Inspired by the spooky sensibilities in our cover star Scarlett Johansson's new movie Under the Skin (as well as Mica Levi's creeping OST), we've compiled mix of the past few weeks' best sinister music. It just so happens that it's been a great month for it, with fantastic work being released by the likes of Karen Gwyer, Actress, and Dum Dum Girls. In an alternate world, they could be right at home on the soundtrack of Jonathan Glazer's opus.
Actress – "Forgiven"
"Forgiven", the striking opener from Ghettoville, Darren Cunningham’s fourth (and last?) album as Actress, is a menacing nocturnal reflection that’s thin on instrumentation but thick on atmosphere. Throughout the piece’s seven minutes, clanking percussion sits beneath a droning bass note, whilst stormy noises build and occasionally crack through to the top of the mix. With its muddy, lo-fi production, Cunningham has created an enthralling and fantastically moody piece, where it sounds like forgiveness is the last thing on his mind.
Mogwai – "Remurdered"
Long-established masters of mood and ambience Mogwai returned this month with their eighth studio album, Rave Tapes. "Remurdered", the fantastically titled lead track, is a compelling piece built around a relatively subdued first half of gurgling synth riffs and quietly chugging guitars, and a driving second half propelled by pummeling drums and growling bass. Filmic in its feel, the piece comes across like an electronica-infused reworking of material taken from the Scottish post-rockers' soundtrack for Les Revenants.
Dum Dum Girls – "Evil Blooms"
Part of the Dum Dum Girls’ power has always been rooted in their astute playing-off between the sad and the sweet, the sinister and the sunny. So it follows with "Evil Blooms", a track taken from their excellent third album, Too True. The song’s honeyed melodies and upbeat feel belie the lyrical sentiment and questions of: ‘Why be good?’ A beautifully delivered song bolstered by a tasteful production reminiscent of classic-era 4AD output, "Evil Blooms" has us hankering to engage in all kinds of nefarious activities.
Doomsquad – "Born from the Marriage of the Moon and a Crocodile"
Synthy Canadian outfit Doomsquad qualify for a place on this week’s list on basis of name alone. Still, it’s handy for mix purposes that they’re dab hands at putting together chilly synth tracks drenched in atmosphere and power. On "Born from the Marriage…" the three-piece take cues from Dead Can Dance’s otherworldly incantations and place them within a shimmering, monolithic wave of distortion. It ends up sounding like a tribal ritual from a thousand years in the future.
Patten – "Drift"
Drift is one of the strongest tracks from enigmatic producer Patten’s new album, Estoile Naiant. Building upon a bed of hissing synths and flickering atmospherics, the Londoner intricately works-in skittering hi-hats, mangled vocal samples, and a disorienting flurry of ticks and claps as the track progresses. Dizzying in its delivery, Drift is an absorbing example of why it is that Estoile Naiant, which is out now via Warp, has been one of the most hotly anticipated UK electronica releases of the year.
Jon Hopkins (Karenn remix) – "Collider"
Stripping back a lot of the compression, and upping the tension of the original, this fantastically punishing remix of Jon Hopkins’s Collider comes courtesy of Pariah and Blawan’s Karenn outfit. Utterly unrelenting, the remix pivots around a half-murmured, half-sung vocal sample, chest-pounding kick, and menacing keyboard arpeggio. Karenn’s rendering of the song is featured on a just-released 12” of "Collider" remixes, and, on the record, is bookended by Pangaea and Objekt’s equally striking revisions of the track.
Planningtorock – "Answerworld"
Perhaps the most striking thing about Answerland, a haunting song taken from Planningtorock’s new album, All Love’s Legal, is the way it resides in contradiction and binaries. Consisting of little more than a few sparse synth lines and some singing, Jam Rostron’s delivery and vocal processing make her sound simultaneously young and old, female and male. This fascinating stylisation carries through into the instrumentation, too. The keyboards sound halfway between being electronic and organic. Through Rostron’s delicate arrangement and production, it all adds up to being a brilliantly distinctive piece.
(Listen to "Answerworld" on Spotify here)
The Body – "Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain"
Without doubt one of the most exciting releases of the next couple of months, RVNG's I Shall Die Here is the forthcoming collaborative album between the gloriously indelicate Portland metal duo The Body, and London’s fine underground electronic producer The Haxan Cloak. The first taster of the album came at the beginning of this month in the form of "Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain", an abrasive five-and-a-half-minutes that sound a bit like the gates of hell being pushed open from the inside.
Karen Gwyer – "Missisissipippi"
Ushered in on a foundation of windy sound effects and grumbling bass, "Missisissipippi" is the delicately constructed closer to Karen Gwyer’s recently released New Roof EP. Throughout the 17-minute piece, Gwyer steeps the listener in a thick, sooty, miasma that is largely constituted by undulating keyboard figures and carefully layered percussion. Dizzyingly hypnotic, the piece highlights Gwyer’s expansion and refinement of sound since the release of Needs Continuum, her debut album.
Sunn 0))) & Ulver - "Let there be Light"
Sunn 0))) and Ulver, two of the world’s most important, forward-thinking metal bands, released their much-anticipated collaboration album, Terrestrials, this month. Consisting of three lengthy noise ambient tracks, the album serves as a reminder of where metal can, and, as far as we’re concerned, should go. "Let there be Light", the first song on the release, is a truly brilliant cut that uses, amongst other instrumentation, a trumpet and a small string section to explore the foggy extremes of tone and texture. The result sounds like the bands are singeing away the foundations of rock (in the best possible sense!)
(Listen on Bandcamp here)