Category Archives: music

Music to Haunt By: An Introduction

Having clearly not learned my lesson from doing the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari, I’ve decided to do another music-related review series for the site. However, unlike last time, this will be much shorter and won’t have the introduction and first review merged into a single post…

Sound is an important part of any haunted attraction, be it the noise made by a performer or by a hidden audio player blasting scary sound effects. Don’t get me wrong, a haunted attraction can still be great without any prerecorded sound effects or music, it’s just that sounds can greatly enhance a scare. Try watching any of the shark attack scenes from Jaws without the music and you’ll see what I mean. No offense to Dario Argento, but I’m convinced that Deep Red would have been nowhere near as intense without Goblin’s amazing score.

But you don’t necessarily need sound effects to scare people. Simply playing the theme from Halloween in a darken room is enough to unnerve many people. However, doing that in a room decorated to look like a spaceship will only cause confusion (if not outright amusement). You just have to match the right audio with the right setup.

Over the course of this review series, I’ll be looking at CDs from artists that specialize in music designed to scare people. I’ll also include suggestions on what themes work best with each CD and how certain tracks can be used, be it at your haunted house or simply played in the background when trick or treaters come a-calling.

These aren’t the standard “scary sound effects” CDs you can pick up just about anywhere come October, although some of the CDs will have a track or two of just sound effects. Most of the time, the majority of the tracks will either be just music or a combination of music and sound effects. For those not in the know, the latter is also known as a “soundscape.” Soundscapes can be a combination of sound effects played over music, or a group of related sound effects playing on the same track (either playing one after the other or layered over each other). For example, a graveyard soundscape could consist of ravens cawing and the wind blowing, with the occasional sound of a grave being dug or a shuffling zombie.

Speaking of soundscapes, our Twitter pal Tribal Gothic has recently released an ambient sci-fi soundscape called “A Failed Event in Time.” You can get the free .mp3 here.

For an even more in-depth look at the use of sound in a haunted attraction, I highly recommend this twopart article from 2 Scary Guys. Also, our recent “Tricks and Treats” article has a few sneaky sound tricks. Check ’em out!

Move Your Dead Bones

Back in 2003, the people behind Beyond Re-Animator came up with a brilliant idea. In order to further publicize the latest installment of the 80’s Re-Animator franchise, a music video was prepared featuring an artist specially named to tie into the series: Dr. Reanimator. Not only would it further pad out the extra features on the DVD, but it was also so ridiculous that word of mouth would have people scrambling to see the video (and the film that spawned it). It got insanely popular when it was uploaded onto the then-new Youtube service two years later in 2005. For those of somehow missed it (and those who just love watching it), I’ve decided to post it here using the same account I originally found it on:

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Ghastly Ones

The Ghastly Ones

Official Site

Target: Draculon, Ghastly Plastics 2006
Unearthed, Ghastly Plastics 2007

Well, Freaky Tiki Surf-ari has come to a close and I’ve saved what’s often regarded as (and rightfully so) the best for last. Not only do the Ghastly Ones play amazing horror surf jam-packed with horror movie references, but they also sell spooky Tiki mugs! Besides, how can you not love a band named after an Andy Milligan movie?

The band itself was founded in Van Nuys, California in 1996 and played their first show on Halloween. 1997 marked the release of their first album, A-Haunting we will Go-Go and they’ve been putting out new material ever since. In addition to the mysterious “Go-Go Ghoul” Necrobella, the band consisted of:

Garrett “Dr. Lehos” Immel: Guitar
Kevin “Sir Go Go Ghastly” Hair: Bass
Dave “Captain Clegg” Klein: Keyboards
Norman “Baron Shivers” Cabrera: Drums & vocals

I say “consisted of” since Sir Go Go Ghastly has since left to pursue other projects.

Target: Draculon is a musical and visual treat for all horror fans. In addition to the Vampirella injoke title, the album’s artwork consists of pictures and faux movie stills referencing every from “Big Daddy” Roth, The Astro-Zombies. In fact, one of the drawn creatures is clearly based on the infamous Moon Monster that once haunted various comic books. The album itself is themed around the idea of a soundtrack to a nonexistent sci-fi movie, with the music and brief skits forming the story (hence the use of fake stills on the album).

“Intro” opens with space sound effects and slow, pounding drums that are soon joined by an echoing narrator. Said narrator gives spiel on aliens that sound exactly like what you’d hear in an old movie. Then there’s a countdown to…

“Target: Draculon,” which starts with fast-paced guitars and drums over organ-sounding keyboards. The occasional shock sound effect is mixed in as well. One can things imagine the animated title sequence of the movie playing over this. They really crank up everything (especially the guitars and organ) for the ending.

Light, slow guitar cords open “Without Warning” while medium speed drums and organ appear soon after. The organ fades into the background as the guitars and drums speed up, but reasserts itself not long after. There’s some great guitar work here and it’s got a very creepy feel.

“Blood Countess Sees All…” is the first of the album’s skits, where we hear echoing space sounds and the evil laughter of the alien queen played by Necrobella. In “Grave Dig Her,” fast percussion and guitars are equal partners and some light organ work is mixed in as well. The drums can get rather “Wipe Out”-like at times. Another skit, “The Sighting…,” soon follows. We hear a car speeding by and music on the radio. It turns out to be the Ghastly Ones driving and getting interrupted by the arrival of a UFO and its occupant. The acting and dialogue are hilarious and really makes me wish that this was a real movie.

Heavy, pounding guitars and drums over a spacey “woo” noise signal the arrival of the namesake of “Shockmonster Stomp.” The name is almost certainly based on the old “Shock Monster” mask and I also suspect that mask was used for the pictures of the Astro-Zombie type beings mentioned earlier. The organ-sounding keyboard gets big role here and backed by drums, although it has a non-organ sound at times. The “woo” returns over the music and really rocking guitars appear about two minutes in. We hear shocks, scream and roar sound effects at the end.

“Now Fear This” starts with fast guitars and percussion backed by organ-like keyboards. There’s fun-sounding “organ” work and rocking background guitars here. That’s right, guitars aren’t always the lead in this, although they do work with the keyboards to form the end buildup. “Weird Spaceship…” is another skit, this time featuring the band exploring the spaceship while we hear space sounds and footprints. They eventually stumble across the find the blood countess and do a great routine about tomatoes.

Medium guitars and a male yell open “Spooky Girl.” Percussion and organs lead to vocals about a girl who “lives on top of a haunted hill.” Tambourine-like cymbals and guitars back things and we get a guitar solo and echoing yell often. “Double Agent 73 (who came in from the cold)” has a reverbing guitar intro followed by drums, light “organ” work and the occasional cymbal strike. Drums build up at one point and a strumming, rock riff does at others.

A keyboard pulse opens “Full Throttle, Empty Bottle,” and soon drums enter, then fast guitars. This track has a very interesting keyboard style and the organ sound used at times too, often with cymbals. Everything gets really wild about two minutes in, which signals a minor change in style until the drum-filled (but not exclusive) end.

“Flying Saucers Over Van Nuys” starts with space sounds, keyboards and slow cymbal strikes plus a guitar. An “organ” plays a funeral dirge and the reverb guitars builds up to faster, peppier beat. Fast drums, board and guitars play while the “woo” noise enters. The guitars and drums change style until it leaves and the keyboard briefly returns and exits before the ending.

The opening of “Dimension 66” consists of fast percussion and guitars layered over light keyboard use. I really liked the guitar work in this track. The beats get harder and harder, then go back to the original style before we hear a sample about a female monster.

“Brand New Sin” starts with a fast, rocking guitar, percussion and “organ” special. The guitar dominates over the light other stuff, which forms a very catchy beat under the male vocals. The lyrics include shout-outs to various horror figures like Jack the Ripper, Dr. Phibes, Sister Hyde, and Dr. Butcher.

“Llorona” appropriately starts with female wailing sound effects, given the origin of the name, then march-like drums and a slow guitar follow. After a scream guitars start low, but rapid drums get them to increase in volume and (somewhat) in speed. Organ-like keyboards take over at times and there’s good use of alternating drum beats and guitar riffs as well.

“Scuzz Ghoul Meets Curl’s Girl” starts with pulsing space sounds and screams that continue until an echo effect is added. Fast guitars and drums immediately burst in after. The style changes up to a slowish pace and then a jaunty “organ” takes over, but drumbeats start the change back to the old ways. Likewise, an echoing scream signals the closing guitars.

“I’m In…” is the final skit on the album, wherein the countess’ plans are revealed. In “Orbitron,” fast guitars and the occasional drum beat changes into fast drums and “organ” with the occasional guitar riff. The riffs get longer and more involved later on. Everything gets louder and heavier at one point and later changes styles again – similar to the original style, but with more guitar work. Some might say they’ve saved the best for last, but I love far too many of the tracks here to concur. Also, a hidden track that starts after a lengthy wait reveals eerie sound effects and echoing screams.

Next comes Unearthed, whose cover depicts a snazzily dressed green fellow lugging a large bag in front of an open grave. There some pictures of the band on the inside, including a faux lobby card.

The titular track “Unearthed” opens with digging, breathing and wind effects. This is soon followed by pounding drums, church bells and spooky organ music. The our host, the Ghastly Ghoul (C. Nelson) explains we’re listening due to loving the “weird, strange, and supernatural” and leads into the next track.

Slow guitar cords lead to a riff, then fast guitars and drums over light organ (it’s a real one this time around) in “Ghastly Stomp.” It’s so light you can barely hear it. I love the rocking, wailing guitars in this. Cymbals and guitars get a solo of sorts, but the organ comes in and cranks things up with sound effects.

“Robot Atomico” starts with electric effects and fast drums backed by heavy guitars. The organ soon arrives to spice things up for a bit. There’s odd (but cool) guitar effects in this as well. The “woo” sound from Target: Draculon returns for a spell, but gets taken out by the drums and organ. Said drums can be bongo-like at times. I suspect that the name might be loosely based on the original untranslated title of The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy.

The sounds of revving and zooming cars kick off “Haulin’ Hearse.” Fast guitars and percussion add to the rocking, rapid feel, although the drums dominate at times. The organ soon arrives as well. “Yuzo’s Twist” is one of two songs on the album not originally by the Ghastly Ones. The medium (in terms of both speed and volume) guitar soon gets louder and faster when the other instruments join in. There a lot of nice change ups between the guitar and drums before the organ closer.

“Hangman Hangten” opens with the sounds of wind and spooky bird calls. Marchlike drums play while the guitar plays a funeral dirge. After a coffin opens we get fast guitars and percussion, just the way you like it (along with the occasional chant of “hey hey hang ten”).

What seems to be a sample acts as a prologue to “Spooky (Diablo’s Theme).” As I recall, a man says “Don’t be afraid…unless you’re beautiful and alone in your bedroom” followed by a woman crying and screaming. Rocking guitars, fast drums and the occasional organ are both rocking and spooky. There’s also a cool reverb pseudo-solo. Oh, and remember the proto-GdL16 countdown I mentioned in my Daikaiju review? This song was also used in it.

Eerie moaning and wave sounds set the stage for “Banshee Beach.” Heavy drums and slow mournful guitars play, then the drums speed up while the guitars follow suite. Light organ work is later layered underneath. There’s a really cool guitar interlude at one point, too.

“Werewolves on Wheels” (inspired by the film of the same name) appropriately opens with revving sound effects, then great ghastly guitars play over bass. Percussion and organ later join in. The organ is much louder in this song, but is not the focus.

“Los Campiones del Justicio” is undoubtedly inspired by the Mexican “Los Campeones Justicieros” franchise. However, the opening role call of El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil M├íscaras (which are also chanted during the song) shows that the two are not the same, as “Los Campeones Justicieros” had more than three members and El Santo was not a part of their roster. However, the lucha libre dream team of El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil M├íscaras was featured in Las Momias de Guanajuato. After the echoing response of track name, we get slow guitars and fast cymbals. Things speed up when drums enter the picture and the organ is not far behind. As you might guess, there’s a Mexican feel to this track. The cheering crowd sample at the end is a great touch.

“Everybody Up” is the second of the CD’s two songs that aren’t written by the Ghastly Ones. After the fast drums and guitars, the vocalist calls for everyone to get up and light organs can be heard if you listen hard enough. Don’t miss the brief, but rocking, guitar solo.

Interesting guitars are joined by fast, bongo-like drums in “Mysterion.” They become fast, normal drums when the organ joins in. Said organ gets a much larger role here despite being in background. “Surfin’ Spooks” opens with a sample and fast, heavy guitars, along percussion and organ with the occasional sound effect. It’s rather “Wipe Out”-like at times, especially the ghostly laughter. Wailing guitars blast the ghosts away and we get a buildup to the reverb ending.

An eerie music stinger plays as our host asks us if we feel “The Icy Grip of Fear.” His little speech leads into final track: “(Everybody’s Doing) The Ghastly Stomp.” A reverb guitar is soon followed by a yell and percussion. Male vocals sing of a scary new dance called the “Ghastly Stomp” (the complete lyrics can be found in the liner notes). There’s plenty of great guitar work, as usual. There’s also the occasional cymbal crashes and amazing rapid drum work (provided by guest drummer Dave “Grave” Klein) overtakes the guitars and leads into slow ending, which involves a final yell and birds that cry out and fly away. As was the case with the last album, waiting awhile after that reveals a secret track. Said track plays a sample asking “how much shock can you stand?” This leads to a quick instrumental piece involving fast guitars, drums and cymbal strikes.

The Ghastly Ones have proven to be as great as I’ve heard from other fans (and then some). If you haven’t done so already, run out and grab a Ghastly Ones CDs. Your ears will thank you…

Special thanks to The Ghastly Ones for the review copies!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Satan’s Pilgrims

Satan’s Pilgrims

Official Site

Plymouth Rock, Musick Recordings 2004
Psychsploitation, Sp Records 2009

According to their official Facebook page, Satan’s Pilgrims formed in 1992 over a (quote) “series of house parties hosted by the members of the band” in Portland, Oregon. Basing their name on the exploitation film Satan’s Sadists, the Pilgrims soon became an official group and rocked wherever they performed.

The Pilgrims themselves say that the best album of theirs for horror fans to check out is Creature Feature. However, as said album is now long out of print, they recommend Plymouth Rock (which includes selections from Creature Feature)).) Said “best of” album is a two disc compilation of their greatest songs, along with plenty of rare and previously unreleased goodies. There’s even some video content (due to the use of enhanced CDs), but technical issues kept me from viewing it at this time. Apparently, it generated so much interest in the group that they reanimated from their hiatus in 2000 and have been performing ever since!

Disc 1 begins with the sounds of dragging chains and moving crates opens that open “Vampiro.” The drums and fast, pounding guitars (with one particularly reverby) of this tune are loosely based on the theme from the 60’s Batman show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Similarly, cymbals and speedy drums start things off in “Que Honda?” and are backed by guitars that soon take the center stage. Some light wordless male vocals appear later, which are barely audible under guitar work. A “Latin”-sounding buildup takes use to the reverb ending.

“Plymouth Rock” opens with reverb guitar work and a steady drum beat, both of which speed up a bit when the cymbals are added in. There’s a very classic surf feel to this. “Super Stock” use dual reverbing guitars over percussion to make for an interesting sound. I can easily imagine cruising along in a stock car to this.

“Grave-Up” starts with a spooky voice mentioning the title, with equally spooky organs that start up with guitars and drums. It slows down to a somewhat bouncy feel at some points, but it never seems too much of a contrast. The guitars really start wailing just under 2 minutes in, but go back to normal soon enough for the end. The opening drums of “La Cazuella” give way for reverbing guitar and its more traditional sounding counterpart. The exotica favorite, the guiro, appears as well. There’s an appropriately Latin feel to this segment and medium guitars play throughout. I think I detect some claves as well. Everything slows down to just guitars at the end.

“The Godfather” is a surf cover of the theme to The Godfather (of course). The guitars and drums are fast-paced at first, then they slow down and handclap-sounding drum beats give things an extra Italian feel. But as you’ve likely guessed, things pick up again not long after.

“Boss BSA” starts with fast drums and guitars and soon reverb is heard. It gets extra fast at times, although there’s a softish reverb solo about 2:30 minutes in. Drums quickly join them and things get a bit faster (but are still soft) and don’t slow down until the final segment.

“Peter Lorre” is named for the legendary horror actor and nicely starts things with “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” on the organ, followed by creepy, rocking guitars and percussion at breakneck speed. There are some really rocking guitar riffs about 1:30 minutes in and the cymbals get quite a workout here. There are also some light touches, perhaps a reference to Lorre’s humorous portrayal of some of his roles.

Soft, eerie violin music takes us in “Creature Feature,” then crackles and pops take us to guitars and laserblast-like reverb appears with the drums. It’s a mostly foreboding sound, but there are the occasional light guitar riffs. I love the wailing guitars over drums that play just before the four minutw mark.

Despite the name, “Shit Sandwich” is actually quite good. Drums, maracas and guitars with odd sounding reverb make this a rather unique track. The band chants the title at points. Reverb punctuates certain points and a tambourine briefly appears later. Watch out for the maracas at the fake ending, as the guitars return for the real deal.

“Chi Chi” uses light, medium guitars to open and they get just a touch louder when the percussion joins in. It’s peaceful, but energetic. It soon picks up with a Latin sound and clap-like drumming, but goes back to the original style soon enough. The single opening guitar “Soul Pilgrim” of is soon joined by the organ and tambourine, which foreshadows the sound of their Psychsploitation album. Some cymbals and drums appear as well and later to add to the beat, but this is really the organ’s song.

In “Badge Of Honor,” reverb guitars go fast and the backing percussion is even faster. There’s also lots of (thankfully) fake endings in it. Similarly, fast drums lead to equally fast guitars in “Surf Lyre,” although the guitar work is more varied. It’s another classic-sounding song…not that I’m complaining, mind you. In fact, I really love the guitar work here.

Soft, reverbing guitar cords increase in volume for the opening of “The Lonely Pilgrim.” Dual guitars and the sound of waves also heard here as well. It has a very lonely feel, and it’s hard to tell if it’s using cords or soft male sighing at times. “Ragtop” begins with fast-paced drums and cymbals, which seem even faster due to last song. Guitars join in, which are soon followed by reverb and organ. The guitars pick up at es (with really wailing sound at one point) as well and things really pick up towards the organ-filled ending.

High pitched guitars open for fast percussion on “Scorpio 6.” The organ drops in for a spell and vanishes as quickly as it appeared a few times, which adds to the spy-surf feel. Everything picks up for the big finish, which makes for a great way to close the disc.

Disc 2 starts with “Soul Creepin’.” Its opening steady percussion intros the light guitars and somewhat louder organ work. Both the guitars and organ pick up for a fast paced, rocking sound that is soon joined by cymbals, although it slows down somewhat for end.

“Haunted House Of Rock” starts with lightning sound effects and oddly reverbing guitar work thats leads to heavy percussion and another, wailing guitar. It’s all very spooky and there are more lightning effects later. I know lightning technically doesn’t make a sound, but I swear that’s what the effect is supposed to be.

Speedy, light drums and fast, wailing guitars give “The Outsider” a much lighter-hearted feel than the title would have you expect. There’s some crazy good guitar work here, along with some cymbals and the occasional harmonica!

Fast percussion and guitars open “Seaside Run.” Said guitars soon reverb up a storm against the cymbals and there’s some great drumming as well.

Guitars, drums and the organ form “Hot Coco,” which is a medium speed song. After a fake end, the drums briefly take over and then the others return. The organ makes it seem like the song is going to end at one point, but that’s also just a trick. Heavier-sounding fast guitars and percussion start “If You Wanna.” Lightish organ work appears at times, but the starting instruments own this for the most part.

“Harem Nocturne” starts with fast drums and loud, heavy reverb guitars, but said guitars tone it down a notch or two as the cymbals join in. Some bells appear when things really get fast and furious as well.

Medium guitars open “Spanish Head” and soon the reverbing starts. The percussion is fast in this, as it tends to be for most songs by the group, which adds to the track’s great sense of power and speed. The lightish guitars that start “The Hondell” are backed by fast cymbals and drums. There some kind of wooden percussion used here, followed by drum beats that remind the listener of clapping hands.

“Escape/Psychedelic Venture” comes from a Ventures tribute compilation. The opening slow percussion speeds up and fast guitars quickly join in. It eventually slows down with the organ for an urgent feel, then speeds up with a sound that will bring footsteps to mind. That effect leaves eventually, but the speed sure doesn’t!

“Green Chili” has slow, heavy drums and guitars which give it a Spanish feel. Cymbals pop into the backbeat as well. It may be be slower than other tracks, but is never boring. The final track, “Black Boots & Bikes,” makes great use of fast ‘n heavy percussion plus fast guitars. There’s lots of fascinating variations and change-ups to the music, along with the sounds of revving motorcycles used at one point.

The band’s most recent effort, Psychsploitation, feels so 70’s that I swear my carpeting started growing to shag length as I played it. It’s a concept album themed around exploitation movies, a close cousin to horror films. The cover looks exactly like an old (s)exploitation movie poster would. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that this is the soundtrack to some long lost Mantis in Lace-style film about a woman who goes on a killing spree after one bad LSD trip too many. Also..

Wait, I forgot to list the band members and what they played for the last album, didn’t I? Oh well, thank goodness they kept the same basic line-up (with a few additional instruments) for this:

John Pilgrim: Electric bass
Bobby Pilgrim: Electric guitar
Ted Pilgrim: Drums & percussion
Scott Pilgrim: Electric guitar percussion
Dave Pilgrim: Electric guitar, electric sitar, percussion & organ

“Dilation” opens with 70’s-sounding drumbeat followed by a “freak-out” sound effect, guitars and organ. The guitar builds up while more freaky sound effects play, then percussion and more guitars join in. Tambourines (or fast cymbals) and still more freaky sounds join the beat. There’s cool drum work at end plus one final sound effect.

W. Proctor’s “In the Past” has a sitar join the guitars and drums for a unique surf sound. Magical sound effects or chimes, cymbals and clacking wood further add to its uniqueness. There’s an organ and gong as well, but the sitar and guitars are the stars of this show. A guitar and tambourine backed by organ and percussion form “Chestnut Trees and Bumblebees.” The organ gets quite a workout here and I love the main guitar riff.

“Tomorrow Night’s Mourning” starts with fast guitars that are soon joined by drums for a funky beat. You’d better believe the organ gets in on the action at times, as do cymbals. “Wylde Tymes” offers fast paced guitars and cymbals, and the guitar reverb put to good use here before the drums kick in. This definitely has wild feel, especially the guitar work about a minute into it.

Although arranged by Satan’s Pilgrims, “Kaleidoscope” was written by one J. Gordon. After an organ intro, tamborine and electric bass join in. There’s lots of organ variations here, with some light guitar work to boot. It gets rather dark and freaky at the end.

“Tracers (Of Love)” has reverbing, echoing opening guitar notes that are soon joined by drums and the ever-present organ. The chorus of “buh buh buh” by male and female vocalists singing one after the other is too 70’s for words. Really. We get an instrumental interlude with some light vibraphone work by Doug Smith before the vocals return. Said vocals were provided by Dave Pilgrim, Eric Hedford, Amy Faust, Jana Losey and Madison Christine.

“Night of the Face” starts with tinkling and sound effects, plus echoing female vocals by Amy Faust about seeing face in the sky. Then we get more sound effects, silence and rocking guitars over drums and organ. The playing gets extremely wild and freaky towards the end, which consists of more sound effects.

“Colours of Your Mind” features guitars over steady, speedy drums & cymbals beat. Reverb gets plenty of use here and thing get pretty freaky with organ at one point. The odd-sounding (but cool) fast guitars of “Psycle Pswami” play over equally fast drums and a funky organ. Things get very rockin’ here and the organ does have a somewhat otherworldly feel to it.

“Rainy Day Green Stop Sign” has a surprisingly non-surf guitar opening and drums, but the surf sound soon appears. There’s a medium feel to this in terms of volume and speed. I could be wrong, but I think our old friend the sitar shows up in this as well. The organ certainly does, that’s for sure. Drums and the guitar get a lengthy segment to themselves near the end.

The drum opening “Psych-A-Go-Go (Psych Out!)” leads to fast guitars over drums and the organ. We’ve got wild organ melodies and guitar riffs aplenty here. Soft vocals by Dave Pilgrim, Eric Hedford, Amy Faust Jana Losey and Madison Christine chant “psycho” around two and a half minutes in. There’s a definite freak-out feel to this.

“10,000 Mirrors” is opened by a cowbell, tambourine and guitars. We hear a freaky sound effect, then guitars and percussion join in. Soon, more sound effects (that sound somewhat like screams) and the organ enter the mix. The drums get quite a workout; there’s a buildup and super freakout near the end, but things get much softer after it. The vocals hear were performed by Dave Pilgrim, Eric Hedford and Scott Pilgrim.

So whether you’re a long-time fan of Satan’s Pilgrims or if you’re just starting out, I definitely recommend that you grab both albums.

Special thanks to Satan’s Pilgrims for the review copies!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Don Tiki

Don Tiki

Official Site

South of the Boudoir, Taboo Records 2009

I first became hooked on Don Tiki after hearing the spooky Tiki track “The Natives Are Restless.” Further research on the band led me to discover that they had done other songs with kinda creepy titles, such as “Axolotl” and “The Hypnotizing Man.” Their debut album, The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki also depicts creepy idols, green fire and a human skull (carrying over aspects from the cover of The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter). Not that it effects my enjoyment of the band, mind you. Don Tiki could have never done any of those things and I’d still love ’em.

The booking agent for Don Tiki had an interesting observation about Ritual of the Savage, the same album whose cover art inspired the creation of the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari. He said that the spooky idol images were “…meant to stir passions within the safety of suburbia,” or as the band likes to say, “where sensual fantasies exist…especially after that third mai tai.”

Sex is an aspect of Tiki culture (that link is NSFW, by the way), although said aspect is often toned down in general pop culture. Don Tiki has embraced this aspect of Tiki, as evidenced by this album’s title and Skinny Dip With Don Tiki. Speaking of the album, they’ve really gone all out and have assembled quite a selection of talent. In addition to the core members:

Jim Howard: Flute
Sharene Lum: Harp
Hai Jung: Lead & backing vocals
Sherry Shaoling: Lead & backing vocals
Delmar deWilde: Lead & backing vocals
Carlinhos de Oliveira: Brazilian percussion
Perry Coma: Keyboards percussion & backing vocals
Noel Okimoto: Vibes, marimba, drums & percussion

They also brought in:

Ryoko Oka: T’rung
Dean Taba: Basses
Jason Segler: Drums
James Ganeko: Congas
Starr Kalahiki: Backing vocals
Rockford Holmes: Saxes & flutes
Yo Ma-Ma (Jimmy Borges): Lead vocal
Lopaka Colon: Jungle percussion (of The Waitiki 7 fame)

The album’s opening track is actually a cover of the exotica classic, “Friendly Islands” by Ethel Azama. Bird calls lead into guiros, vibes, and keyboards under female vocals singing of a tropical paradise that’s perfect for love. The drums and cymbals are very soft and low and add to the song’s soft smoothness. There’s a vaguely jazzy vibe and guiro interlude at one point, and more calls appear as the singer takes us out. There’s a very “Bali Hai” feel to this.

The instrumental “Odd Man Out” uses congas and vibe strikes to form the main beat. A harp soon joins in and the vibraphone use gets more involved, as do the guiro and piano-like keyboards. Light bass is also used at points and then the vibes liven things up again with percussion, which leads us out. There’s a definite jungle feel to this one.

Despite the name, the light vibes and fast congas of “Turkish Delight” provide more of a tropical feel as they play over the occasional keyboards and harp. It only feels vaguely “Middle Eastern” later, where some exotic percussion is also added to increased keyboard use.

The very catchy “The Forbidden Finger” starts with male vocals which join congas and vibes, and female vocals and flute soon follow. Keyboards, congas and vibes make up much of the song, but the flute gets some decent roles at times. In classic Don Tiki style, the singing cheekily implies both the “shh” usage of a finger and another possible meaning for the title.

The band’s interpretation of G. Lane’s “Bla Bla Cha Cha” has a very Latinesque, Arthur Lyman feel. A piano-style keyboard openings things while a female singer explains (in a low and sultry voice) that the tune has no lyrics that could fit, so she’ll say “bla bla cha cha” instead. After a brief pause, it suddenly bursts into lively singing backed by a saxophone, drums and light vibes. This leads to a brief instrumental segment that’s very tango-like at times. I love the ending sequence of this track.

I thought “Tinfoil Hats” would be one of the album’s horror-related songs due to the possible alien connection, but I was wrong. The keyboard, t’rung, marimbas that sound like cartoon mice running, soft cymbals and vibes all come and go at different times and sometimes overlap. This creates the effect that the song is taking place in a madman’s head.

Cymbals and ringing bells softly open “In Thailand (Yo-Ma-Ma Mix),” as funky keyboards, congas and saxophone form a great soft beat. Sadly, the (in my opinion) awful lyrics ruin it for me. It’s a shame, as the sax and keyboards get a great solo at one point. I just wish this had been an instrumental…

“Chinatown Bar Cha Cha Cha” has a tango-like keyboard and percussion opening, then male vocals sing of evening at a Chinatown bar and his flirtations with a female patron over the course of a few weeks. Light vibes and flute use comes into play and we later hear an interesting pick-up line of sorts about buying her clothes to pose in while he takes pictures. Drumroll, keyboards and camera clicks cleverly give way to vibes. Percussion and others pick up as vocals return to sing of the relationship’s progress.

“Pussyfooting” is another instrumental that uses light, slow percussion and keyboard to give the impression of carefully tip-toeing. The keyboards are the star of the show, as they’re the only instrument to stray from main beat. The vibes get an interlude too, though. The use of bird calls returns in “Jungle Julie,” soon followed by congas and bass. Keyboards and cymbals aren’t far behind and get Peanuts-like at times. Flutes also appear, as do harps. Said harps give this a far more Middle Eastern feel than “Turkish delight” had. More calls get layered in briefly and the music slows down for a keyboard solo of sorts, later joined by cymbals and flute. There’s a return to form and then more harp use. Light marimba use takes us out with harps and light, soft bird calls.

“Billions of Brazilians” begins with wild Brazilian percussion and organ-like keyboards. Mixed male and female vocals sing of the wonders of Brazil. The “Ya ya ya ya ya ya” chorus is very catchy, you will be whistling, humming or singing this after hearing it. This is followed by vibes and speedy cymbals. The singing returns again, but there is drum solo after the and chorus returns with keyboards and vibes. I love the wonderful instrumental outro.

Congas and light keyboards form the beat “Pajama Tops,” which are soon layered under the vibraphone and flute. A female voice gives humorous explanation for the title at the end. Horns, congas and crowd sound effects give “The Palanquin” the feel of a Middle Eastern bazaar. Female vocals act as spice before male vocals over keyboard and congas sing of a search for Don Tiki’s hidden bar in an ancient catacomb. The keyboard and harp outro nicely leads into the next track.

“Pagan Lust” is the sole co-production by Don Tiki song scribe Kit Ebersbach on South of the Boudoir, which he did with Lauritz Hasenpusch. I honestly thought this would be about what the title implied and that I could discuss how such lust appears in both Tiki and horror culture. Instead, it turned out to be the name of a fictional drink! Funky keyboards and male vocals (plus several female vocals) sing a warning not to order said drink. Light vibes appear, as well as drums. They explain that the drink is dangerous and provide humorous descriptions like “red hot lava in a cobra skin.” After a Middle Eastern horn and drum interlude, followed by vibes and light wordless female vocals, it returns to the original style for the end.

The first of two bonus tracks, “Rapture of the Deep,” is both the longest track and the surprise horror connection of the album! Bubbling sound effects increase in volume while congas and “Music from the Heart of Space”-style mystical keyboards follow. Processed, whispering female vocals that sound like a sea witch tells a tale of seduction called “The Age of Love.” The overall effect is like sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean, especially if you listen in a dark room. The vocals can be hard to understand at times (Did she actually use the term “member” like I think she did?). A heartbeat effect is added over the soft keyboard solo, followed by the occasional congas and gong usage. Maracas and more bubbling lead us back to the story (over more bubbles). Be warned, though: The sea witch’s orgasmic moans towards the end will have anyone playing this at a party making a mad dash to the stereo’s off switch.

The second bonus track, “In Thailand (Delmar’s Deluxe Mix),” is a repeat of track #7 with new material added to to intro and outro. Said material is mostly vocals and the sound of a bottle being uncorked. Sadly, the lyrics are still there.

My issues with that one song aside, I highly recommend both Don Tiki and this album. Just be sure to leave your inhibitions at the door…

Special thanks to Don Tiki for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Surf Zombies

The Surf Zombies

Official Myspace

Something Weird, Oasis Manufacturing 2009

The Surf Zombies first came to my attention by the way of a “Rock and Roots” CD sampler. The split second I saw the song title “El Funebre (The Hearse)” and the band’s name on the track listing, I knew I was in for a treat. Listening to it confirmed my expectations and immediately got me hooked on the band’s work. So when the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari started, I knew I just had to include them.

Formed in 2005 by lead guitarist Brook Hoover, the Surf Zombies originally consisted of Hoover, Jim Viner on drums and Doug Roberson on guitar. But as the notes for their second album Something Weird (the subject of this review) explain, tour issues led to their replacement by Erik Marshall on drums and Kyle D. Oyloe on guitar. Fender jazz bassist Joel McDowell has also been a constant in the group’s changing line-up and wrote many songs for the album(along with Hoover and Oyloe). The album’s complete lineup includes:

Brook Hoover: Fender jazz guitar
Joel McDowell: Fender jazz bass
Kyle Oyloe: Fender jazzmaster & danelectro baritone guitar
Jon Wilson Drums: Drums on track 19
Charles Hasson: Drums on tracks 16 and 20
Erik Marshall: Drums on tracks 2, 3, 7, 11, 12
Ryan Hoagland: Drums on tracks 1 4 5 6 8 9 10 13 14 15 17 18

But enough about the band, let’s get to their music…

“El Funebre (The Hearse)” opens with a few Spanish-sounding chords which lead to a classic-sounding surf opening. The build-up drums signals the coming of a fast, rocking beat with occasional pauses for a reprise of the opening chords followed by numerous guitar variations and the buildup to more cords. Wavy cord leads to the big (but brief) finishing fadeout.

“Dead Man’s Alley” kicks things off with a powerful guitar beat backing another guitar and rattlesnake-like percussion. Cymbals come into play sometime later, as do echo effects at the end. I want to make a spaghetti western, just to use this song as the theme! “I Fell In Love With A Teenage Vampire” makes great use of two guitars after the fast, medium volume guitars and drums get things going. It gets especially rocking near the end. Twilight wishes it could be as cool as this song.

A few select cords lead to heavy, steady guitars and drums in “Road Rage.” There’s also a fake “ending,” then it gets going again with one guitar going wild. This track evokes the feeling of a long trip down a desert highway, and how butts will be kicked when the destination is reached. “50cc” starts with a single, heavy guitar and drums (with occasional cymbal) that builds in speed and intensity, all backed by an organ. It’s like someone or something closing in on its destination or prey. A wavy guitar appears before the organ returns in order to lead to a classic surf ending.

The guitar work of “The High Rip” is somewhat lighter than that of the above song, but it’s must faster and cymbals play a more active role here. Things get lighter and slower at one point, but soon speed up and the guitars then show a rock influence. This becomes a recurring part of the song and helps reinforce the sense of speed and urgency. I particularly enjoyed how the organ was used to simulate an idling motor at the end.

Heavy medium guitars and drums give “The Buzzard Hop” a sinister, but danceable feel and a lighter guitar appears about two minutes in. These seemingly contrasting elements actually go very well together. This track feels like a fusion of the band’s Kustom Kulture and horror surf style songs.

The titular track, “Something Weird” (named for the famous-or is it infamous?-cult video company, which is named for the odd film of the same name) has a heavy introduction with reverb and slow drums, then guitars kick in over the drum beat. They go through several variations and later return to drum break of the opening for very mysterious feeling. Reverb punctuates the guitar notes to great effect, and pounding drum beats are used for “breaks” of sorts. Things lighten up a bit towards end, but then gets faster and the guitars start really wail.

Fast percussion and peppy guitars form the intro of “Don’t Let the Admiral Out,” with both the drums and guitars sometimes slipping into quick, infectious breaks. A sense of power enters song after the second go at the opening style, plus the guitars get to crank things up. In contrast, “Candy Cigarettes” is very sweet and light in its use of guitar and drums, which are soon coupled with an even sweeter heavy-pitched sound. It stops for fairly “normal” guitar and drums break, but soon gets sugary sweet again and the guitar eventually reasserts itself at the fadeout. It’s definitely an interesting and fun change of pace.

The lone guitar of “Alien Eyes” soon gives way to a faster beat of guitars and drums. It slows down and adds cymbals at one point, only to get faster and more rocking for the remainder of the song. There’s very familiar “surf” feel to this, especially the guitar riff used with the pounding drums. Speaking of surf, “Surfin’ Ghoul” uses fast percussion to evoke building waves. This is soon followed by medium guitars and (of course) plenty of reverb. Cymbals added in as well to complete the mix.

In “Extended Tour,” brief drum bursts and guitars bring us into a cool surf beat. Said guitars get to really shine here and often work their reverb magic. The organ pops in to underscore certain points, but mostly blends into the background just under the drums until it takes over for the final part of the song.

“Leonard” uses a heavy, slow guitar to lead into similar-sounding drums and further guitar work. The surf influence soon makes its presence known and makes for a pounding, catchy whole. Medium guitars and fast percussion have exotic feel to them in a fast-paced, pounding tune called “Mind Worm.” There’s a very 60’s-sounding feel to it at times, which alternates with rocking guitars and steady drums. Spacey sounds get layered for the end, which is appropriate given that most mind-controlling, wormlike beings tend to be of alien origin in horror and science fiction tales.

“Crawl Space Crawl” has slow and heavy guitars and drums, but with a “bouncy” feel emphasized by the occasional use of reverb. Cymbals and guitar variations are used to great effect here, especially at the ending slowdown. Fast drums and guitars underscored by other percussion gives “Incognito” a decidedly sneaky feel. 60’s style guitar work appears at times here only to be engulfed by fast, heavy guitar and drums. There’s a rather downbeat feel to reverb here, presumably due to the seriousness of spy work.

The slow guitar start of “Electric Skull” speeds up somewhat and light, steady drums are soon added. The two guitars get a little more adventurous as things progress. Similarly, the reverb opening of “Rockabilly Boogie Man” gives way to fast rockabilly/surf guitars and drums. The awesome drum solos are followed by even more fast guitar goodness.

“The Zombie Stomp” use slow, medium volume drums and guitars, with the two contrasting guitar styles making things more interesting. Likewise, “Aqua Waltz” uses slow, heavy percussion and sound effects joined by very slooooow guitars. This gives the feel of dreaming or floating in ocean waves and is a great way to close out the album.

Effectively shifting through and combining various styles and genres, the Surf Zombies have put together one hell of an album. Although several of the CD’s 21 tracks are relatively short, they’re all amazing and never wear out their welcome. So if you’re looking for something new in horror surf, I highly recommend that you look into the Surf Zombies. You won’t be disappointed!

Special thanks to The Surf Zombies for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Robert Drasnin

Robert Drasnin

Official Site

Voodoo II, Dionysus Records 2007

Martin Denny. Les Baxter. Arthur Lyman. They are the greats of the classic exotica world. However, I think there’s a name missing from that list: Robert Drasnin.

Granted, he’s only released two exotica albums, Voodoo and Voodoo II, but I think their quality and importance more than makes up for the lack of quantity.

The Voodoo series actually has an interesting history. Back in 1959, Drasnin composed Voodoo for Tops/Mayfair Records. Tops re-released it a year later with new cover art and under a new title: “Percussion Exotique.” It wasn’t until 1996 that it was reissued onto CD by Dionysus Records. That same year, Pickwick Records (then owned by the now-defunct video company Simitar) released a CD called Exotic Excursion which was made up of 10 of the original album’s 12 tracks. However, while the Dionysus release was mastered from a previously unplayed record, the Pickwick release used the original master tapes from the 50’s. Why two different companies released CDs of the same material using different masters (and why the one using the master tapes didn’t use two tracks) is a mystery to me.

After the original release of Voodoo, Drasnin performed as a musician in numerous other albums, did work on television shows like Lost in Space and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He even became CBS’ Director of Music in 1977! According to the liner notes, the idea to create a sequel to his hit exotica album came in 2005, after the tremendous response to his liver performance of selections from Voodoo at the Hukilau Tiki festival. Two years later, Voodoo II was released.

Not only did Mr. Drasnin compose, conduct and arrange the entire album, but he also played the clarinet, flute and saxophone! One top of that, he recruited:

Mike Lang: Piano
Jim Hughart: Bass
Billy Hulting: Vibes
Amy Shulman: Harp
Peggy Baldwin: Cello
Howard Greene: Drums
John Sawoski: Keyboard
DJ Bonebrake: Marimba
Stephanie Bennett: Vocals
Bobby Shulgold: Alto flute, flute
Brad Dutz and Scott Breadman: Latin percussion

As you can see, this was a true labor of love and not a quickly slapped together cash in. In fact, the resulting sound is so rich (thanks to the use of so many instruments) that my write-up can’t cover them all!

“Habanera In Blue” opens with claves, bongos, quick vibraphone beats and sirenesque female vocals. Light keyboard notes play, then the piano takes us to vibes layered over cymbals or maracas. The cello joins in, along with a harp and more wordless vocals. We hear the piano again, along with the ever-present claves and bongos. The vocals reappear with cymbals, only to be temporarily replaced by the saxophone. They return with the harp, while claves, bongos, piano, chimes and gong form the ending.

“Moorean Moonbeams” starts off with bongos and guiros, then the piano brings in the female vocals (with lyrics) that give this track a beautiful, otherworldly feel. Bongos, drums, cymbals guiros, cello and vibes are added as the vocals and piano disappear and reappear. The guiro, bongos and vocals are “on top” after the piano. The cello is layered as well, then later goes solo until the gongs and quick guiro at the end.

As the title might have you guess, “Sambalerro” has a distinctly “Latin” sound. Our old friend the piano is mix with maracas, marimba, vibes, cello and maracas at first. Later, a flute or clarinet joins the piano, drums and vibes and this transitions to a sax over maracas and cowbell. Drums and piano turns into a piano solo and the like TV show end logo-type finale featuring a gong and light chimes.

In “East of Xanadu,” the cello and light bongos are quickly followed by vocals, piano and marimba. Vibes transition to bongos, cello, marimba, and clarinet. The returning vocals are sung over vibes, drums and cymbals that to lead to a saxophone over maracas and bongos. The vocal join in and compliment the beat, then takes everything over. Piano flourishes are layered atop vibes, cymbals, bongos, and cello before the piano and harp outro.

“Kahluha Mist” has a catchy “bongos and clave” beat layered under a piano, light cymbals vibes and cello. It might look like a mess on paper, but they actually go really well together. The piano gets more varied before the sax appears over bongos and percussion, which gives way to piano, vibes and cello.

“Polynesian Bolero” starts off with chimes and drums, with dash of vibes and light vocals that form a slow march of sorts. The vibes get larger role with drums, then the track becomes more like a Latin dance. The saxophone and percussion beat make things jazzier before the march resumes, only to become a jazzy sax version of march layered on top of vibes.

The slow vibes of “Luz de la Luna” merge with claves and cymbals (or is it maracas?). The cello plays very lightly under vocals, and drums briefly appear. These drums then give way to vibes and piano notes over bongos. Light sax notes drift in and then we get a piano solo. Bongos, sax and vocals return over the occasional bongos before the jazzy ending.

The energetic exotic percussion opening of “Puente Doble” forms the track’s beat and is joined by a marimba cameo of sorts. The cello and vibes transitions to piano and keyboard breaks. Speaking of which the keyboard offers varied sounds throughout this song. There’s a neat “Peanuts exotica” feel at times to this. The marimba gets a larger role accompanied by the piano and cello and everything gets more dramatic and drum-filled towards the end.

“La Mer Velours” has a wonderful piano opening with cymbals and claves, followed by vocals going in and out of the song. Bongos play in background at first, but vibes replace them later for a nice solo of sorts. The harp appears from time to time, as do the vocals.

The bongos, claves and flute of “Reminiscence” are soft, slow and light. The occasional vibe work is followed by piano and is very evocative of memories. Cymbals and the cello pick things up a little bit with the vibraphone Some light, magical-sounding chimes sometimes pop in and vanish as quickly as they appeared. The cello and vibes over the back beat goes well with the piano work.

“Siren Song” opens with a piano and claves backed with soft, but steady cymbals and vibes. Vocals follow soon after and are joined by the cello. It’s easy to see why Odysseus begged to be untied from the mast of his ship if this is the sort of singing he had heard. Vibes take over and the beat picks up. A quick cymbal hit takes thing back to normal and vocals return, along with a vibe flourish. Before you know it, the beat picks up again and we hear some fine cello work. Light harp strums and vocals come in, then the piano takes over but eventually yields to those it replaced.

“Tahitian Dream” begins with slow cymbals and bongos. The piano and vocals join in, along with vibes, cello, and slow, smooth vocals. The piano takes the reigns again, then the vibes and cello take over. The saxophone jazzes thing up until it’s replaced by the vocals. Light gong strikes and cello bring the song (and the album) to a close.

Many of you are probably wondering, “Why is the album called “Voodoo” if it has nothing to do with Africa or Haiti?” In fact, I thought something similar back when I first saw a scan of the album’s original cover art years ago. At first I wrote it off as someone suffering from cultural confusion, but that seems to not be the case. You see, during the time period the album was released, the term “voodoo” had long since been catch-all slang for the exotic and forbidden. This is evidenced by the rather unfortunate lyrics of the song quoted here. Thankfully, Voodoo II has none of that example’s potential offensiveness and is instead a wonderful listening experience.

Special thanks to Dionysus Records for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Man Or Astro-Man?

Man Or Astro-Man?

Official Site

Live Transmissions From Uranus , Touch and Go Records 1997 (Original release date: 1995)

Founded in Auburn, Alabama during the early 90’s, Man Or Astro-Man? soon rose to fame for both their excellent surf music and various gimmicks. Not only did they base songs on horror and sci-fi movies (even including samples from some), but all the members of the band use pseudonyms and claim to actually be aliens from outer space!

As a fan of surf music, Godzilla movies and Mystery Science Theater 3000, it was inevitable that I would repeatedly hear about the greatness of Man Or Astro-Man? Not only were they extremely talented musicians, but they did a cover of the theme song for Mystery Science Theater 3000, and included references to Godzilla movies in much of their work, from songs like
“King of the Monsters” to albums like “Experiment Zero” (Monster Zero) and “Destroy All Astro-Men!” (Destroy All Monsters). In fact, my love of Japanese monster movies led to my figuring out where the band got their name. While reading a book on Toho films, I noticed that the tag line on the US poster for The Human Vapor read “Is He Man? Or ASTRO-MAN?” Sadly, the band’s releases were all but impossible to obtain in my year and it was only due to my doing the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari that finally lead to me hearing their work.

“Live Transmissions From Uranus” is a recording of a 1994 concert in Gainesville, Florida that mostly consisted of material from the albums “Destroy All Astro-Men!” and “Project Infinity.” The performers consist of the founding members “Birdstuff,” “Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard” and “Star Crunch” (their membership has changed many times over the years). As this is a live show, the majority of the tracks have spoken introductions by the group and constant interaction with the screaming audience. However, my review will only make note of the particularly interesting or funny bits.

“Intro Sample” is actually an audio sample from the trailer for The Leech Woman. The first real song is “Transmissions from Uranus,” which opens with a guitar strum and space sounds followed by a band member interacting with a sample from It Conquered The World. The fast, heavy guitar intro adds in some drums and slows down a little afterward. Cymbals pick things back up and we get some lyrics or comments. It slows down a little more, only for the amount of reverb to increase in turn. This song alone is enough to justify their reputation.

Next up is a cover of Avengers VI’s “Time Bomb.” Clacking drum sticks lead to fast guitars and drums, along with subdued Hammond organ use and cymbals. There’s definitely a sense of power and urgency to this, just like a time bomb. I found the profanity-filled interaction between the band and the audience preceding “Special Agent Conrad Uno” to be especially humorous. We get drumsticks clack again, then medium guitars (with occasional reverb)and drums form the beat. It builds up until the guitars fade and let drums take over, only to return soon after. The track has a very classic surf feel to it, although some parts have sneaking feel to them.

“Sferic Waves” starts with a sample discussing lightning strike victims, followed by guitars and cymbals. They’re fast paced as (thankfully) usual, but this has a different overall feel from the other songs. The guitar styles meander and get a solo at one point, only for the drums to return. It’s not subdued drum use, which is fine by me. Climbing guitar riffs get layered over samples, until they overwhelm said samples as we’re taken out by instrumentals. In case you were wondering, the song title refers to a type of atmospheric phenomena.

“Destination Venus” is another cover, this one is by Jo Callis of The Rezillos. Before they start playing, the band jokes about not being an instrumental group and how they usually sing in range so high that humans can’t hear it. So this time, they’ll throw us a bone and lower it to a level we can hear. After launching into plodding drums and medium-light fast guitars, we soon hear them sing about love and going to Venus. The lyrics cleverly refer both to the planet and the legendary love goddess of same name. They pause for the crowd and seem to have ended the song, only continue up until the true ending.

The guitars and drums of “Names of Numbers” are fast and full of reverb. The drum beats get quite varied here, with the guitars being just as varied. “A Mouthful of Exhaust” starts with a fairly long and humorous band introduction about rhymes. This track has a very different guitar sound compared to the other songs, which goes very well with the drums. It’s kind of a hybrid with standard rock at times. The band pauses and a member coughs at one point. This is later followed by a sample from game show with low guitar underneath, but things pick up soon after.

“Cowboy Playing Bombora” is their unique take on “Bombora” by the Original Surfaris, prompted by a fan wearing a “sneaky space cowboy hat.” Cymbals and wild guitars, coupled with cries of “yee-haw” get things going. There’s lots of interesting variations in this; drums get backed by guitars and vice-versa. It can be somewhat march-like at times, but gets back to “normal” later. It’s very “rock” like at another point, followed by classic surf-style bits.

“Mystery Science Theater 3000 Love Theme” is, as you’ve probably guessed, a surf version of the theme from the cult TV series (more specifically, the version of the theme used for the “Joel years” on Comedy Central), complete with “la la las” and “Crooooooow!” Hilariously, the band’s introduction claims that this is the theme to their favorite show…Matlock. If they ever revive MST3K, Best Brains need to use this version as the theme at least once. Trust me, they know about it. Not only did creator/former host Joel Hodgson appear at a 1996 concert to sing along, but his character on the show was said to have done pyrotechnics for the group in his reappearance in the first episode of the show’s final season.

“Gargantua’s Last Stand” opens with a sample from the Japanese kaiju classic, War of the Gargantuas. guitars cymbals drums.. cymbals get a good workout here, but also plenty of breaks for the guitars to work their reverb magic. Personally, I feel that the “heaviness” at points in the song is supposed to remind the listener of the marauding green gargantua the song is devoted to.

“Surfari” is another cover of a song by the Original Surfaris. The guitars and drums have an appropriately old school feel and sound to them, and the hammond organ returns and practically takes over at one point. However, the guitars eventually reassert their dominance. You’ve got to love the classic reverb outro.

“Rovers” starts with long talk about technical issues and a person who got up on stage. A slow intro sample stops things, which soon speed up after. Drums and cymbals take center stage while the guitars back at one point in the song, but as we all know, it wont (and doesn’t) last. starts familiar but gets into a very different song and style after.

The Pixies’ “Manta Ray” is the first of the final two cover songs on the album. Light guitars and singing make up the intro, while drum beats and cymbals creep in only for the guitars to pick up later. There’s a very unique guitar solo in this track as well.

Jerry Goldsmith’s “Man from F.U.C.K. Y.O.U” marks the last of the album’s cover songs. The Hammond organ and guitars open things, followed by drums. It’s very fast-paced with special riff used whenever the band sings the title organization’s name. The organ is heard the most in this song.

“Eric Estrotica” is fast and feels like a road trip. Drums and cymbals are soon joined by a space sound. More precisely, it sounds like something tuning in onto a signal. It really picks up (in terms of both instruments) towards the middle. The sound changes up a bit after the guitar climbing cords, which leads to the drum-heavy ending.

The final track, “Nitrous Burn Out,” uses a sample about the Indy 5000 and the use of nitro in cars as its opening. We hear a car revving, then fast guitars and percussion. After a drum solo, the guitars return and join again to reform the speedy feel. The music gets heavier and faster after further more revving sound effects. Loads of space sounds get piled on…the kind you hear on cheap electric toys and keychains. Cymbals with the occasional drum strike are also backed by revving, only for the guitars to return. There’s also plenty of yelling, but I can’t tell if it is band or crowd. After the final revs and ending beats, there’s huge applause and the audience chanting for more. I certainly can’t blame ’em, as I feel the same way. But all good things must come to an end…

Thankfully, Man Or Astro-Man? itself has not come to an end. After ceasing from touring or releasing new material in 2001, the band made a surprise return for two performances in 2006 and the group’s Facebook wall has mentioned new shows for both this and next year. Here’s hoping we’ll be hearing even more great things (and music) from them in the continuing future!

Special thanks to Touch and Go Records for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited

Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited

Official Site (Label)

The Spooky Sound Sessions, Dionysus Records 2009

After Kava Kon, we have one more stop in our Freaky Tiki Surf-ari side trip through the world of neo-exotica, which also takes us further into the world of space age pop.

Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited is something of a mystery to me. They don’t have any official website or social networking pages that I can find and what few tidbits of information about them I managed to find online are very brief. Their Wikipedia entry refers to them as a “Swiss instrumental band” that’s been releasing albums since the late 90’s, along with references to some projects that have used the band’s music on their soundtracks. This calls them a “Swiss instrumental/exotica/space age duo,” which makes the mention of a third musician on the CD’s back cover a bit confusing. Are they a new member or a special guest? I honestly can’t say that I know. All I do know is that these people are credited are:

Karen Simpson: Guitar and percussion.
Markus Maggiori: Bongos, congas, and percussion.
Natz Maeschi: Guitar, bass, organ and keyboards (He also wrote the music).

Reading the CD also resulted in my realizing that the album’s title was due to the music being recorded at the “Spooky Sound Studio.” This initially did have me worried that this wouldn’t be a good fit for Freaky Tiki Surf-ari but as soon as I played the first track, I knew everything was going to be all right…

“Sitar Jerk” starts with magical-sounding chimes that lead us into a spacey, sort of Middle Eastern beat. More chimes are sprinkled throughout the space sounds, laser effects and funky beat. True to its name, a sitar does make numerous appearances and there’s even a Hammond organ coupled with more space sounds at one point. It only slows down before the final fade out. Overall, this sounds like what would play in the background of a porno starring George and Jane Jetson.

In “Do The Lurk Around,” a rocking, wailing guitar and organ open things and said things get funky fast. The organ builds up to hand claps, which reappear throughout the song. The organ usually is the main instrument used in the track, but the guitar occasionally fills that role as well.

In “Robotheque,” chimes lead into keyboards and a funky beat. Said chimes reoccur throughout the track. Guitar and cymbals soon join in, along with robot-like, beeping keyboard notes. These “beeps” are often the focus of the song, followed by guitars (both of which are backed by the previously mentioned funky beat).

“The Whistler Returns” starts with eerie bongos and guitar riffs, which gives way to a funky cymbals and organ beat. The beat feels like a lonely, mysterious walk which I suspect is an intentional tribute to the old radio series The Whistler, which opened with the sound of the spooky host’s footsteps. Although it was mostly a mystery show, there were the occasional horror aspects in it and the spin-off film series. More wailing guitar riffs follow the “walk” segment and more percussion appears toward the end.

“Gilera Baby” has a surf guitar opening with a slight Italian feel and congas further add to the beat. The rest of the song alternates between the surf riff and back beat until the reverb-heavy ending.

“Record Shop” starts off with chimes and percussion, along with a clacking sound of some kind over a keyboard beat. A vibraphone occasional cameos throughout the song, as do the chimes and knocking claves. “Contract Killer” offers a funky space beat with occasional, minor chimes. However, it also has serious undertones conveyed through the keyboards. Organ parts occasionally appear as well.

“la fille dans le train” gets things going with wild use of congas, a funky keyboard beat and minor use of some surf guitar (and a touch of mystery). The guitar gets louder and more focused later on, but it’s still only a small part of the song. It’s also coupled with keyboards, but goes back to the original style (and musical companions) soon after until it echoes out. “Re 307” has cymbals, congas and keyboards coupled with space sounds and the occasional use of chimes. A guitar later joins in with a somewhat subdued, but loud, performance. This cycle repeats itself but never bores the listener.

The guitars which start “Action Scope” have a Latin feel to them. Organ music and guiros join them, while the guitar gets more downbeat in tone and light conga use occurs throughout the track. Later, the guitars get a Latin, vaguely Carlos Santana feel to them. The opening of “November Morning,” which is comprised of maracas, chimes and keyboards, feels like a cold early winter morning until the guitar spices things up. Said guitar’s surf riff can be downbeat at times, as can the beat itself (the majority of which is formed with maracas).

The title “Chicken Skin” is slang for goosebumps, and the use of guitars and the accompanying springlike effects remind one of such bumps appearing. The guitar riff is a constant factor, as is the vaguely Middle Eastern at times beat. Congas and keyboards also play roles in this, as do the mysterious theremin-like parts.

The name “La Casa Gialla” means “The Yellow House” and is bound to remind horror fans of giallo films with titles like The_House with Laughing Windows. Organ music and guitars, followed with light congas and chimes, open the song. The interesting organ work is combined with both a loud and slow guitar for great effect. The two guitars make their use the most noticed in this particular track, with one light and in background while other is louder and more focused on by the listener.

A funky conga beat starts “Sad City,” the album’s final track, which sounds like toned-down version of first track at times. An organ and keyboard combo forms beat, chimes sometimes show up and keyboards also play a role. Although the keyboard use is often layered under the other instruments, it does get a chance to shine on own later. Similarly, the guitar riffs get solos of sorts at times. Just as the title implies, the song does have a touch of sadness to it at times.

As one of the Amazon reviewers here wisely noted, the music feels very cinematic and fits a variety of genres (including horror and science fiction). However, words only scratch the surface of this album’s greatness. It’s amazing how its unique, space age pop sound makes very little use of computers and is instead the result of the artists’ talent with “regular” instruments. You simply must listen to it in order to truly understand what I’m trying to get at. Hopefully, this won’t be the last we hear of Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited.

Special thanks to Dionysus Records for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Mission Creeps

The Mission Creeps

Official Site

Dark Cells, Refractory Records 2010

The Mission Creeps aren’t your typical horror surf band. Brandon Specktor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat described their unique style as “gothic/garage rock,” ReverbNation called it “reverb-drenched guitar, psychotic theremin and velvelty…” and one Frankie Estelle calls them a “Cramps-style surfabilly band.” The Creeps themselves have used the term “CreepDamageRock” while I personally define it as “dark surf crossbred with various other genres and styles.”

I suspect their ever-evolving style has some times to the group’s history. Back when the band was founded in Tucson, Arizona by singer/guitarist James Arrr, it had around 5-6 members and a constantly changing parade of drummers. This continued into their 2007 debut album In Sickness and In Health and their 2008 Ghouls Among Us EP. But Dark Cells marks a new direction for the Mission Creeps, as the band has been pared down to three members: The previously-mentioned James Arrr with Miss Frankie Stein on bass and newcomer Jeff DiDay on drums.

A heavy medium guitar and drums form the very 60’s-style opening of the first track, “Boneyard Scene.” Things pick up when the singer does, and we get a mix of surf music with blues and other stuff. I especially liked the cool guitar riff used in it. Mr. Arrr has lower voice than most singers on the Surf-ari, which gives things a very effective, serious feel. The best way to summarize this song to anyone who hasn’t heard it is that it’s like something that would play in a chase scene from an impossibly awesome, parallel universe version of Scooby-Doo.

“Monster (Massive Return)” has very rocking opening drums and guitar. The lyrics describe a Frankenstein-like stitched and surgically altered person who is unaware of how they’re seen by others. Even if it didn’t have the great (but short-lived) guitar interludes, it would still be incredibly catchy. The guitar and drums work extremely well together and the reverb fade out was an interesting way to close things out.

The soft opening guitars of “Dark Cells” are rather slow, but steadily increases in volume while the drums and cymbals are somewhat faster. Soon Arrr sings of isolation and darkness between the instrumental segments and wailing guitars nicely complement the subject matter.

The funky, slow opening drum (or bongo) beat of “Cannibals In Love” is occasionally backed by a and metallic-sounding guitar. Said guitar picks up a bit at times, but the overall feel is still slow. The drums ever-present throughout the song except during chorus, where the title is whispered. The interesting guitar use during the instrumental segment is also worthy of note. Despite what the name might make you think, is not an “obvious romance song parody.” It’s a serious tale of two cannibals stranded on a desert island whose lyrics discuss the inevitable um…”rationing” that must be done. The vocals ask what good are certain body parts if the singer can’t or won’t do certain things. For example, why keep a leg if you can’t leave the island anyway? Their haunting delivery will stick with you long after the song is over.

In direct contrast to the above track, the surf opening of “These Horror Twins” features a fairly fast guitar backed by rapidly-hit drums and cymbals. Reverb comes into play a lot over the course of the song. Somehow, it still works ever when the singing comes in. Just as the song before it ends with them, “Night Vision Eye” starts with drums and cymbals, along with the occasional guitar strum. The singing style and some other elements of the song bring “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors to mind. The guitar use increases during the solo, but this is mainly a drum-driven song with the guitar acting as a spice of sorts.

The rockin’ guitar opening and drum use of “Lucky Stiff” echoes the album’s opening track and also evokes the feel of a long road trip. The lyrics appropriately tell of a runaway who accidentally kills someone. Certain points are punctuated with guitar twangs. What starts as fast, medium volume guitar work becomes light and fast in background while drums and cymbals get the focus with the singer. It turns into the occasional riff and then goes back into full use (like the others) for ending.

“Dead to Me” starts with light, medium guitar work coupled with some drum beasts, and then gets slower when singer appears and sings of his “momma”. There’s a biker or “Kustom Kulture” feel to this song’s surf style, with the guitars building up during chorus and softening guitars (along with the drums) temporarily give way to singer alone. However, they return and build up to the reverb-heavy ending.

“They Look So Good In Black” opens with what sounds like a sample followed by fast, heavy guitars and drums. The singing is somewhat more peppy and upbeat, as the song is sung from the point of view of is a proud agent who is more eager to do his dirty work (and torture). It’s apparently based on true stories of the Bulgarian secret police during the days of the Soviet Eastern Bloc. The subject matter is nicely reflected during a very rocking, fast guitar interlude with faint drum use and snatches of monitored conversations.

“Nano Machines With Intent to Kill” opens with a heavy-sounding sound effect, then launches into cymbal strikes and light guitar use with the occasional drum strike. The guitar gets louder and more complicated; it’s vaguely “Wipe Out” like at points and mysterious and somewhat Middle Eastern sounding at others when it’s not doing its usual thing. Although it’s mostly an instrumental piece, there are some processed, echoing female vocals at times (presumably provided by Miss Frankie Stein).

“Arsenal of Charm” is the slow dance track of album, but the guitars and percussion do rev up at times. The slow guitar opening features an occasional drumbeat, which then becomes a full drum use appears the singing starts. Although it gradually goes into an instrumental part, the singer returns and things go back to the way they were, save for occasional “oooh” that’s sung up to the ending.

“Skull City Mine” has a much different feel than title would have you think. It’s an acoustic guitar ballad that tells of man dying in a mine and how it effects his family. Some parts of it vaguely call Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” to mind. Some interesting touches that come in later include a melodica joining in and faint female vocals that are used when the lyrics have the now widowed wife talking to her son (both of which are provided by Miss Stein). If the name sounds familiar to you, that’s because the name (and the song itself) appear in the 2009 horror film The Graves

Although some might be put off by the changes in song styles on the album, I feel that it makes for a unique, pleasantly varied listening experience. Apparently others feel the same way, as the Mission Creeps’ ventures into various musical genres has led to them playing everywhere from film festivals to the eighth Tiki Oasis festival. So whether you want some great new music to get into or just want a twist on surf music, get into the Mission Creeps ASAP!

Special thanks to The Mission Creeps for the review copy!