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A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Ghost Week: 10 Ghostly Albums To Haunt Your Playlists

Tim Hecker – Virgins

What, exactly, is ghost music? Is it Rosemary Brown channeling Chopin mazurkas from beyond the grave? Is it just music from that silly metal band in the cartoon makeup? Is it the music that specters might play in a jam session? Is it just “Grim Grinning Ghosts” played on endless loop?

This seemingly simply, innocuous question strikes close to the heart of why Forestpunk even exists in the first place. Back when we were first starting back in 2011, the wheels of neoliberalism were really revving up in earnest, where it seemed like if something didn’t generate revenue it might as well not exist – a trend that’s probably gotten even more pronounced in 2022. Everything seemed to be polarizing online, with all nuance simply plummeting between the cracks. People seemed less and less willing to take the time to take in subtlety. In a weird where everybody seemed to be shouting at the top of their lungs at all times, who was going to take the time to analyze and assess such slight feelings as “ghostly,” “haunting,” “spooky,” “eerie.”

And yet, if you’ve ever encountered any of these in the wild, either directly via hauntings or indirectly via artistic recreations, this is exactly how these things manifest. It’s slight, subtle, a feeling, something glimpsed out of the corner of your eye…

It’s one of the core tenets of Forestpunk that the subtle, intangible things are what make life most worth living – imagination, inspiration, romance, grace. We have to tune our nervous systems in order to recognize them when we see them. Listening to ghostly music is a fine way to calibrate and sensitize.

So what is ghost music? It’s a lot of things. Ultimately, it’s probably personal. We’re big ghost fanatics here at Forestpunk so we’ve been weighing that question for a long, long time, with too many lists of phantasmal music to even count. In honour of Ghost Week, we thought we’d share 10 of our favourites, to haunt your Halloween mixtapes and make the air shiver and quiver around you while you conduct your own sonic seance.

On our list of 10 ghostly albums, you’ll find some antiquated classical music, some beastly shrieking metal, some oppressive doom. You’ll hear old favourites like The Caretaker and Tim Hecker alongside newcomers like Peru’s Ojeras De Damitas. It’s intended as a brief introduction and exploration of some of the many, many forms ghost music comes in – as well as just some of our favourite music to send shivers down your spine.

10 Essential Albums of Ghost Music

Rodion Azarkhin – Art Of Rodion Azarkhin I

Over the course of putting this list together, scouring every playlist and collection of albums ever been published to the internet, one thing’s become dreadfully obvious – “ghost music” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For most, it’s usually albums with some sort of spectral figure, often the iconic bedsheet ghost, or songs that mention ghosts, specters, or phantoms directly in the lyrics. 

For others, it’s a far more subtle thing – a feeling, which is more in-line with what encountering a spirit in the flesh is like anyway. It’s a little chill, a shiver, something that makes yr hair stand on end.

Old, dusty, antiquated things give off this ghostly air, as you can hear on the Art of Rodion Azarkhin I, a gorgeous collection of vintage chamber classical recordings. It sounds like what ghosts would listen to when you’re not home, or maybe even the music that they make.

Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

Arguably the Seattle’s doom duo’s best album, Four Phantoms is as heavy as being buried alive, drowning in dirt; as heavy as an ancestral curse, inescapable and unforgiving. It’s also as haunting as a bedside phantom thanks to the tender, wistful vocals of Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin. At other times it feels almost mystical, like wandering through the ruins of some decimated church, sunlight shafting in through stained glass remnants as the day fades.

The heavy, oppressive atmosphere is appropriate given they’re named after one of the most malevolent spirits in American history. 

Four Phantoms by BELL WITCH

The Caretaker – Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom

“Unmask! Unmask!”

The album that started it all, where Leyland James Kirby, here appearing as The Caretaker for the first time, unveils both his enduring fascinations as well as his signature aesthetic – memory, time, loss, forgetfulness all given by voice by crackling old shellac 78s drowned in a deep, dark ocean of reverb and delay.

Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom feels slightly more menacing, more confrontational and aggressive than much of the rest of Kirby’s output. It’s a fitting homage to the inhabitants of The Overlook Hotel who are some very bad specters indeed. Here, the balance is tipped slightly towards the noisy and experimental, with Kirby’s signature 20s ballroom big band jazz being swallowed whole by devouring hiss and static, anticipating some of his later work on memory loss and amnesia.

Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom hints at the many, many ways we have to get haunted these days. Sometimes, it sounds like faded crooners overhead from shoddy livestreams. Others, it sounds like creepy old cartoons that have been dug up out of the earth. Either way, it’s a reminder we’re absolutely surrounded by specters.

Haunting in every sense of the word. Get it as the soundtrack for your next Goose & Duck Soiree.

Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom by The Caretaker

Ghost Bath – Funeral

Howling, shrieking raw-as-fuck black metal with some symphonic and post-metal flourishes. Punishing, haunting… like the sound of baleful spirits tormenting some vulnerable soul. What it might sound like if the three ghosts from Mickey Mouse started a black metal band.

Funeral by Ghost Bath

Tim Hecker – Virgins 

What is a ghost if not the expression of a particular place? This makes site-specific electronic, experimental, and modern classical music serve as a sort of specter. Records emphasizing capturing and expressing physical spaces a sort of sonic seance, where antiquated wedding clothes begin to swell and take on strange, spectral shapes.

It’s difficult to not draw some sort of ghosty comparison with Tim Hecker’s masterful Virgins, with its iconic album cover featuring a chalky bedsheet ghost. As far as i’m aware, Hecker’s never come right out and expressed what he was getting at with that beguiling iconography. We’re left to draw our own conclusions.

Listening to Virgins is like watching some space spring to life, where instruments begin to play themselves while shadows sigh and dream of distant times. It’s a brilliant work of electronically treated modern classical music, so any excuse to pull it out and get lost in the folds of its shroud is a good excuse.

Andrew Liles – The Maleficent Monster & Other Macabre Tales

Dense, sprawling odds ‘n sods collection from the master of “monster music” finds the sweet spot between haunted house SFX, artificial soundtracks for movies that never were, and just general industrial-laced creepiness.

This 70-track (!!!) collectin from the insanely prolific Andrew Liles, sometimes member of Current 93 and Nurse With Wound, has a little something for every kind of spooky music lover. Some tracks sound like incidental music or SFX from a haunted house atmospherics sampler. Others sound like excerpts from old forgotten horror movies. Still others sound like more straightahead industrial music, of the Throbbing Gristle variety, layered and laced with seance recordings, EVP, and other textures that go bump in the night. 

Chilling, thrilling stuff indeed. Perfect for arthouse haunt attractions.

THE MALEFICENT MONSTER & OTHER MACABRE STORIES by Andrew Liles

Ojeras de Damita – Withered Roses For Eternal Lovers

Does The Caretaker trick but with romantic Parisian cabaret jazz instead, “La (eternal) vie en rose”, perhaps. Music for phantoms smelling more of vanilla and rosewater than mildew and gravedirt. 

withered roses for eternal lovers by ojeras de damita

The Parlor Trick – A Blessed Unrest

Scratchy, dusty parlour music that sounds like a Victorian seance.

A Blessed Unrest by The Parlour Trick

Songs: Ohia – Didn’t It Rain

“When i die/put my bones in an empty street.” 

On Jason Molina’s last album as Songs: Ohia, it sounds as if he’s transmitting from beyond the grave, with his signature stark, stripped-down slowcore sounding like it’s echoing out over the ink-black waters of the Rivers Lethe and Styx. Molina sounds spectral as a seance as he sings of loss and regret in an apocalyptic tongue. Heartbreak becomes a ghastly elongated figure with black eyes silhouetted against a gray sky while a disembodied choir rings out through the mist.

 It’s also haunting in the other sense of the word, in that it sticks with you long after it’s last heart-rending refrains have grown silent.

Third Eye Foundation – Ghost

Blasted, destroyed drum ‘n bass from one of the world’s mightiest shoegazers? Who also makes some of the world’s heaviest and most despairing minimalist folk? There’s no universe where Third Eye Foundation’s Ghost doesn’t belong on a list of essential ghost albums. Vocals smear, distort, blend, and blur while air raid sirens signal armageddon – meanwhile steely amen breaks continue on, unbothered and unencembured. 

Are the beats the ghosts? Is this the sound of spectral eternity amidst a raging, burning world? A progenitor for Burial’s nocturnal downbeat phantasms? It’s sick as fuck, whatever it is.

What are some of your favourite ghostly songs and albums? Leave us a comment and let us know! We’re always looking to get haunted.

If you want even more ghost music, check out our Ghosts + Hauntings list on RYM.

You can also follow our Mostl

y playlist on Spotify, which currently features about 5 hours of ghostly sounds. Both are being constantly updated, year-round, so make sure to follow both to not miss any updates.

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2022 by in Features.

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