So before I dive into this review, I have to ask a few questions: why do campy horror movies exist? What is their appeal? Why does the horror genre lend itself so well to campy-ness?
Sonia Sontag explained camp as, “[The] love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” Love of the unnatural if there was ever a better statement to summarize this album, I’d probably be writing for Pitchfork (lol). But seriously from it’s creepy samples, haunting textures, and creepy atmosphere; w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard does an incredible job at capturing a horror movie kind of feel. Yet it never gets too creepy.
What do I mean by creepiness? Well for this review, I’ll define creepiness as a feeling of fear or unease. Usually when musicians want to create a creepy atmosphere they’ll use atonal chords, odd time signatures (or no rhythm at all), a lack of resolution, unorthodox instruments, etc. Better yet, let me provide you a sample.
Now Tobe Hooper was the guy who not only made the movie, but also provided the soundtrack. Which at the time was radically different to anything that preceded it. Yes, there were classical composers who were trying to make “experimental” music like this. But it’s in the horror film genre that this atonal soundscape was able to really take off. It’s also why when reviewing an ambient album it’s easier to make allusions to film, rather than music.
So now I’ve laid the ground work for what constitutes as “creepy” music, I will now describe how w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard, deviates and embraces aspects of creepiness to create their own unique sound.
Let’s begin with the first song, Deadman Flesh. Immediately it starts off with this lo-fi distorted guitar. And as you know, I love novel guitar tones. This guitar in particular because of how it’s produced has this 80’s hardcore punk kind of aesthetic to it. This is back when punk was still in the underground, there wasn’t any studio polish, and as a result the lack of production created a unique kind of aesthetic. And as anybody who loves music, and has explored punk rock will immediately appreciate. Since punk rock is one of those genres where purity spirals are quite commonplace, and the more underground it is, the better.
Yet this guitar is not alone, it’s accompanied by another instrument. This instrument is as well a staple of a music genre, though not one you’d expect. The kick drum, which is a staple of EDM. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find any EDM music producer who doesn’t place a certain amount of emphasis on the kick drum. Which illustrates how important and integral it is for that particular genre of music.
We’re only in the beginning of the first song of this album, and already we can see this dichotomy between that of the underground, and that of the popular. So when the kick drum begins to ramp up, you’re already excited to see where it’s going to lead to. The floodgates are open with possibilities. Anybody who is willing to experiment with two diametrically opposed sounds sets up a large amount of expectation on behalf of the listener. And boy does w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま deliver.
Now this is where Deadman Flesh reveals it’s hand, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. After the distorted punk guitar, and EDM kickdrum we’re now introduced to the atonal horror samples, mixed in with a pulsating EDM bass, trap hi hats, and distorted guitar. Creepiness in music works best when it doesn’t have structure. Yet this music has structure. So when the traditionally creepy moans, guttural voices, and buzzsaw samples are in this song–they don’t create an atmosphere but rather they create an aesthetic. While Tobe Hooper used his music to create A Texas Chainsaw Massacre, w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま creates an punk rock EDM monster mash. And what’s not to like about that?
The next song Texas Boneyard. Delivers in the same way that Deadman Flesh did. Yet by conveying a different kind of emotion. The intro guitar, and tape loops create a kind of more melancholy experience. And yes it’s still danceable, but it’s not quite as danceable as before. This isn’t due to a lack of skill, nearly every aspect of this song is incredibly well done. From the distorted wailing samples, the rhythmically shifting hi hats, and melancholy guitar; it’s all excellent. Yet there is a lack of energy. And I don’t mean that negatively, as though there should be more energy in this track, that would be quite idiotic. The songs provides an emotional counterpoint to the one before it. Where Deadman Flesh was an emotional crescendo, Texas Boneyard is the emotion decrescendo.
What w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま accomplishes is that he uses the horror aesthetic to capture a variety of different emotions. Emotions that you usually wouldn’t find in creepy music. That’s because the emotion in creepy music is creepiness. There’s not much more you can add to it. You feel an emotion, it’s accomplished it’s job. By using a creepy aesthetic w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま is able to convey more emotions than just fear. And as Sonia Sontag said about camp, “[The] love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”
So this no longer is a creepy kind of album anymore, it’s an album about the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. That combined with the EDM kind of music structure provides a more social environment. Since let’s be real, when you think of EDM you’re not thinking about some guy laying on bed, headphones on, contemplating Calvin Harris. You’re going to be visualizing a club. This album is equivalent of meeting those who are alienated like you. The ones who never fit in, and who always seemed to be outliers. Which is relatable since everyone is solipsistic we all imagine ourselves to be outsiders. So as we dive in deeper we’ll find more layers of emotional nuance for the outsider in all of us. Which is created by w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s ability to fuse together different genres.
The next song The Wretched And The Brutal starts off with this Sonic Youth type of guitar. Which let’s be real if we’re going to be going down memory lane of punk/alternative rock music, there isn’t a better place to start than Sonic Youth. This doubled with the frantic drumming, creepy samples, and pulsating bass creates this sense of momentum. Which reminds me a lot like Joy Division’s Disorder. Which is an entirely different kind of sound than the EDM kind of genre fusion that preceded it. Now we’re moving into territory that’s more introspective. Even if Joy Division or Sonic Youth wasn’t on w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s mind when making this song. The cultural memory of this alternative dystopian disco sound, is going to provide a different set of emotions. Or in other words, we’re moving out of the club.
Now that we’re out of the club, we’ve left the group of misfits we belong to, and now we’re by ourselves. When we’re by ourselves it when we can be our true selves to it’s fullest potential. Slum is highly introspective. Why do I say that? Mainly it’s due to the unique soundscape that’s created. w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま has an incredibly unique sound. This first half of this track is pure w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま. There’s no other genre present for nearly half of the track. Kind of like when an introvert after a night of socializing needs to recharge their batteries. So they spend the next two days binge watching netflix in their pajamas.
For a creative person introspection is key. This is the time where the imagination can run wild. Which is embodied, in this track, by the aesthetically creepy samples, synth tones, ambience, and tape loops. So when the EDM influenced percussion comes back in, the sound is reinvigorated. For who can be you, but you? And who can be w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま but w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま?
Now we get Abattoir while most of has the genre fusions which produce unique kind of moods. This song in particular calls back to witch house. Though this isn’t a detriment to the album as a whole. w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s unique sound can still be heard on this track. This uniqueness cannot be overstated. Rather than dirty distorted synths that is the staple of witch house, we instead are met with this almost middle eastern kind of synth. This exotic touch, and minimalist percussion in the beginning, already sets the track apart from most of witch house.
This track in particular makes me recall an anecdote about Beethoven. Where his song No 25, Op. in G Major was a response to the happy simple dance melodies that were popular in his time. Beethoven being an individual and known for his brooding piano pieces, couldn’t help but be an individual. And as a result it became one of the best in genre. Not because he sold out his integrity and did what was popular, but rather tried his unique approach to an already established genre. Now it maybe a stretch to compare w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま to Beethoven, I can’t be that gracious of a reviewer. But the principle remains, even if an artist sticks to a genre and all of it’s tropes when they’re known not to, it doesn’t mean the song is bad. Quite the contrary, rather it’s an opportunity to express a genre through their own lens. And let’s be honest, behind every great piece of art there is usually a larger than life individual. Great art captures that individualism.
Finally we get to All Grey. An incredible track that distills all the ideas throughout the album into one song. It’s got the creepy samples, guitars, EDM precussion, and is the only song that features vocals. These vocals are a welcomed addition. As the deliver this punch to the gut emotional response. It’s impossible not to hear the passion in this song. Passion is the cornerstone to any individual. And with w i n t e r q u i l t 愛が止ま’s utilization of so many different genres, you know that they’re passionate about music. Yet it’s in this song, with these unique set of vocals that we finally get an articulation of this passion.
So I implore anybody who has their ear to music to check this album out. It’s an album of the underground for the underground. It’s the music of misfits, of individuals, and of passion of all forward thinking musicians. Listening to the album was an absolute joy. I am 100% certain that anybody who takes the time to check this out, will be sure to enjoy this album.
So as a fan of the underground, and as a member of the underground. I give Haunted House Vol I: Texas Boneyard my full recc.