In honor of the spookiest, most funnest, creepiest, awesome-filled holiday and lunar month in the American calendar, I decided to sit down, once and for all, and make a killer Halloween mix. Normally, I get so excited that I just throw a bunch of silly songs and sound effects onto a CD, with great haste, and the disc ends up getting lost or damaged before the year is even over. Not the case this time! No, sir! This time I managed to come up with so many excellent tracks, I decided to split it all up into three parts at 13 tracks, each with an appropriate theme fitting the selections. I am particularly proud of these mixes, and there’s a certain story and mood that unfolds as the mix progresses, so I decided to use Audacity to mix the tracks together, to prevent any skipping around, and keep the surprises of the journey safe. I’ll put up the next two parts before Halloween has it’s glorious night! But, for now, I present to you…
The mix begins with “Heavy Metal Kids” recorded live by Kraftwerk and soon-to-be members of Neu! It’s from a famous bootleg known as Bremen Radio 1971. It’s a lumbering beast of a song, and for good reason, too, as it sounds like someone accidentally cracked open the seal on some ancient synthesizer, unleashing this growling evil. The second track kicks things off with a quicker pace, and shorter breath, with “Wicked Annabella” by The Kinks. This song is featured in the famous Village Green Preservation Society album, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a sort of Sgt. Pepper’s concept album that runs around the theme of this perfectly quaint little village. The album has a fitting selection of songs about farm animals, local people of the town, and sitting by the riverside. Appropriately enough, and to my great delight, there’s a bit of a dark side to the story as well. It’s the story of a witch, who comes out of her creaky old house at night looking to raise all sorts of hell for the townspeople and their children. It’s actually a bedtime story the people of Village Green use to scare their kids and keep them in bed at night. We get Ray Davies whispering this funny tale over ghostly, floating drums and rusty guitar riff.
Moving on to the third track, we have “Voices Green and Purple,” which is the first pop song to document the experience of a bad acid trip. It’s brief, furious and frenzied and with what little room there are for lyrics, the song frantically describes the rude colors of sound infiltrating and disturbing this particular individual’s night. It’s filled with sparse and spiraling noise, as the singer screams his way to the fade-out of the minute-long track and we quickly arrive back on solid ground with “Flash of the Blade” by Iron Maiden. This is a good, old-fashioned rocking metal song: not too long, not too short, with plenty of melodic guitar work and a riff that carries the whole song like a stabbing knife in the dark – awesome! It’s a tough, sober gallop into a medieval dungeon about all sorts of lurking things you need to escape from… a bit more tangible than the taunting colors of sound, if you will. Bonus Factoid: this song was featured in the Dario Argento’s film, Phenomena, starring a young, nubile Jennifer Connelly. She controls cockroaches and other bugs with her psychic electricity powers.
Anyways! The next two tracks are by The Cramps, a band that tapped a goldmine of American culture, combining the savage licks of rockabilly, electric psychedelic fuzz, and all the cheesy goodness of cult sci-fi & horror movies. You can’t say enough about the perfect concoction of sight, sound and attitude that makes this band. I chose the original mix of “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” as the crazed, vocal play of transforming (or fighting the transformation) into a hairy were-beast is unbelievably wild and bubbling in this take. He sounds like he is channeling Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but something else is maybe getting in the way… another cool factoid, Alex Chilton (of Big Star fame) was producing this album, and this bonus track features a false-start in the recording, because some drunk was upsetting the vibe in the studio and Chilton just loses his shit. It’s hilarious, and cool, and reminds you of the beginning of that Pixies song (you know the one). This song is followed by, as it is mixed on the original album, “Sunglasses After Dark,” which is basically an exclamation point to the previous song.
This brings us to the half-way mark of the mix. I didn’t just want this mix to be rock-dominated, with songs about evil things, so I decided to throw in some more abstract, eclectic tracks. At this point the mood shifts to an odd wafting, ghastly texture of sound that the Cramps set up so perfectly. Their song fades away into this track by Mort Garson, who is somewhat of a Moog synthesizer nut. He has released many Moog-oriented albums, one of which is a collection of original electronic compositions intended to stimulate plant growth, called Plantasia: Warm Earth Music for Plants (not making this up) with track names like “Symphony for a Spider Planet” and “Ode to African Violet.” This particular track is from a different theme-album called Black Mass – Lucifer, with song titles like “Solomon’s Rings” and “The Evil Eye.” I could have chosen any of these songs, as they are all fairly similar in nature, but the one I chose is particularly strange and ethereal. It’s titled “Voices of the Dead (The Medium)” which I thought was clever, as he is talking about the mechanism from which these sounds arise, not the vocalization of the language of the dead. Weird, huh?
Anyways, the next several tracks make use of haunted church organs and possessed synthesizers to achieve a similar effect of creepiness, with the “Liquid Spear Waltz” from the Donnie Darko score, and “Organ Donor” by DJ Shadow. The Shadow track picks things up again and drops the beat back in the mix, setting the pace for “Nlogax” by the Boards of Canada. To me, BoC always sound like decaying analog music that was found somewhere, sort of losing it’s luster, but still managing to keep tempo and that’s exactly what this track sounds like… except, maybe these tapes were the soundtrack to a dead man’s party! Much like an Oingo Boingo song, this one has got a bit of a groove pulling you through it.
Finally, we come to the last three tracks and I don’t need to tell you much about them. We all know the strange and wonderful landscape John Lennon gave us with “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” “Logon Rock Witch” is the next track, and is like a lot of Aphex Twin songs, in that it doesn’t make any sense, and gives you nothing to go with to understand it. But, the textures of the organ, and restless percussions of this song are absolutely fun and playful and perfect for this mix. Lastly, the final track of The Great Halloween Mix Part I: An Evil Awakens is brought to an end by one of the more foreboding, and dark Portishead songs, “Wandering Star.” This recording was from a recent set at All Tomorrow’s Parties, when they decided to come out of hiding after a decade of silence, with a fresh revamping of their, already cool and exciting sound. “The blackness… of darkness… forever.”
Stay tuned for the Part II: The Darkness Takes Shape