Sunday, 8 February 2015

Albums that sound like they were recorded in the dark...

Now this is just pure, subjective, tenuous silliness, but I'll probably add more as they occur to me. (Ancient VVisdom!)...

The Cure Seventeen Seconds (Fiction, 1980)

Seventeen Seconds was a huge departure from the (relatively) straightforward catchy post-punk songs of their debut and for some (me) remains possibly their greatest work. The album is full of strange, enigmatic songs and fragmentary bits of atmospheric music and even in its more rock moments (Play for Today, A Forest) has an almost muffled, hushed quality. Partly this is due to the production and Mathieu Hartley's oddly dusty sounding synths and Simon Gallup's deadened bass sound, but also Robert Smith's gloomy vocals and shadowy, allusive and dreamlike lyrics. Plus it has a song on it actually called At Night.
Best example(s): Secrets, In Your House

Yurei Night Vision (Adversum, 2012)

Like Seventeen Seconds Night Vision has explicitly nocturnal themes, but even so, the way the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist imbues his slightly dissonant spindly art-rock/jazz/prog/metal songs with the atmosphere of  darkness, not in the 'darkness and evil' sense, but the '3 in the morning depths of night' sense is impressive and strangely addictive.
Best example(s): 3am Revolt, Dali by Night

Tom Waits - Franks Wild Years (Island, 1987)

To be fair, several of Waits' albums (of all periods) would fit in this list, but Franks Wild Years ("Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts"), the music for a stage play by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan, is particularly opaque and peculiar, its odd, archaic textures enhanced by the use of instruments like the pump organ, optigan, marimbas etc etc and production techniques that give parts of the album the scratchy sound of old Victorian cylinder recordings. Not his greatest work, but it some great songs and an immersively dark (in all senses) atmosphere.
Best example(s): Blow Wind Blow, Cold Cold Ground

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead (Rough Trade, 1984)

Some parts of this album don't quite belong here; the wistfully late afternoon sun of Cemetry Gates and the sourly light hearted Frankly, Mr Shankley; but at least a few of the songs are strikingly nocturnal-sounding (to me anyway); from the buried-in-time intro of Cicely Courtneidge, the darkened city streets of Never Had No One Ever and the cell/grave-like bedroom of I Know It's Over to the self-dramatizing There Is a Light that Never Goes Out and the rueful acceptance of the closing Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, with its warm, fuzzy, sleepy coda. The Queen is Dead is acknowledged (NOT by me) as The Smiths's greatest achievement, and part of the reason is surely the album's wholeness; its hermetically sealed quality; the vision of Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce distilled into one (approximately) 37 minute mood piece.
Best example(s): I Know It's Over

Gorgoroth - Antichrist (Malicious Records, 1996)

Many black metal records belong in this list, but the one that to me captures that running-through-the-forest-at-midnight-in-the-rain quality more strongly than any other is Gorgoroth's 1996 opus. Every part of the album contributes to this feel, but most of all Infernus' atmosphere-filled guitar playing. If asked for a song that defines what Norwegian black metal in the 90s was, I would probably nominate Gorgoroth from this short album. The tune, with its almost classical guitar, strangely mournful bass, desolate screeching (and solemnly chanting) vocals and atmospheric noises creates an almost tangible atmosphere of night and cold.
Best example(s): Gorgoroth

Bohren and der Club of Gore - Piano Nights (PIAS Recordings, 2013)

Creepingly slow ambient jazz probably always sounds like it was recorded at night; the title suggests this is supposed to sound that way. It is certainly vividly yawn-inducing, which is supposed to be a complimentary statement.
Best example(s): Unrasiert

The Doors - LA Woman (Elektra, 1971)

Most of The Doors' albums have an element of LA nightlife about them, but on LA Woman not only does Jim Morrison actually bellow 'City at night!' lots of times, the whole album - perhaps because of Jim Morrison's mental/physical state - is imbued with an early hours atmosphere; filled with nighttime energy on LA Woman and The Changeling, weary with exhaustion on Hyacinth House and hallucinatory on Riders on the Storm
Best example(s): The Changeling, Hyacinth House

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