Halloween roundup: tracks that give us the chills
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  • Post published:21/11/2021
  • Post last modified:21/11/2021

Image: Annika Aschberg

From twisted drill & bass, demonically pitched vocals and haunting love songs in praise of the undead, in honour of the spooky season we roundup some of dance music’s darkest moments. In no particular order, here’s our list of tracks that go bump in the night:

Aphex Twin – Come To Daddy

Entirely disturbing for the video alone, the lineage of Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy is something of an urban legend that involves a potential stab at the Prodigy. Then there’s the fact that Richard D. James himself renounces the song as “a joke,” claiming it was created while playing around with a “crappy death metal jingle” and that it should never have seen the light of day. Whatever the case, there is no denying that the infernal death metal screech of “I will eat your soul” and the sonic violence of Aphex Twin’s hardcore drill & bass is truly the stuff of nightmares. 


Fever Ray – If I Had A Heart

Fever Ray’s eponymous debut is easily Karin Dreijer’s masterpiece, and who can forget the positively spine chilling experience of encountering her genderless, pitch-shifted vocals for the first time. This is most apparent on If I Had A Heart, where Dreijer controls her voice into a deep, monstrous drawl that’s almost impossible to recognize as human. With almost nothing else behind her except a sliding string chord and simple bass modulation, If I Had A Heart expertly creates a sense of lurking tension and damned atmosphere that Dreijer is yet to match. The eerie chill of the track would eventually see it’s (over)use in popular media, becoming a television trope in its own right for moments when the soundtrack called for something intensely ominous. 


Die Antwoord – I Fink U Freeky 

What exactly isn’t terrifying about Die Antwoord?. While countless expositions have increasingly pointed to the duo being not very nice people, there’s no denying that the arrival of the lead single from their 2012 album Tension was a culture defining moment. The strangely pitched hoover synth and Yolandi Visser’s sort of whispered, sort of incanted nursery rhyme of “I fink you freaky and I like you a lot” is eerily uncanny. The entire track functions on a tilted axis, everything sliding in a way that feels totally discomforting. The accompanying music video and collaboration with South African artist Roger Ballen brought Ballen’s evocative and macabre imagery to life like never before, and the images of grotesque urban decay would only add to the horror of the track. 


Goldfrapp – Judas (Remix)

For their remix of Lady Gaga’s 2011 single Judas, Goldfrapp flipped the script on the hyperactive electropop track by slowing it down to a creepy slither and pitching Gaga’s vocals down to transform her into a lamenting demonic entity. Paired with passages of lyrics played in reverse and the indistinct roar of a crowd that oscillates somewhere between a scream or a cheer, Goldfrapp sent Judas straight into the pits of hell. The genius of this remix though is how it plays with the popular tropes of the day. Following the release of Judas and it’s neo-Catholic imagery, Gaga was lynched online by Christian groups who dubbed her as “the bride of Satan.” Goldfrapp use this to their advantage, simultaneously commenting on the lunacy and giving Gaga’s religious critics something more to be horrified by. 


Annie Lennox – Love Song For a Vampire

Falling on the romantic side of the spectrum, Annie Lennox’s theme song for Francis Ford Coppola’s neo-gothic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is at once arresting and sweepingly campy in a way that speaks to the tone of the film but also Lennox as a whole. It’s melodrama, heightened by Kate Bush style hooks and a haunting, lo-fi organ, makes Love Song For A Vampire one of music’s greatest moments of full on gothicism. While not fear inducing per-say, the song is an ode to the romanticism of the night, fantasies of immortality and carnal sexuality. Lennox keys in on the sensual and sumptuous despair of losing your heart to a bat out of hell, and in the process provides prime lipsync material for drag queens for generations to come.  


Gesaffelstein – Viol

Arguably the master of dark, throbbing EBM, French producer Gesaffelstein has an affinity for crafting the sort of the music that walks the line between pleasure and pain. Easily the soundtrack to both a ritual sacrifice or a BDSM party (or both), Viol is peak Gesaffelstein, functioning on his signatures of buzzing synths played in harmonic minor and a barrage of strange, ominous industrial sounds against skeletal techno. Viol’s music video also feels programmed for destruction, featuring the leather-clad, white face painted Ghostriders riding like a vigilante gang n bicycles through the streets of Paris. At once propulsive and repulsive, Viol exemplifies many of the traits we’ve come to love from Mike Lévy.


Kavinsky – Night Call

Though not immediately bone chilling nor particularly tilted toward the macabre, Kavinsky’s seminal Night Call maintains a noirish air of eeriness and uncertainty, mostly thanks to its menacingly vocoded chorus drawl of the lyrics “I’m giving you a night call to tell you how I feel” like a voicemail straight from hell. The subject matter is also vaguely disturbing; the unclear nature of the “nightcall” in question or the enigmatic relationship that is storied through exchanges like “There’s something inside you / It’s hard to explain” is neither romantic nor overtly threatening; but rather it lingers in the space in between, which makes the idea even more hair raising. 


Kim Petras – Demons 

When Kim Petras dropped her Halloween inspired mixtape Turn Off The Lights in 2018, it was an instant queer cult dancefloor classic. Interspersed with dark and sticky techno and EBM interludes, Turn Off The Lights pulled together what was dance and pop’s most distinct horror tropes at the time into one body of work. Nothing exemplifies this more than the short but bombastic interlude Demons, part AGLORY, Gesaffelstein and deadmau5 and programmed for a bloodbath. The arping, deep synth modulation of the track’s main riff plays with sliding scales to create an atmosphere of discomfort and imminent doom, while the naughty pitched up and down vocal samples add an impish sense of mischief to a piece of techno that takes Satan to Berghain, in drag. 

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