Tuesday, January 13, 2015


 from "The Road". "The Road" is a 2009 post-apocalyptic drama film ...

Christmas: What better way to celebrate this festive time of year than select a theme that invites thoughts of desolation: a wintry wasteland of doom, never ending drudgery, self loathing and apocalyptic oblivion. 'Tis the season to be jolly, after all. It was asked that the first song set the gloomy scene then the second choice from the same album delve deeper into despair. Here's what we came up with:


Bohren & der Club of Gore...
Summed up best as sophisticated desolation for those that like to confront their nemesis with slow, classy, Teutonic foreboding. The deliciously ponderous organ, piano and bass are methodically paced by a funeral march drum beat set in slow motion. Then enters the rasping saxophone which plucks deep harboured emotions from their anchors - each breathy lament allowing enough space between them for introspection and gloom to fill the aching void.

I chose the album Black Earth and selected Maximum Black as my first malodorous track. I followed that with Skeletal Remains to add an extra layer of anguish to the already deep, dense and dark jazz atmosphere.

Maximum Black

Skeletal Remains


So my submission is Sparklehorse- It's a wonderful life;  An album I can only bring myself to listen to once every few years. I can't actually bring myself to submit two tracks from this album without being there to help get you through the double whammy, so I'll just leave you with the title track....... perfectly aligned with Christmas. It's a Wonderful Life.



 In true spirit of the season, I've gone with Greek band, Rotting Christ, and their eighth full-length album, Sanctus Diavolos. This album screams desolation and despair to me, and was a noticeable change in sound for the band. While they were known to tinker with synthesisers, industrial and Gothic sound, this album went full on orchestral, chant, invocation-directed, industrial-infused black metal. The two tracks I've gone for are the full-on, borderline over-the-top title track, and the more upbeat, but still dour, Serve In Heaven. Happy holidays!

Rotting Christ - Sanctus Diavolos (with lyrics!)

Rotting Christ - Serve In Heaven


Initially, I gravitated towards seriously depressing songs, and the people who write them. (Leonard Cohen and Richard Thompson came to mind straight away.) But that's merely down, not necessarily DESOLATE. So I dropped that approach and thought post-Apocalypse, devastation of the landscape + few humans + lots of pointlessly working machines.

Public Image Ltd wrote the soundtrack to that vision. Perhaps several times, but especially with the 'Second Edition' record. (This had been put out as a 3LP set cleverly called 'Metal Box' because, well, it came in a metal box and the records were impossible to remove without getting fingerprints on the grooves. Fitting!)

My two songs were 'Careering' and 'Death Disco'. 'Careering' is almost eight minutes of droning, with cheerful lyrics about a banker who is also a murderer - with the actual career part left ambiguous. The bass line is a monster, but the scratchy guitar and over-the-top vocal makes this a difficult listen that's just plain exhausting. Pretty sure that's the second time in my life I made it all the way through the song, despite giving you all the option to fade out earlier! 'Death Disco' almost has a melody, and a bit of variation in the riffing, so is a bit less agonising. But the lyrics are even bleaker and the singing captures bitter desolation even if you don't listen to the words.

Death Disco



The theme desolation got me thinking about suicide. I wondered about the emotional state you would need to be in to summon the will to carry out the act. Surely only a degree of rage and unbearable discomfort at being in your body would be enough - like being in a swarm of mosquitoes after three sleepless nights with no hope of relief. So I chose the song Misery by Gallows, the best-ever hardcore punk band out of Watford. I wanted to avoid songs that prettify depression, like something by Arab Strap or Sharon van Etten, say. Perhaps Misery is still too much fun to listen to, perhaps I should have chosen something obnoxious like I Don't GIve a Fuck by DJ Rashad, or something truly self-loathing like early Nine Inch Nails. But in the end I couldn't say no to a song that starts with a doom-laden piano/strings/snare drum combo, transitions to a heavier guitar-based section with a screamed FUCK and the sound of a window being smashed, and ends with the squeals of a pig being slaughtered.  

I intended to play only that song, but as the night progressed I pondered a little the depressive qualities of excess consumption of alcohol or drugs, and on a whim played Noah's Toilet by Coldcut. This song has always seemed to me the perfect complement to Jay McInerney's depressing prose about 'Bolivian Marching Powder', about taking the party on far beyond when it stops being fun and starts being nothing more than, well, desolate. The animal sounds and imagery of party-goers as animals were also a nice extension to the pig-squealing from my first choice of song. 


Noah's Toilet


Artist: Songs: Ohia
Album: Didn't It Rain (2002)
Songs: Didn't It Rain, Blue Chicago Moon

When it comes to desolation, it’s hard to go past the work of Jason Molina. Molina, whether under his own name, or that of his bands Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company, traded in a brand of alt-country that always verged on despairing. Later, ghosts would become a major theme in Molina’s song writing, but Songs: Ohia’s 2002 album Didn’t It Rain is the work of a man haunted by the loneliness and depression that would eventually take his life.

The first track on the album, Didn’t It Rain, is a cry to see one’s way out of the darkness, to hold on to the creative fire and help others through. The song offers little in the way of hope, though, as the refrain “you got to watch your own back” lets the listener know that really, we’re alone in the storm.

I could have chosen any other song on Didn’t It Rain to exemplify desolation. The final track, Blue Chicago Moon names “the darkness and desolation and endless, endless, endless, endless depression” that infuses the album as a whole. Like the song Didn’t It Rain, Blue Chicago Moon suggests a way out and implores you to “try to beat it.” Molina even offers to help. But what help can we really take from a man who drank himself to death?


Desolation... You'd think there would be lots of choices given my tastes
but... the trick is two songs on the same album. Lots of desolate songs but
usually on albums where the rest are far too cheery or are sung in a
foreign language so you can't tell if I'm cheating. Lots of overthinking
later I'm starting to feel depressed on my way home (thanks Christian) when
I realise that what I've got running heavy rotation on the car stereo might
just fit the bill... a quick check of the lyrics later and yes, I'm all
good to go! I even get to test a secondary theory of mine which is that, as
a bloke, anything sung by a woman is going to sound good no matter what the
subject matter...

The band is called Delerium which is a side project of Bill Leeb and Rhys
Fulber of FrontLine Assembly fame. The Leeb/Fulber duo are prolific and
have had a good dozen or so side projects over the years with Delerium
being the longest lived and even that has morphed over time. The album I've
selected is Karma from 1997 and is their 9th offering but only the second
using (mostly female) vocals. They've pretty much stuck with female
vocalists since then and have used the talents of people such as Leigh
Nash, Jael, Kirsty Hawkshaw etc.

First song is called Silence and is sung by the delightful Sarah McLachlan
(herself a prolific singer/songwriter). This song has been remixed many
times and has become a bit of a Club hit over the years in the various
sunny locales the Youth-Of-Today (tm) waste their time at... which is a bit
surprising considering the subject matter is about depression, disease and
death... Is my current first choice to be played at my own funeral
(assuming I live that long...)


The second song is called Duende which is either a goblin of some sort or
an expression of artistic soul, take your pick. Sung by Camille Henderson
(with some backing samples from The Baka Forest Pygmies no less). Sounds
like a bright, lively tune but then you listen to the lyrics, starting
with.... "Bleeeeeeeeeeak Desolation" and going downhill from there,
"Tearing, bruising fall"... "Twisting hollow hell"... "Cursed by my own
mind".. a full blown descent into madness but set against such a nice tune
+vocals you can't help being happy at the end :-)