A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Welcome to another edition of Horrorscores, where we transform yr waking dreams into living nightmares.
We’ve got a real treat for you today, recommended by the mighty Grey Malkin of The Hare And The Moon. For those that know, or those that don’t, Grey Malkin knows his weird, old soundtracks; his folk horror; his Wyrd Britannia. Any rousing recommendation from the man should be acted on, immediately.
The Goatman is the soundtrack for a rare 1970’s cult horror film, directed by Simon Grundig, composed by the electronic duo The Unseen, comprised of Simon Magus and Harold Legg. The Goatman is an absolutely essential collection of pastoral electronics, vibes, Hammond organs, funky guitars, field recordings, mellotrons, and tape manipulations, to plunge you into a world of eerie meadows and sinister farmhouses.
The Goatman tells the story of a newlywed couple, Frank and Susan, vacationing at a supposedly idyllic cottage in Somerset for the summer. The rural peace is quickly shattered, as the couple begin experiencing sinister visions: a man with a goat’s head; a little girl’s ghost, in a meadow, which turns out to be a small witch, with coal-black eyes and long, spindly fingers.
“Eerie Meadow” casts the spell, with a weightless organ melody pulling you into the picture, while a flying saucer drone in the background creates a sense of suspended animation and dread. File under Rural Psychedelia.
“Newlywed’s Arrival” quickly alerts you to the fact that the peace won’t last, that things are amiss, where vibes (as in vibraphones) create a sense of calm and mystery, as in the Twin Peaks soundtrack, while tensile, pinprick synths stab like a stainless steel butcher’s knife through the serenity. Grundig didn’t waste any time, establishing that this was a horror film.
“Footsteps Outside The Cottage” gives us a sense of location, where the rusty caws of crows meet amorphous LFOs, down a gelatinous tunnel of reverb and echo. As i was listening to this, the crows outside my own window started to act, blurring the line between reality and artifice. That’s the kind of record The Goatman is, blurring the lines between artifice and reality. Exactly perfect for feature on Horrorscores!
The occult is made visible on “Susan’s Dream”, where Mellotron flutes (as featured on albums by King Crimson and Yes) and pounding, ritualistic percussion take over, as Susan runs from a grasping witch, in her dream, to escape into the woods, only to be surrounded by whispering, malevolent entities. The album really takes a turn for the essential, from this point forward, as the record takes a turn for the sinister and the surreal. Tape warps around the edges, and rural elements are adorned with voluminous echoes, flangers, and swarming electronics, as the young couple is harried and tormented into losing their minds!
It’s not all dread ambiance, however. Like every good horror movie, there are interludes of fleshly good times, to ease the tension, as can be seen in the funky hammond and guitar workout of “Passion In The Woods”. Put this on yr next Italian exploitation mixtape.
Good times don’t last long, however, as The Shape emerges on “Shadows At Hunter’s Lodge”, as crushed oscillators are made to emulate demonic choruses of insects and frogs, until vibes and guitar and pounding tympani come back in, to repeat the theme.
It all comes to a head on “Surreal Dream Sequence”, the longest and perhaps the strongest track on here, that encapsulates all that is right and (un)holy about this recording. Twittering birds and backmasked synthesizers are met with children’s ghosts from the Black Lodge, that is both soothing and terrifying.
This soundtrack resurfaced when the anonymous author of the Unseen Horror blog began reminiscing about this lost gem with Septic Boaby, fondly remembering the soundtrack and psychotropic visuals, and wondering if the masters existed anywhere.
Or did it?
In all likelihood (and i’m breaking the 4th wall), <em>The Goatman</em> never existed. It reminds us of one of the subtitles of hauntology, “a peculiar sonic fiction”. Is The Goatman a particularly authentic recreation, an amazingly cohesive work of detailed imagination? Or is it a relic from a time before everything was documented, and things were still forgotten? The Goatman occupies a liminal hinterland, full of confusion and misdirection. Like the meadows evoked in the soundtrack, full of mist and fog and shadows.
Either way, it speaks to what Mark Fisher has referred to as a (and i paraphrase) “nostalgia for forgetting”. Or for remembering. The roots of the art known as hypnagogic lie in the half-remembered, in the rosy hues of nostalgia, of things seeming better than they were. In the act of remembering, roots and influences become more personal and personalized, as you strive to recall, and filter through yr personality, yr lifetime, yr experiences, and guess the best you can. This, as opposed to YouTube recall, which is immediate and crystal clear, devoid of shadows and phantoms.
In a way, this kind of art, authentic or forgery, re-invests phantoms and uncertainty into the digital archives. Yr just never quite sure what in the hell is going on. It makes you curious. It makes you DIG, and that is why i am such a fervent supporter (and because the music is dope as hell, of course). It sends you reeling into the dusty stacks, into the thrift shops and video stores, wondering what in the hell else is out there.
This is the opposite of the cultural decay most theorists talk about. Yes, we are absolutely swarmed and drowning in the specters of the past, standing in the shadows of giants, and doomed to imitate our inspirations. But, on the other hand, this shows a living, evolving RELATIONSHIP with the past, which is all that art has ever been, anyway. Influences and personalization.
“The Goatman” soundtrack begs you to open yr eyes, and yr mind. It instills an (un)holy thirst and curiosity about what is out there, a kind of sleaze-pop archaeology. It makes the world an unsteadier, more curious place. And we slip further down the rabbit hole of uncertainty….
Many thanks to A Year In The Country, who are also doing their bit to make the world a stranger place, for pointing this out in the first place, and to Grey Malkin, for the recommendation and the outstanding review, which was an invaluable resource in putting this edition of Horrorscores together. This soundtrack also led me to the strange and wonderful world of the Reverb Worship label, full of pastoral strangeness and new world magick. Absolutely CANNOT WAIT to dig further into this outstanding label, and their oddities.
There’s still a few physical copies of The Goatman around, which is the only way you’re going to hear the whole thing, so best act fast!