A Journal Of The Dark Arts
the 7 deadly virtues of Blkhrt‘s mixtape.
Welcome to another installment of Horrorscores,an ongoing investigation of horror soundtracks and aesthetics. With Horrorscores, we discuss both classic soundtracks and recordings, as well as music that draws inspiration or source material from the classics, and also music that EMULATES the classics. It’s an example of how any field of investigation can open up into a million tributaries, and tell us a lot about people, about culture, about psychology. Maybe even spirit.
Of course, a prolonged investigation into horror aesthetics first raises the question, What Is Horror?, which is something a lot of minds have chewed on, which then leads to the next question, Why Are We Obsessed With It? To start with the first, there’s a lot of definitions you could take, but the one i’ve been working with lately is Horror is something that produces a sensation of repulsion. One common characteristic of Monsters is that they are Unclean, which goes to explain why, even in movies when the monsters are goofy, the people still recoil in Terror. It might look innocuous, but there’s no telling if it smells like 10,000 diapers left in the sun, if it is swarming with insects. Yr not quite sure WHAT it is, but one thing you do know, is you do not want it to touch you.
Which then leads into the second question: why are we fascinated with horror? It is the most counter-intuitive thing on the planet, to be obsessed with things that repulse us, to lean in to things that make us recoil. It is in this divided state that horror begins to reveal itself, show some of its strengths as well as some of its downfalls.
For this installment of Horrorscores, we will not be looking at classic Universal orchestral themes or digging for industrial breakbeats in the ’80s. BLKHRT’s Death, Romance & The Color BLK is not even technically horror, but closely related. BLKHRT have described their sound as ‘ghetto goth’, mentioned Ian Curtis in interviews, sample Bauhaus, described themselves as ‘Morrissey meets M.O.P’. But this is not skinny, trenchcoat wearing rap nor horrible shitty-metalcore-rap-crossover. This is REAL hip-hop; with tight beats and fluent rapping, soaked in a pitch-black vibe. It reclaims a victory for would be horrorcore, that is, rap influenced by Horror, which should be good, but often isn’t.
If there’s one goth, metal, electronica, and most of the music we cover here have in common, it’s Music For Nighttime. For the darker side of life, the things that don’t happen in the daylight.
And hip-hop is made for the nighttime. It’s made for the streets, for running missions. It’s about staying up late, about getting high, about fucking. It’s about living vividly, about being strong. About getting what you need. About rising up. Hip-hop has a power and a pulse, that is truly mighty when fused with the ideas and aesthetics of other genres.
While Yonnas Abraham may talk about Morrissey and sample Echo And The Bunnymen, their actual music is much more muscular and deranged than that. Death, Romance & The Color Blk is trve tough street rap, meant to be thumped from subs at 3 a.m. Their music is more Death Grips than Christian Death, but there is still a goth sensibility – a sense of incense.
Of course, no manner of clever sample appropriation nor name dropping has any bearing on the success of the music self. Thankfully, BLKHRTS need no backstory or comparison to other, well-known artists to make this music stand up and scream. This music speaks for itself.
The first thing i noticed, after spending some time with this record, is the MCs; the tipping point for rap music. Rappers that just spit some inane chorus over and over quickly bores me, starts to wash over my ears like TV static. But BLKHRTS know what they’re doing. They know their lines, and deliver them with conviction. Because of this, they’re able to interject the lyrics with little pings and flourishes, like a real MC crew, like a well-oiled B-Boy machine. DETAILS are what make music stand up or fall down. You can see this most clearly in the song “At Least I Can Say I Loved (You)”, with a screaming diva chorus call-and-response. Real heat; biting passion. Pretty voice, too.
And then the best lyrics in the world can’t succeed without the right production; and BLKHRTS shine in this area as well. Their bass totally stomps and pounds, truly rough and tough. They also accomplish the nearly-impossible feat of making Trap Beats not sound harsh and grating. I mean, i’m as excited as anyone else, with the possibility of retuning any sound on Earth, and i get the addiction of chopping and re-arranging everything you come across, but music that spends too much time on the computer can end up sounding as sharp as rusted tin cans on yr eardrums, make you feel exhausted after 35 minutes.
That’s the thing with BLKHRTS; they’re making modern hip-hop, taking advantage of the tools we have around us, but they’re using them EXTREMELY WELL. Its kind of staggering, that this was just a rehearsal mixtape. They’ve got mixing skills, production acumen. They know what they’re doing.
BLKHRTS tame and wrangle their samples, and make them work for them. It’s hard to tell where the samples end and the drum machines begin; it all hangs together as a whole, to drag you into their soundworld. Mysterious middle-eastern guitars meet gothic choirs, Iggy Pop rises from the ether. Joy Division basslines twitch over tectonic beats.
They are also moving away from and beyond the samples, using more original production. Starting with their inspiration, and spreading out. It seems to me this is a band on the move, one to watch.
If The Weeknd‘s Trilogy is a post-rave comedown, an ecstacy comedown with the shades drawn, then Death, Romance & The Color BLK is the cat burglary happening next door. This music is not resigned, not complacent, not nodding out. They’re out running missions. They’re sporting steel. They’re going to take the life that they want, or at least go find it.
That’s the thing about the night time. You’ve got to be strong. Hearty. There’s predators out there. And angels. Yr alone in the forest; you’ve got to be ready.
But hip-hop, and goth, and horror, are not afraid. Or we are, but we go through it anyway. Cuz it’s worth it. There’s miracles out there. There’s a better life. There’s passion; and heat. Better afraid in the dark, than boring and serving in the day.
BLKHRTS hail from Denver, but seem to be in L.A., whether its just playing some shows and recording, or permanently, is unclear. The thing is, find out where they are, and if they’re anywhere near you, go see their shows, buy their tapes. These guys are the shit; some of the best rap i’ve heard in a minute.
Their debut album should be out any second, so get a taste here, and stay posted.
Recommended for fans of: Death Grips, Demon Queen, Techno Animal