Creepy and unsettling music suggestions
November 16, 2004 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Are you ready for another MUSIC THREAD? I want you to recommend me some creepy and unsettling music. [Enter my haunted abode, where I'll give some examples of what I mean.]

Mostly what I'm thinking of is fairly atmospheric. Here are some examples:

the second track from Keiji Haino's 21st Century Hard-y Guide-y Man

Kronos Quartet's performance of "Doom. A Sigh." from Black Angels

Vander/Top/Garber/Blasquiz' Sons: Document 76 or whatever it's called.

Acid Mother Temple's "21st Century Splendid Man"

Anthony Moore's Reed, Whistle & Sticks

Nurse With Wound's Homotopy to Marie and Thunder Perfect Mind

Mystic Fugu Orchestra

(On preview, I'm not sure how much of a help those will be.)
posted by kenko to Media & Arts (50 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"Ambrose" by Linda Laurie.

It was meant to be a funny novelty record and funny it is, but it's also so freakish as to be diturbing as all hell.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on November 16, 2004

I was just remarking on the site that shall not be named that listening to too much of either of the ambient Aphex Twin albums will make me want to stick a power drill in my head like the end of the movie Pi.
posted by machaus at 5:39 PM on November 16, 2004

Check out the Pan Sonic record "Kesto" or the new Tim Hecker, "Mirages."
posted by josh at 5:46 PM on November 16, 2004

How about anything else from George Crumb. "Departure" really creeps me out. Also John Moran's opera about the Manson family. It opens with the sound of crickets and cars on the highway and just continues on. Okay, here's one more John Zorn's tribute to Genet and that reminds me I should also add the second half of the The Residents' Third Reich and Roll extended CD (the one with their version of "Satisfaction").
posted by rodz at 5:58 PM on November 16, 2004

I was first exposed to Mogwai in a dark closet, and even after warming up to them, I've been slightly creeped out ever since.
posted by ktrey at 6:08 PM on November 16, 2004

Throbbing Gristle never fails -- 20 Jazz Funk Greats. I shiver just thinking about that album, and I haven't listened to it for years.
posted by xil at 6:18 PM on November 16, 2004

merzbow, obviously, if you've got the balls.

perhaps some particular brainticket albums will be your undoing.

and i'm assuming you're familiar with some of the more atmospheric residents albums.

naked city, as well.

maybe you will be well-served by some cuong vu?

eduard artem'ev is perhaps a bit too synthy to be genuinely horrifying, but he definitely has his moments.

idil beret does some truly sublime versions of ligeti compositions. you know of gyorgy ligeti, i assume?

ikue mori does very nice and landscapey compositions that will give you shudders.

hedningarna is a popular scandinavian evil folk band that i am particularly fond of.

if you're not familiar with diamanda galas, then you don't know freaky music.

michel chion has a particular 'la jetee' like disjunction in his music.

free kitten is a very nice group.

we can talk more. i'm just shitting out names at this point. my email's in my profile, and my AIM name is oog vorbis. i'll be happy to recommend until you can't stand me anymore. you've lucked out. this is my realm.
posted by oog at 6:22 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

If you can track down any Oneiroid Psychosis, they are quite creepy, but almost in an "It's Halloween!" kind of way. I recommend Garden of Remembrance; as well, Dreams (with pollutions when virile) is good.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:37 PM on November 16, 2004

robert normandeau is pretty creepy. pitchfork doesn't like him much though.

phoenecia's "brown out" also lays on some creepy ambience.
posted by juv3nal at 6:38 PM on November 16, 2004

I second Throbbing Gristle. Also, to awaken the devil inside, try Crash Worship if you can find any.

The Ligeti stuff in 2001: A Space Odyssey is absolutely creepy, as well.
posted by swift at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2004

Many early Ralph Records bands might fit the bill: The Residents (particularly the mole music), Renaldo and the Loaf, MX-80 Sound (Crowd Control is a fantastic album), Tuxedomoon's first album.
posted by alex_reno at 6:40 PM on November 16, 2004

Hmmm, "creepy and unsettling music"...

I guess it's all in taste and what one would term "Atmospheric".

Personally, I find most of anything recorded from Burzum not only creepy, but very unsettling. Especially the Filosofem lp.
posted by punkrockrat at 6:48 PM on November 16, 2004

I know some of those artists but not those songs so I may be way off. Unsettling music, to me:

Chokebore - Days of Nothing
Godspeed You Black Emperor - Dead Flag Blues
Johnny Dowd - God Created Woman
Jorge Reyes - just about anything
Tom Waits - The Ocean Doesn't Want Me
The first track from the soundtrack to Lars von Trier's Europa
Velma - Orange and Ping Pong (2 diff songs, both on the masterpiece of an album, Cyclique)
Bardo Pond - Pick My Brain
Polmo Polpo - the first half of the Science of Breath CD
Much of John Zorn's Naked City album
Wolf Eyes - Dead Hills (album)
Black Dice - Black Dice and Cold Hands (2 albums)
Lightning Bolt - Force Field (pretty much anything off Ride the Skies played at a loud volume will make you shit your pants, plus it's got a beat! what more do you want? their best album is Wonderful Rainbow, though. here's a vid clip from a live track.)
Much of A Silver Mt. Zion's output is creepy or unsettling
I am Spoonbender - Ears are Merely Human (from Sender / Receiver - great record)
posted by dobbs at 7:09 PM on November 16, 2004

Beatles, "Cry Baby Cry"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:45 PM on November 16, 2004

Response by poster: Lightning Bolt? Really? Of all the Load artists I'd lean think of Khanate or something like that before one of the hyperactive noise-progger types. (Same thing with Naked City: except for their classical covers or (the unheard-by-me, but I've read descriptions of it) Leng T'che, they're too full of hyper changes, despite Yamantaka Eye's vocalizations.)

Oog, expect an email from me tomorrow while I'm procrastinating at work. I haven't heard any of Mori's solo albums but I really like her work on the Death Ambient albums.

Rodz, can you recommend anything specifically by Crumb? I remember reading a review of some of his recent work in a music magazine about a year ago that sounded along these lines, but I can't remember the titles. Aside from Black Angels the only things I've heard by him are Ancient Voices of Children and some piano pieces whose names I can't recall. (That Residents cover is capital-A Awesome. I already have the Zorn album you recommend but I'd forgotten about it.)

Thanks all who've replied so far.
posted by kenko at 7:49 PM on November 16, 2004

"Jadulistan Requiem" by Three Mile Pilot. Fuckin' creepy.
posted by saladin at 8:02 PM on November 16, 2004

I give you Henry Cowell's The Banshee. To quote the first review in that Amazon link:
I bought this CD, and I ended up throwing it in the bin the very next day. I bought it and I'm a bit of a ghost freak and I saw the song "Banshee," I put the record in and skimmed over to listen to it. I couldn't move I was white with terror.
I've heard The Banshee and it was freaky indeed; my general impression was that of a damned soul trapped inside a piano.

Jonathon Harvey's Mortuos Plango Vivos Voco is pretty whitening itself, but a bit less tortured. For some reason, it made me think of watching The Navigator.

Toby Twining's Himalaya (off of his recording Shaman) used to scare me to the point where I couldn't listen to it, but for some reason it's grown on me and I'm OK. I don't know if Shaman is available anymore... if not, I might, ahem, lend someone a copy or something upon request.
posted by weston at 8:02 PM on November 16, 2004

Wow, a lot of fans of creepy music!

[mode=pig in shit]

Can anyone here remind me of the artist responsible for a late-80's Throbbing Grisslesque industrial creep-out called "we'll call him... taxcider" (sp)?

Here's a few off the top of my head:

-King Crimson, particularly "Industry"
-early Front Line Assembly
-Room 291 (a Colorado indie group from the mid-80s that seem to have utterly vanished without a trace)
-Shockheaded Peters, particularly Thumbs of a Murderer
-I find a lot of early Tackhead rather disturbing, but then I also find most Skinny Puppy disturbing, so I may be projecting my own demons
-Black Lung

posted by squirrel at 8:05 PM on November 16, 2004

Secret Chiefs 3, Book of Horizons

Tom Waits, "Ocean Doesn't Want Me," "What's He Building In There?," "Circus" (From Bone Machine, Mule Variations, and Real Gone respectively - All the later-day Spoken Tom With Creepy Background tracks)

Poe, Haunted

Johnny Dowd, Temporary Shelter or Pictures From Life's Other Side

Preacher Boy, "Whistle Man" from Demanding to Be Next

Patrick Doyle, the soundtrack to Needful Things

But really, I think that creepy music involves songs out of place for the situation. So hearing Nina Simone sing in the distance Feeling Good while walking alone through a forest is creepy, even though the song by itself is not. Happy kids tunes played on an old, scratchy record player are always creepy.

(On preview - Pretty much all of Black Angels is pretty creepy)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2004

tear garden's first album is a downright scare, as is Thrill Kill Kult's "I see good spirits and I see bad Spirits."
posted by grimley at 8:22 PM on November 16, 2004

Response by poster: Squirrel, I was going to include KC's "When I Say Stop, Continue" or "Providence" as an example of what I was thinking of. "Industry" is just awesome. I think it's uncommonly evocative of some very specific images considering how abstract it is. One of my favorites from the 80s lineup.

This thread is a lot of fun! Let's all have a convesation about creepy music! One thing that nearly always works for me is keening wordless vocals, which is why Mystic Fugu Orchestra (weird Yamantaka Eye vocals and John Zorn playing a harmonium) and the Keiji Haino song is so effective (it's his weird swallowed-scream vocals accompanied by a hurdy gurdy, which itself has a kind of choked human timbre, at least on that track), or sustained dissonant organy tones (the Vander et al. album's full of it, plus I'm listening right now to the intro to This Heat's "Not Waving" which is like that too).

Keep 'em coming folks.
posted by kenko at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2004

"Jadulistan Requiem" by Three Mile Pilot.
If anyone's looking for that, it's actually spelled 'Jadulastan.'

Also, if Mogwai works, than so does Souvaris.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:33 PM on November 16, 2004

Anything and everything by Arvo Pärt. I'm partial to Miserere for a start.
posted by ook at 8:37 PM on November 16, 2004

Lustmord - "The Place Where the Black Stars Hang" or the soundtrack to "Zoetrope"

a lot of Thomas Koner's stuff is pretty evil in a minimal kind of way, especially his most recent, "Zyklop".

Codec Scovill - "Clinical Imperfections"

Noisegate - "Suspended Animation Vol. 1"

Lull - "Cold Summer", "Continue", "Moments"

James Plotkin/Mick Harris - "Collapse"

Mick Harris/Ambre - "Dys"

I'll second Tim Hecker's new's almost unbearable at times.

Black Lung & Xingu Hill - "The Andronechron Incident"

and of course, Crispin Glover's spoken-word album gives me the runs whenever I try to listen to it, although I think that's scariness of a far different sort.

Some of this stuff is available in the radio station library, kenko....
posted by 40 Watt at 8:38 PM on November 16, 2004

It's a stretch to call it music, but The Hafler Trio's sound experiments are frequently disturbing. The track "Three Ways of Saying Two" (from the album Four Ways of Saying Five) is a particular favorite: it's a combination of industrial drones and noises backing a series of odd lectures that simulates the feel of a fever dream for me.

Second or whatever some of The Residents' work. There's a live 2-CD set of their Wormwood:Curious Stories from the Bible concept, which is much more disturbing than the studio version IMHO. Also the eerie and enigmatic Not Available, and the track "Talk of Creatures" on The Commercial Album. And of course "Blue Rosebuds" off the Duck Stab album, the greatest love song ever written.

The Sun City Girls have some very unsettling work: 33,003 Cross Dressers from Beyond the Rig Veda and Torch of the Mystics, for choice. Dante's Disneyland Inferno has some creepy bits, though it tires a bit too hard to be shocking in places.

Stockhausen's Mantra. Ring modulated piano=automatic creepy in my book

Edgar Varese's Deserts and Ameriques

Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill, especially on vinyl with the locking groove of the weird hum/chant that can theoretically go on forever at the end of side six

The Bewitched and Revelation in the Courthouse Park by Harry Partch

John Zorn's Early Recordings CD has some very raw but strange stuff on it.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:44 PM on November 16, 2004

Response by poster: 40 Watt, do you mean some of the stuff you've recommended, or that's been recommended in general? I'll have to bring some blank CDs the next time I get down to Hyde Park.
posted by kenko at 8:58 PM on November 16, 2004

Both, actually kenko-- I believe we've got a copy of the Hafler Trio album that PinkStainlessTail mentions, and a lot of the stuff I mentioned is in the library too. Check in the "Other" bin in the library.

(Sorry for the in-crowd posting going on here-- kenko and I both 'work' for the same local community radio station in Chicago...)
posted by 40 Watt at 9:07 PM on November 16, 2004

Another vote for Ligeti here, especially Atmosphères and Requiem, both of which are featured on the 2001 soundtrack. I think that Kubrick also made use of Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (in The Shining, perhaps), and that's pretty unsettling too. Also Wojciech Kilar's lushly sinister soundtrack to Polanski's The Ninth Gate: I liked the music rather better than the movie. Some of the tracks on the Twin Peaks soundtrack always struck me as successfully creepy, especially Night Life in Twin Peaks. And some of Nick Cave's songs, for example those on Let Love In, and maybe a couple of the Murder Ballads.
posted by misteraitch at 12:18 AM on November 17, 2004

The instrumental portions of Low and Heroes by David Bowie (with Brian Eno) are incredibly atmospheric and unsettling and truly, icily, beautiful. They're like melodic industrial landscapes -- haunting, horrifying, gorgeous. I've been listening to them for some 20+ years each and they're still crazily evocative for me. I especially recommend Low for the whole sense of crumbling post-industrial Mitteleuropa. Such doom-laden melodic beauty. *sigh*
posted by scody at 12:56 AM on November 17, 2004

Anything by Coil (esp. "Blood from the Air" on "Horse Rotovator"); "Camouflage Heart" by Cindytalk; "Rite of Spring - Stravinsky. My wife finds Philip Glass "Songs from the Trilogy" really disturbing.
posted by Pericles at 1:08 AM on November 17, 2004

On 40 Watt's Black Lung note, I would also recommend The Sound of Meat (although good luck finding it!). Quite unsettling.
posted by neckro23 at 1:19 AM on November 17, 2004

Scorn - White Irises Blind
Barry Adamson - Moss Side Story
Labradford - A stable reference
Bowery Electric
Steven Jesse Bernstein - Prison
Wir - The First Letter
"Feed Me" by Wire is a damn creepy song.
posted by black8 at 2:55 AM on November 17, 2004

Diamanda Galas
posted by rainbaby at 5:15 AM on November 17, 2004

Glenn Danzig's Black Aria.
posted by Caviar at 6:06 AM on November 17, 2004

Fantomas - Director's Cut. Creepy covers of movie themes - Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, etc.
posted by FreezBoy at 6:27 AM on November 17, 2004

Oops! Jadulastan... thanks kickingtheground.
posted by saladin at 7:09 AM on November 17, 2004

FreezBoy beat me to my suggestion. Weird thing is that as I am reading the thread Faith No More is on the iPod (shuffled no less). whoa.

Another suggestion is a fun band called Apocalyptica, which is a Finnish band made up of classical musicians which covers metal songs from bands like Metallica. I have been listening to Harmageddon , which my wife turned me on to.
posted by terrapin at 7:12 AM on November 17, 2004

O Yuki Conjugate - Very minimalist music, with muffled field recordings and quiet loops and buzzes. Music that brings you to its own alien place.
posted by picea at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2004

I was going to suggest O Yuki Conjugate myself, picea, but then I went back and listened to it all again and I thought most of it was a little too happy-tribal-ambient. Not really scary enough, IMO. Although there are a couple of really creepy individual songs on "Equator"["False Prophet", "Departure" for example] and "Undercurrents in Dark Water"["Steppe Land"]. But kenko's mileage may vary.
posted by 40 Watt at 8:13 AM on November 17, 2004

Steve Vai - Details at 10 (from Flex-Able) or Little Pieces of Seaweed. They're not atmospheric, but they're pretty unsettling.
posted by plinth at 8:24 AM on November 17, 2004

Some of Giacinto Scelsi's orchestral works, not quite sure which ones, have a Ligeti-esque feel to them. Some of Branca's work does too, but that might be too aggro for what you're looking for.

"Novena Without Faith" by ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, off their first album, and some stuff off their Madonna album.

Some earlier Sonic Youth, like "Halloween", "Shadow of a Doubt", and "Expressway to yr Skull", all conveniently collected on Screaming Fields of Sonic Love.

Black Heart Procession's second album (titled 2).

"Kissy Kissy" by the Kills.

"Good Morning, Captain" by Slint.
posted by LionIndex at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2004

Knife Play, Xiu Xiu
posted by four panels at 9:06 AM on November 17, 2004

Gotta second Xiu Xiu. Good and a little creepy.

And if you want something purely anxiety creating, can't go wrong with Whitehouse, makes Merzbow sound like easy listening by comparrison.
posted by bobo123 at 10:00 AM on November 17, 2004

i take it if you're a keiji haino fan you have nijiumu's era of sad wings?

also, the ambient 4: isolationism compilation on virgin contains loads of excellent stuff - exclusive tracks from nijiumu, ice, main, lull, final, AMM, aphex twin, kk null, jim o'rourke etc.

robert hampson's entire post-loop output as main is worth getting - the later more minimal/alien stuff like firmament iii and iv is better than the early stuff.

the creepiest i can think of though is naked city's absinthe, which is completely different from their other stuff. it's genuinely nauseating.

also: lemon kittens, philip jeck, janek schaefer, alan lamb (the guy that makes music from telegraph poles in the australian outback), lull (already been mentioned, i know...), headbutt.
posted by nylon at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2004

i forgot to mention zoviet*france. and of course, the master of queasy black ambience, NON.
posted by nylon at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2004

is anyone still reading this thread? if so, here's another: the soundtrack to eraserhead, by david lynch and alan splet.
posted by nylon at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2004

nylon: Eraserhead should be verboten. Uck. Shiver. Uck.

Which I'm sure is only going to encourage most of you, but it will take an entire bluegrass festival to cure you afterwards, I mean it.
posted by weston at 11:34 AM on November 17, 2004

Pink Martini's version of "Que Sera, Sera" always creeps me out.
posted by sad_otter at 12:55 PM on November 17, 2004

Response by poster: weston, my next musical askme will be about bluegrass.
posted by kenko at 1:24 PM on November 17, 2004

Along the lines of Nurse with Wound, I'll second just about anything by Lustmord or Zoviet France. Current 93 was good until they started to sound like a poor man's Death in June (same with Non). And Coil's "Unreleased Themes from Hellraiser" is a classic. The Coil/Non/Current 93 collaboration Nightmare Culture is pretty disturbing as well. Finally, a long standing favorite of mine is the Anti-Group's "Digitaria." Adi Newton's high-water mark, IMHO.

Here is a list I came across while trying to find Digitaria on the web. I'm not familiar with everything on the list, but they do mention some that I've enjoyed and didn't remember off the top of my head.
posted by malocchio at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2004

« Older How to Fire Someone?   |   When to euthanize a pet? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.