Halloween season in Jackson Hole is always a great time to switch gears and prepare for the winter ahead. The temperatures are dropping, the surroundings are transforming and there’s a tangible spookiness in the air. There are a bunch of events around town celebrating this special time of year including Death By Disco at The Virginian featuring DJ Goldcone on Friday, Nightmare on Cache Street II at Handfire Pizza featuring various local DJs on Saturday, and the annual Halloween Costume Contest and downtown Trick-or-Treat tradition on Town Square on Tuesday.
Because we strongly focus on music discovery here at KHOL, I wanted to gather a bunch of modern and classic tracks from the darker side of life to accompany these colder, chill-inducing days full of mystery and intrigue.
Below you’ll find the entire playlist along with my thoughts on a few stand outs.
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Released in 1967, the San Francisco band Jefferson Airplane’s classic song tapped into the hippie subculture surrounding them and became an anthem for young people seeking new ways to live. The song was penned by frontwoman Grace Slick who based the lyrics on Lewis Carroll’s infamous children’s book “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.” The song is both a celebration of hallucinogenic drug use and questioning authority. When Slick calls for the young people of America to “feed your head”, she is encouraging listeners to seek their own reality instead of blindly following societal norms. For me the best part about the song is that it was directly inspired by Slick’s obsession with Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” and Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero,” which can be credited with the iconic slow and slinky bass line.
Joy Divison were part of the first wave of punks to come out of Manchester and their debut album “Unknown Pleasures” sent ripples through the scene with its focus on mood and expression rather than angst and energy. With it’s pulsating bass line and menacing synth drums, the stand out track “She’s Lost Control” was inspired by an experience their lead singer, Ian Curtis, had in the band’s formative years. Curtis worked at the Job Centre in his hometown of Macclesfield, Cheshire, finding positions for people with special needs, including a girl with epilepsy. Soon after Curtis discovered he himself had epilepsy, which he says inspired his wild dancing and manic stage presence.
Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry had a meager upbringing in northern England, feeling at times trapped by the country’s class system. On the band’s sophomore album, “For Your Pleasure,” Ferry analyzes society’s growing fascination with materialism and the potential horror that lies beneath the apparently glamorous surface. No song best exemplifies that focus more than “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” a two-part epic about the meticulously manicured homes of the rich and an indecent relationship with an inflatable doll. After three minutes of melodramatic lyrics and creepy funeral organ, culminating in the lyric “I blew up your body, but you blew my mind!,” the music abruptly stops and is followed by a distorted guitar solo by Phil Manzanera filtered through Brian Eno’s signature synthesizer treatments. The cold and unsettling opening combined with the deranged and apocalyptic ending suggests maybe the trendy obsession with luxurious consumer goods will be the end of us all.
Siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, of the Swedish duo The Knife, are known for their unique brand of outsider electronic music. Released in 2006, their third album “Silent Shout” featured techno folk tales tackling themes of technology, feminism and sex. The album title, Andersson said, reflected stifled expression: “When you dream and really want to scream something, nothing comes out.” The haunting title track features a genderless voice pitch-shifted at different heights over arpeggiating synthesizers and propulsive drum pads. It immediately welcomes you into an ethereal and intoxicating dark universe, setting the tone for an album that is at once inviting and nightmarish.
Dr. Octagon is the misbehaved brainchild of three musical misfits; rapper Kool Keith from the heralded hip-hop group Ultramagnetic MCs, offbeat producer extraordinaire Dan The Automator and turntable wizard DJ Q-Bert of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz crew. The project splashed onto the scene in 2001 with the LP “Dr. Octagonecologyst,” immediately making waves for its surrealistic approach to both lyrics and beat making. It’s a concept album featuring Kool Keith taking on the deranged persona of an extraterrestrial time-traveling surgeon from the planet Jupiter who travels to Earth through a fax machine and creates a smorgasbord of mischief along the way. The track “Blue Flowers – Revisited” encapsulates the weirdness with a drawn-out opening beat complete with blood-curdling synth warbles, hair-raising operatic vocals and low registered bells of impending doom before Kool Keith introduces himself as “Dr. Octagon, paramedic fetus of the East,” followed by an array of free-associative rhymes and DJ Q-Bert’s unbelievably deft scratching of a human scream.