Cinema Sounds #24: The Haxan Cloak

Part of our ongoing Cinema Sounds series, Lee Kolcz brings us The Haxan Cloak’s 2013 album “Excavation.”

Artist: Dark ambient producer Bobby Krlic

Influence: The work of Andrei Tarkovsky

The Result: A live music experience closer to watching a horror film.

Bobby Krlic’s music scares me more than most contemporary horror films. After listening to his 2013 album, Excavation, I looked at my telephone expecting it to ring and hear “seven days” whispered on the other end. His music has been described as drone metal or an electronic Sunn O))). He’s collaborated with Bjork on her 2015 album, Vulnicura, in addition to being plagiarized by Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal, which, in and of itself, is something to brag about.

Excavation seems perfect to listen to while watching Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages on mute. Luckily for us, he has recently dipped his toes in the murky waters of film by scoring the 2015 documentary Almost Holy and co-scoring 2016’s Triple 9.


Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922)

He’s inspired by all who were found guilty during the days of the Salem Witch Trials but instead of going that route, he sometimes juxtaposes his live act with loops from Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic, Stalker, to the same effect. The film’s composer, Eduard Artemyev, uses special effects along with traditional instruments to create a soundtrack that is more sound and noise than traditional music.  Even the “natural sounds” of the film were created by Artemyev with his synthesizer. Tarkovsky believed that music distorts and changes the emotional tone of a visual image while not changing the meaning.

Tarkovsky and Krlic are both focused on exploring the human psyche, which both would agree is an unsettling place to study. While Tarkovsky explores a collective conscious of humanistic traits during life, Krlic focuses on death and what comes after. It’s because of this simple difference that The Haxan Cloak becomes synonymous with horror. The bass he uses while performing is suffocating. His music has the power to make you feel claustrophobic, lost, and alone. The live performance is its own horror film.

However, Krlic is not in the business of scaring people. He closes his album with a 13-minute song, “The Drop”, which has rhythm and a melody. While it’s still dark, it fits a clearer definition of music than the rest of the album. If Krlic was a filmmaker, this is his way of reminding the audience it’s only just a movie and for all the dark in the world, there may be an equal amount of light.

Author: Lee Kolcz is a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where he is studying Journalism and Cinema Studies. He is particularly interested in the horror genre and documentaries. This Fall he is the Editorial Intern at Facets.

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