A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Welcome back to the world of back alley car chases, fleeing from psychos with garden shears & demons in the mist. Welcome to another edition of HORRORSCORES.
For this week’s installment, we bring you the grindhouse schlock of Gutterballs, an ’80s-slasher homage from 2009. The soundtrack-9 tracks of Giallo disco, swarming proto-industrial synthesis, and the obligatory mournful piano ballad-was composed by Gianni Rossi, a producer credited with establishing the disco rock sound in Milan in the late 70’s and a dab hand at coaxing out some spine chilling moments from his vintage analog synths. He got his start got in the early 70’s playing keys for Smokey Robinson and Class Action and by the end of the decade was writing soundtracks and scoring minor hits in South America and Asia.
Except none of that is true.
Like last week’s post about Antoni Maiovvi, Gianni Rossi is a disco persona from Steve Moore, one-half of the instrumental prog duo Zombi (who are also quite horrorscore worthy).
So, what the hell? An alternate timeline disco producer, scoring a retro/slasher film? Such is life, after the singular. Atemporality, i believe it is called; we are living in every era at once.
While this retrofetishism has drawn much flak from the critics, the past couple of years, most notably (or most recently), in Simon Reynold’s Retromania, i actually find the condition extremely fascinating, and ultimately optimistic/constructive. While most critics accuse this music of being ‘nostalgic’, the byproduct of a decadent culture verging towards collapse, with nothing to say, these anachronisms make us pay attention, leave us wondering what is going on, what is real, and ultimately, lead us back to the past, by way of appreciation.
This is the satin lining of the hauntological debate: an appreciation and creative use of the past. I agree that unoriginal, uninspired sampling is a decadent act, that will ultimately lead to a flabby, lazy society with zero attention and no creative stamina. Appreciating the past, picking the parts that you like and that inspire you, is active engagement with the media that you consume. It is ‘hot’, to use McLuhan’s terms, rather than passive ‘cool’.
So what is it that is drawing all these producers to antiquated technologies and ways of working?
First, and foremost, is the soul of the analog equipment, the deus ex machina. Volumes have been spun on the rough charm of analog distortion, but the usual dry academic dross fails to capture the electric poetry of the matter. Analog signals are smooth and continuous, ever-flowing and changing like the tides, rather than the jerky, serrated stop-motion of digital sampling. And analog uses harmonic distortion, rippling like the waves, in a closer approximation of what we hear in our daily life. It is soft and caressing, rather than the white-noise blaring of everything happening all at once. There is a sheer breathing power to electricity passing through circuitry, you can practically taste the burnt ozone and smell the hot solder, while listening to Gutterballs.
Secondly, as just as important, is the limiting of possibilities. Electronic music was getting fat and bloated, filling every second and every inch of a song with countless sounds, switching it up every 1.5 seconds. Some producers seemed to get exhausted with the continual inflation, and reined it in a bit, pulling back to basics, getting back down to the bassline, and then rebuilding. There is a strength and a solidity, to these new old recordings, that seems muscular and self-assured. Let’s get back to the brass tacks of a solid beat, a funky bassline, and a catchy melody, and then we can build whatever we want.
Steve Moore, under whatever name, is a deft hand with retro electronics. Dig those filter sweeps, those particle accelerator arpeggiators! His beats are simple but effective, and his choice of authentic gear is unparalleled. Moore comes from more of a pizza and horror movies side of electronic music, rather than raving ’til dawn, so he’s got an outsider’s perspective, and an authentic air. Any of his vast catalog will fill the empty void of having no new Carpenter soundtracks to dig.
And that’s really the purpose of this series-to bring to light horror soundtracks, new and old, and works inspired by horror, to turn yr bedroom/apartment/morning commute into a supernatural thriller. There is no worse feeling than having seen it all, done it all, bored and full of ennui. There’s a whole universe out there, and artists like Steve Moore remind us to dig into the past, to be active with it, to be inspired.
There’s a lot of different flavors of horror; a lot of worlds to get lost in. Check back often. Wander through time.
favorite tracks: 7 – 10 split, Look Back And Cry, Murder, Killed ver. 3