Strange in Stereo #1: Echtra, Ararat, Coil
I get sent a lot of stuff that’s not metal, but may be of interest to metalheads. This includes side projects by metal musicians, non-metal releases by metal labels, dark ambient, noise, and so on. Some of this stuff is too good to keep secret, so I’m starting this column to feature it. It’s not meant to be authoritative; plenty of dedicated resources already exist for dark ambient and noise, for example. This is more of a periodic collection of odds and ends.
A filmic aspect runs through this month’s column. Echtra‘s A War for Wonder (20 Buck Spin, 2009) is what might happen if Angelo Badalamenti made black metal. The album has a strange backbone: slowly plucked acoustic guitar running almost all the way throughout. Waves of black metal-esque, shoegazing electric guitars wash over the top. The result is rough-hewn but meditative. I have no idea how it would be performed live, but evidently it has been — see some mysterious pictures here and here. Echtra features one member of nature-themed black metal band Fauna. Fans of black metal’s ambient fringes (e.g., Procer Veneficus, Caïna) might dig Echtra.
Acoustic guitar also gets atypical settings in Ararat’s Musica de la Resistencia (MeteorCity, 2009). Ararat is a project by Sergio Chotsourian, vocalist/guitarist for Argentinian stoner metal band Los Natas. The name comes from Chotsourian’s partial Armenian heritage. (He is also part German; see this great interview with him here.) His eclectic background comes out in Ararat. The album encompasses Spanish classical guitar, Michael Nyman-like piano patterns, Beck-esque strumming, and psychedelic passages that tie into Chotsourian’s Los Natas side. Surprisingly, it’s not a mess. Rather, it sounds like the soundtrack to a movie. The haunting motifs in Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Véronique come to mind. I’m willing to pin the “genius” tag on Chotsourian.
Last Friday marked five years since the passing of Coil’s John Balance. The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser (Solar Lodge/Soleilmoon, 1987) was one of Coil’s most notorious releases. Supposedly it was rejected as being “too scary” for the film. More likely it was shelved due to studio politics. It scared teenage me, at any rate. (The CD sleeve carried a quote by Clive Barker: “The only group I’ve heard on disc whose records I’ve taken off because they made my bowels churn.”) Now it reminds me of Burzum, especially the synthetic horns. Some parts, however, are indeed quite creepy, particularly the music box tinklings of “Box Theme.” If you track down this EP, you might want to keep the lights on for it.