‘Until the Horror Goes’ is the debut album from John Congleton and The Nighty Nite. Congleton is best known as a producer for numerous alternative bands (John Grant, St. Vincent and Swans) and won a Grammy for his production on St. Vincent’s eponymous 2013 album. He was also a founding member of The Paper Chase, so to say that there are high expectations for this album can be classed as a bit of an understatement. This record is filled with discomfiting lyrics and strata of uncomfortable noise. Congleton has been a horror music composer and this comes through strongly – this record is suffused with death, sickness and complexity.
There are no weak songs on the album, however a couple stand proud from the pack. ‘Your Temporary Custodian’ is the third song and opens with a ghost like squeal backed with heavy bass. “What an extraordinary thing it is to be these ordinary thing. What phenomenal nominal nominal nominal nothing”. This is a ballad to nothing for unbelievers. It sounds anthemic and exultant, but there is an uneasy tone behind it. The listing of ‘eternal questions’ at the end of the track reinforce this- “If a tree falls in the woods, it doesn’t matter, just let go, just let go.”
‘Canaries in the Coal Mine’ is a sing-along tune with death drums and a swooping resounding chorus that addresses the apocalypse: “There are seven empty branches, with seven swinging bodies, seven singing trumpets with seven seals to come, we shall overcome”. The thick layers of strings, brass and choral work combine to create this alternative to a peace song. The lyrics, suffused with mortality and acceptance supported by Congleton’s broken tones create a complex and beautiful anti-hymn.
Single, ‘Until it Goes’ comes in with dirgy synth spikes, ‘They found a full set of broken teeth, peppered in the bramble leaves… Let’s turn the weapons on our self’. The words hint at a series of horrific murders that the narrator has possibly commited “Oh stay with me stay with me stay with me until the horror goes” wails Congleton, before a synth sound like a helicopter threatens to take the song off into a maelstrom of queasy noise.
‘A Tale Told by an Idiot’ starts with a xylophone that conjures up images of dancing skeletons; a bouncy tuba line adds some hope to the picture. The lyrics are self-deprecating; he is addressing himself as well as all listeners. “Who do you think you are to question the tower? To jump in the choir and sing like it’s something you author? The song builds into a cacophony with Congleton weathering the storm backed by church bells, whirling synth and horror-film like ‘Ahahah’s. This is a bitter song about futility and powerlessness that is powerful and meaningful.
The final track takes the storm metaphor further. ‘You Are Facing the Wrong Way’ opens with a low drone and litany ‘There will be no peace here at sea,’ again backed with a bell that rings time. As the song continues the bells are counterpointed with a double time light rhythm. ‘A body bag, a body bag, oh I require a body bag’ wails Congleton. He’s going down with the ship though. The tune seems to be about choosing a mundane life over a poetic one. As hosts of angelic voices whirl over the growing chaos. The album ends with a death knell.
The themes are clear, the lyrics rich and disturbing and the music thick with fear and terror. The only criticism might be that a certain dynamic range is missing – the songs have a similar shape and tone, however there isn’t a duff track here and many will be inspired.
‘Until The Horror Goes’ is out now via Fat Possum.
This John Congleton and The Nighty Nite article was written by Fraisia Dunn, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.