Rethinking Southern Gothic Music: 10 Songs You Need To Know

Southern Gothic is, first and foremost, a literary genre that seemingly no one can define; a series of broad themes, stereotypes, and general ‘vibes’ often interpreted through the lens of the untrue many, regurgitated back into a self-affirming echo chamber of aesthetic cheesiness. In many ways, what people view to be southern gothic music is more of the steampunk approach to being poor wHite (with a capital “H”) country folk with an alcohol problem. So take it from a southerner who’s seen their fair share of weird occurrences; that ain’t southern gothic.

Here to correct course, flesh out your southern gothic music knowledge or at least your spooky Halloween playlist, here’s Resident Sound’s Guide to Southern Gothic Music.

Bill Frisell – Tales from The Far Side

Originally the theme for the hard to find Gary Larson’s Tales from The Far Side 1994 TV Halloween special, The Bill Frisell Quartet’s lengthy opening statement takes cartoon oddity to a macabre and haunting place. The song’s eerie and haunting motif is slowly twisted and transformed into a grotesque and wild semblance of its origin, giving Tales from The Far Side more bite than its ‘Denver sound’ contemporaries.

Porter Wagoner – The Rubber Room

From Porter Wagoner’s vaguely uneasy What Ain’t to Be, Just Might Happen (1972), The Rubber Room is the oft overlooked and much needed addition to any southern gothic or spooky country playlist. On the non-cinematic side of additions to this list, Rubber Room sings the malady of the minds and the confinement and isolation imposed on the mentally ill, all located in “a building tall, with a stone wall around.” The whole song could’ve started with ‘on a dark and stormy night’ for all I’m concerned…

Rowland S. Howard – Dead Radio

What’s more southern than the southern hemisphere? Okay, that’s a copout, but Australia has given us The Birthday Party, and with it the solo careers of Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, and my personal favorite Rowland S Howard. Rowland is the Lee Hazlewood of goth music, and in turn Hazlewood’s southern gothic counterpart. While his earlier work alongside Nick Cave in The Birthday Party may have embraced southern gothicism to a T, Rowland S Howard’s solo record Teenage Snuff Film (1999) is a must for anyone looking to dive right in.

Hank Thompson – I Cast A Lonesome Shadow

Let’s get it straight: the best version of this song is on Hank Thompson at The State Fair of Texas (1963) bar none. The spacious feel of its environment only sneaks into mind all the negative tropes of carnies and fair. Besides that, Hank Thompson at The State Fair of Texas offers a more uptempo version to the song’s slower single release from the year prior.

Foetus – Spit on The Griddle (The Drowning of G. Walhof)

The lush orchestral arrangement from composer J.G. Thirlwell more or less speaks for itself. Thirlwell’s high anxiety sound lends itself perfectly to the dark edges of perception. Perfect for night drives in the backwoods or stumbling upon a mutilated dead body. Looking for more? Try the Foetus track Rattlesnake Insurance.

Reverend Horton Heat – It’s A Dark Day

Perhaps the only person using ‘reverend’ in their band name that I don’t hold disdain for, Jim ‘Reverend Horton Heat’ Heath and crew usually deliver at least one fairly dark gem per record. 1990’s Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em may have the beloved hit Psychobilly Freakout, but It’s A Dark Day, a perfectly somber song drudging through the depths of depression and heartbreak, is our takeaway. 

These Immortal Souls – These Immortal Souls

These Immortal Souls was the brief side-project of Rowland S. Howard. A split from his work in Crime & The City Solution, These Immortal Souls may be the most interesting and overlooked branch in The Birthday Party lineage (to echo sentiment from Charles Spano). Rowland S Howard’s work may be the most consistently southern gothic while never falling to the try-hard cheese of dedicated ‘southern gothic’ music acts.

Mario Batkovic – Quatere

It would be remiss to go straight to the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack in a guide hoping to change your perception on southern gothic music, but Red Dead Redemption go-to-ers get some things right. We went with score contributor Mario Batkovic’s cinematic solo accordion work and, I guess, ‘hit’ Quatere. 

Patsy Cline – Crazy

C’mon. Do I need to explain this? If you still don’t hear it, go back to Tumblr fanfic or harassing children on the internet or whatever it is you do with your life. …Still here? Great. Try throwing a little extra reverb or delay on this song if you really want to trip out. I highly recommend it.

Eddie Noack – Psycho

Of course this song is on our list. What’s wrong with you? While plenty of murder country music should be left to the grave, Eddie Noack’s single Psycho is a bonafide classic in our ears. Sometimes put in comparison to the later serial killer Ed Kemper, Psycho is a twisted tale of black outs, murder and mommy issues. What more could you ask for?

5 Twin Peaks Inspired Albums Worth Your Time

Twin Peaks inspired music is everywhere. By now, you’re probably well familiar with David Lynch’s 1990’s cult-classic turned pop-culture phenom. Whether searching for classic shows or just minding your damn business, Twin Peaks iconography is everywhere. Composer Angelo Badalamenti’s score would go on to influence the creation of doom jazz, inspired parody and thousands of musicians. Much like David Lynch, Resident Sound doesn’t like to be too obvious. So while you won’t see Xiu Xiu’s tribute album or the doom jazz stalwarts Dale Cooper Quartet here, get ready to strap in and hear 5 Twin Peaks inspired albums worth your time.

If you’re looking for a refresher, or better yet for someone to explain the entirety of Twin Peaks’ meta-narrative, well, Youtube channel Twin Perfect has you covered:

Now with that out of the way, here’s 5 Twin Peaks Inspired Albums Worth Your Time

1: Messer Chups – Twin Peaks Twist

Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Messer Chups are the campy horror surf scene’s crown jewel. Often interchangeable with Messer für Frau Müller, the band they originally spun-off from, Messer Chups’ Twin Peaks Twist is a 4 song EP of campy surf tracks. Starting with a slow then fast, off-and-on reworking of the Twin Peaks theme, the EP culminates on Eduard Artemyev’s theme from the 1974 Soviet Russian epic Siberiade.

2: Liquid Rainbow – The Blue Rose Sessions

In reference to Lil in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, The Blue Rose Sessions are a synth-heavy, spaced-out, post-rock extravaganza. Outside of just being Twin Peaks related (and tolerable), the album blends strange elements in a masterful way. Track Morning Joe mixes heavy vocoder-esque synths, jazzy drums and guitar, organ and banjo in such a way as to make itself almost as distinct as Angelo Badalamenti’s original iconic score. Pulled from the album’s listing on Bandcamp, “This album is inspired by the Art and visionary Genious of David Lynch and Mark Frost… …We’ll keep on dreaming and scrutinizing the Mysteries.”

3: Côte Déserte – Dale Cooper’s Case

Having more in common with its doom jazz predecessors, Dale Cooper’s Case is a piano heavy noir triumph. The half Saint Petersburg, half Moscow based duo Côte Déserte originally released Dale Cooper’s Case in 2011, and followed up the album with Strange To Look At Her. It Seems That… in 2014. Like the best (and all the rest) of doom jazz, the Côte Déserte Bandcamp page has remained more or less abandoned since 2014.

4: Silencio – She’s Bad

It says it right there on the tin, folks: “more music inspired by the works of David Lynch & Angelo Badalamenti.” But all you need to do is press play and the influence is immediate. She’s Bad is part Portishead, part April March, part Messur Chups, part… um… huh… Actually, the album is stylistically all over the place, and if there is any one thing it can be called it’s Twin Peaks-y. Get ready for some twangy guitar.

5: El Sonida De Reposa – Pink Room / Just You

To pick a Twin Peaks song so notoriously hated and farcical and then decide to to record and press it to vinyl as a single has to be one of the more interesting choices within Twin Peaks inspired music circles. But what else is there to say? It’s a good record. If you ever wanted to hear a version of Just You that didn’t include Twin Peaks most-hated character James Hurley’s high-pitched awkwardness, well, this record is for you.

Honorable Mention: Black Market – Welcome To Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks reggae dub, anyone…?

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy Resident Sound’s Guide To The Fast Paced, Lighthearted World of DOOM JAZZ

CHASING GHOSTS: AN INTERVIEW WITH LOST RPM’S JEFFREY HARVEY

Whether chasing ghosts or appreciating novelty, the ‘lost to time’ element of dollar-bin records can leave their songs steeped in melancholy. As vinyl continues to wade further back into the mainstream, the previously murky world of thrift vinyl collecting has been cast into the light of social media; documented and showcased for any passers by.

I recently fell in love with the Instagram account Lost RPM during the pandemic’s ever growing hours at home. Lost RPM is DJ and curator Jeffrey Harvey’s showcase of notable finds, most only known to the artists themselves and few seasoned vets of the thrift record collecting world.

To get a better idea of what drives the record thrifting mindset, I reached out to Jeffrey Harvey of The Lost RPM Podcast and Instagram account to explore their place in the record collecting scene. The following interview took place over the course of about a week via email.

Jeffrey of Lost RPM: 

Hey [Lubert]! It’s Jeffrey. Good to meet you. Fire away on Q’s and I’ll try to answer as best I can!

Lubert:

Hey Jeffrey! Good to meet you too. Let’s get started.

You run the Instagram account Lost RPM and the coinciding Lost RPM Podcast. I see that the earliest Instagram posts at this time go back to 2015, though the focus wasn’t always on 45s, but mostly LPs. Incredible but strange records like Sister Janet Mead’s ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and Robert Pritikin’s ‘There’s A Song in My Saw’. What led to the switch to covering 45s more or less exclusively?

Jeffrey:

That’s a great question! I moved from Kansas City, Missouri to Los Angeles in 2013 to get married. I had been collecting interesting-to-me records in KC since the early 2000s, with most of my collection coming from thrift stores, junk shops, flea markets, and record store clearance bins. I was very passionate (and still am) about finding cool records that someone else has literally thrown out!

Anyway, when I arrived in LA I didn’t have any professional plans or goals per se, so that led to copious amounts of time continuing my second-hand record search. I was able to get to know the city by starting the day at a Pasadena Salvation Army and ending the day at a Van Nuys Goodwill. Along the way I’d look for LPs/45s/78s that looked interesting, were privately pressed, or unknown to me at the time.

In Kansas City 45s are everywhere. You go into any thrift store and there are at least a few stacks of 45s – even if they’re all crap. In LA I found that 45s at thrift stores are virtually non-existent. That led me to finding a lot of stuff like the Sister Janet Mead and Robert Pritikin LPs. I’d find a handful of $1 private press LPs during a day out digging, get ’em home, and spend the evening trying to figure out if they were any good or not. It helped that recreational cannabis was just starting to become legal in Southern California lol. After a year or so of SoCal second-hand record digging, I started kicking around the idea of starting a blog about my finds. That’s how The Lost RPM Instagram page came about.

Interestingly enough, my run of posting primarily 45s didn’t start until the pandemic kicked into high gear in March of 2020. I ordered a 45 on Discogs from a seller who had like 16,000+ records for sale, and casually mentioned that if he had any “not on Discogs or ungoogleable records” lying around that he wanted to get rid of, I’d buy them off him in bulk. To my surprise he said he did, and that he’d be down to sell to me. So for the past year I’ve been receiving boxes of 100 45s once or twice a month. I can’t tell you how much it helped me mentally during the pandemic, and receiving all those singles actually kickstarted the idea of The Lost RPM Podcast. That’s the entire reason my IG page has transitioned to mostly all 45s.

Lubert:

16,000 records is a LOT of records. I can’t imagine some of the strange stuff that seller has. 45 collecting alone has its niches from Georgia gospel to absurd novelty, Philly soul to stabs at country stardom. You seem to span the gamut. Are there any particular niches you swoon over? Any genres you’re looking to explore further?

Jeffrey:

It’s interesting, when I was in high school I was pretty chubby. I tried to cover up my self-consciousness about my weight with being the class clown. Being the class clown led me to becoming friends with all types of people in my school. Punk rockers, jocks, cheerleaders, art kids, outsiders, and even teachers. I didn’t really have a specific friend group or click that I was a part of, and as crazy as it sounds I honestly feel like that experience somehow translated into my record collecting. I don’t really seek out one specific genre, I just like what connects with me. I actually believe that in most cases records are meant to find me, rather than the other way around.

Case in point: I was at a Salvation Army in the LA area a few years back. I had just found a handful of really cool LPs, and as I was exiting the store on a digging-score high, I saw two Asian gentlemen loading up a cart with records to donate. I walked up to them, told them I collect, and asked if they wanted to sell to me instead. I think I paid $15 for a few boxes of LPs, 78s, and 45s. I had no idea what was in the boxes. I didn’t even care. I just knew if something needed to find me, it would. Most of the stuff ended up being useless to me (and was even donated back to the Salvation Army from whence it came lol), but one of the few items I kept from that haul ended up being this amazing, unknown, and seemingly one-of-a-kind 1960s Hong Kong pop 7″ EP that may or may not be from a feature film. I can’t find any info on it. All I know is that there’s a track on the disc that absolutely floors me. It sounds like it was recorded in an opium den, and I’ve never heard anything like it since. What are the odds of all the factors coming together in that scenario for that record to find me? I have to think they’re pretty astronomical. I cherish that 7″ EP and the fact that it found me! I’ve attached a pic of the release and mp3 of the track if you want to check it out.

As far as stuff I swoon over, that would definitely be 1950s/60s American outsider teenage ballads. It’s total time capsule stuff. I have a 45 by a group called “Jonathan with Orchestra” that is a perfect example of waaaaaay outsider teenage balladry. It’s called “Cheryl” and it’s one of the most amazing & endearing things I’ve ever heard. The kid (presumably Jonathan) can’t even sing. His voice cracks heavily throughout the recording, and there’s even some amateur saxophone playing involved. It’s all so innocent and primitively debauched at the same time. It’s like something you’d hear at a high school prom in 1957, if the prom was held at an insane asylum. I’ve actually found a fair share of primitive, obscure, outsider teenage singles from the 50s & 60s, and am always down to welcome more of them into my life. Again, I’ll attach a pic of the label and mp3 of that one for your consideration.

Lubert:

I just listened to both of these records and they’re great in their own ways. The Hong Kong record reminds me a bit of the bossa nova influence on easy-listening pop records. Really high quality writing and production. But this Jonathan record, well it sounds like James Hurley in Twin Peaks! 

Total time capsule stuff, for real. So, is Jonathan With Orchestra what you’d call a “real people” record? It’s a term you’ve used before in the Lost RPM Podcast liner notes, but it’s also a term heard throughout music collecting circles. What is implied by this, and how do they differ from other records of their era?

Jeffrey:

You have a good ear! I didn’t include this above, but the Hong Kong track actually seems to be a take on the Afro-Cuban song “Tabú” or “Taboo” that Arthur Lyman made famous with his easy listening exotica of the late 50s/early 60s. Google it and you’ll hear the same exact melody!

Yes, the Jonathan with Orchestra single would be a prime example of a “real people record.” The term comes from legendary private press record collector Paul Major, who has found more amazing records than I could ever dream of. He stated in a interview with Vice Magazine in 2017 that “Real People popped into my head as a catch-all phrase to cover vastly different styles of music resulting from driven persons creating highly personal sounds that were able to capture their uniqueness as human beings… Their true personalities are captured, I feel like I am inside their brains when I hear them. It is an elastic term but the key thing about Real People is that the person is impossible to separate from the art.”

That last part kills me, and is so eloquently said! The person being impossible to separate from the art really is the essence of real people or outsider music. The overt self expression, highly personal nature, and unintentional urgent spirit of the recordings are what give them their charm. This, in my opinion, is what separates the real people records of various decades from other records of their era. Also to Paul’s point, you almost always feel like you’re “inside the brain” of the “artist” when listening to a real people record. I know I feel that way when listening to the Jonathan record 🙂 

Also, I use quotations on the term artist there because many of the people who recorded this stuff probably didn’t even see themselves as artists at the time!

Lubert:

It may be safe (or arrogant) to say that a lot of these artists had hopes or intentions of reaching some kind of audience or commercial success, either by luck or imitating commercially successful performers. At what point does a record leave ‘the arts’ and enter a more entertainment/media content standing? Does commercialism take away from the sort of human or ‘genuine’ artistic element in a work?

Jeffrey:

I think it’s safe to say the majority of these artists had some sort of hopes or aspirations of stardom. It’s also probably safe to say there were a large contingent of record industry hucksters promising these artists the world and not delivering. Have you heard of, or researched the tax scam record labels of the 1970s & 80s? That’s a whole other topic in itself!

As far as commercialism taking away from the genuine or human artistic element in a recorded work, I don’t really subscribe to that idea. I love Donovan. Like really love him. His laid-back brand of psychedelic hippie-folk is about as commercial as it gets for the 1960s. I also feel like he’s super genuine sounding, and about as human as it gets. I challenge anyone to listen to “Sand and Foam” from the Sunshine Superman album and not be moved. But then again music – as with most art – is totally subjective.

Lubert:

I do love me some Donovan records. The push and pull of commercialism and its effect on art is a dichotomy that’s seemingly in a constant state of implosion, so any attempt to draw a line in the sand may be in vain. But tax scam record labels? I need to look into that! I know there was some mafia involvement with smaller soul labels in the North East around that time, but this is news to me. Speaking of labels, The Lost RPM Podcast really opens up your collection to the world by streaming some select cuts. Are you ever concerned about copyright hawks? Or does a lot of the music fall into the public domain by way of abandonment?

Jeffrey:

Yeah when it comes to tax scam records the Stonewall self-titled LP on Tiger Lily is a nice one to start with. My buddy Lance from Permanent Records here in LA was the first to do an officially licensed reissue with the surviving members of the band. It’s pretty killer!

As far as copyright concerns go, I would say that I’m a pretty under-the-radar operation at this point who caters to a very niche market. I just love sharing lost and overlooked music with people. Now if this interview were to run in like Vanity Fair or something then I might have some second thoughts about copyright stuff lol, but man most of the records I dig on are pretty obscure. That, coupled with the fact that I don’t make any money off The Lost RPM doesn’t really have me concerned. If someone wants me to take something down or cease and desist with something, I have no problem doing that.

Lubert:

There are some labels out there that work at restoring and sharing old records from the 1910s and later on, as well as other ‘lost to time’ records from the later 1900s that have gained new audiences they otherwise wouldn’t have ever had. Would you ever consider starting up your own label, be it physical releases, or free digital downloads and re-releasing or creating compilations of some of these really obscure records? Or is that something you’d like to stay out of?

Jeffrey:

You’re not doing a good job at alleviating my fear that this will run in Vanity Fair hahaha. 

Just kidding, but yeah I’ve had people tell me I should start a small label or release a comp, and I’m totally into the latter idea! I don’t think I have the time or energy to undertake a reissue label project, but I’d love to curate a 12 song compilation LP or something similar. That would be fun.

Lubert:

My blog posting is more of a ‘vanity affair’. Okay okay! Last question before I wrap things up. You collect all types of records with storied pasts. Usually we focus on the stories behind the record coming to be, but never the stories of the specific copies themselves. As a fan I have to ask; The Richard Ramirez 45. I gotta know what happened there.

Jeffrey:

Well I appreciate that you are a fan, and I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me to talk outsider records. You’ve asked some very thought provoking questions, and I’ve really enjoyed our back-and-forth.

I’m sorry to have to break it to you though that the story behind the “Richard Ramirez” 45 is not really that interesting. I drove to Corona, CA the other week to pick up a box of 45s. The guy who sold them to me said they “belonged to his uncle.” I came home, sorted them out, and noticed the name Richard Ramirez written on a “Dick Clark All-Time Hits” EP. My wife and I had just watched the Night Stalker doc on Netflix, and I thought it was weird. I took a pic and posted it to the ‘gram. That’s it. That’s the story. Do you think it could have been him?

Lubert:

Oof! It may be a stretch, but it’s a spooky thought. It would definitely take a better sleuth than I to figure that out.

Alright, then. Thank you so much for your time! Run what you brung! Let folks know where they can find you!

Jeffrey:

Folks can subscribe to The Lost RPM Podcast on Apple Podcasts and follow me on Instagram @lost_rpm.

Thanks bud!

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