What Lurks Behind Nightcrawler’s Strange Shadows?

Nightcrawler – Strange Shadows EP. Photo Credit: George Gold.

If I’m going to make a thriller or some film set in a ghastly horrorscape where the only redeemable characters are dead before the opening credits finish, I’m going to rely at least in part on the themes from Nightcrawler’s Strange Shadows EP for the soundtrack.

The darkwave artist’s recent output of five original cuts and four remixes clearly draws its inspiration from the 1980s era Italian Giallo crime fiction and murder mystery films.

The genre often includes elements of horror and erotica, bulking up classic whodunnit tropes with violence and sex. Listening to Strange Shadows, it’s easy to imagine some grizzled police detective or private investigator drinking, smoking, and probably fighting his way to the truth through a fury of hard-hearted prostitutes, soulless gangsters, and politicians with coke-stuffed nostrils. It’s like a classic film noir co-directed by Brian De Palma and David Lynch, starring Tom Waits, and written by an android fused with the personalities of Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler.

“Macabre Serenade” introduces us to an atmosphere without hope and without virtue. Fuzzy percussion, Carpenteresque synthesizers, and ambient sounds fly around the mix. A cascading, minimalist melody builds up out of ominous places, practicing the same kind of opportunistic and cautious empathy a private investigator would rely on when taking a complex case from a suspicious client.

The major themes of the collection come to the fore on the excellent “Una Notte Violenta,” which I’ve listened to about 36 times in the past week. On this cut, Nightcrawler slits the throats of soundtrack greats John Carpenter and Giorgio Moroder, extracting from their blood those artists’ grisliest traits. He mixes that with the darkest and most isolated sentiments from the Giallo genre and blasts it with a subtle but effective Lynchian rinse.

Things stay dark, but get a little prettier on the “Omicidio Nella Sala Rossa (Interlude).” There’s a violent-sounding dispute between a man and a woman (in Italian). He yells. Glass breaks. She screams. Something deplorable is happening. Under this is a musical arrangement that features some gorgeous, colorful synth parts, even if the icy string pads cut through your soul.

“Pendulo Oculto” has a great, driving bass synthesizer and a sturdy, danceable backbeat. The haunting melody they support could probably induce a little anxiety — I imagine at some point around this part of the film someone is standing over a blood-covered corpse as the rain falls from the night sky.

The final original song on the collection is “Calvary,” a collaboration with Vincenzo Salvia (who also mastered the EP). This is when shit really gets destitute.

In the Christian Bible, Calvary is Golgotha, the place where Jesus Christ was crucified. In the film running in our heads, this is the point where the story’s “hero” has to sacrifice his remaining humanity to get to the greater truth.

Perhaps that’s getting the girl or the boy. Maybe it’s getting those entitled coke-fiends in jail. It could be killing every fucking last one of the people who stand as obstacles. Regardless, this is where his crumbling identity is finally crucified once and for all at the hands of the mission.

This has to happen, because in a dark and dire place like this everyone has given up, and they’ve accepted there’s no room for anything else. Even the good are suspect, because, after all, shadows can’t exist without some light.

The remixes include OGRE’s take on “Serenade,” Umberto’s version of “Pendulo,” and Alessandro Parisi and Profondo Delle Tenebre remixing “Violenta.”

The Spain-based Nightcrawler’s work is available to stream below, but go ahead and buy it. It’ll haunt your very existence, but in all the most redeeming ways.