From shock rock to Scandinavian metal to hardcore punk, there are lots of musicians who are constantly exploring the boundaries of aggression and horror in modern music. Between pummeling riffs, they would do well to listen to the work of composer J.G. Thirlwell (perhaps best-known for his work on Adult Swim’s Venture Bros.) on Soak (2013). It might just convince them to pack it in for the day and bow to a talent greater than their own.
Soak, released under the banner of Foetus, comes across like the soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t been released yet. And based on the music here, the key word I would use to describe this imaginary film is “threatening.” I hear Hans Zimmer at his most intense, Rammstein at their most industrial and Germanic, Dimmu Borgir at their most Norwegian-black-metal bombastic. Thirlwell explores many moods here, none of them particularly upbeat: despair, insanity, righteous fury, cataclysmic anger, a sense of impending doom, all borne along on monolithic waves of brass and Carmina Burana choirs.
The best moments are when Thirlwell dials back his assault, giving way to eerier and more nuanced psychological states such as horror and paranoia. “La Rua Madureira” takes an old French song by actor/singer Nino Ferrer and pairs it with a Danny Elfman funhouse orchestral backing. “Spat” trades off between spooky harpsichord and Pirates of the Caribbean fanfares. And my personal favorite, “Kamikaze,” perversely welds lyrics about a suicide bomber to an uncanny Beatles-via-ELO piano ballad.
Absent a cinematic or a narrative context like much of Thirlwell’s other work, Soak can be difficult to digest, especially at a single sitting. If you didn’t get the idea yet, this is not easy listening music by any stretch of the imagination. But if your imagination requires an incidental score for your worst nightmares, one that evokes terror without sacrificing musicality, Soak may just work for you.
Buy it here.
- JG Thirlwell On Bernard Parmegiani (burningambulance.com)
- New Wave for the New Week #75 (bryanrutt.blogspot.com)
- My Favorites of 2013: 25 Albums, 50 Songs (huffingtonpost.com)
- New Wave for the New Week #76 (bryanrutt.blogspot.com)
- Second Zola Jesus Show At Hollywood Forever (thescenestar.typepad.com)
- Tubercular Bells: J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia scrapes the foetus off a chamber orchestra (dangerousminds.net)
- Nick Cave, Marc Almond, Lydia Lunch & J. G. Thirlwell: The Immaculate Consumptive (dangerousminds.net)