I am not now, nor have I ever been, a horror-flick fan. Anything creepier than the Simpson’s Halloween specials and I am officially not allowed to watch it. The reason for this is very simple: I have the over-active imagination of a 5-year-old. This means that as a child I had spectacular adventures with my imaginary friends, never had trouble entertaining myself or my childhood playmates on a rainy afternoon, and could reliably be found shivering under a blanket whenever something even vaguely scary was playing on TV. The examples of my overactive imagination running away with me are liberally sprinkled throughout my childhood.
At the age of 6 upon watching alone Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth, I became convinced that if I even thought the words, “I wish the Goblin King would come and take this baby away,” that my younger sister (conveniently an infant at the time) would be whisked away by furry little goblins to live with David Bowie in a magical realm and that somehow I would get blamed for it. At the age of 8, I was plagued by fears of the evil doll Chucky–not because I actually saw the movie, but because my best friend did and apparently childhood fears are contagious. The first Jurassic Park movie had thirteen-year-old me looking for raptors in the shadows of the hall outside my bedroom for months after leaving the theater, leading to my poor father being greeted by shrill screams just about every time he set foot in the hallway. Tolkien’s twisted little creation, Gollum, tormented me throughout middle school, a fear not to be tackled until years later when Andy Serkis’s performance in The Lord of the Rings proved slightly more comical than horrific. I can easily blame my exuberant imagination for making me sleep with a nightlight until middle school. And as for stuffed animals… well to be honest, my blasted imagination ensured that they were a regular bedtime accessory until I found the greatest teddy bear ever created, namely my husband.
One always hopes they will grow out of such childish tendencies–that the zombies, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night will lose their powers as you mature. But in my case, this wondrous transformation to an adult with an innate sense of what is real and what isn’t never seemed to happen. To this day I loath getting into bed in the dark alone, an especially creepy episode of Dr. Who can give me nightmares (read: weeping angels are creepy!), and long-time readers may already know how I feel about sharks. Now the perfectly rational part of my brain knows that most of these things are not real and that I shouldn’t let myself get carried away, but it is this rational part of me that always seems to get me into trouble. I keep trying to convince myself that I am adult now, that this is silly, and that I can handle it. And in the light of day I can. But then the sun goes down and the images and ideas that didn’t bother me earlier in the day suddenly start to bother me… a lot. I am still learning this lesson at the age of 31 and–let’s be honest here–I probably still will be learning it at the age of 81.
Now given my hyperactive imagination–alongside my long and storied history of being freaked out by things that most people stopped being bothered by as children–you’d be surprised to know that for the last several weeks I’ve been story-boarding a horror movie in my head. Visions of breathless figures running through an ancient pine forest in the dead of night under the flare of the Aurora Borealis, witches dancing wildly around a cauldron under a full moon, and scaly monsters rising from still mountain lakes to feast on hapless campers have been flitting through my brain for weeks. Now what could possibly inspire me to dabble in such an obviously unhealthy (for me, anyway) habit? Well, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, then the answer should be clear to you already: music.
Specifically it is the 2011 album, Feel It Break, by the synthpop darlings of Toronto known as Austra. Featuring an amazingly beautiful, layered, and slightly morbid brand of techno affectionately known as Dark Wave, this album is filled with frigid beats, dreamily beckoning vocals, and at times frankly disturbing lyrics. And with song titles like Choke, Hate Crime, and Shoot the Water, it is completely understandable why my imagination keeps drifting into the macabre every time that I push play. But for all its impressive creep factor, Feel It Break is a highly impressive, well-produced, and refreshing work that should rank highly on the list of any fan of electronica. And even a wimp like me can’t help but pay homage their undisguised, if ominous, talent.
Think I’m playing up the sinister nature of this album simply for creative license? Then check out the band’s official videos. They don’t do justice to the colorful and freakish visions that they have inspired in my daydreams of late. But looking at the video evidence, it is obvious that Austra is acutely aware of the eerie effect that their music can have on fans and they are not afraid to embrace it. Fair warning, some of them are not for the faint of heart. Enjoy!
Beat and the Pulse (NSFW)