Suspiria ain’t no disco

The collaboration between Dario Argento and Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti has endured for over four decades. It began when difficulties arose between Argento and jazz composer Giorgio Gasolini during production of the filmmaker’s giallo-du-jour, Profondo Rosso. Desiring more of a ‘rock’ sound for the film’s atmospherics, Argento put feelers out for a number of contemporary big name progressive-leaning rock acts, including Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Deep Purple.

However it was a young prog band, barely in their twenties – with the somewhat unsexy name of ‘Oliver’ – who got the gig, via a shared connection between publishers and a tip-off that the band featured the son of Italian composer and entertainer Enrico Simonetti. That band – later known as ‘Cherry 5’ and then Goblin – were already dazzlingly dextrous musicians who had painlessly assimilated their key influences – the aforementioned Floyd, ELP and Purple, as well as Gentle Giant and King Crimson.

It’s intriguing to imagine what kind of career Oliver/Cherry 5 (the band’s debut LP, titled Cherry 5, failed to include the band name, which led to the album title being misappropriated as the band name) might have made for themselves without the intervention of Argento, which turned them away from the intricate, epic song-based rock of their debut.

Cherry Five – Traccia 2

Perhaps they would have continued to be skilled prog devotees acquiring praise in their homeland – along the lines of a Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – without perhaps translating to a wider audience.


Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Non Mi Rompete

Whatever, when Argento recruited Oliver to perform Gaslini’s themes – and compose some of their own, in substitution for the erstwhile composer – he set them on an entirely new musical journey. As well as departing song-based construction for instrumental adventures, soundtrack composing provided an opportunity for the nascent Goblin to absorb the DNA of other musical forms.

On Profondo Rosso this is predominantly jazz, but it is undeniably a Goblin-ified jazz. Huge, loping drums and repetitive jazz bass figures weirdly pre-empt late nineties big beat-acid jazz crossovers such as Red Snapper.

Red Snapper – Card Trick

Goblin’s first non-soundtrack album, Roller, released in 1976 – sandwiched in-between the multi-million-selling monsters that the Profondo Rosso and Suspiria LPs quickly became – exhibits less of the shapeshifting, Magma-like intensity of Cherry Five, instead fleshing out the textures of Profondo Rosso into a rock album format.

Goblin – Roller

The first intimations of dabbling with funk and more danceable rhythms began with Roller and would be reiterated and expanded upon in later Goblin releases – with Claudio Simonetti even becoming a pioneer of italo disco following the group’s dissolution in 1978. But this musical evolution curiously skipped a generation with the band’s next release.

Various post-Goblin Simonetti italo projects:

Capricorn – I Need Love

Crazy Gang – Every Sunday

Easy Going – Fear

Kasso – Walkman

Vivien Vee – Higher

Suspiria isn’t funk. It isn’t prog. Within 12 months from the film’s release and the Discocross collaboration release with Giorgio Farina, Goblin had turned into a superb disco group, but Suspiria ain’t no disco.

Giorgio Farina and Goblin – Farina’s Suite

Suspiria, in fact, doesn’t quite sound like any music before or since. Goblin briefly forgot they were a rock band, they ditched their instruments and instead picked up tabla, bouzouki and dobro and rented a colossal £20,000 modular Moog.

Simonetti still regards the work as “the Goblin masterpiece” and “the best soundtrack we ever did.”

“I think that the real Goblin sound is in Suspiria,” Simonetti told The Quietus in 2015. “In Suspiria we created something really new – never heard before.”

The band composed a prospective soundtrack and recorded it in demo form after reading Suspiria’s script and before any footage had been completed. However, this sketch soundtrack had been completely redrafted into something altogether different by the time the film had been completed.

Consisting, like Profondo Rosso, of just a handful of themes reiterated at thematically-keyed moments – the Witch theme, for instance, is heard whenever a killer is present – the visuals of Suspiria are not cut to its music, as is the case with many horror films.

But despite not having that literal symbiosis of, say, a John Carpenter score – who famously improvised most of his classic scores along to a cut of the film – it’s hard to imagine anything other than the violently-saturated color of Suspiria visualizing Simonetti and co’s ominous invocations.

Perhaps even more so than the actual-violence of Suspiria, it is Argento’s head-spinning, almost nausea-inducing color palette that the music soundtracks. Taken out of context of the film’s dodgy acting, face-palming dialogue and so-so plot, Suspiria the look and Suspiria the sound merge into a surreal, aggressive, psychedelic masterpiece.

Suspiria is replete with the creeped-out tension characteristic of Argento films, but combined with Goblin’s music – the main theme in particular – really tears hooks into the viewer’s psyche. What might otherwise have been merely suspenseful is now almost telepathic.

Simonetti’s Suspiria jacks into the viewer’s body – it’s seeing the film through your eyes but it’s poking about with your hardware, rattling your insides about like loose change. It is the most effective horror film soundtrack since Psycho – the first masterpiece of horror-sound, if not first classic soundtrack – at attacking your nerves from the inside out. A malevolent antibody.

Simonetta’s Suspiria elevates Argento’s Suspiria – a beautiful, menacing film now an occult artifact dripping with sadism.

Experienced apart from the film the Suspiria music takes on slightly different meanings. It no longer seems to have that unbearable cruelty, if anything there’s something so playful about it that it borders on jolly.

Though lacking the meticulously-arranged peaks and troughs of a Roller, or other long-form non-soundtrack work by the musicians, experienced in the home, Suspiria never fails as hi-fi-haunting excellence. It’s the indisputable classic of a genre that never quite existed – that has the atmosphere and dread of black metal, the surging momentum of krautrock, the ambition of prog, the haunted spaces-between-the-notes and slapback-hallucinations of dub, even the percussive miasmas of gamelan – without deliberately quoting any of those genres.

Daemonia feat. Dani Filth – Mater Lacrimarum (Simonetti composition from Argento’s 2007 film The Mother of Tears – the final part of Suspiria’s ‘The Three Mothers’ trilogy)

The interplay of a classical Indian drum, Greek folk lute, dustbowl blues guitar and monster synthesizer at no point conjures any spectres of “future-folk blues ragas” or anything other hybridization you would not unreasonably expect to come out of those conjoined voices. Instead, perplexingly, those disparate instrument identities sound like they were always meant to be together. The only spectres they conjure are the murderous, witchy kind.

If you think of other similarly-minded musicians who in the 1970s looked to Eastern percussion and non-European musical strategies, such as the German group Embryo, you can see how easy it was for musicians to be seduced by this other noise – electing to simply attempt their own emulations of it rather than force through a way of expressing themselves through its filter.

Embryo – Anar Anar

The closest Suspiria comes to a raga – the piece called Sighs – builds out of repetitive rattles of instrument but it never surrenders to self-indulgence or deviates away from Argento’s text – instead the reverbed ghosts and vocal drones echoing around the start of the track weave around the building piece until its dominated with a supernatural – rather than simply ‘spiritual’ – presence that feels so demonic it borders on death metal.

Goblin – Sighs

And this is perhaps the great victory of the Argento-Goblin collaborative process. With Argento’s scripts and stalkery cinematography, the band had pre-fabricated themes and purposes to unify and orient the practical infinities of their potential sounds. All of the band were skilled musicians, but each was drawn from a different discipline, and this frequently brought the members into conflict – causing the group to disband at the height of their powers and success.

Their music at any point could have gone anywhere and done anything – a simmering underlying chaos. As an invisible member, Argento’s stories brought coherence o the group. By interpreting his films musically their music had a strong narrative and psychological weight that might otherwise have dissipated into proggy excess.

Goblin’s relative lack of non-soundtrack catalogue suggests this direction was a stabilizing and perhaps crucial influence on the group. That isn’t to demean their status in anyway – how many other classic bands were fortunate enough to be birthed in the bloodbath of Italian cinema?

Swedish Economics

Featuring : Johan Agebjorn


This is Johan Agebjörn, who makes a welcome return to the pages of this ‘ere blog.  A conduit to a pre-Lehman world of nu/slow disco.

This is music from a glorious Scandinavian tradition that manages to speak both to the rare moments of bliss in the shabby grey drudgery of British life, as well as offer up a utopian ideal that keeps the hamster wheel of the UK’s (creative) industries turning.

This is Carpenter’s ear for a synth hook by way of Tangerine Dream*’s fruitful collaborations with our lord and saviour Michael Mann.  New Age if New Age occasionally went to the club at 4 in the morning and wandered around, unable to comprehend the sights and sounds.  Pastoral music for a generation cut adrift by the twin shears of class and cash.  When clubs are free but the cities cost too much, the only recourse is the countryside.

Johan Agebjörn – Will They Forgive Us

Will They Forgive Us is taken from the album Notes which is out on Paper Bag records on February 10th.  You can pre-order it here.

* whose Phaedra ends with the sound of children, while this starts with them.  And while I’m aware that children on records aren’t exactly uncommon, it was the first thing that sprung to mind.

Darknesses re-formed into a mighty shape against the darkness of the night sky

Featuring : Watter


We have been reading Jeff VanderMeer’s last part of the Southern Reach trilogy, so we are in a suggestible mood to say the least.

You haven’t read it? You people…

Ok. Here is why you need to read it. The basic idea is simple: one day, an unnamed region of the American coast (probably Louisiana) becomes Area X.

Shit gets uncanny, as in Roadside Picnic written by H.P. Lovecraft, but with more empathy for the abnormalities that roil and moan down the putrescent, almost intolerably alive swamp. They were like you and us once, and for all we know, they are our future incarnations. There is a pervading sense of infection, intrusion and moulting, but such phenomena are approached with the objectivity of the biologist, instead of the repugnance of the preacher.

Still, we read and our skin crawls. When we stop (as we did ca. 30 minutes ago) we bring Area X with us into the belly of that strange monster which is reality. Rifts open in the sky above. Invisible waves of alien emotion wash over us. Glimpses of things loiter at the back of the garden

We just need something like Watter to push us over the edge.

Watter are a dark psyche super-band featuring people from Grails and Slint. Each of the songs in their “This World” album is the itinerary for a trip taking you from your current location to vantage points over landscapes of weird power. Immortal mesas, gothic piles, topological anomalies and Arabic medinas with plans curling like impossible glyphs. And today, a derelict lighthouse rising above dark waters that boil with Leviathans whose vast bodies are somehow half here, and half not, just like us as we listen, or travel, engulfed by the colossal wave of Watter’s music.

 Watter – Seawater

Watter’s “This World” is out in Temporary Residence, go and get it. They are currently touring Europe, more details here. We will be watching them at Birthdays in London this coming Saturday. You should come down, inside Area X.



So forgetful these future-pop stars

Featuring : FKA Twigs + Tinashe


Following up our recent dip into material that Arca forgot to put on his album, we look at some tracks that Tinashe and FKA Twigs forgot to put on theirs!

Tinashe’s album, Aquarius, produced in collaboration with a Test-Icicle, is widely considered to the be the R&B album of 2014 and featured what lots of people who claim to know about this stuff consider to be the out-and-out pop tune of the year, 2 On.

Vulnerable can’t be found on Aquarius – it was left relatively secret and safe on Tinashe’s 2013 mixtape Black Water:

Tinashe – Vulnerable (ft. Travi$ Scott)


And as great as FKA Twigs’ LP1 was, it didn’t have Papi Pacify – an Arca-featuring diamond taken from her 2013 release EP2:

FKA Twigs – Papi Pacify

So forgetful these future-pop stars. Glad we fixed this for u.

Buy EP1

oil paintings by Marilyn Minter

On Edgar Froese and the Cosmic Jackpot

Featuring : tangerine dream


We celebrate the disintegration of Edgar Froese with the high spirits that are warranted from the winners of the cosmic jackpot.

How come? Let us explain:

Quite probably the cosmos, as described by the bleak, vertigo-inducing drones of early Tangerine Dream, is indifferent to us.

But this does not mean that it doesn’t contain in its Spaces and Times moments of blinding beauty, moments of enhanced perception when our spirits become one with everything beyond, or moments of perfect placidity and happiness.

It simply means that, over infinite expanses of Space and Time, these moments are averaged into zero by the sheer cold horror of sensing a clockwork mechanism out to get us, by the alienation of banging our understanding against the steel bars of the uncertainty principle, by the sadness of knowing everything we are and we love will vanish into the void.

All of these feelings and emotions are contained in the ca. 19 minutes of “Birth of the Liquid Plejades”, with which Tangerine Dream begin their 1972 album Zeit.

This is music with the density of a black hole. It absorbs the totality of existence.

In the ominous undulations of its awful strings dwells Saturn, and his charnelhouse illuminated by the light of dead stars.

Encoded in the solemn pulse of its Terry Riley-esque organ arrives a message from the universal inception, which is the beginning of our birth.

We feel gratitude to exist in a universe where we can exist, and to exist in an area of the space/time distribution exposed to the vector of this music, an extension of that force once known as Edgar Froese.

Do you know what are the odds of this? The same as winning the cosmic jackpot. Hence our high spirits.

Tangerine Dream – Zeit

More info about Zeit here.


Another explanation for our high spirits might be that we have been listening to some of Tangerine Dream’s soundtracks, and we feel like neon-eyed street fighters swinging full of feline nonchalance and existential ennui through streets of impossible cool

Tangerine Dream – Guido the Killer Pimp

Guido The Killer Pimp is included in the soundtrack for Risky Businesses. We heard it first in the legendary Bumrocks.

Let me be your art

Featuring : + Sia


In a year (weehe last one) that saw seen a bold resurgence of art pop – St. Vincent, iamiamiwhoami, Dean Blunt, Owen Pallett, but mostly FKA Twigs – the mostly overtly “arty” and aggressively POP of them all was Sia.

Her backstory is riddled with death, addiction, phobias and Home & Away.

She has voided herself from public life, choosing to be represented by a blonde bob wig instead, most famously worn by a prodigiously cool 11-year-old dancer, Maddie Ziegler, in a video to a chart hit about alchoholism…

…and more recently in a grudge match against the asshat spawn of Indie, Shia LaBeouf, which courted the usual “It’s paedophilia! It’s violence against women, er, I mean, men, I mean Shia LaBeouf…?” sub-controversies in the newspaper and on the Tweeter.

Sia started out as the singer in an Australian acid jazz group in the early 90s. Her first solo effort (under the name Sia Furler) was a trip-hop album in 1997. Wikipedia fails to document whether or not she had a grunge phase.

Sia’s been in the game more than 20 years, but has only recently gone supernova – initially off the back of tunes she’d penned for other mostly female megastars, some of which are in this Spotify thing I made out of curiosity [WARNING MAY CONTAIN TRACE ELEMENTS OF CELINE DION]:

Let Me Be Your Art: Sia’s diva pop

Her own stuff is a lot better, though. As Chandelier proves, Sia has a belting voice. And not an ‘Odetta and The Blues’ belter of a voice, it’s a 6pm Saturday primetime on The Voice belter of a voice. This might raise red flags for a lot of people.

Sia’s most recent album – 1000 Forms of Fear – is pretty good gothic piano power ballad pop. BIG CHORUSES. Sad feelings.

You wouldn’t expect pop so reliant on gale force emoting to survive instrumentally. But eh, guess what… this Chandelier instrumental isn’t bad at all!

Sia – Chandelier (instrumental)

You can always do your own power ballad howling over the top of it, but it kind’ve works as an imaginary anime theme or Gustavo Santaolalla-type video game soundtrack.

Following up on our recent PC Music post, this was some proper good pop that we dug in that 2014.

You might like it. And if you don’t, here’s some Mø, also from 2014:

Mø – Slow Love

EVERYONE likes Mø.

More actual-pop next Wednesday!

Buy 1000 Forms of Fear
Buy Mø’s No Mythologies to Follow


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