7 Bizarre Music Experiments That Went Shockingly Wrong
One of the best things about music is that it's an almost limitless form of expression. For every Taylor Swift song written by a middle-aged marketing expert, there's some indie musician doing things with instruments that no one's ever thought of before. It's just that some of the things they think of are utterly insane, which produces music that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to that dream you had where you fought a giant banana who spoke with your dad's voice.
As inspirational children's movies taught us, there's no rule that says a dog can't play basketball, football, curling, euchre, Risk, American Gladiators, StarCraft II, or Wheel of Fortune (you'd be surprised by how many direct-to-DVD Air Bud sequels there were). Well, now you can add one more item to the list of things that dogs traditionally do not play but are not technically banned from playing: heavy metal.
That's a short album from Caninus, and it's what you get when you combine metal (technically it's grindcore, because metal is just the worst when it comes to dumb subgenres) with the sound of two pit bull terriers barking, growling, and snarling. It's like Jingle Cats, but TO THE XTREME.
It's ridiculous, but there are moments where the dogs sound pretty damn metal. Plus, barks and growls are easier to interpret than some Scandinavian dude trying to yell in Old Norse while drunk and punching himself in the face. That being said, Caninus loses, like, all the metal points for being hardcore vegans -- not that there's anything wrong with that, but buying your food from Sunshine Princess down at the local commune is about as far from metal as you can get.
Sadly, one of the two dogs, Basil, had to be euthanized in 2011. But while she may be gone, she went knowing she was one of the most hardcore dogs to ever walk the face of the Earth.
"James Hetfield don't got shit on me."
Don't despair, because the genre of novelty animal metal lives on. Allow me to introduce Hatebeak:
It's metal with a parrot, fuckers! Polly's going to take that cracker and shove it up your ass! As silly as it is, you have to admire the fact that it exists. And yes, they did a collaboration with Caninus, forming a true supergroup of animals being totally oblivious to the fact that they're making music.
But what if you love the idea of making music with animals, but prefer music that doesn't sound like a jackhammer giving rough anal to another jackhammer? Then please enjoy the relaxing drone of Reynols' "10,000 Chickens' Symphony."
It was recorded in a chicken coop in Argentina, and while it's pushing the definition of music, it deserves acknowledgment if for no other reason than this may be the only recording in history where there's a decent chance you've eaten one of the performers.
A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure
On the list of things that make disgusting noises, surgery has got to be right up near the top. From poking and prodding around the squishier parts of the anatomy to the whir of various medical instruments, there's a reason no one has listed "sonically appealing" among the benefits of having open-heart surgery. But the joy of music is that you can find beauty in any sound, or failing that, you can at least find passable electronica. And that's how we ended up with Matmos' A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, which features only the finest bone saws, hearing tests, and liposuctions.
You're listening to a variety of plastic surgeries, including rhinoplasties and chin jobs, assuming you started the video. And if not, what are you even doing here, man? Come on. Anyway, for the most part the track is catchy, although you'll have lots of fun playing "I wonder what tool got sliced through what body part to make that sound." Next up is a jazzy, upbeat number:
It's lighthearted and catchy until you realize that all the squishy sounds are coming from body fat being sucked up a tube. At least it's more appealing than watching a liposuction, which I wouldn't recommend unless you've just swallowed poison and need to rapidly induce vomiting.
Both members of Matmos had doctors as parents, which may explain why they find the sounds of obese people getting vacuumed out from the inside fascinating instead of nauseating. Other tracks feature the sounds of laser eye surgery, acupuncture, and an empty rat cage, in tribute to all the laboratory animals that have heroically given their lives so that we can study cancer and the secrets to more luscious hair.
"The cancer thing is fine, but I hope you fuckers get split ends."
But it's the track set to a hearing test that's the most memorable. Not only is the cold, heartless reading of simple words a surprisingly effective background for dance beats, but you could blast it at full volume in a club to see if anyone gets the irony.
You know how when you get really high you swear you can, like, taste the colors, and then you get arrested for trying to lick the neighbor's son because you thought his hair would taste like a Creamsicle?
Uh, me neither. But that must be how Ken Nordine felt when he created Colors, a spoken word and light jazz tribute to, you guessed it, America's military heroes.
OK, no, it's about colors. I was trying to be suspenseful. Here's one of the 34 tracks:
There's no way you can say things like "As an intellectual vibration smack-dab in the middle of spectrum, green can be a problem" if you're not about to crumble Doritos onto your butterscotch ice cream. Listen to Nordine's passion as he voices his complaints about the stupid green, his disdain of the envious green, his disappointment in the so-so green, and his quiet joy when he finally reaches the intelligent green, the green that has something to say, man. Truly, a man voicing this much enthusiasm over a single color has to be tripping at least several balls, if not all of them.
How did this bizarre and clearly heartfelt project originate? Why, as a series of 10 radio commercials for paint, of course. "The Fuller Paint Company invites you to stare with your ears at yellow," one commercial begins, because you should put as much thought into the paint you choose for your rarely used guest bedroom as the Renaissance artists did when selecting paint for their masterpieces. The only explanation I can find for how anyone thought this would sell paint is that it was the '60s.
The commercials proved so popular that presumably stoned people called radio stations and asked for encores. Sadly, commercials couldn't be replayed, and they soon went off the air entirely. But Nordine had enjoyed the project, and he had possibly huffed a lot of the paint, so he released an entire album.
"There's something in crimson ... something that should be STOPPED," a track begins, before going on to blame the entire history of human warfare on the poor color, and oh wow, if this got any more stereotypically '60s, I'd change my name to Moon Rain and thread daisies through my hair before I realized what happened.
Nordine only gave vague directions to the musicians, like that azure should be as light and fluffy as a cloud, or that brown should make a lot of farting trombone noises. That their freewheeling improvisation doesn't sound improvised is impressive, but it doesn't change the fact that a solid hour of listening to a crazy man talk about colors the way other men talk about cars or women is a recipe for making your brain melt. You'll never be able to look at orange again without thinking, "He was right, orange is as free as a spree where a bird's supposed to be, if a spree with a bird could be free." I don't even know what that means, but I get it anyway.
This entry works better without any introduction. Go ahead and give this a listen:
Did you listen to it? Seriously, you better have listened to it. I don't care if you're in class, at work, or attending the funeral of a loved one. Take three and a half minutes to do this -- it's not like the deceased is going anywhere. This is an exercise in trust, because this entry won't work if we don't trust each other. I need to trust that you listened to that song, and you need to trust me when I say I'm going to deliver an inspirational, uplifting story that will make you feel better about the loss you've suffered and the fact that you're reading Cracked instead of commiserating with your family like a good person should.
"There were seven reasons I loved Uncle Mort."
OK, you listened to it? Good. Here's the big payoff. That was recorded on instruments made with human bones. That's right, it's not uplifting at all -- it's incredibly morbid. I tricked you, you dumb idiot!
I'm sorry, that was uncalled for. But I'm not joking about the human bones thing. Someone or someones under the name Zero Kama got a bunch of bones from the bone store or whatever, assembled instruments, and recorded an album called The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. , which sounds like a '60s spy show, but is actually kind of terrifying.
Although it would be even weirder if it was the other way around.
Admittedly, this is a claim that's almost impossible to verify, especially considering the album's obscurity and the fact that it was made in the dark days before every waking moment of our existence was captured by selfies and vines. But you'd be surprised how easy it is to get your hands on some bones, and that wasn't even a setup for a hand job proposition (this time). Plus, a group of musicians made a tribute album, which would be a strange thing to do if they didn't believe it was legit. Also it totally sounds like something that was recorded with dead people, you guys.
It's an eerie album full of ritual drumming, echoes, and vibrations that absolutely sound like they're being made with some dead dude's femur. You can almost picture the ghost lurking near the musicians and swearing he's going to haunt them so bad for turning his pelvis into a pan flute. Even if it is fake, it's a suitably sinister imitation, and as the career of literally every pop star has taught us, image is all that matters.
Now, we've all filmed ourselves having sex and uploaded the videos to amateur porn sites so total strangers could masturbate to our pale, out-of-shape exploits, but the duo behind the awfully named Nymphomatriarch (think about it, then cringe) wanted their boning to be considered art by more than just BDSM_Luver_69, the middle-aged accountant who goes out of his way to say nice things about all the amateur porn he watches. So while I'm happy just to know that my ejaculate looks beautiful when it catches the light of the morning sun, that wasn't good enough for Venetian Snares (real name Vincent Snares) and Hecate (creator of the Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children winners Hecate Jacks Off the Jackal and The Magick of Female Ejaculation).
"My favorite song is 'Necrosadistic'!"
So the pair recorded themselves having sex and used samples from their ... sessions to write the album's songs. And we're not talking "We're tired but I guess we haven't done this in a while, so go ahead and disinterestedly hump me for a few minutes" sex -- in addition to "straightforward copulation," we hear the charming sounds of oral and anal sex, S&M and, uh, "microphone insertion." They didn't specify precisely where the microphones were inserted, and I didn't go out of my way to find out.
While you might be expecting an album of porno grooves, the tracks are pretty much your standard electronic fare (or breakcore, because electronica is almost as bad as metal) with some moaning and ball-slapping popping up in the background. It's like being in a club bathroom and trying to guess what sex act is going on in the stall next to you.
It's a little uncomfortable at first, but considering at least half of all songs ever written are about sex on some level anyway, you get used to it quicker than you'd think. Hell, the biggest problem with the album is that it's boring. I expect a song called "Hymen Tramp Choir" to be something I can masturbate to, not something that sounds like a 15-minute remix of a Zelda dungeon theme. If this is what sex sounds like, I've clearly been doing it very, very wrong.
"OK, so this is my first time, but I'm pretty sure we're supposed to moan like a zombified Gregorian choir for a quarter of an hour."
But don't you dare think the sex aspect was just a gimmicky marketing stunt. "At this point I don't care how or what people think of the album, we made it for ourselves really, a kind of personal investigation," Hecate said, of her album that was released on a label called Hymen Records, had multiple press releases focusing on the sexual aspect, and was featured in Playboy. And indeed, how can love get more personal than that?
I once went to a Swans concert that left me partially deaf for two days. It was like getting punched in the eardrums by sound. I mention this because I want to sound cool, and also because the albums released by Stalaggh make the loudest, heaviest band you can think of sound like nursery rhymes sung by unusually innocent children.
Stalags, of course, were Nazi prison camps, while the extra "gh" stands for "global holocaust," suggesting that the band members either are misanthropes or have a serious misunderstanding of World War II. Considering that one of their albums is called Projekt Misanthropia, it could very well be both. It's not music so much as an attempt to destroy the very concept of music. Listening to it is like screening a horror movie in your brain, and playing it publicly violates at least two human rights conventions. Enjoy!
For those of you who don't have the time and/or mental stamina to listen to 35 minutes of what sounds like a recording from one of the crappier levels of hell, let me explain what you're missing out on. Stalaggh decided they wanted to work with people who have serious mental illnesses -- schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, etc. So they got a bunch together and spent several hours recording these people beating the shit out of the contents of abandoned buildings, screaming their lungs out, and moaning and jabbering in fear and pain.
The end result is a nightmare in aural form. It is primal and surreal and will suck every last bit of joy from your body, which is of course why I've brought it up on a comedy site. These aren't heavy metal musicians who scream as loud as they can on stage and then go off to snort cocaine and bang groupies -- these are people suffering from serious anguish, and it comes through in every godforsaken second.
After releasing three albums, the anonymous metal musicians behind the project renamed themselves Gulaggh and upped the terror by working with 30 children from a youth mental hospital. Oh, and they started using classical instruments. You know, to keep things sophisticated. Here's a brief sample from an album that goes on for 45 grueling minutes:
You might think that this is exploitative, but most of the patients they worked with enjoyed it, and some even considered it excellent therapy (they had permission from both the patients and their asylums). Don't go too far in the other direction and think of these guys as artists making a statement on mental health, either -- they want to "penetrate weak minds with pain and fear" using the genre they've dubbed "Nihilistik Misanthropik Audio-Terrror." They plan to release two more albums -- one will be done with people who were born deaf, and then for their grand finale I assume they're going to open up the gates of hell and invite every sinner in human history to form a billion-man-strong choir of the damned.
OK, so things got pretty dark in that last entry. Let's end on an optimistic note, with a stirring rendition of that powerful, classic work Also Sprach Zarathustra.
You just listened to a performance by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, and no, they're not an orchestra made up entirely of deaf people with wooden hands. It's comprised mostly of rank amateurs, who are backed by a few professionals playing instruments they're completely unfamiliar with. The end result makes dogs howl, babies cry, and grown adults laugh their heads off.
But don't think I'm just making fun of a bunch of struggling artists who are trying their best. I mean, I would, that's absolutely the exact sort of thing I would do, but that's not the case here. No, the Portsmouth Sinfonia is making a statement. So if you're looking for cruel mockery of innocent people, stay tuned for my next column, "7 Dumb Jerkheads Who Suck and Are Jerks."
Classical music has a bit of a stuffy reputation. It's what rich old white people listen to while sipping on brandy and puffing a cigar rolled in a poor person's skin. A budding musician can't just sit down with a few friends and jam out Beethoven's Ninth -- it takes many people training a lot of hours to put something like that together. It's beautiful music that's inaccessible to most musicians.
At least it was, until a dozen British art students said, "Fuck it, we're not going to let any of that stop us from starting a symphony." And then they did.
They took their absurd work seriously -- practices were mandatory, and while they knew they were terrible, they saw their performances as new interpretations of classic works. That goofy yet genuine attitude may be why they swelled to 82 members in just a few years. They counted film score writer Michael Nyman and ambient music pioneer Brian Eno among their ranks. They made a record on a major label -- all in one take, of course. They played at a sold out Royal Albert Hall. For one piece at that concert, the piano was played by an actual pianist, and that just made it funnier.
Sadly, the group disbanded in 1979, although there's been talk of a reunion. Whether that comes about or not, the Portsmouth Sinfonia is a testament to what people can accomplish if they believe in their work and don't give the slightest of fucks about how bad they are and what other people think of them. It's a philosophy that has inspired both my career and my sex life. Now, please enjoy this timeless masterpiece:
You can read more from Mark, and listen to his three-hour spoons album, on his website.