A pairing of experimental music all-stars results in an album ideally suited for an as-yet unscripted horror film.
Given the recent surge in popularity of vintage horror soundtracks thanks to labels such as Death Waltz, Waxworks, and Mondo, among a host of others, it’s a bit surprising there haven’t been more groups, electronic or otherwise, looking to replicate the analog synth-heavy sound favored by some of the genre’s biggest practitioners. A rather simplistic formula, these soundtracks generally tend to feature, like a classical suite, a theme representative of either the hero/heroine or killer that crops up here and there throughout the remainder of the album. From there, a series of complimentary moods are evoked through either the starkness or intensity of the compositions, none of which were necessarily designed to stand on their own, rather to accompany often brutal or unsettling imagery.
While Alex Barnett and Faith Coloccia’s Weld is not a straight homage or genre pastiche, it undoubtedly contains elements and influences from the likes of John Carpenter and the seemingly innumerable Italian giallo horror composers. Building each piece using a healthy amount of analog synthesizers and vocal manipulations, Barnett + Coloccia manage to create a very specific feeling throughout Weld, one loaded with a sense of looming dread and pending doom that serves to heighten the overall listening experience past mere passivity.
It’s hard not to hear the descending, minor key synth line in “AM Horizon” underscoring the opening credits of some forgotten horror film produced during the early 1980s slasher boom. Similarly, opener “Truth Teller” seems tailor-made for any number of subtler, atmospheric horror films. Throughout, Weld seems to be thematically bent on cultivating a feeling of ill-at-ease, one that keeps the listener on their toes throughout, never sure what might lie in wait around the next corner.
Like the best the films horror genre has to offer, Weld deals in the experiential, loaded with moments of calm serenity and abject dread that threaten to burst open at any moment. It’s within this aural emotional tug-of-war that Barnett + Coloccia succeed most in getting under the listener’s skin, crafting a series of sound collages that paint shadowy pictures in the mind. As with classical music, their tonal approach impacts the overall listening experience, playing to the basest human emotions far more than standard pop music. Without being told what to feel through the use of heavy-handed lyrics, we are reduced to our most primitive responses to sounds. In this, we can experience the truest emotional response.
And given the titles and overarching theme of Weld, it would seem Barnett + Coloccia are aiming squarely for the primal. On “Dreamsnake” they use processed tribal drumming as the framework, interjected with metallic hits and moments of sustained drones and gentler electric sputtering that play to our most primitive responses. Having come through, we’re greeted by the more ethereal, accessible “Healer”. A gently modulating track, it plays heavy with dynamic swells and detached, wordless vocals interspersed with long, sustained organ drones.
Cinematic in scope and feel, Weld finds a way of getting under the skin long after the last notes of “Ash Grove” have faded, leaving the listener with a lingering sense of unease and just enough intrigue to bring them back for more. Rather than relying on sheer noise and bombast, Barnett + Coloccia have crafted in Weld more of a slow burn, heightening the tension just so without ever really affording the requisite release. It’s gloriously unsettling and unsettlingly glorious.