A Journal Of The Dark Arts
When I first heard the instrumental hip-hop of Lilacs & Champagne last year, with their self-titled record, I though I was hearing some lost street poet auteur, someone like Gil Scott-Heron. Imagine my surprise when I realized that L&C were half of the instrumental trance-rock band Grails. Imagine my surprise, yet again, when i discovered Midnight Features Vol. 1: Shower Scenes, released back in April on Mexican Summer, that they had traded in their vintage exploitation vibes for midnight darkened giallo hip-hop?
The ominousness begins straightaway, with some ectoplasm synths and Friday The 13th delays on the titular track, but quickly lays into the meat of the track; smooth as chinese opium broken beats, Edwardian harpichords, and ominous music boxes, over a dub reggae bassline – everything smoked out and fugged through an MPC and unspeakable post-processing. It’s like taking four decades of horror/thrill films and splicing them into one hyper-efficient whole, essentially making for a dark sonic continent, to wander in and explore, to yr heart’s grisly delight.
“Le Grand (Brooklyn Bridge Version)” is the baddest haunted house record every made. It starts off with the ominous growling semi-atonal synth, which seems to be the hallmark that something horrific is going on, as thunder crashes and pans around yr cranium, like a stoned out version of those Peter Pan records you had as a kid. That harpsichord, again, holding down a static groove, while Emil Amos drums in dubspace, and Alex Hall singlehandedly recreates the Fabio Frizzi jazz adventure vibes on guitar.
Because, you see, there’s no telling where the sampling ends and the live instrumentation begins with Lilacs & Champagne, which is part of what makes them so damn compelling!
The anachronism is complete and total, and I truly cannot tell what is live, and what is sourced from weird old awesome Italian records. This layering of samples and recording promises massive capabilities, that I don’t think have yet even been scratched.
Back when i was first getting into writing about music, was during the height of the hauntological conversation, where writers like Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher were spelling out end of days philosophies in post-Marxist rhetoric. Everything has been made and seen, and we are doomed to pale reflections of past glories. In many ways, these prophecies still hold true, although not as much in culture, I feel.
Because while we may be doomed to be influenced by the past, to stand in the shadows of giants, to acknowledge our influences, and find ourselves amidst them, in spite of this all, I do think new forms and styles are emerging. This dense, referential bricolage of found sounds and samples is one such form, that I find endlessly thrilling.
And like I have frequently said, once you have yr samples in hand, you can do whatever you want with them, fit them to whatever groove sparks yr blood. It makes total sense that someone would turn to creepy, crappy old movies, and weird Library records, dump themp into an MPC, and drop a sweet headnodding hip-hop beat to it. I’m just surprised there’s not more of this kind of thing.
So, this time, i come only partially as an authority, mainly to get these sounds to you in the height of the spooky season (which never ends, here at Forestpunk castle.) I would also like to ask yr assistance? For one, does anybody recognize any of the samples that pop up on here? I would love to have a better understanding of how L&C are putting their sounds together. And 2, can you recommend anything else that sounds like this? I’m looking for more horror-influenced hip-hop, and always electronica. Not necessarily horrorcore, although i like some of that stuff; I’m looking for more stuff stitched together from freaky ’70s + ’80s records and movie soundtracks, most specifically of the horror genre, but that can extend to sleaze, mysteries, even daytime television!
This is one of the areas of music of which i am most passionate and excited about, so expect to hear a lot more about this, as the months and years wheedle on.
To learn more about Emil Amos, and his roots in sampling, check out this primer at self-titledmag.
Lilacs & Champagne – Midnight Features: Shower Scene 1
Lilacs & Champagne FB
To read more about sampling and culture, read more about the Archive Theory tag
To be deluged in blood, cobwebs and bones, peruse the horrorscores.