Monday, October 4, 2010

The Horror Playlist: Brian Hodge

I’m leaving out some blatantly deserving choices here, seminal works that could conceivably end up on a lot of lists … things like Pink Floyd’s "Dark Side of the Moon", Robert Johnson’s "Complete Recordings", and Nine Inch Nails’ "The Downward Spiral". Instead, I’m going with less obvious stuff that has, whether mentioned or not, a particular personal relevance beyond the recommended listening status. I hope you make a discovery or two here.

Emperor: In The Nightside Eclipse
This is the primer on symphonic black metal, and comes out of those early days that earned the Nordic black metal scene global notoriety. The production qualities aren’t up to what later Emperor releases would exhibit, but it doesn’t matter (and for the tr00 kvlt necro contingent, that’s even a plus). There’s so much magisterial power and fury that it transcends any tech limitations. It’s cliché to describe black metal in wintry terms, but it really does apply here: This is the sound of a 150-mile-an-hour ice storm in your face.

Fields of the Nephilim: The Nephilim
This is classified as gothic rock, but it’s deeper, darker, and more monolithic and mysterious than anything else I’ve ever heard under that tag. Awe-inspiring, is what this is. The cover looks like some ancient grimoire, and that’s the impression it leaves … that it either emerged from some hidden world, or is the gateway in. Music has always been one expression of vocalist Carl McCoy’s occult inclinations, and it comes across here. I don’t know how they managed it, but they captured something more than just notes here. I swear there’s something living between the notes.

Lustmord: Heresy
A landmark recording in the dark ambient field. For something so minimalist, it’s deceptively deep and hypnotically absorbing. It goes beyond mood … Heresy is the sound of living darkness. Don’t even try to listen to this, or any other Lustmord release, on earbuds. To get the full impact, you need decent full-range speakers, and preferably a system with a subwoofer. He really plumbs those sub-50Hz depths, the rumble zone where you don’t so much hear something as feel it whole-body.

Loreena McKennitt: The Mask And Mirror
You can’t help falling in love with this voice. I’d choose it for my deathbed voice, in the Hamlet sense: “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” Although she didn’t limit herself to traditional songs, her first few releases were still steeped in Celtic and British traditions. This album marks the turning point where she really starts to weave in other influences, in this case Spain, including Moorish elements, and North Africa, and the results are magical. Plus she’s always had this knack for setting classic texts — Yeats, Tennyson, Shakespeare — to music, and making them sound seamlessly her own. On this one, with “The Dark Night of the Soul,” she adapts poetry by Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, and it’s so beautifully, achingly wrought that it’s transporting.

Steve Roach with David Hudson & Sarah Hopkins: Australia: Sound Of The Earth
This CD changed my life. First, it was my introduction to electronic music pioneer Steve Roach. He’s the one artist who never leaves my CD carousel, and his work — I have dozens of releases — accompanies most everything I write. This also single-handedly inspired me to take up playing the didgeridoo. Maybe you remember the first time you heard Eddie Van Halen play guitar and the top of your head came off…? Well, that’s what David Hudson is like with the didge on this CD.

Skinny Puppy: Last Rights
Skinny Puppy put on the most harrowing show I’ve ever seen, touring for this album (with Godflesh opening, no less). The evolution of Puppy’s earlier sound reached its apex on this one, a perfect aural representation of the surrealist concept of convulsive beauty. Pounding beats, jagged shards of colliding sound laced together with lovely pads, and a blood-and-oil-covered performance artist howling distorted free-verse nightmares into the void … what’s not to love?

Tangerine Dream: Phaedra and Rubycon
I’m cheating, yes, but I always think of these two together. They came out one after the other, and they both have murky blue covers and the same murky blue sound. Tangerine Dream’s Sorcerer soundtrack was my introduction to the band, but these earlier two were the ones that really got me thinking about music in a more abstract, textural way. Plus I love the sound of the Mellotron, and these are saturated with it.

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (English Chamber Orchestra with Nigel Kennedy, director and solo violin)
I love Early Music, and The Four Seasons is one of the baroque era’s greatest achievements. It’s 40 minutes of sublimity, musical paintings of rural life throughout the year. I especially love the Presto section of Summer, that depicts a sudden storm, with those gorgeous descending runs. There’s just something about three-time that suggests rolling motion, and here it’s like Vivaldi composed a waltz for rain and thunder.

Tom Waits: Mule Variations
This one feels particularly arbitrary. How do you pick just one Tom Waits? How would you even narrow it to ten of him alone? He’s a national treasure. I settle on this album because Tom Waits concerts are relatively rare, and we were lucky enough to see him on a brief tour for this one. It’s a great representative sampling of his various guises, after decades of cumulative evolution. He was an outlier even when he first appeared, and since then it’s not like he’s really left anything behind. More like he just went farther out in left field, expanding into concentric circles of different voices, different styles, different experiments. It’s all here, mostly, from the mournful ballads to the eerie folk blues to the roaring stompers to the deliberate primitivism.

Yes: Yessongs
Yeah, I’m a prog-rock geek. Everything on this gargantuan live set totally eclipses the studio versions, many of which, like “Close to the Edge,” were already considered masterworks. The playing is just astonishing, all the more so because of the complexity of the compositions and arrangements. But it’s not just a display of technical virtuosity … there’s real feeling and fire behind it.

--Brian Hodge
(The Black Glove wants to thank Brian for his time and effort. Please visit his official website and his superior website on the craft and philosophy of writing, Warrior Poet...writing as a full contact lifestyle.)