect on us and what particular sounds affect us the most?
Tempo and volume are obvious examples, but much like many other modern day human behavioural habits, it is down to human instinct. Loud, sudden noise is associated with fear or danger or pain. Animals crying out to alert their companions of a threat, a man screaming having been wounded in war, these unpleasant, forceful sounds make us feel terror as they have historically been produced immediately before moments of terror.
There is also of course a more scientific take on what sounds evoke the most disagreeable reaction and why. For some, minor chords may come to mind – chords that, as a result of a flattened 3rd note, sound comparatively sadder or darker than a major chord. However, ‘non-linear’ sounds – sounds that have frequencies that oscillate between greater and lower pitches than the average human hearing range – are a common tool used in film and music to create a greater sense of uneasiness.
Anyhow, thats all for this month folks. I will be back the next to provide you with the best tunes, sounds and artists. I hope you find this playlist list well and that it disturbs you as much as it did to me while making it.
So long… and keep watching the skies.