Perhaps you heard earlier this week that Kanye West is going to record his next album on top of a mountain in Wyoming. I’m not surprised because Kanye seems to like doing random things, and it sounds like a interesting, creative decision. But, he’s not the first. Many artists over the years have decided to ditch the cosy surroundings of the studio in search of a more radical location…
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
On August 8 1969, members of the Manson family cult ambushed the home of Sharon Tate & Roman Polanski. They murdered Tate (8 months pregnant at the time) along with four other people in a crime of horrifying brutality. The scene was a bloodbath. Fast-forward to 1992 when Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) decides to rent the house to record The Downward Spiral. A concept album detailing the destruction of a man from the beginning of his “downward spiral” to his attempt at suicide, it seemed like a macabre match made in hell.
Sigur Rós – ()
The band initially wanted to record this album in an abandoned NATO tracking base in the northernmost mountain in Iceland. That soon became too impractical, but then the band found an abandoned swimming pool built in the 1930s. They bought it & transformed it into a studio. They named it Sundlaugin (swimming pool). In order to fit the massive mixing console into the building, part of the roof was opened up and the console was lowered with a crane!
Sunn O))) – Báthory Erzsébet
This is the final epic track, taken from their album ‘Black One’. The inspiration? Elizabeth Báthory – Hungarian noblewoman and serial killer. She’s been labelled by Guinness World Records as the most prolific female murderer. Báthory and four collaborators were accused of torturing & killing hundreds of young women between 1585 and 1609. The highest number of victims cited during Báthory’s trial was 650… 16 minutes of avant-garde drone metal & the band locked frontman Malefic in a casket to record the vocals. He’s claustrophobic so the screams of panic you hear on the record are genuine… definitely not for everyone…
Paul Horn – Inside
Horn was a jazz flautist & one of the earliest innovators of new-age music & world fusion. This album was recorded inside The Taj Mahal in 1968, while Horn was hanging out with The Beatles in India. Horn would go on to record music inside The Great Pyramid of Giza, The Kazimieras Cathedral in Lithuania & the Canyon De Chelly in Arizona.
Diamanda Galás – Plague Mass
You could probably file this one under ‘terrifying’. Sure, lots of artists have recorded music in cathedrals for the echo effect (Paul Horn for example), but American avant-garde artist Diamanda Galás took it to the next level. Plague Mass was recorded in 1990 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. I felt like I was listening to a satanic ritual. Topless & covered in blood, Galás screamed for nearly 73 minutes in an abstract performance art piece that retold the AIDS crisis. It’s truly captivating, but just don’t play it at your next dinner party…
Aphex Twin – Come To Daddy
There’s so much mystery surrounding this enigmatic electronic musician & composer that it’s hard to know what’s true & what’s not. I’m not even sure the following is true, but I’d certainly like to believe it is: Although he allegedly lived on the roundabout in Elephant & Castle, South London, during his early years in the city, James actually lived in a nearby unoccupied bank. And it’s rumoured that inside the bank vault is where he kept his musical equipment & recorded sections of this 1997 EP.
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
This album is principally the work of singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, & when he fell ill with mononucleosis and a liver infection, he grew frustrated with his songwriting & life. So, he does the most logical thing: he drives to rural Wisconsin & records otherworldly folk music at his father’s remote log cabin over late 2006 to early 2007. He hunted his own food and spent much of his time isolated. He didn’t even intend to make an album, only doing so after strong encouragement from family & friends. His most recent album was released in September, & Vernon has become, in my opinion, one of the best songwriters of his generation.