Sleazy instrumental music for a circus-themed RPG
January 12, 2018 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm running a D&D 5e homebrew campaign featuring circus performers solving a mystery in a town rife with crime and corruption. I'd like some music to play in the background that evokes sleaze, slyness, and highly-unusual goings-on. There must be no vocals or very minimal vocals (and preferably not in English if they exist). Any recommendations for that bizarre constellation of requirements?

The mood of the campaign runs from ridiculous to sinister to suspenseful. The campaign includes shadowy feyfolk and creepy monks who are our main antagonists. There are also amorous gnomes, and a minor dose of steampunk.

I don't want anything that screams circus or feels super emo. Love ya, Sigur Ros, but probably not this time.

Gimme whatcha got, Hive Mind!
posted by lieber hair to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
While trying to find an instrumental version of "The Carny" to consider, I stumbled on 1 Hour of Creepy Circus and Carnival Music - Part 1. If it's too on the nose, 1 Hour of Steampunk Music might work.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:04 PM on January 12, 2018

Best answer: I wonder if Dirty Three (including Warren Ellis, Nick Cave's right-hand Bad Seed) might do the trick?
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 10:18 PM on January 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Nils Petter Molvaer - Song of Sand (Rockers Hi-Fi remix)

Doug Wimbish - Trippy Notes in Bass - the whole album but try out Perplex

Shpongle - Are You Shpongled

Hooverphonic instrumental tracks?

ollano -Latitudes

Smoke City - Black Sessions (some vaguely intelligible English vocals, along with French)

Gabor Szabo - Dreams

Susuma Yokota - Sakura

Neil Young - Dead Man Theme

Cowboyw Bebop OST selections

Plastic Records -- Stroboscopica

Armando Sciascia - Suoni di Coreografia & Assonanza in Mi

Mkali Bahari Orchestra - Black Rite

Duke Ellington - Oclupaca
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:34 PM on January 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

Nino Rota, perhaps.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:44 PM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is a serious offer to send you an accordion to play live.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:59 PM on January 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a fellow gamer, I start with Tabletop Audio, or MyNoise, both of which are good background noises (the first specifically for games!)

My deep dives for a steampunk thing led me to the UCSB Cylinder archive - the accordion section seems like it may have some good tracks for you. I love the graininess for the atmosphere.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:17 PM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Original undead tavern music from wow
posted by Sebmojo at 1:27 AM on January 13, 2018

Steroid Maximus is probably more 'fight music' than 'walking-around-town music', but it falls roughly into the sleazy genre. You might also try listening to's Secret Agent channel for inspiration.
posted by neushoorn at 1:57 AM on January 13, 2018

Best answer: Is the soundtrack to Amelie dark enough for you?
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:33 AM on January 13, 2018

Selections from the Sims: Makin' Magic expansion pack? Examples 1, 2, 3.

Bonus super circus-y one.
posted by Drosera at 4:12 AM on January 13, 2018

Response by poster: All your excellent suggestions are making me wonder how the hell I could have forgotten Chicago favorites Mucca Pazza.
posted by lieber hair at 7:13 AM on January 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Film Noir Jazz?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:02 AM on January 13, 2018

I always thought the Harmonicats were a little sleazy in spite of their major-key shenanigans.

For unusual goings-on you can't beat a Tom Waits backing track.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:17 AM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bogeyman Boogie by Dr. Steel.

Roustabout by Beats Antique (this one is most on the nose, but really most of their catalogue would work well for your purposes).

Tristeza, separaciĆ³n by Astor Piazzolla
posted by merriment at 8:27 AM on January 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Psychonauts Soundtrack.
posted by seyirci at 9:11 AM on January 13, 2018

The Residents - Bad Day on the Midway, Freak Show Remix (contains lyrics after 7 minute mark)

Nox Arcana - Carnival of Lost Souls (full playlist - check out Calliope)
posted by prinado at 8:33 PM on January 13, 2018

Oh yeah, there's also this wonderful film called Romeo is Bleeding, in which Gary Oldman plays a dirty, cheating detective. His existential terror over all the bad karma he's racking up manifests itself in recurring nightmares about a carnival. Youtube doesn't have a link for the most appropriate piece on the soundtrack, Mark Isham's "Nightmare on Maple Street," but this is the whole thing. It swings between jazzy, sleazy, and sinister.
posted by heatvision at 12:19 AM on January 14, 2018

Borrow the soundtrack from the game Don't Starve, which could also be described as ridiculous, sinister, and suspenseful with a minor dose of steampunk.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2018

The soundtrack for Grim Fandango is available for download. Some of it has that that feel.
posted by dws at 5:13 PM on January 14, 2018

Kebab Tai Henki! by Alamaailman Vasarat
posted by moonmilk at 6:22 PM on January 14, 2018

Best answer: There are a number of tracks on Andreas Vollenweider's Book of Roses that may fit into your thematic plans.
posted by Metro Gnome at 8:52 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to close this thread out for anyone who might find it in the future, I want to say this was quite possibly the most successful question I have asked on this site! I marked the ones that were most helpful, but I was also clued into klezmer, French and Romani jazz, and calliope music from these great suggestions. The playlist I built from that and recommendations above is amazing and kind of feels like being drunk on a carousel that starts spinning too quickly.
posted by lieber hair at 8:30 PM on February 2, 2018

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