Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from UK musician John aka Sound of Effects of Death and Horror who just released The Rose and The Cross, follow-up to 2019 Stone Tape, via Wormhole World.
The name Sound Effects Of Death And Horror comes from the BBC soundtrack album of the same name released in 1977. It’s a one-person project by John. He doesn’t share his full name as the music should be the focus, not the individual.
He grew up in England in the 70s and 80s, experiencing at first hand the joys of the Cold War and Thatcherism. His early memories are full of civil defense, nuclear siren tests, public information films, Quatermass and Doctor Who.
John played in thrash metal bands in the 80s and 90s but gave up to focus on his own compositions and songs. With influences from Celtic Frost and Black Sabbath through to Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Vangelis and Terry Riley he uses a broad range of styles in his compositions.
Film has also been a lifelong fascination – not just visuals but the soundtracks too. John Carpenter and Goblin fuel a lot of late nights. Reading is another inspiration. He quickly graduated from Tolkien to King, Herbert and Barker and then onto Ballard, Vonnegut and beyond.
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The original “Floating” was the last track on Stone Tape. It was a live improvisation using 2 analogue synths. The re-worked longer version uses a sample of the previous track as it’s base. This was overlaid with further repeating synth patterns that were mixed with a lot of treble, ping-pong delay and reverb to give a feeling of space. As it’s in the key of C it naturally has a happy, calming feel. The title reflects the tracks aim, to be restful and uplifting.
This is(obviously) the title track of the album and the only composition not to be based on a Stone Tape track. The core of the song is an old SEODAH piece of the same title, that used Crowley’s poem as a lyric. It’s hiding in plain sight on SoundCloud…
It also features multiple heavily distorted guitars, bass and synth, as well as multiple vocal snippets to create the atmosphere. Again it’s been mixed to have a wide, stereo footprint that ping-pongs from left to right and back again. One of the vocal samples is of Crowley himself being interviewed. It has a much darker and foreboding sound than track one. A big influence on the sound design was the Mandy sound track by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
The original version was based on an arpeggio improvisation. This was slowed down and the same pitch kept (Paul Stretching) to make it more meditative and bring out the harmonics of the original more. The original track was then overlaid with more synths and e-bow (sustained) guitar. The additional parts were also heavily treated to slow them down and fit in the tempo and mood of the original.
As with a number of tracks on The Rose And The Cross it deliberately features lots of repetition and a slow pace to help give the listener a feeling of ease, particularly following the previous, dark track.
A light-running domestic is actually a type of sewing machine! This piece is based on multiple, long organ chords underpinned by droning soundscapes. The aim was to hold the chords for as long as possible, slowing adding in news sounds behind and to the sides.
Again some tracks were treated to slow them down or detune them slightly to create a mild dissonance to the mix. There is also a male voice very low in the mix to again provide more texture.
Another track based on an existing Stone Tape track. The original started off a rhythmic, Motorik piece before dissolving into delayed dissonant chords.
This “remix” focuses on the latter part of the original, again slowing it down and using a binaural mixing process to make the left and right stereo channels sound different and slightly at odds with each other.
As with most of the other tracks further synths were layered on top to provide more texture and interest to the listener. The track slowly fades out on a held chord using lots of vibrato.
The last track is also the longest. It uses lots of very slow and processed e-bow guitar (hoping reflecting some of Fripp’s more ambient work) and a heavily processed organ sound.
As with the other tracks, various other instruments and samples have applied during mixing. The instruments were played live through a range of effects pedals to help provide a feeling of atmosphere. The original version was around 20 minutes long but it was edited due to a couple of playing errors.