Fellow fans of European horror films get a shuddery quiver of delight at the mere mention of Italian prog rock maestros Goblin. Their soundtrack for “Suspiria” is a masterpiece, providing a disturbing sonic backdrop for the witchcraft psychedelia and graphic violence of that film. Acts like Keith Emerson (of Emerson Lake and Palmer fame) and Tangerine Dream provided their own synth-soaked scores for horror films–scores that were sometimes finer than the movies they accompanied.
There’s a legacy of music that inspired and is inspired by these atmospheric, experimental soundtracks. Detailing the rich history of electronic music and prog rock is a task for a music historian, but here are some snippets and selections that should delight soundtrack fanatics.
Founded in Milan in 1968, Jacula’s music fuses grandiose pipe organ solos with fuzzed-out guitar improvisation and a grimoire full of occult significance. Jacula, who appear to have formed prior to the release of the eponymous sexy-vampire fumetti in 1969, was part of the first wave of Italian prog rock. Their sepulchral, macabre sound creates an ambient sense of dread that would enhance any supernatural horror film. Their two albums, “In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum” (1969, though there’s some debate it may have actually been recorded in 1972) and “Tardo Pede In Magiam Versus” (1973) have lost none of their gloomy magnificence in the intervening decades.
I cannot fucking believe that Umberto is from Kansas City. This band so beautifully captures the late-70s/early-80s Italo-thriller soundtrack vibe that I could believe they were time-travelers from Rome. Umberto’s albums “From the Grave” and “Prophecy of the Black Widow” are structured as soundtracks to vintage fright films that never were–simultaneously familiar and suspenseful. This is music to make you tune in and trance out to a more sinister world.
I’ve talked about my love for Bottin, a one-man retro-Italo-disco-making machine from Venice, before on this blog, but his name bears repeating. Bottin makes groovy-ass music that plays like the most danceable horror score ever made. There’s a wit behind his work that makes it accessible to soundtrack groupies and party monsters alike. Bottin DJs regularly across the globe–check out his website for upcoming dates.
B-Sol, dear friend of the Empire and possessor of one of the most unexpected lounge lizard singing voices I’ve ever heard, has been twisting my arm to record a podcast with him for some time now. Between my inborn flightiness and our frequently uncomplimentary and often aggressive social calendars (I am easily distracted by shiny things and loud music), we kept missing one another.
The stars have aligned properly, and now you’ve got an Easter basket full of post-apocalyptic goodness to listen to. We talked about everything from “Mad Max” to “I Am Legend” to “Children of Man” and all of the various knock-offs thereof, and I reveal the super-secret recipe to making your own post-apocalyptic movie (HINT: it involves silver spray paint and gravel pits).
I recently mentioned to a friend that I was going through an Occult Moment–he responded by laughing and reminding me that I’d been in an Occult Moment ever since I could talk, gravitating towards “Fantasia’s” Night on Bald Mountain sequence, Dungeons & Dragons, and other mystical-flavored weirdness as a rule rather than the exception. There’s a power to occult symbolism that still startles and upsets Americans, with a Satanic Panic ever on the horizon in a culture with a bloodthirsty passion for Righteousness. I’m not going to try to detail all the reasons why it’s funny to watch a college-educated adult who lives and works in one of the largest cities in the world physically recoil when I tell him that the pretty set of squiggles on my arm is a symbol from Hatian voudou. As an individual who’s wiser and kinder than me has gently cautioned on a few occasions, “provocation shouldn’t be an end game,” but man alive, is it ever a cheap and easy form of fun in this kind of world.
Sometimes a movie is the cure for what ails me on an aesthetic-slash-spiritual plane, providing just the right blend of style, suspense, and strangeness that I require for a fulfilling cinematic experience. “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is just that kind of movie–a combination of giallo and gothic themes set in the early 20th Century but exuding a palpable 70s grooviness. How can I hate on a movie that features a house cat as a murder suspect and famed French pop singer Serge Gainsbourg as a police inspector dubbed with a cartoonish Scottish accent?