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Friday, August 11, 2017

Aunt Dracula - Freaker review

Aunt Dracula is the noise project of Philadelphia's Scott Daly. I'm not sure how I came upon Aunt Dracula, but it is a perfect name combined with perfect trash/lo-fi/horror/melted fairy tale aesthetic. Not long ago, I saw this new album, Freaker, in my Facebook feed; the art reached out to me like a doppelganger in a mirror in a nightmare I had when I was a child, so I had to click on it.

The cover is a beautiful grotesque, a monster with a horror OVA color-palette preserved in latex, some kind of mask. It's got a Tim Burton-striped pointed head, a curved horn, and a tokusatsu gem. The creature's face is in a fiendish grin, a symptom of an indulger of the Hyborian lotus perhaps, with a tongue, also striped as though in a Tim Burton film, emerging through roughs of teeth under three eyes. It's just the profile of that beast and the title.

The album starts out with the chaotic mirror entity related "Stepping into a Giant Magic Melting Mirror", which sounds like an amorphous Bowie mutant fusing with weird plastic monsters on a plastic castle on a platter of various funk LPs spinning and spinning. The next song spins a similar way, less spastically, drums almost dub reggae, vocals childishly scary, calling out to the cosmic void; this song is called "Black Pyramids". "Passion Fruit" begins with a sickeningly sweet dried crackling intro of crystalline tones before going into some heavy plodding sort of dub/funk covered in gobs of distorted slime nets. "Power Moves" starts with a warp speed/race car sound, and then it's like hearing a chant from the Banana Splits band in a deep cavern. "Gonna climb right up to the top eating a cherry freezie pop". These childhood chants are interspersed with VCR static warbling and it ends with a journey off to distant crystal star worlds.

"My Bloody Frankenstein" takes a different turn with it's phasing arpeggios and vast space sounds; there are no cavernous boulders here, but there is the whooshing of water. The vocals get lost in the space world, echoing into some large number that could be infinity as they recite the title. "Ego Problem" reminds me of the musick from the Sea of Japan from the game Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon or the soundtrack to the game RayStorm (aka Layer Section II). It has the dub drums and some more spacey sounds; it's not as chaotic, and there are no vocals. I got lost in this song. Towards the end it gets really cold and scares me.

The next track, "Lights Out", has vocals that remind me of Vincent Price or the singer from the Deviants. It's a dense beat with bat screech horror sounds above and around. There's kind of like a baby crying or something somewhere far away in a dream. "Pharoah's Ghost" reaches the crystal stars on a rocket with a weird nursery rhyme vocal to a creaky dub beat. "Sine Wave of the Para-static Ultra Maze" has a ghostly choir, off-kilter drums, and static bursts (para-static being paranormal static?). At the halfway point there's a turn towards techno drums and space sounds with an almost calming harp, an exit to the maze.

"Dreams Burnt Through the Core of Paktakaars Moon" is another creepy instrumental, more techno than dub. The layers of dread congeal into a hole in my head as the song goes on. "Scripscrap (Script Flipped)" goes back to dub drums with some cool synth sounds and hissing; it makes me dizzy (but that's the nature of this strange underworld). It made me think of stories of vast machines underneath the Appalachian Mountains, as told in Fate Magazine. The last track, "Freaker", breaks out with a horde of bats or insects or other small weirdos before a beat accompanies a weird story recited to nobody. It reminds me of the Velvet Underground's "The Gift". The vocals break up and slowdown and reverse, dreamlike, as it is. I was humored and worried by the segments of the story I could make it. "He vaguely recalled seeing a magazine for 160 dollars". The dread builds. The man, David, the lead character, drives off to nowhere. Naked, he stares a cow down. I won't spoil the end, but it's scary as it goes on.

The production on Freaker is dense and open at the same time; the instruments cluster together with heavy weights within the vacuum of the Platonic Sphere. The songs are well done, though they can be a bit samey at times. Despite this, there was still a decent variety of songs. I love the aesthetic - it's scary and unhinged, a lotus dream wonderland, dark with dripping plastic and ephemera from various media. This might be one of my favorite albums ever. It's the place I've been searching for. I hope the album gets released physically; vinyl in particular would look great with the giant, monster face staring off, but I like CDs and tapes too. Freaker gets a Good. Give it a listen.

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