Looking for Dark Circus Music
March 8, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Looking for music recommendations for a performance piece I'm working on. The vibe I want is modern, dark, circus or carnival music. Instrumental is much preferred, but music with some vocals might work. Thanks!
posted by extrabox to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
(I feel like Nick Cave or Tom Waits might have done something along these lines, but have no idea what....)
posted by extrabox at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2012

Roustabout by Beats Anitque
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was thinking Waits too but can't think of a particular track. Scan through Blood Money or Alice, if you can. I seem to recall some circus-y music on there.
posted by saul wright at 9:37 AM on March 8, 2012

Dans ma Bulle by Syrano
posted by griphus at 9:39 AM on March 8, 2012

What about Tom Waits, "Innocent When you Dream"? Too many vocals, perhaps, but it definitely fits the dark circus theme.
posted by routergirl at 9:39 AM on March 8, 2012

Oh, and anything by Circus Contraption who are simultaneously a band and a circus.
posted by griphus at 9:40 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about Beirut? Anything from Gulag Orkestar might fit the bill. For Tom Waits, you might try material from the album The Black Rider.
posted by stellaluna at 9:43 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Step Right Up by Tom Waits
Boxcars (Carnival of Sorts) by R.E.M.
Fat Man and Dancing Girl by Suzanne Vega

These are all carnival themed, though they'll fairly dense lyrically, which is kind of what a need for non-lyrical.

I wonder if you might look for something like Brave Combo, but with a darker edge. So what you need is a really good, dark polka band - lots of horns and rollicking fun -- but, uh, dark. Death polka, does it exist?
posted by artlung at 9:46 AM on March 8, 2012

Maybe try 'The Carny' by Nick Cave. It's actually about a circus although there are of course (great) vocals. The Young Gods also did an album of classic Kurt Weill songs, many of which have that louche, carnival-esque feel.
posted by jonathanbell at 9:50 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Guilt and the Like by Mouth of the Architect. Has some vocals, but fits the bill imo.
posted by disaster77 at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2012

"Innocent When You Dream" is a bit too maudlin - it's more "drunken guys at the bar leading a schmaltzy singalong" than it is "circus".

"Bride Of Rain Dog" may work (off his "Rain Dogs" album) -- off Swordfishtrombones you've got "Dave The Butcher" and "Rainbirds"; also, check out his soundtrack for the film Night On Earth and see if anything suits (that's almost entirely instrumental, and I remember digging the music in that when I saw it).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2012

The Phantom Limbs, maybe.
posted by Kevin1911 at 9:55 AM on March 8, 2012

Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band may have what you want.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:00 AM on March 8, 2012

There's a cover of the Carpenters' "Close to You" on the soundtrack to Mirrormask that, while maybe more music-boxy than circus-y, is weirdly frightening and might serve your piece.
posted by gauche at 10:02 AM on March 8, 2012

I've always thought Mr. Bungle sounded like this. How about Chemical Marriage? A few vocals, but mostly indecipherable.
posted by yaymukund at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Waits' Night on Earth soundtrack is good but may be too mellow. Empress Callipygos has the right idea--check out the trilogy of Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, Bone Machine.

Also check out the Tigerlillies for some crazed calliope-type sounds.

And the soundtrack to Wings of Desire may suit, and contains the afore-mentioned The Carny by Nick Cave.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:05 AM on March 8, 2012

This is coming completely out of left field, but I have always thought Guru's Certified sounded like dark hip hop circus music.
posted by msali at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2012

Oh, duh. I forgot to mention Tom Waits' Black Rider.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2012

Maybe something by Combustible Edison? A definitely lounge-y vibe, but some tracks are circus-y also.
posted by Knicke at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2012

You and Rosin Coven might get along. I'm not sure how much of it is instrumental; no time to dig into it right now, just sayin ... love at first listen and all here's a link to a cd

Unlaced by emilie autumn?

Hah .. this is the Waits song I thought of (what's he building), and this the Nick Cave (up jumped the devil), neither of which are instrumental.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012

Favourited the Waits "Black Rider" mention above.

There are some longish instrumental breaks on the first Mr. Bungle album, which does "demented carnival" better than any other music I can think of offhand. “Carousel” is the song of choice for that.

The Dresden Dolls were self-billed as "Brechtian Dark Cabaret Music," and covered that territory fairly well. Not sure how purely instrumental they got.

Canadian dance troupe Holy Body Tattoo did a show in the early 00s called Circa with music by the abovementioned Tiger Lillies that also tackles that "dark cabaret" feel very well. Unlike most Tiger Lillies material, the Circa album had instrumentals on it.

Oh! Yeah! If you can find it, the City of Lost Children soundtrack by Badalamenti may be exactly what you need.
posted by Shepherd at 10:43 AM on March 8, 2012

I Want Out Of The Circus by Cracker

Cabeza De Mojado by Friends of Dean Martinez

Calexico may have something. One of their instrumentals, maybe.
posted by The World Famous at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2012

Three Dog Night put some lyrics over the classic carnival music. The name of the song is "The Show Must Go On". Pretty Rockin.
posted by yoyoceramic at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2012

The Big Top theme from Boogie Nights.
posted by Addlepated at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2012

Perhaps too short, but To The Shock Of Miss Louise by Thomas Newman from the Lost Boys soundtrack might work.
posted by FreezBoy at 11:07 AM on March 8, 2012

some of these might work.
posted by bongo_x at 11:20 AM on March 8, 2012

If you meant modern as in after WWI, how about Nino Rota?

If you meant modern as in contemporary, then how about Mucca Pazza?
posted by hydrophonic at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out this super-rad toytronica Psapp song, "Hi". Gives me a freaky circus vibe every time I hear it. Does have vocals, though.
posted by Falwless at 11:26 AM on March 8, 2012

What you need is skeletonbreath. Llarimo, Skeletonbreath and Circus Train are my favorites.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:21 PM on March 8, 2012

Running Wild by the Soup Dragons
posted by blackjack514 at 1:04 PM on March 8, 2012

This might be a little over the top, but I've used Nox Arcana's Carnival of Lost Souls album for similar purposes. You can listen to a couple of tracks on their site or on YouTube for the ones not available (like Circus Diabolique.)
posted by bonifate at 1:04 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Karn Evil 9 was the first thing I thought of.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:51 PM on March 8, 2012

"Ovals and Emeralds" is an EP by Bibio:

Oval Emerald Vertigo


Beware the Friendly Stranger, though this has already been used to great effect in David Firth's "Salad Fingers"
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 2:48 PM on March 8, 2012

Oh yeah ... Stolen Babies Swint? or Slude?!!!1!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 3:27 PM on March 8, 2012

a hawk and a hacksaw, maybe?
posted by hooray at 4:40 PM on March 8, 2012

Man! Y'all know your dark circus music! There is a great mixtape in all these songs, almost any one of them could work for my purposes. Fantastic stuff, I've had fun listening to all these suggestions. I'm sure to have evil clown nightmares tonight though!!

For a final choice, I'll have to muse it over with the group.

But holy crap, I'm so impressed with the response!! THANKS ASK.METAFILTER PEOPLE!!!!
posted by extrabox at 7:06 PM on March 8, 2012

The Residents "Freak Show" is circusy and creepy as all get-out.
posted by softlord at 7:57 PM on March 8, 2012

Creepy clown music? Goldfrapp's Felt Mountain album.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:21 PM on March 8, 2012

How about some industrial ambient dark drone that's sort of carnivally? Demdike Stare's Kommunion
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:35 AM on March 9, 2012

btw The Fat Lady of Limborg has been on the mental 8-track for about the last month. Just thought I'd share.

And I had so much fun here yesterday hanging out with all this cool stuff I din't know about I'm doing it again! You too!

It has made me realize that little mummur from the back of the closet was saying "grab your flambouyant clothes and noisemakers, pack the caravan, hit the roooooaaaad."

Death polka, does it exist?

It must! Please tell me when you find some! In the meantime, there is Polkacide. And, Speed Brass!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 3:13 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Apparently I was overlooking the obvious ...
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:48 PM on March 12, 2012

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